Mueller Hut Route, New Zealand | Your Ultimate Guide In 2024

Imagine falling asleep to the sound of avalanches echoing across the valley and waking to witness the first beams of light touching the mighty Aoraki/Mt Cook – New Zealand’s tallest mountain. Well, my friend, there’s no need to imagine as this could be your experience when you hike the Mueller Hut Route and camp amongst the giants of the Southern Alps.

Mueller Hut in New Zealand is arguably the most popular overnight hike on the South Island and one of the most scenic alpine huts we’ve had the good fortune to visit. We can honestly say that we were blown away by the incomprehensible landscape that’s unveiled as you ascend the Sealy Range.

If you have time for just one of the incredible hikes in Mt Cook, the Mueller Hut route is a must. Although it’s quite a physically challenging climb, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another hike that’s quite so accessible and short while providing such unbelievable vistas.

Sunset at Mueller Hut on the Mueller Hut Route in Mt Cook National Park

In this ultimate guide to hiking the Mueller Hut route, we explain everything you need to know about Mueller Hut, including the best time to hike for the easiest conditions, how to understand the booking system and how to camp for free.

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Essential Information You Need To Know To Hike The Mueller Hut Route In New Zealand

Quick Statistics For The Mueller Hut Route

Distance
9.6 km return

Time
1 – 2 days | 6 – 8 hrs total average walking time

Grade
Grade 3 – grade 4 in winter conditions or when icy or wet

Elevation Gain
1,055 m

Highest Elevation
1,815 m 

Entrance Fees
Mueller Hut Booking Fee

Facilities
Trailhead: Toilets, shelter with untreated water, large car park, walker’s information sign
Mueller Hut: Drop toilet, untreated water, gas stoves, mattresses

Where does the Mueller Hut Hike start?

Hiking towards the Giant Glaciers in Aoraki National Park on the Mueller Hut Hike

Located in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, the hike to Mueller Hut begins at White Horse Hill Campground which lies 5 minutes north of the Mt Cook Village. The national park is home to the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mt Cook, which rises 3,724m from the heart of New Zealand’s South Island.

How To Get To The Mueller Hut Trailhead

The Mueller Hut trailhead, located at White Horse Hill Campground, can be found at the end of Hooker Valley Rd which branches off Mt Cook Rd. The trailhead is 3 hrs 10 minutes northeast of Queenstown and 4 hrs west of Christchurch.

By Bus

There is a bus service that runs between Queenstown and Christchurch which stops at Twizel, the closest town to Mt Cook. From Twizel, there is a shuttle service that runs to Mt Cook through the summer season. 

If you’re visiting outside of the summer season, you can book a transfer from Christchurch or Queenstown through Cheeky Kiwi Travel, however, it is quite expensive and includes a guided tour along the way – which may not suit all travellers.

Honestly, unless you’re unwilling to drive on the NZ roads, it can end up cheaper to rent a small campervan or car for your trip to Mueller Hut. Jucy has incredible deals that start from just $50NZD a day for a converted minivan camper.

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By Car

White Horse Hill Campsite, the beginning of the Mueller Hut Route

The turn-off to Mount Cook Rd can be found branching off State Highway 8 (Tekapo – Twizel Rd) 49 km southwest of Tekapo and 11 km north of Twizel. The roads in New Zealand’s south island are well sign-posted so navigation is easy – plus, Google does a good job directing you correctly this time…

If you’re like us and have to stop at every lookout and attraction, or if you’re not used to driving on windy roads, we recommend allowing a little extra time to reach the White Horse Hill Campground and the beginning of the Mueller Hut Route.

Click Here For Directions

Who Is This Hike For?

Looking out over Mt Cook from the saddle above Sealy Tarns on the Mueller Hut Route

If you’re a lover of monstrous snow-capped mountains and deep valleys full of intertwining ice-blue streams, then the hike to Mueller Hut in New Zealand’s south island will leave you speechless and wishing you could spend days exploring the rugged landscape.

That said, if you’re searching for solitude in the mountains then this is not the hike for you. Mueller Hut is busy year-round and scoring the hut all to yourself is next to impossible – take a look at the best alternative hikes for Mueller Hut at the end of this post if this has deterred you.

The hike does require a good level of fitness to tackle the 1,055 m elevation gain and an intermediate hiking ability to pick your way through the steep scree and boulder fields above Sealy Tarns. However, if the weather is fine and there isn’t any ice or snow covering the boulders, then it really isn’t as difficult as is sometimes depicted.

