Mount Cook National Park is full of various hikes to enjoy during a visit. It has everything from simple bush walks to high elevation gain routes. One of the fan favorites to enjoy is the Sealy Tarns Track.
This hike takes you high above Mount Cook Village, as you get to take in some of the best landscapes of the park with glaciers, lakes, and mountains in every which direction.
Read on to learn more about Sealy Tarns and what to expect along the way.
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1) Sealy Tarns Track Overview
The Sealy Tarns Track starts at the White Horse Hill Campground and then heads up 2000+ stairs towards Sealy Tarns. Below are some of the key points to highlight for the round-trip route.
- Track Name: Sealy Tarns Track
- Starting & Ending Point: White Horse Hill Campsite
- Mid Point: Sealy Tarns
- Length: 5.8 KM / 3.6 Miles
- Duration: 3-4 Hours
- Elevation Gain: 600 Meters / 1,969 Feet
- Difficulty: Intermediate/Hard
- Terrain: Gravel/Dirt & Stairs
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2) Sealy Tarns Track Map
Below you can see the Sealy Tarns Track map that highlights the route from the campground parking lot and up towards the tarns. I also highlighted a couple additions/alternate hikes to choose from including Kea Point and the Mueller Hut Track.
» Kea Point is an easy route that takes you to a great viewpoint of Mt Cook from down below right near the moraine wall of Mueller Lake
» The Mueller Hut Track shares the same exact route as the one to Sealy Tarns but then continues on for another couple of hours on more technical terrain towards the hut
3) Elevation Gain Profile
I also wanted to layout the elevation gain profile of the hike up to Sealy Tarns. You can see for the first 1.5 km, the route is pretty flat, before really starting to gain elevation on that infamous staircase to Sealy Tarns.
Note: the profile below clearly has a couple spikes that may be a bit misleading but overall it gives you a good sense of what to expect on the climb.
4) Mount Cook National Park Weather
While Mount Cook National Park is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand, I should warn you that the weather does not always cooperate in the mountains.
Since the Sealy Tarns Track does head up high in elevation, you will want to make sure to take part of the hike during a clearer weather day.
That of course may be tough to plan out depending on how much time you have to spare. But if you do have multiple days in the park, it can give you more choice when to take part of the climb.
I always like to look at mountain weather forecasts on sites like meteoblue.com. Below is a screenshot of the forecast, where you can see cloud coverage and the numbers of hours of sun each day.
You can type in Mueller Hut in the search box to give you accurate data for the weather at that elevation.
Hiking Resources & Checklist
Before heading out for the trails, be sure to read up on some of the hiking resources up on the site. These are here to better prepare you for all types of outdoor adventure.
5) Where to Stay in Mount Cook Village
Staying in Mount Cook Village gives you the ability to walk right outside your doorstep and hit the hiking trails. There are not too many accommodation options to choose from but below will be some of your main go to options.
If you cannot find something that fits your budget or if everything happens to be sold out, your next best bet is to stay in the town of Twizel or even around the Tekapo area. But like I said, if you want to be in the heart of the national park then Mount Cook Village is your answer.
- Luxury: Hermitage Hotel
- Mid Tier: Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge | Aoraki Court | Mount Cook Lodge and Motel
- Budget: YHA Mount Cook Village
6) The Sealy Tarns Track
Now that you have all the background you need for the hike, lets dive into the Sealy Tarns Track itself. You will want to first drive (or walk) to the White Hill Horse Campground, where you will find a large parking lot area.
Right from the parking lot you should see signs pointing you in the direction of the Kea Point Track, Sealy Tarns, and Mueller Hut Route. Simply follow these signs from the parking lot and you should be on your way.
This will be the nice and easy part as you head out from the parking lot and through the relatively flat field towards the Sealy Tarns turnoff point.
During this portion you will be on a dirt/gravel path with both greenery and snow capped mountains out in the distance.
Soon enough you will reach a sign pointing you to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut to your left, and Kea Point straight ahead. Here is where you will head off the main path and head closer to the valley wall.
The path will make its way through the bush before coming across the bottom of the Sealy Tarns stairs.
These wooden/gravel stairs will then take you up the mountainside as you slowly take in some of the beautiful views of the surrounding national park.
The higher you get, the more beautiful and vaster those views will be! So, be sure to take your time, take breaks, and turn around from time to time to really enjoy the landscape.
To your right you will see all the way down the valley with the White Horse Hill Campground down below and Mount Cook Village further out in the distance.
Just beyond the village is another smaller mountain that is home to the Red Tarns Track if you want to give that trail a try as well.
As you get even higher, right behind you will be a view that you can just never get sick of. You will have Mueller Lake, Hooker Lake, Mount Sefton and of course Mount Cook itself all in one shot for the remainder of the climb up.
The stairs will continue onwards and upwards as you continue to enjoy the views even as the legs start to burn. But soon enough, after a couple hours of climbing, you will reach Sealy Tarns.
If you are not familiar with the word Tarns, it represents a small mountain lake, and that is exactly what you will find at Sealy Tarns.
This small, calm lake will give you some stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains and you should even be able to get the reflection of the top of Mount Cook.
Be sure to head to all sides of the tarns so you can capture the different angles and reflections!
After hiking 600 meters or nearly 2,000 feet in elevation gain, the Sealy Tarns is the perfect place to just relax and spend some time at, as you get to take in all of your natural surroundings.
7) Mueller Hut Extension
If you decide Sealy Tarns is enough workload for your day, all you need to do is turn right back around and back down the staircase towards the parking lot.
The hike down should be a quicker and easier route, and you should be back at your car in no time.
On the other hand, you can also choose to extend your hike and make your way all the way to the Mueller Hut, which is another couple hours away on more technical terrain.
The stairs will end and the rocks will begin as you continue to climb even higher above the valley floor and towards the Mueller Hut.
» If you would like to learn more about this portion of the route I would highly recommend taking a look at the Mueller Hut Hike guide up on the site. It should give you more insight and photos of what to expect up to the hut.
That about wraps up a guide to the Sealy Tarns Track of Mount Cook National Park. If you would like to learn more about the hiking opportunities, feel free to check out the guide to all the other Mount Cook hikes in the area.
Feel free to write in any comments or questions down below. Have fun out there and safe travels!