Mount Rainier has been my favorite mountain for a long time running, but it fell from grace during my time in Mount Cook National Park.

Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain; much of it’s ridge-line resembles a frozen knife’s edge and its peak is iconic. Although it is known for always being in the clouds, I was able to take in the mountain’s beauty for most of my time in the park. I like to think it decided to show off while I was there.

And if you ever get to see it at sunset? Incredible. Sadly, I was never able to capture a photo at sunset, so you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!

One thing that can be said for New Zealand is that it is great at making the outdoors accessible. One of the hikes I did while at the National Park was the Hooker Valley Track. Between the amazing views of Mount Cook, the surrounding snowcapped peaks, the three suspension bridges and the incredibly well maintained boardwalks, this hike was a dream for everyone: families with children, people who want incredible views, and even those who want to hike it under the stars.

As I’ve mentioned before, Mount Cook National Park is part of a dark sky reserve, so I decided to take a late night hike up the Hooker Valley Track which is now easily one of my favorite outdoor memories.

After attempting some night shots of Mount Cook and taking some time to just soak it in, I decided to head back to the campsite. Now even though the moon wasn’t out, the milky Hooker River, distant glaciers and white-stoned path reflected enough of the star light to allow me to hike the hour back to camp without a flashlight. Now if there are any large predators in New Zealand that are aggressive toward humans, I didn’t know and I still don’t. But regardless of any danger I might have been in, it was an incredible experience. From looking up to see the most vibrant Milky Way I’ve ever seen make its way across the sky from one glacier covered peak to another, to crossing several suspension bridges above a river that almost seemed to glow on its own accord, it is one for the books.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m quickly realizing that by the end of this trip I will be an expert at talking to myself.