Understanding The Mueller Hut Booking System

Understanding the Department of Conservation’s booking system for Mueller Hut can be a little frustrating. But put simply, as of January 2024, Mueller Hut costs $45NZD per person, per night all year round.

A backcountry pass and backcountry hut tickets cannot be used for Mueller Hut but if you’re a member of the New Zealand Alpine Club you will receive a discount of $10NZD.

This booking provides you with a bunk (which isn’t allocated and is chosen on arrival) and access to the hut facilities which are listed in full below.

Visitors Centre in Mt Cook National Park where you can book the Mueller Hut and express hiking intention
Aoraki/Mt Cook Visitors Centre, where you book the Mueller Hut Hike

Booking Mueller Hut During The Summer Season

The summer booking season for Mueller Hut is from mid-November to the 30th of April. During this time, you will need to pre-book the hut online and pay at the time of booking. Mueller Hut can book out well in advance so it’s recommended to keep an eye on the opening date for the upcoming season and book as soon as it opens – this date is usually released in May and can be found on the DOC website.

Pro Tip: You will be charged an additional $10NZD for booking in-person at a visitor centre or over the phone so ensure you have service and data to book online! This additional fee doesn’t apply for winter bookings when paying at the visitor centre is mandatory.

Booking Mueller Hut In Winter

Between the 1st of May to mid-November, online bookings are not available. You will need to pay at the visitor centre on the day you plan to depart. During this time, the hut runs on a ‘first come first serve’ basis but is less likely to book out than in the summer months.

While securing your spot on the day is a little frustrating for planning purposes, it’s actually helpful to be forced to book the day of as you’re more likely to be faced with unfavourable weather during this time.

Camping at Mueller Hut

Camping at Mueller Hut surrounded by a rock wall for wind preotection

To save some money, you can choose to camp near Mueller Hut instead. This will cost $15NZD per person and allows you access to the hut facilities, excluding the bunk rooms. You cannot pre-book camping at Mueller Hut – no matter the time of year – and will need to purchase a ticket at the visitor centre in Mt Cook Village on the day of your departure

We chose this option for our trip to Mueller Hut and found plenty of great tent sites nearby that were protected from the weather by low rock walls. We were lucky to have mild weather conditions and no wind at the beginning of May but be prepared for potential frigid temperatures all year-round.

Beware Of The Kea

Cute Kea on the mueller Hut Route

You will learn very quickly about the cheeky Kea – the only alpine parrot that lives in New Zealand’s alpine regions. The Keas are notorious for investigating tents with their beaks and leaving holes behind. 

Often you’ll be warned about this prior to a hike by the visitor centre but we weren’t at Mt Cook. While our tent stayed intact, we did meet a Kea on our way up so we suggest being careful and setting up your tent after dark if there are a few naughty Keas hovering about.

How To Camp At Mueller Hut For Free

It is possible to camp for free at Mueller Hut as long as you set up camp over 200m away from the hut. This is easily doable as there is plenty of space surrounding Mueller Hut – you may even find a sheltered rock wall courtesy of past campers!

But it’s important to note that if you choose to camp for free at Mueller Hut, you will have no access to the hut or its facilities. It’s unclear whether this includes the use of the toilet but from a sustainable point of view, it’s better to use the toilet than attempt to dig a hole in a pile of rocks!

Note: Please remember to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when you’re camping and if you don’t plan to use the toilet, be prepared to take your waste with you.

Hiking To Mueller Hut In A Day

Standing on the final saddle over looking the giant mountains in Mt Cook National Park

If the hut is booked out or you have only a day to spare, it is possible to hike to Mueller Hut and return in a day. While you won’t be able to enjoy the sunrise and sunset from the alpine, there is no doubt that it is still well worth the effort to complete Mueller Hut in a day.

In our opinion, the best views of Mueller Glacier are found on the skyline ridge that is reached as soon as you climb onto the ridgeline below Mueller Hut. While you can’t see Mueller Hut from there, it will save you roughly 30 – 60 minutes if you make it to this point and return.

For more advanced hikers, it’s worth staying on the rocky ridgeline and watching the sunset over Aoraki before wandering down as darkness sets in. But be aware that it is more difficult to descend the scree and boulders at twilight and a headtorch will be needed.

