If you’re planning on visiting Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, chances are you’ve heard of Mueller Hut. This 2-day hike (which can be 1-day) is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful trails.
If you’re a newbie hiker, I’ve put together a guide to hiking Mueller Hut for beginners!
But before we get started, let me give you a brief introduction to one of New Zealand’s most famous hikes…
An introduction to Mueller Hut
Mueller Hut is named after Mueller Glacier. Mueller Glacier, in turn, was named after Ferdinand von Mueller, who was a Danish-born scientist and explorer, who was a botanical collector and writer.
The current hut is the 5th hut to be built (previous huts were destroyed by avalanches or weather conditions), and it’s situated in one of the most incredible places in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, providing 360 views of the nearby mountain ranges.
Argh, just look at these views:
Psst: want to include a hike to Mueller Hut on your itinerary? Make sure you check out my 10-day New Zealand South Island itinerary. It includes tips like where to stay and other suggestions on seeing beautiful views just like this one!
But enough about Mueller Hut’s history… If you love panoramic views, hiking up to Mueller Hut needs to be added to your list.
If you are:
- New-ish to hiking;
- A beginner hiker; or
- Want to know whether you should add this hike to your itinerary
I’ve written this guide just for you!
Psst: I would not recommend this hike if you have never been hiking before. But if you’re newer to the hiking world, this hike is still possible!
Why we chose to hike to Mueller Hut
Mueller Hut is considered one of New Zealand’s most beautiful hikes. And while in New Zealand it feels like everyone is saying this about every trail, the Mueller Hut Track seems to have this in spades.
The hike is long enough that you get to soak up the views without feeling too long. Civilization isn’t too long away, my friends!
The hike from a beginner’s perspective
When I took the Mueller Hut Track, I’d done one other multi-day hike in Tasmania and had also previously gone on day hikes.
I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced hiker, but I also wouldn’t say I was a baby beginner.
You’ll start your day by registering at the Information Centre
You’ll get an introduction to the walk and what to expect. If there are specific weather warnings, this is when you’ll get a weather briefing too (usually in the case of extreme weather or snow)
Note: this is not where the hike starts, you’ll drive a short 5-minutes to the actual start of the trail.
There is plenty of car parking space at the beginning of the hike, as this is also the starting point of other hikes in Mt Cook National Park.
From the car park, it’s a short, flat walk to the beginning of the stairs (not gonna lie, I did wish we had parked closer!)
The start of the Mueller Hut walk
Once at the beginning of the stars, you will begin the first part of the hike known as the Sealy track.
This is a maintained track with what feels like never-ending stairs.
If you’re not a fan of cardio (I am not), you might find this part hard. But pace yourself, especially if you’ve got a heavy pack – because there is more to come!
You’ll eventually reach a clearing (trust me when I say, this takes forever.. okay maybe 3 hrs)
Here, you can stop for a break, and there are even some benches for you to rest on before you start the unpaved, rocky path upwards.
Some people hike up to the Sealy Tarns as a day hike, so if you get to this point – pat yourself on your back.
But don’t get too excited, because you’re about halfway there!
Once you’ve had some food (or maybe chocolate), this is where the hard part starts (sorry, my friends!)
From here, there’s a rock scramble – it can be slippery, so make sure you have appropriate footwear.
When we got to this point, I seriously considered heading back down. I had recovered from a cold a few days before and kept on stopping for breaks because my body felt so exhausted.
But, we (slowly) pushed through, and eventually reached another clearing.
This when it becomes apparent you’re in the mountains! When we hit this point, the air was colder, and most of the crowds seemed to disappear.
There is then another rocky scramble ahead and just when you start to loose hope…
Mueller Hut appears
The hut is well maintained, and there is an on-site hut warden.
There are 2 rooms, consisting of bunk beds (with mattresses) these are on a first-come-first-serve basis. We only spent one night here, so it didn’t feel like we were too fussed where we slept, but if you’re worried, just leave your sleeping bag on the bed you want to reserve.
There are 2 outdoor toilets. Toilet paper isn’t supplied, so bring your own with you!
The kitchen and communal area have plenty of bench space and gas stove tops (with lighters provided so you can light the stove top) there is also rainwater available.
