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Mount Cook National Park has many stunning walks and the Hooker Valley Track is by far the most famous and popular of the trails. However we think the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walks are just as scenic and are also a lot quicker to complete if you are limited on time.
The trail is actually two separate tracks, one called the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View Track and the other called Tasman Lake Track – both of which can be completed in under 2 hours.
Here is our short guide on what to expect when walking both of these trails. Note: We did this walk in March 2019, which is summer in New Zealand, so we are unsure of how winter weather conditions will affect these trails.
How to get to the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walks
The starting point of both the trails is at the Tasman Glacier Car Park, which is a 12 minute drive from Mount Cook Village (type ‘Tasman Glacier Car Park’ into Google Maps and it should come up).
From the car park, walk past the Blue Lakes shelter (which are also toilets) and continue up on the track. Both walks start on this same track until around 150 meters in, and then you reach an intersection with signposts. You then turn left for the first walk (Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View), or right for the second walk (Tasman Glacier Lake and river).
Walk 1: Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View
Time: 40 minutes return from the Tasman Glacier Car Park
Gradient: Gradual incline with dirt/rock stairs (350 steep steps)
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Elevation Gain: 100 Meters / 328 Feet
Having turned left at the intersection, carry on walking for 10 minutes and you will reach the first ‘Blue Lake’.
The Blue Lake is now actually green but it did used to be bright blue colour hence its name! In the past it was a glacier fed lake, which means the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake from the glaciers gave the lake a spectacular turquoise blue colour. Now that the glacier has shrunk significantly over the past few decades, glacial water no longer flows into the Blue Lake, and the lake is just filled with rainwater that has turned green by the growing algae.
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There are actually two more ‘blue lakes’ beyond the initial one and most people (including ourselves) do not bother going past the first . Apparently there is a path that goes along the edge of the first lake and on towards the next two, and someone on Tripadvisor said that the lakes ‘got progressively more stunning’. We will check them out on our next trip and update this post.
After viewing the Blue Lake, you will need to head upwards by climbing a set of around 350 quite steep, but brand new steps for 10 minutes, and that will take you to the highest point – the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint.
The effort to get to the top is worth it and the views of the glacier, the milky-coloured lake and the valley are amazing. The receding glacier is actually quite far in the distance and located at the far end of the lake so not so easy to see, but you will however see plenty of floating icebergs in the lake.
After you have finished soaking up the views at the viewing deck, head back down the way you came and return to the signposted intersection.
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Walk 2: Tasman Glacier Lake
Time: 1 hour return from the Tasman Glacier Car Park
After completing the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View walk, head back to the intersection and take the route signposted ‘Tasman Lake Jetty’.
Continue along the flat but rocky path for around 25 minutes and you will arrive at the Tasman Lake Jetty, which is where the Tasman Lake Glacier Boat Rides depart from.
When we visited there were hardly any tourists there (it was around 3pm in summer), and we really enjoyed taking lots of photos at the edge of the lake, and getting up close to floating Icebergs.
We didn’t venture any further than the lake jetty, but if you continue onwards on the path you will get to a spot where you can see where the lake flows into the Tasman River down into the valley.
Once you have finished, return the way you came and walk around 30 minutes back to the car park.
What to take with you on the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walks
Make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear, have sunscreen, plenty of water and spare camera batteries (you’ll be taking a lot of photos!)
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