The Mueller Hut hike is one of the most beautiful Mount Cook National Park hikes and can even be considered some of the most beautiful hikes in New Zealand. The track takes you up along the Sealy Range to the Mueller Hut which is located at an altitude of 1,800 meters (5,905 feet). Here you’ll have breathtaking views over Aoraki Mount Cook and the surrounding snow capped peaks.
Although the Mueller hut hike isn’t the hardest in terms of distance, you will climb over 1000 meters of elevation in only 5 kilometre one way. Generally the purpose of the Mueller Hut hike is to stay overnight in the DOC hut which you have to pre book. But if you’re short in time and you’re a fit hiker, then the Mueller Hut hike is also manageable to complete in the same day. In our complete guide you’ll find everything you need to know about the Mueller Hut Track to be well prepared for the adventure!
How hard is the Mueller Hut hike?
The Mueller Hut route is rated as a challenging hike, and it can be quite strenuous. The trail is steep, with an elevation gain of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) over a distance of approximately 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles). The terrain is rocky and uneven, and there are sections of the trail that require scrambling and stepping over big boulders.
The hike up to Mueller Hut typically takes between 3-4 hours over 5.2 kilometers to complete. But this can vary depending on your fitness level and hiking experience. This means that if you decide to hike up and back down from Mueller Hut in one day, you should allow about 8-9 hours in total to complete the track. This includes stops along the way and taking in the view from Mueller Hut itself.
Overall, the Mueller Hut hike is a challenging but rewarding trek that offers spectacular views of the Southern Alps and the surrounding landscape of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Best time to hike to Mueller Hut
The best time to hike to Mueller Hut is during the New Zealand summer months, which are December through February. During this time, the weather is generally milder, and the days are longer, providing more daylight for hiking.
In the summer months, the Mueller Glacier Lake is typically melted, providing a beautiful turquoise-colored lake that is a popular for photography. Additionally, the trail is less likely to be snow-covered, making it easier to navigate.
That being said, the weather in the alpine environment can be unpredictable and can change rapidly. It is always important to check weather forecasts and trail conditions before setting out on any hike in New Zealand, regardless of the season.
Make sure to bring layers of clothing and equipment for hiking in an alpine environment such as hiking poles, and be prepared for sudden weather changes.
In the winter months hiking up to Mueller Hut is only advised to experienced hikers as you’ll need special equipment such as crampons and an ice pick. You can rent this special gear at the Mount Cook visitor centre in Mount Cook Village where you can also ask for the current status of the trail.
How to book the Mueller Hut
When you plan on spending the night in the Mueller Hut you need to book your spot in advance. Mueller Hut can accommodate up to 28 people and costs $45 per person per night for adults and $22.50 for youth (5-17).
In the summer months from November to April the spots are booked up fast, so you must secure yours well in advance. In the winter months you can book on the day of hiking up to Mueller Hut.
A bed in the Mueller Hut can be booked through the Department of Conservation (DOC) website. Check the availability of the hut on the website before proceeding with the booking process. Then you’ll have to create an account if you don’t already have an account with the DOC website. This will require providing some personal information, including your name and contact details.
Once you have created an account and checked availability, choose your preferred dates for your stay at the Mueller Hut. Note that there is a maximum stay limit of one night.
After selecting your day of check in you can do the payment online through the DOC website using a credit card. Once your payment is processed, you will receive a confirmation email with details about your booking. This includes check-in and check-out times and all other important information about the Mueller Hut.
Now you’re all set to spend the night in the Mueller Hut. Be prepared for jaw dropping Milky Way views if you’re lucky to have clear night skies.
How are the Mueller Hut facilities?
If you wonder if it’s something for you to spend the night in a mountain hut, then here are the facilities you can expect to find at the Mueller Hut.
- Sleeping quarters: The Mueller Hut can accommodate up to 28 people in communal sleeping quarters. There are bunk beds with mattresses and pillows, but you will need to bring your sleeping bag.
- Kitchen facilities: The hut has a communal kitchen area with a gas stove and cookware for preparing meals. You will need to bring your own food and cooking supplies.