What To Bring To Mueller Hut

Hiking at Mueller Hut with Mt Cook dramatically rising in the landscape at sunrise

Mueller Hut sits high above the treeline, nestled into the rocky side of Mt Olliver at an elevation of 1,815m above sea level. This means that you’re exposed to the elements for more than half of the hike and could be met with all kinds of weather throughout the year.

It’s very common for a surprise snowstorm to swirl around Mueller Hut any time of year so be prepared for all weather conditions when you pack for your Mueller Hut hike. Below is a list of the essentials needed for an overnight trip to Mueller Hut and some additional items that we highly recommend.

Mueller Hut Packing List

Clothing and Accessories

Miscellaneous

  • Hiking backpack – a good size is between 50 and 65 litres
  • Waterproof dry bag and pack cover
  • Hiking poles – these are a huge help in staying balanced on the way down the scree field
  • Water filtration system
  • Electrolytes
  • Water bladder and a 1-litre water bottle – you can bring more than one water bottle if you don’t have a water bladder, but it’s handy to always bring at least one water bottle for ease of filling up water
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Portable charger and charging cords (optional)
  • Camera and accessories (optional)
  • Book (optional)

Hygiene Essentials

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Sunscreen and SPF lip balm
  • Insect repellent

Cooking Equipment

  • Backpacking stove and fuel – only necessary if you’re freedom camping
  • Pot set, bowl, mug, spoon and knife
  • Scrubber, biodegradable soap and tea towel
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Rubbish bag – to save plastic, use a bag that is carrying your first lunch or dinner for your rubbish thereafter

Sleeping Gear

  • Sleeping bag – 3 – 4 season is best
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Tent and tent footprint (for camping only)
  • Sleeping mat (for camping only)
  • Inflatable pillow (optional)
  • Ear plugs – these are optional but highly beneficial if you’re sleeping in the bunkhouse with other hikers

Survival Gear

  • Emergency beacon
  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone
  • Map and compass or GPS – Alltrails is a good app to use for a downloadable map and GPS tracking
  • Emergency meal

Winter Ascent (mid May to early October)

  • Microspikes or crampons
  • Ice axe
  • Avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel
  • Poop tube (personal poo pot) – this can be rented from the visitor centre and is mandatory if the toilet is buried under snow

Mueller Hut Amenities

standing on the balcony at Mueller Hut during a moody sunrise

Muller Hut is one of the fanciest huts we’ve been to and will provide you with a comfortable and luxurious backcountry experience. You’ll even be able to lighten your load thanks to the gas and stoves provided! The only thing that Mueller Hut lacks is heating, but once everyone begins to cook their meals inside, the rooms heat up quickly.

Here is a list of the amenities you’ll find at Mueller Hut year-round.

  • Drop toilet (bring your own toilet paper)
  • Non-treated water
  • Gas
  • Gas stoves
  • Lighting
  • Mattresses
shared living area inside Mueller Hut In New Zealand

During summer, there is a permanent hut warden that will check you in when you arrive, provide you with an updated weather report and help you with any questions or worries.

Outside of the summer season, from May to mid November, there is no hut warden so you will be required to sign yourself in with the book provided when you arrive. A radio call in the afternoon will provide you with a weather update and ensure that all parties have successfully made it to the hut. The visitor centre will tell you what time to expect the radio call.

Best Time To Hike The Mueller Hut Route

Standing on the summit of Mt Olliver for sunset at Mueller Hut

The Mueller Hut route can be completed year-round and offers a unique experience for each season. But as you may have guessed, there are some increased difficulties that arise in winter and the shoulder seasons surrounding. For the majority of hikers, the best time to complete the Mueller Hut route is between November and May.

Here is a summary of what to expect with each season to help you decide the best time of year for you.

Hiking To Mueller Hut in Spring (September – November)

There is often a continued risk of avalanches in early spring while the snow is melting and a good level of understanding, skill and awareness is necessary for this time of year. However, once the snow clears and the wildflowers begin to bloom towards the end of spring, you’ll likely receive warm days and smaller crowds compared to summer.

Hiking To Mueller Hut in Summer (December – February)

Summer is the optimal time to hike the Mueller Hut route as there is much less chance of encountering snow on the trail and the weather is often warm and pleasant. But be prepared to share the track with hundreds of other walkers and book well in advance for the hut – which tends to book out very early in the season.

