The Tasman Glacier walk is one of the best short walks in south Island New Zealand. It leads you to a lookout of the glacial lake and glacier. But I think the main interest are the wonderful views of the open valley. Below is my guide to help you plan your hike.
Why do the Blue lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk?
Not far from the Mount Cook village, the Tasman Glacier Walk is one of the shortest trails with magnificent views.
It is a lot of stairs (around 333) but it is not a difficult walk.
It allows you to reach a glacial lake with icebergs and views of the Tasman glacier.
The Tasman glacier is 24km long (according to the board sign). It is the longest in New Zealand.
But my favorite part of the walk are the splendid views of the Tasman valley. The glacier-carved mountains are beautiful!
Below is a short video to help you imagine what the walk is like and all the beautiful landscapes you can enjoy:
Planning Tips – Tasman Glacier Walk
Tasman Glacier Walk – location & access
- South Island
- Located at the Northern end of Lake Pukaki – see my Lake Pukaki guide
- Not far from Aoraki Mount Cook village
- Turn right from Mount Cook road into Tasman valley road – 7km of paved road to the carpark
- Twizel to Tasman Valley carpark = 50min drive
- Queenstown to Tasman Valley carpark = 3h15 drive
- Christchurch to Tasman Valley carpark = 4h15 drive
- You can find the Tasman Glacier Walk in my travel guides that facilitate the planning of your road trip:
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Tasman Glacier hike – general info
- Free carpark
- Free access to the walk
- Toilets near the carpark, but none on the trails
- Plan 30min return for the walk to the lookout – add 30min if you detour to the Blue Lakes
- Plan 1h return of flat walking to reach the Tasman Lake shore.
- I counted 333 stairs to the top at the lookout
- There are explanations about the glacier at the lookout
- No food facilities
- There is no best time to do this walk. The weather can completely change in the few hours…
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- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- If you plan on doing several walks, I recommend staying at Mount Cook village to enjoy the brillant scenery – Check out options
- Otherwise you can head to Twizel which is a practical location to explore the area – See the best rated accommodations in Twizel.
- I stayed at the Mountain Chalets Motel. The decor was tired but the room was spacious, and the location was practical. Check out photos and availability
Tasman Valley Road – drive to the Tasman valley carpark
Let’s start with the road to get there.
If you are not staying at Mount Cook village, you first have to drive along Lake Pukaki.
Even with low clouds it is a wonderful drive with the mountains carved by the glacier.
You then drive past the Northern end of Lake Pukaki and before Mount Cook village you will see a turn towards the Tasman Valley.
It is well indicated.
The only difficulty of this road (except for wanting to only look at the scenery and not the road) is the single lane bridge. Make sure you pay attention to who has priority (see my driving guide for more info)
From the turn to the carpark, you have 7km of paved road with one lane in each direction. Easy drive.
This is the views towards the carpark:
And this is the views as you leave the Tasman Valley carpark.
Ad the end of the road, you will find a carpark. The road stops here, so you won’t get lost 🙂
The Tasman Valley Walk – difficulty (stairs)
Both walks start from the carpark and are well indicated.
- To the left you walk up to the lookout (with the stairs) – 30min return (or more if you detour to the Blue Lakes
- To the right, you head to the Tasman Lake shore – 1h return flat walk – this is the walk you take if you join the boat tour to the glacier – According to Phenomenal Globe walking to this view from the shore is one of the best hikes in South Island especially if you have the courage to wake up early to go for sunrise!
I chose the lookout.
As you can see the trail is well maintained.
The staircase are made with wood and the stairs are very regular in height.
I found it quite easy. Especially as I kept stopping to admire the view… This way you recover your breath in the best way possible 🙂
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The (Green) Blue Pools of the Tasman Valley
After you have climbed 108 stairs, you have the option to turn and see the Blue lake.
I decided to wait until walking back down to decide.
But after seeing them from above (further in the trail) I decided not the do the detour.
Why? The Blue lakes are actually green…
In the Mid 1800s the lakes were blue (when they were named) because they were fed with glacial water (like lake Pukaki).
However today the Tasman glacier has shrunk and water no longer flows into the blue lakes. It is now filled by warmer rainwater. Therefore green algaes have developed and the lakes changed colors.
However, it you enjoy birds, the National parks indicate that this is where you may see New Zealand’s smallest bird, the rifleman.
Tasman Lake and Tasman Glacier
After climbing all those stairs, you arrive at a lookout above the Tasman lake.
There you can see explanations of the various summits and the state of the glacier.
Here is the views of the lake and the mountains with the glacier to your left.
- The landscape around Lake Tasman is very dry.
- Depending on the conditions you may see icebergs floating.
- This proglacial lake was formed because of the glaciers’ retreat. It is actually quite recent as there were only ponds in the 70s and they merged into a lake in the90s.
And below is a zoom towards the glacier.
According to the display at the lookout:
- The glacier is 24km long
- Its surface area is 92km2
- Its rate of retreat is currently 480 to 820m per year
- And they expect it to be down to 20km by 2027
Tasman glacier boat tour
There are “Tasman glacier lake cruise” to get closer to the glacier tongue.
You have to book early. It is run by Glacier Explorers. I wanted to do it but run out of time.
After walking to the pier you will board a small boat and get up close to the impressive wall of ice.
Tasman Valley views
I must admit that this was not the best glacier view in New Zealand.
You can have better ones in the Hooker valley nearby or at Franz Josef by the West Coast.
However this was still one my by favorite short walks because of the breathtaking views of the valley during the whole walk, like this one:
And you return to the carpark:
Note: as you drive on the Tasman Valley road, don’t miss the waterfall on the side.
This is Wakefield waterfall. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in Mt Cook National Park.
It is 230m high with multiple steps.
Alternative – Hooker Valley walk (longer) and Kea Point walk
The Tasman glacier walk is a short one.
If you have the time and the fitness for it, you can also enjoy the Hooker valley track to the Hooker glacier lake.
On a clear day, it is absolutely breathtaking. But it requires 3h of walking return with several long bridges to cross.
Read my article
From the same carpark, you can also enjoy a shorter walk to Kea point lookout.
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