White Horse Hill Campsite

White Horse Hill Campsite

White Horse Hill Campsite in Mount Cook National Park that is popular for tenting and self-contained camper vans due to it’s proximity to a number of popular trails that lead right from the campsite. From the camp sites there are a number of trails out that can be done as short walks, day hikes, overnight hikes or even multi-day hikes depending on your level of hiking and mountaineering experience. For many the stay at White Horse Hill includes a hike up the Hooker Valley Track to get a good view of Mount Cook, otherwise a longer steeper climb up Sealy Tarns to see out over Mount Cook, Mueller Lake and Hooker Lake from the alpine tarns. It’s a great spot to stay if you enjoy the outdoors and are planning on doing a sunrise hike with all the best walks being right on your doorstep.

Tent Sites

60 non-powered sites




Shelter, Toilets, Treated Water


(Bookings Required)

One of a number of cheeky kea scrapping for their morning breakfast chewing the rubber off a vans roof rails

43°43′09″S 170°05′33″E

In Detail

Before you head into Mount Cook National Park ensure that you book your nights stay before you show up at the campsite. Don’t be stingy and do your part to make the payment rather than just freedom camp and ruin other parts of the land instead. You never know who you might just meet whilst your camping. There’s always good yarns to be had and people with different stories worth sharing and listening too. Ensure that whatever food you bring to not leave it outside your tent. Both Kea and pests such as possums and rats are notorious for tracking down food and nibbling it away in the night. Stash any snacks inside your tent and any other gear back in the car to ensure that it is safe come morning time.

Looking across from White Horse Hill Campsite towards the Hooker Valley Track as the moon sets and sun rises

Getting to White Horse Hill Campsite

From Christchurch you must follow State Highway One down to Rangitata. There is a clear turn-off sign with the road sign pointing towards Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Geraldine which marks the beginning of State Highway Seventy Nine into Mount Cook National Park. Follow the road signs as you stay on State Highway Seventy Nine until Fairlie. Take a hard right when you reach the or take a quick stop at the Fairlie Bakery (one of the best pie shops in New Zealand). From Fairlie follow the road through Burke’s Pass, Lake Tekapo and past Lake Pukaki. As you make your way around the large bend towards Twizel the turn off comes to State Highway Eighty leading right the way into Mount Cook.

Mount Cook Weather

The weather in Mount Cook can be variable throughout all seasons. Generally in summer it will be relatively warm and the weather will be consistent. Come winter the contrast is enormous. Snow can often coat the ground after an overnight storm and weather systems are much more prominent. If you’re willing to tough out the cold in a camper van during the winter you’ll be rewarded with incredible views on a good day after an incredibly cold winter night.

White Horse Hill

White Horse Hill is approximately 5 minutes from Mount Cook village by car. It’s the beginning and/or end for a number of different walks around the area. Whether your planning on staying just a night, visiting the area or going on an expedition within Mount Cook National Park, it’s likely that you’ll start from White Horse Hill. Campsites aren’t exactly marked but there is a parking area marked out and plenty of grass to pitch a tent. Make yourself warm and comfortable and give yourself some time to soak up your surroundings.

Top: Looking toward the public shelter and the road coming in to the White Horse Hill Campground
Looking back towards Mount Cook Village. Sebastopol the mountain in the background with the Red Tarns just below

White Horse Hill Parking

Within the camp ground there are two allocated spots for parking. The immediate parking when you reach White Horse Hill is for those that are walking, hiking and mountaineering in the area to leave there area. Behind with more open space for camping and larger parking spots is the designated camping area for White Horse Hill Campground.

Clockwise from Top Left
An alcove with with the old camp ground registration inside which these days just houses weather and local information
A kea taking a morning chew on a poor campers car aerial
The Department of Conservation sign showing the direction for all camp ground vehicles staying overnight
A sign indicating the start of a number of trails including Mueller Hut and Sealy Tarns

White Horse Hill Campsites

If you’re planning on pitching a tent as we did there is plenty of room nearby in the grass to pitch up a tent. Depending on where you park your car there are camp spots with grass cornering the camp spot towards the ends of the car parks, spaces if you are staying in just a camper van there are plenty of spots closer to the camp facilities that you can park up in and make yourself at home. For those with rooftop tents it’s possible to find some space amongst the grass to park-up and unleash your canopy. It’s time to camp out amongst the wilderness.

Top: A rooftop tent camper finding their own patch of space in and amongst
: Ben checking in on the crew before sunrise after a good nights sleep at White Horse Hill Campsite

White Horse Hill Campsite Facilities

As a scenic campsite (a campsite that you have to pay a little more for) White Horse Hill Campsite has sheltered facilities for cooking and toilets alongside. Toilet paper and flushing toilets with running taps all make up the facilities available. Running taps and basins are in the kitchen area to allow you to wash up your dinners but don’t expect any hot water! You’ll need to bring your own cooking equipment, although, you may be able to scrounge around and find a pan that someone has donated to the odd pots and pans for other travellers and campers to use.

Top: Looking across to the public shelter with Aroarokaehe Range seen behind White Horse Hill
White Horse Hill campsite pu8blic shelter and toilets (facilities available for those camping and staying)


Kea are the worlds only alpine parrot, and, are indigenous to New Zealand. Often they can be found in Mount Cook National Park flying or if you’re lucky you might see a couple up close and personal during a walk or even at White Horse Hill car park. As inquisitive and friendly as these creatures may be they are notorious for chewing on rubber and pecking at shiny objects. If they can they’ll fly the item back to their nest. It’s a problem if the item is expensive or helpful such as car keys or a wedding ring. Unfortunately these birds are endangered and could be threatened with extinction. Efforts to ensure this does not happen being made by the likes of the Department of Conservation and the Kea Conservation Trust. If you see a Kea be sure to report a sighting on the Kea Conservation Database.

Left: An unbanded kea having a further cheeky nibble on the
Whilst one kea paces a camper van, another continues attacking the aerial on a poor campers hatchback

Hikes & Walks from White Horse Hill

From the White Horse Hill Campground there are a number of different hikes that you can do. Many of these are quite popular among tourists and those visiting the National Park for the first time. Directly from the campsite the famous Hooker Valley Track takes you along a trail up to Hooker Valley to Hooker Lake with incredible views of Mount Cook along the way when the weather is good. A further track leads up towards the Sealy Range where you can hike to Sealy Tarns or climb on further to Mueller Hut. There is yet another track from White Horse Hill called the Kea Point Track that leads to a lookout point close to White Horse Hill. Heading back south towards Mount Cook Village the track leads right the way to the beginning of the Red Tarns Track, or, if you carry on further to Sebastopol.

A Department Of Conservation sign along the Kea Point track en route to Mueller Hut and Sealy Tarns

Sealy Tarns

Sealy Tarns Track is a popular day hike in Mount Cook National Park that climbs to stunning views out over Mount Cook. It is a well maintained track which usually gets heavy traffic from numerous tourists throughout the year due to Mount Cook National Park’s popularity and the stunning mountain ranges that surround the area. The main track to Sealy Tarns is looked after courtesy by the Department of Conservation. It is a steep walk up to the tarns but easy to follow. Ensure that you keep a close eye on the weather, parts of the track are quite exposed to the elements . If you’re looking for a climb with stunning views of Mount Cook and the surrounding national park, Sealy Tarns is a brilliant option. The track makes up the first leg of the hike up to the popular alpine hut Mueller Hut.

Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut is an alpine hut in Mount Cook National Park that is more easily accessible during the summer months from Mount Cook Village. Some fit parties are able to complete the return trip to Mueller Hut within a day whilst others will often complete as an overnight hike. It is well known as a ‘bucket list’ trail for hikers not only in New Zealand but around the world. Tourists from all parts of the world will travel to Mount Cook National Park to hike the trail up to Mueller Hut or the Hooker Valley Track with the hope to getting a picture perfect glimpse of Aoraki (Mount Cook). The trail climbs over 1000m elevation gain in just over 4 kilometres. Although it is well marked the trail can be quite dangerous during the months of winter and spring.

Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is the crown jewel for attracting many people to Mount Cook National Park so they can see Aoraki Mount Cook along a nature walk whilst surrounded by large mountains. Especially during the winter and spring time the walk becomes wildly popular especially when the weather is “just right”. If you’re travelling to Mount Cook this is the walk on international traveller’s bucket list when they visit New Zealand and for good reason. The views are incredibly stunning throughout the walk and takes you to a beautiful glacier lake where you can often find icebergs during the winter months.