Hiking To Mueller Hut in Autumn (March – May)

Our personal favourite time to visit Mueller Hut is in early autumn when the crowds have thinned but the snow hasn’t set in just yet. While the nights will be colder during this time, you can often find yourself hiking under a gloriously warm sun. However, it is more common to be caught in a snowstorm during these months so be prepared to wait for a good weather window, pack warm clothes and understand the basics of hiking in bad weather!

sunset over a snow capped Mt Cook Summit from the Mueller Hut Route

Hiking To Mueller Hut In Winter (June – August)

Hiking to Mueller Hut in winter requires increased skill and experience hiking in the snow and ice. You are required to wear crampons and it is recommended to carry an ice axe and avalanche gear – you can rent crampons and ice axes from Alpine Guides in Mount Cook Village.

While this is an incredible time to experience the wild and snowy peaks of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, it’s important to take the avalanche warnings seriously and avoid going if the risk is above your comfort level. You can find out about the avalanche risk level at the visitor centre before departing on the hike.

Below you’ll find a short list of other things to note about hiking to Mueller Hut in winter.

  • The water pipes in the hut commonly freeze so carry as much water as you need for drinking. If there is snow on the ground, you can boil this to use for cooking and extra water for your return.
  • Hiking in the snow takes much longer than hiking on hard ground. It took us roughly 4 hours to get there with stops in Autumn so we recommend allowing at least 6 hours, meaning you’ll have to start at first light to get there with enough time before darkness sets in.
  • The drop toilet is often buried in snow during the middle of winter. Check with the visitor centre before departing and get a poop tube from them if it is buried as you are not able to dig a hole in the snow.

Mueller Hut Route Trail Notes

White Horse Hill Car Park to Sealy Tarns

The trailhead of the Mueller Hut Walk in Mt Cook National Park

Leaving your car at the White Horse Hill car park beside the campground, signposts and information boards will assist in directing you west to meet with the Kea Point track junction. Turning right, you’ll follow the wide gravel path north for roughly 200m before reaching the beginning of the Sealy Tarns track.

The Sealy Tarns track veers left and leads you briefly beneath a canopy of beech trees before the gradient progressively steepens. After just 400m, the notorious staircase of 2,200 steps begins and doesn’t stop until you reach Sealy Tarns 1.2 km later.

Sttep Staircase leading to Sealy Tarns on the Mueller Hut Route in New Zealand

But while your legs will be burning and you may begin to question your decision, the ever-evolving views below and beyond will provide a strong motivation to keep moving as you yearn to see more of the ice-carved valleys and towering peaks.

Each step provides more wonder for you to feast on as the milky blue water of Hooker Lake reveals itself and the clouds dance around the mighty peak of Mt Cook.

Sealy Tarns

Sealy Tarns overlooking the Hooker Valley, Sefton Peak and Mt Cook

After 2.6 km, 540 m elevation and approximately 1.5 hours, you’ll have conquered the staircase and find yourself walking past picturesque tarns reflecting snow-dusted summits on your way to a picnic bench that looks out upon Mount Sefton and Mount Cook.

This is the perfect place for lunch or a snack break and provides breathtaking views down to the Hooker Valley where you began your journey. You might even be lucky enough to hear the roar of a distant avalanche tumbling from the hanging glaciers and ice shelf beneath Mount Sefton.

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After a much-deserved break, your task becomes a touch more demanding as you leave the groomed trail behind and begin the arduous ascent up a mess of ruts, boulders and scree to reach the ridgeline above.

Sealy Tarns To The Skyline Ridge

Hiking up the Scree on the top of the Mueller Hut Tramp in New Zealand

Retracing your steps past the tarns, you’ll come to a track junction and a sign warning of avalanche risk along the Mueller Hut Route. From this point, the trail takes on a more rugged vibe as you follow intermittent red markers through a steep field of tussock grass towards the rocky ridgeline.

The first few hundred metres of the Mueller Hut trail are filled with deep ruts and rock slabs, some requiring all hands on deck to climb over. This is one of the most technical sections of the track, however, there are always ways around each obstacle so look for alternative routes if you begin to feel uncomfortable.

Hiking up the steep uneven mountain side of the Mueller Hut Track

As you continue to zigzag up the mountainside, the trail becomes slightly easier with smaller ruts and less need for your hands. And eventually, you’ll all but leave the alpine scrub behind as you arrive at the boulder garden beneath the scree field.

A few loose rocks will try to trip you up as you hop across the boulders, following the red poles along the easiest route, but the most demanding section begins once you step onto the scree field. The route up the scree field is steep and loose, requiring extra attention to avoid slipping, but if you have hiking poles then these will help immensely to keep your balance.

The Boulder garden below the saddle on the Mueller Hut Track

Finally, after 1.2 km, 400m elevation and roughly 45 – 60 minutes, you’ll step onto the skyline ridge and lose any breath that still remains. Before you, you’re afforded your first glimpse of the Mueller Glacier sweeping through the valley between two monstrous mountain ranges.

Note: The trail between Sealy Tarns and the skyline ridge becomes more challenging and extremely slippery in ice or snow. Check with the visitor centre before departing for an update on the track conditions and pack crampons or microspikes if there is a chance of ice or snow.

The Skyline Ridge To Mueller Hut

Admiring Aoraki Summit from the saddle of the Mueller Hut Hike in New Zealand

A short side track leads you over boulders to the northernmost point of the Sealy Range where you’re gifted uninterrupted views of Aoraki and Mt Sefton and the entire Hooker Valley, including Mt Cook Village, Mueller Lake, Hooker Lake and Mt Wakefield.

Take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view, which will surely help you forget about your tired muscles, before beginning the final trek south along the rocky ridgeline to Mueller Hut. 

Standing on the final saddle over looking the giant mountains in Mt Cook National Park

Red-tipped poles continue to lead the way through the vast boulder-filled basin, which is relatively flat in comparison to the trail thus far. And eventually, after 800m and roughly 20 – 30 minutes, Mueller Hut reveals itself, perched prettily beneath Mount Olliver.

Note: The boulder field is not overly technical and is quite easy to navigate in clear weather, however, when visibility is limited it can be more challenging to stay on track. If you’re walking in low visibility, ensure you’re following a GPS map on your phone (such as Alltrails) to avoid getting lost – you can’t see Mueller Hut until you’re approximately 200 – 300 m away.

Mueller Hut

Sunset at Mueller Hut on the Mueller Hut Route in Mt Cook National Park

Mueller Hut sits in a bouldered basin beneath Mt Olliver on the Sealy Range, with incomprehensible views of the majestic Mt Cook flirting with the clouds in the northeast and across to the Hooker and Aroarokaehe Ranges that dominate the northwestern side of the Mueller Glacier.

The hut itself is luxurious, with large windows, a spacious kitchen with cooking stoves and gas, a dining area with bench seats and tables and two bunkrooms that can accommodate up to 28 hikers.

But the best part of the hut is the 5-star deck with bench seats that provide breathtaking views of the hanging glaciers and ice shelves that cling to the steep slopes beneath the monstrous Mt Sefton and neighbouring snowy peaks. 

Mt Cook from the deck of Mueller Hut in New Zealand

You could sit on the deck for hours, cuppa in hand, watching the seasonal waterfalls cascade over the vertical rock faces and listening to the boom of the avalanches as they tumble from the snowy ice cliffs.

But for the best sunset view, throw those boots on again and make your way to the summit of Mt Olliver.

Side Trip To Mt Olliver

Hiking to the summit of Mt Olliver for sunset at Mueller Hut

Rising directly south of Mueller Hut, Mt Olliver requires one last boulder scramble to reach its rocky peak 600 m from the hut and takes approximately 30 minutes one-way. While you won’t find any red poles to help you navigate the climb, plenty of rock cairns will assist in following the easiest route to the summit.

Mount Olliver’s summit provides the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset or even sunrise as it offers 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape, including the Mueller Glacier which can’t be seen from the hut. You’re even gifted glimpses of braided rivers funnelling into Lake Pukaki that’s just visible in the south beyond the valley.

Aoraki Mount Cook Summit rising majestically above the clouds glowing pink at sunset from Mt Olliver

If you’re running late to catch sunrise or sunset – or simply can’t be bothered walking all the way to the summit of Mt Olliver – there is a perfect viewing rock halfway up that allows uninterrupted views of Mt Cook, Hooker Valley and Mueller Hut below.

Returning To White Horse Hill Car Park

Hiking through the large orange boulders belowe Mueller Hut with Sefton Peak hidden by clouds

If you’re spending the night at Mueller Hut, we highly recommend waking up for sunrise which you can watch from Mt Olliver or even from the ridge just east of the hut. We can guarantee it will be worth the early wake-up call!

