Red Tarns Track

Red Tarns Track - Aoraki/Mount / Mt Cook Village

Red Tarns Track

Aoraki/Mount / Mt Cook Village


12 Rankers Reviews

8 Face-to-Face

3 Mount Cook

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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Track Highlights


Winter walking at Red Tarns


2.3 km return | 2 hours return

Less frequented than the Sealy Tarns Track, this rise of 400 vertical metres gives a real treat on a good day. The big peaks reflect off the still lake waters during early morning calm.


Best in the morning or late evening.


The start of the track is signposted from the public shelter on Bowen Drive.


Follow the sealed walkway and cross over Black Birch Stream via the bridge. The track now climbs steadily with steps and occasional rocky sections. A stand of original podocarp beech forest is nestled next to a strategic bench.

Views of the Sefton Range and Mount Cook open up steadily behind you as you reach Red Tarns. There’s an orientation dial and information board, before a boarded walkway does a lap of the small tarns, which glow red in the summer months due to the presence of an algae.

The track continues up the scree to reach the summit of Mount Sebastopol.


By the first bench is the last remnant of the podocarp- beech forest which once grew all over the area. Farmers set fire to the area in huge conflagrations, attempting to create seed bed for European grasses. The practice stopped in 1953, when the National Park was created.

A red pondweed Potamogeton cheesmanii blooms in the summer when water temperatures are warmer.


Feature Value Info


DOC Canterbury

Central government organisation


South IslandMount Cook - MacKenzieMount Cook


  • Walking
  • Free


Richard Clapton's avatar

Richard Clapton

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Quite a tough climb but amazing views along the way and a beautiful plateau at the top. We went in winter and there was a fresh layer of snow and the ponds were frozen. Really lovely.

Reviewed over 2 years ago

Linda QLD's avatar

Linda QLD

Ranking: 10/10

A beautiful winter walk. 2 hours round trip. Lots of steps. Steady climb up on a well-maintained track. Need to be medium fitness. Spectacular views all the way up.

Reviewed almost 3 years ago

Ludovic Bonneau's avatar

Ludovic Bonneau


Ranking: 8/10

After climbing a lot of steps, the view is beautiful. You can see the Red Tarns who are hidden behind the view and you can rest eating your picnic.

Reviewed over 4 years ago and experienced in March 2017

Carmen Stanow's avatar

Carmen Stanow


Ranking: 10/10

Amazing view over Mt Cook. It gets pretty steep, but you get rewarded! Not crowded!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

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Samuel Michalak's avatar

Samuel Michalak


Ranking: 10/10

About two hours, it is steep but worth it. Good little workout with fantastic views from above and to Mt Cook, not crowded! Mid October.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Meghan Maloney's avatar

Meghan Maloney

New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

Awesome walk - very steep and lots of steps but the views are very rewarding. Especially getting reflections in the tarns towards Mt Cook and Mt Sefton. 2 hour return.

Reviewed over 5 years ago

Hannah Stiles's avatar

Hannah Stiles

United States

Ranking: 10/10

Some steps but so worth it!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Jonathan Foskett's avatar

Jonathan Foskett

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

A big walk up over 1200 stairs but with breathtaking views over the Mt Cook area. Be prepared for a lot of stairs!

Reviewed about 6 years ago

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James Webster's avatar

James Webster

Ranking: 7/10

Tough going stepped walk. 2 hour return, views good but don't really change on the way up. Do if you have time but don't sacrifice Hooker Valley.

Reviewed about 7 years ago

Bottoms's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 8/10

Very steep climb, well maintained path, views worth while.

Reviewed about 10 years ago

Melanie Bielefeld's avatar

Melanie Bielefeld


Ranking: 10/10

Very very......strenuous - but on the op idyllic, picturesque views. Marvellous! Our favourite!!

Reviewed about 12 years ago and experienced in November 2009

Gemma Morris's avatar

Gemma Morris

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Great views, lots of steps. Mt Cok, Mt sefton and Footstool set out in front of you 2hr return.

Reviewed about 12 years ago and experienced in November 2009

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick