The snow-covered Southern Alps mountain range runs the length of the South Island of New Zealand, and is home to Mount Cook, the country’s highest mountain, standing at 3,754 m (12,316 ft). On the eastern side of the mountain is New Zealand's largest glacier, the impressive Tasman glacier, along with the smaller but equally beautiful Hooker glacier to the west.
The weather across the mountain range is almost split in half: the west side of the mountains receives heavy rainfall, which has caused the growth of temperate rainforest; while the east side is rather drier and the landscape is mostly grasslands. As the highest mountain in the country, Mount Cook itself is covered in snow all year round.
The mountain is a popular challenge for serious climbers who often ascend it as practice before taking on Mount Everest. However the Mount Cook National Park provides plenty of scenic hikes for non-climbing visitors who want to experience the mountain at its best. Two fairly easy tracks are the Red Tarns and Key Point, which provide amazing viewpoints from which to admire the mountain. For those looking for something slightly more strenuous, there are mountain passes that involve some climbing. All walks lead from the Mount Cook Village, where it is also possible to give weary legs a rest and go up the tracks on horseback. Other options when visiting Mount Cook include taking a flight over the glaciers or skiing during the winter months.