A note for my day hiking friends: make sure you factor enough time into your schedule so you can enjoy the views at Mueller Hut. It does take 4-5 hrs to hike up to the Hut and while the walk down is faster (compared to up) you will be tired from hiking up when you head back down!
Things to know about Mueller Hut before you go
1. Most of the hike is UPHILL so make sure you do a bit of training beforehand
Distance isn’t what makes this hike difficult (it is 5.2 km one way) what makes this hike hard is the elevation gain (over 5.2 km you are climbing up 1050 m)
If you don’t exercise on a regular basis, I would recommend including cardio and uphill exercise in your routine before you leave for New Zealand.
Psst: new to hiking? It definitely won’t hurt train in advance of your trip!
2. Test your gear before you go
If you’ve been hiking before, you probably don’t need to do this. But if you have new gear (e.g., packs or boots) make sure you test it before you go.
You don’t want to wear brand-new boots on this hike!
Also for new hikers, a neat trick I learned from the friendly folks at Macpac: wear two layers of socks. Two layers of socks will reduce the friction caused when walking and also your chances of developing blisters (gross and painful!)
3. Don’t pack too much stuff!
If you’re sleeping in the hut, you will need some basics.
But remember: you will be heading back to civilization the next day, so unless you like carrying heavy packs and swearing heavily when your legs are burning if you don’t need it, leave it in your car, hotel/hostel or a locker (if valuable!)
4. The weather can change suddenly, so come prepared
You’ll need to pack extra layers in case it gets super cold, and wearing layers you can easily remove when hiking.
Another thing to note is that when you check-in at the information center, you may be given a weather briefing if it’s forecasted to snow or have harsh weather conditions.
In some cases, they might even close the walk. This is completely unpredictable, so it’s essential to know this can happen!
We were traveling during Autumn (close to winter) and were worried this might happen.
We ended up booking backup accommodation in the lead-up to our trip and checked the weather forecast religiously. When the forecast looked fine (of course weather can change in an instant!), we canceled our extra booking. We used booking.com and had a free cancellation policy we could use.
Things to bring with you to Mueller Hut
1. Sleeping bags
Bring your own from home if they’re warm enough!) or rent them. We borrowed ours from a friend and found an affordable rental for Collin back at home in Australia.
You can rent sleeping bags from companies in NZ too!
2. Hiking backpack to carry your goods
Make sure your pack is properly fitted.
We bought ours from Macpac (a New Zealand outdoors brand). You can check in your pack at the airport (as is) or put it in a suitcase if your luggage allowance is generous.
Make sure you also have a waterproof liner/garbage bag to line your hiking pack. We brought along a heavy-duty garbage bag to line our bag. We used the same one when we went hiking in Tasmania, Australia and re-used it for this trip!
Using a garbage bag is cheaper than buying a liner specifically for your pack.
3. Hiking shoes
I’ve heard of people doing the Mueller Hut Hike in sneakers, but I wouldn’t recommend this!
The hike up to Sealey Tarns is stairs, but after this, the trail is very rocky, and certain parts can be slippery. Proper shoes with non-slip, grippy soles are a must.
4. Items for cooking
We bought our cook set from Macpac (it only cost us $30 AUD on sale), used plastic bowls we already had at home + lightweight cutlery we already had too.
You don’t need to buy specialty items, especially since the hut has its gas stoves.
5. Water bottle or water bladder
Make sure you bring a water container that can carry enough water during your trip.
Most of the hike is exposed to the elements (you won’t have trees to cover your hike), so on a sunny day, it can get really hot.
The hike is very exposed, and you don’t want to get sunburnt.
There is a really large hole in the ozone layer above Australia and New Zealand, so the UV index is a lot higher here
Make sure you bring enough food for your hike. If you’re new to milt-day hiking, dehydrated meals are a lifesaver.
They are light, affordable (we bought ours for $15/ meal) and easy to use (just add water!)
Other lightweight food includes packet noodles from the Asian grocery store where you can add boiling water, crackers, and vacuum-sealed tuna or salmon.
I hope my guide to hiking Mueller Hut for beginners was helpful.
Despite my complaints and all the sweat, the hike up to Mueller Hut was definitely worth the pain.
Are you planning a trip? Got questions about what it was like? Leave me a question below!
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