Once you’re ready to leave the magical Mueller Hut, retrace your steps all the way back to White Horse Hill car park. Generally, you can expect to shave off at least half an hour to an hour on your descent, although we spent almost the same time descending as we did climbing due to stopping every few minutes to absorb the magical view in front of us!

We completed the Mueller Hut Route in early May with beautifully clear weather, allowing us to feast on the majestic view of Mt Cook and the valley below as we walked. The hike took us a total of 7 hours return, which included a great deal of stopping for photography and to simply gawk at our surroundings. Even though this is an incredibly popular walk – which we generally avoid – we can honestly say it is one of our favourite hikes in New Zealand so far.

Best Alternative Hikes For Mueller Hut, New Zealand

Mueller Hut books out often in summer and in winter, it can be too treacherous for some to attempt. Below are the best alternatives for Mueller Hut depending on the reason you’re foregoing this hike.

Sefton Bivvy

Sefton Bivy in Mt Cook National Park

If you’re an advanced hiker and want a more quiet and rugged experience through the summer months, then we suggest thinking about tackling the mighty climb to Sefton Bivvy instead of joining the crowds at Mueller Hut. This hut can be seen from Mueller Hut and sits just below a glacier. 

This hike is more difficult, requiring route finding as well as more intense boulder scrambling. But if you have the skills and need an alternative to Mueller Hut – whether the reason is it’s booked out or you simply don’t want to share a room with 20 other hikers – then this is the best option for you!

Hooker Hut

Hooker River flowing along the Hooker Valley Track in Mt Cook National Park

If hiking to Mueller Hut in winter is out of your comfort zone or the avalanche warnings are too high, the best alternative that allows you to remain safely in the valley is Hooker Hut. This hut is located just off the Hooker Valley Track and is a great alternative if you have your heart set on sleeping in one of the iconic red huts in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park but can’t get to Mueller Hut. 

While the walk is much smaller and doesn’t provide the alpine experience as Mueller Hut does, Hooker Hut is still located away from the bustle of the Mt Cook village and allows you to feel as close to nature as possible without pitching a tent.

Red Tarns Track

Sunset at the Red Tarns in Mt Cook National Park

If you were planning on hiking the Mueller Hut route as a day trip but the weather or the crowds are deterring you, then the Red Tarns Track is our ultimate go-to for an alternative day hike.

With far fewer crowds and sensational views deep into the Hooker Valley and glimpses of the Tasman Valley, this walk is well underrated for what you get in a short 2 – 3 hr return trip.

After something shorter? The Governors Bush track is a great short walk for those looking to stretch their legs without venturing too far from the village.

Other Important Information For The Mueller Hut Route

Best Places To View Sunrise And Sunset At Mueller Hut, New Zealand

A beautiful clear starry night at Mueller Hut overlooking Mt Cook from Mt Olliver

No matter where you choose to watch the sunrise and sunset at Mueller Hut, you’ll be gifted with the soft glow illuminating the snowy white summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook. This is even possible from the deck outside the hut, where you can sit snuggled into your sleeping bag with a hot cuppa. But for the best vantage points, we’ve listed our favourite spots below.

Sunset At Mueller Hut

Sunset from the peak of Mt Olliver in Mt Cook National Park

The best place to watch the sunset at Mueller Hut is either from the top of Mt Olliver or roughly 300 m from the hut along the route to Mt Olliver where you’ll find the perfect flat boulder to sit on. The first spot provides stellar views of the Mueller Glacier funnelling through the valley and of Mt Cook, while the second spot offers the perfect location to gaze upon the hut and the proglacial lakes beneath Mt Sefton and Mt Cook.

Sunrise At Mueller Hut

Hiking at Mueller Hut with Mt Cook dramatically rising in the landscape at sunrise

Along with the summit of Mt Olliver once again, we found that the best place to watch the sunrise at Mueller Hut was at the edge of the ridgeline to the east of the hut. This allows you to get a glimpse of the braided rivers feeding into Lake Pukaki in the south and of the sun rising behind the Tasman Valley.

Leave No Trace

The Mueller Hut Route trails through a truly magnificent part of New Zealand and it’s imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that the landscape stays pristine and clear from destruction, rubbish and waste.

It’s each and every one of our responsibilities to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles while we’re visiting these fragile areas, which is as simple as staying on the track and carrying out everything you carry in – including food scraps and tissues!