- Water supply: There is a rainwater collection system at the Mueller Hut that provides water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. It’s important to treat the water before drinking it.
- Toilet facilities: There are two outdoor pit toilets located near the hut.
- Heating: The Mueller Hut has a wood-burning stove in the communal area.
- Lighting: The hut has solar-powered lighting in the communal area.
- Hut warden: During peak season, a hut warden is present at the Mueller Hut to ensure that everything runs smoothly and to provide assistance if needed.It’s important to note that the facilities at the Mueller Hut are basic, and you will need to bring your own food, cooking supplies, sleeping bag, and other essentials. Leave No Trace principles should also be followed to ensure that the hut and the surrounding alpine environment remain pristine for future visitors.
What to prepare for the Mueller Hut hike
“A good preparation is half the work” is how the saying goes. And with hiking that’s no difference. If you’re well equipped and well prepared with the right gear, layers of clothing and enough water, food and other necessities, the hike up to Mueller Hut will be an unforgettable experience. Here are some of the most important things you should consider bringing on the Mueller Hut hike.
- Hiking boots and hiking poles: Proper footwear with good traction and ankle support is essential for the rocky terrain and steep incline of the Mueller Hut hike. Consider bringing hiking poles for more support and to save your knees on the way down.
- Warm clothing: Even in the summer months, the weather can change quickly in the New Zealand alpine environment. Bring warm layers, including a waterproof jacket and pants, hat, gloves, and a warm mid-layer.
- Food and water: The hike to the Mueller Hut is challenging, and you will need to refuel along the way. Bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks such as nuts, fruit, and energy bars.
- Sun protection: The sun’s intensity can be high in the New Zealand alpine environment, even on cloudy days. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sunrays.
- Navigation tools: The Mueller Hut trail is well-marked, but it’s still important to bring a map and compass or GPS device in case of unexpected circumstances.
- First aid kit: Bring a small first aid kit with essential supplies such as band-aids, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
- Hut essentials: If you plan on staying at the Mueller Hut, you will need to bring your sleeping bag, food, and cooking supplies. Check the hut facilities list and plan accordingly.
- Register your intentions for the Mueller Hut Route. This is not a formal permit or reservation. It is simply a way to let the Department of Conservation (DOC) know where you are going and when you plan to return. Read more about how to do this in the next paragraph.
Register your intentions for the Mueller Hut Route
In New Zealand, it is recommended to register your intentions before embarking on any multi day hiking trips, including the Mueller Hut Route. This is not a formal permit or reservation. It is simply a way to let the Department of Conservation (DOC) know where you are going and when you plan to return. Registering your intentions is required for both campers on White Horse Hill campground and people staying in the Mueller Hut. This is very important because if you don’t do this, a formal search may be conducted if your car is found at the car park overnight with no intention slip. If you change your plans or decide to cancel your trip, be sure to update your intentions online.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Visit the Department of Conservation (DOC) website and find the Mueller Hut Route page.
- Click on the “Bookings & Alerts” tab and then select “Intention to hike/camp form.”
- Fill out the form with your name, contact information, planned route, dates of travel, and emergency contact details.
- Review your information and ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date before submitting the form.
Additionally, before starting your hike, you should visit the nearest DOC visitor center to check the latest weather and track conditions. Always let someone know your plans before heading out and carry a personal locator beacon or satellite phone in case of emergency.
No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen.
A slip during hiking is made before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.
We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting travel insurance with them!
How to get to the Mueller Hut hike trailhead
The Mueller Hut hike is located in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park with the easiest way to get to the trailhead by car. From Twizel, follow State Highway 80 to the Mount Cook Village. From there, follow Hooker Valley Road to the White Horse Hill campground where the Mueller Hut trailhead is located. If you’re based in Mount Cook Village, then it’s only a two minute drive to the trailhead.
The first part of the Mueller Hut track follows the Sealy Tarns Track along the so called ‘stairway to heaven’. Once you’re at the viewpoint of Sealy Tarns, you will continue onto the Mueller Hut track.
Mueller Hut hike key facts
Before we dive into the details about the Mueller Hut Route, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail.
Mueller Hut track distance and duration: The Mueller Hut track is 10.4 kilometers (6.5 miles) round trip, with an elevation gain of around 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). The estimated hiking time for the Mueller Hut track is around 3-4 hours to reach the hut, and around 2-3 hours to descend back to the trailhead.
Mueller Hut track difficulty and incline: The Mueller Hut track is a challenging hike due to its steep incline and rocky terrain. With an elevation gain of around 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) over a distance of approximately 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles) you will feel your legs burning!
What to expect during the Mueller Hut hike
The first part of the Mueller Hut hike is exactly the same path as the Sealy Tarns Track. The trail starts off with a gentle incline through subalpine forest with 2,200 steps up to Sealy Tarns Viewpoint. This part will have you sweating, but there is a nice picnic bench at the tarn to have a break.
After this part the trail becomes more rocky and uneven, with sections that require scrambling over boulders. After this part there are a couple of steep uphill sections followed by the last part towards the Mueller Hut.
In the summer months the uphill sections are fairly easy but still need your attention. In the winter months snow and ice can add an extra challenge. You might need special equipment such as crampons and an ice pick which you can rent at the DOC office.
Mueller Hut history
The Mueller Hut has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. It has played an important role in the development of mountaineering and hiking in New Zealand and was built to support the country’s first serious attempt to climb Mount Cook. In 1939, Sir Edmund Hillary made his first ascent of Mount Ollivier, a peak near the Mueller Hut. Ten years later in 1948, Hillary was the first man ever climbing Mount Cook.
Back to the Mueller Hut. Previously the hut was named the “Hermitage Hut” and was constructed of corrugated iron. In 2003 the original hut was replaced by the Mueller Hut and opened to the public in 2004. Ever since the Mueller Hut has become a popular destination for hikers and mountaineers from around the world.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a roadtrip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will you give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Stationwagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 road side assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream roadtrip!
Where to stay near Mueller Hut track
Mueller Hut Track is located in Mount Cook National Park where only a few accommodations are available. In fact, there are only 7 lodging options in Mt Cook National Park and they book up super fast! Especially in the summer months. Therefore it is highly recommended to book your accommodation far in advance to secure a room. Here are our recommendations to stay in Mount Cook National Park.
Another great hotel in Mount Cook village is Aoraki Court Motel. This modern accommodation features great views of the surrounding mountains. All rooms have a patio with mountain views and a fridge with kitchenware. With an average of 9.3 on Booking you know this accommodation is a great choice, so book fast!
The best value for money hotel in Mt Cook National Park is Alpine Lodge. With stunning views on the mountain range and a communal dining area you can prepare your own food and relax at the lounge area with warming fireplace.
If all accommodations in Mount Cook National Park are fully booked, then don’t worry, because you can stay in the nearby town of Twizel. This small town is a 45 minute drive from Mount Cook NP and has more accommodation options and facilities than Mt Cook village. We stayed here for a few nights to explore the different hikes at Mount Cook and were happy to have plenty of restaurant options nearby in Twizel. Check here all Twizel accommodations, availability and prices.
Best tours on the South Island
New Zealand’s South Island is full of adventure, stunning scenery and fun experiences to be made. There are few experiences which are an absolute must when you’re traveling New Zealand’s South Island. Below a summary of the best tours you can book.
An absolute unforgettable experience in New Zealand is a helicopter flight over the highest mountain of the country. During this tour you will glide over Aoraki/Mount Cook and down the Tasman glacier. You will land in pristine snow and walk around to take in the impressive views of the snow capped mountains and glacier. A once in a lifetime experience!
Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small-group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to really take in the immense scale of the bluffs and explore Milford Sound in a unique way.
The lesser known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife while taking in the scenery. If you’re lucky you might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins. You naturalist guide will tell you everything and point out interesting sights.
A Milford Sound scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the 20 minute helicopter flight you will return to Milford base.
Another way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you booked the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise in Milford Sound. Take in the spectacular views of the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen on the picture below. This experience will take your breath away and is a must do if your budget allows it. Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Mueller Hut track in Mount Cook National Park. Make sure to put this awesome hike on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!