If you’re hiking to Mueller Hut in winter, you may need to carry a poop tube with you to dispose of human waste as the toilet is often buried under snow. It’s not possible to dig a hole in the rocky alpine region and poop will not break down if you bury it in the snow – it will just reappear when the snow melts.

Where To Stay

Sunrise over White Horse Hill Campsite in Mt Cook National Park

The Mueller Hut Route begins right on the doorstep of White Horse Hill Campground and just 5 minutes north of Mt Cook Village. Our recommendation is to stay at the campground, which allows the closest access for the affordable price of NZD$15 per person. But if you’re not set up to camp, you’ll find a range of accommodation options within Mt Cook Village – including a YHA hostel.

The closest towns to Mueller Hut are Twizel, 50 minutes south, and Lake Tekapo, 1 hr 15 minutes southeast. Both offer a variety of accommodation options, however, Lake Tekapo is our top choice between the two as there is more to do and the town is beautifully situated right on the edge of the lake.

Searching for more resources on camping and accommodation near Mt Cook? Check out these two guides below.

FAQs About The Mueller Hut Route

Is Mueller Hut Worth It?

Mueller Hut is an extremely popular destination in New Zealand and for good reason. The intermediate track allows you to gaze upon monstrous snow-capped mountains, deep glacier-filled valleys and milky blue lakes as you follow a well-trodden path to the photogenic Mueller Hut. While it’s often overcrowded, Mueller Hut is still 100% worth it as you’re not likely to find another hike that matches Mueller Hut’s accessibility to wonder ratio.

What facilities are at the Mueller Hut?

Mueller Hut is equipped with two bunk rooms with mattresses that accommodate up to 28 people, gas and stoves, non-treated water, and a drop toilet. There is no heating at Mueller Hut, however, the dining area warms up quickly once everyone begins to cook their dinner.

Do you need to book the Mueller Hut?

Pre-booking Mueller Hut in advance is essential from mid-November to the end of April. It often books out weeks ahead and there is no waitlist available for this hut. From May to mid-November, you are not able to book online and are required to purchase your ticket at the visitor centre prior to departure.

How much does it cost to stay at the Mueller Hut?

Mueller Hut costs $45NZD per person, year-round which includes a bunk bed (chosen on arrival) and the use of the hut facilities. You can save $10NZD if you’re a member of the New Zealand Alpine Club, but you cannot use your backcountry hut pass for Mueller Hut.

How hard is the hike to the Mueller Hut?

The first thing you’ll learn when you start hiking in New Zealand is that ascending an elevation of 1,000 metres in a day is not uncommon. This is the main challenge of hiking to Mueller Hut and aside from a few scramble sections, it’s quite a moderate hike when the conditions are dry. That said, winter provides increased difficulty and requires extra skill, knowledge and avalanche awareness.

Can I camp at Mueller Hut?

Yes, you can camp beside Mueller Hut for $15NZD per person and use the facilities within the hut for cooking or you can freedom camp 200 m away from the hut. If you choose to freedom camp, you don’t have access to the hut or its facilities.

Do You Need Crampons For The Mueller Hut Route

For most of the year, you don’t need crampons, however, they are necessary for the Mueller Hut Route in winter or if there is a layer of snow or ice on the trail. You can pop into the visitor centre at Mt Cook Village before departing to check the trail condition, it is also possible to rent crampons from Alpine Guides in the village if they’re required.

If you have your own pair of crampons or microspikes, it’s best to carry them if there is a chance of snow or freezing conditions overnight.

Final Thoughts

Hiking towards Mueller Hut with the giant Glaciers of Mt Sefton behind

The hike to Mueller Hut in New Zealand is one to add to the bucket list. Even though it is a highly popular walk, we couldn’t recommend it enough. There are few hikes that provide breathtaking views of proglacial lakes, deeply carved valleys of glaciers and the tallest mountains in the country with such accessibility as Mueller Hut.

But don’t forget to check the weather forecast before setting off, it’s easy to forget you’re in a highly changeable alpine region when you’re surrounded by roads and hotels, but the weather can change on a dime on the ridgeline and it’s imperative you’re prepared for all conditions.

Have you hiked to Mueller Hut? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. And as always, please feel free to drop any questions you may have on the hike or visiting Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and we will do our best to help.

Happy Hiking 🙂