Hike Roy’s Peak in Wanaka – New Zealand
Roy’s Peak is one of the best day-hike in New Zealand. The views over Lake Wānaka and surrounding peaks including Mount Aspiring are breathtaking. The steep track zig-zags up the mountain immediately from the carpark all the way up to the top. You will hike through alpine fields and grasslands, passing countless cute sheep along the way. With beautiful Wanaka as backdrop, you’ll climb from lake level to the 1578 m summit. Set for this challenging, yet extremely rewarding adventure.
Roy’s Peak Overview
Roy’s Peak is a 16 km return hike. So you will walk 8 km up the mountain and the same 8 km downhill. As much as waking downhill is cheerful, the way up elevates to 1228m. This means that the track is pretty steep. The path is really well maintained and easy to walk on, but well, it’s constantly inclined!
The hike to Roy’s Peak starts at a carpark located around 6 km north of Wanaka. We arrived there around 10.30 AM as we planned to reach the peak for lunch and were surprised by two things: some people were already returning, and the car park was completely full! We had to wait for 15 min for a space to clear so we could leave our campervan safely.
↬ TIP : There are toilets at the beginning and end of the hike. Make sure to use them if needed- don’t leave any ‘traces’ along the path.
The track starts steep immediately. From here on it’s only uphill. Do not rush. The way is long and you need to save strength. The best part is the extraordinary views accompanying your hike from the beginning. The higher you get, the better the views, but already after a few hundred meters you will stop to take pictures.
A nice entertainment were the livestocks casually grazing through alpine meadows. The track passed through private lands, remember to be respectful of the nature surrounding you.
And then you just walk. The path is long. It seems like you are getting closer, one more turn, and one more…but it just seems to never end 😅We do not say it to discourage you, but rather for you to know what to expect and be prepared.
The hike is hard. We are young and fit and are used to hiking. Roy’s Peak was a challenge of endurance. We are super happy and proud to have completed it and would have done it again. But know that you have to be fit to do this hike. You have to be well prepared- it’s not a casual walk in the park. Or The Hooker Valley. That being said it is a continuous steep and it is not too hard on the knees. We saw people from all ages doing this hike, and if you take your time you will eventually make it !
Take as many breaks as you need. You will reach the summit, no point in rushing.
↬ Read : An Honest Review of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand – Is it really worth a visit?
Expect the unexpected
We hiked for 2h in a sunny weather and perfect blue skies. As soon as we started to approach the summit, the weather conditions changed drastically. The wind increased, the temperature dropped and dark clouds covered the sky. We reached the view point after 3h of hike. While we were resting and eating a well deserved lunch (sandwiches and hard boiled eggs) the first drops fell.
The heavy rain clouds were surrounding the mountain and approaching fast. The wind was extreme- we decided to turn around here, 30 min before the actual peak.
↬ Note : The famous Roy’s Peak view point is in fact 30 min lower than the actual peak.
The way back was fun and easy. It took us roughly 1.5h to reach the parking lot on the way back. This means that we completed the hike in 5.5h (including 1h break at the top).
↬ Read : Visit Glenorchy & Queenstown – the Most Famous Movie Set Destination
Getting to Roy’s Peak
The hike begins at Roy’s Peak Track Parking located 6 km north of Wanaka. The easiest way of getting here is with your campervan or car. You can also arrive here by bicycle from Wanaka and leave it chained at the bottom.
There is limited parking space, therefor you might need to wait a while before you will find a free parking spot.
↬ Read : 10 Days Campervan Road Trip in South New Zealand
How long does it take to hike Roy’s Peak?
The hike is 16 km both ways and the way up is really steep. The advised time to complete this hike is 8 h. This calculates 4h each way. As you will most likely walk a bit faster on return, you can return within 6-7 h.
Unless you are a professional hiker. On the way up we were passed by a guy hiking (and looking) like a pro, and 2 other ones RUNNING all the way up. By the time we reached half way, they were already returning 😳
The best time to hike Roy’s Peak
We highly suggest hiking in the morning. Start as early as you can. If we hiked again, we would start the hike around 7 AM to make sure the light is the best and the car park isn’t full yet. The hike is long and will take most of your day. Don’t start in the afternoon. You don’t want to return once it’s already dark.
↬ Read : Everything About Renting a CamperVan in New Zealand
What to take?
- Water : take a lot of water or use our trick: we carry 2 reusable water bottles and The Grayl bottle with us on all of our hikes. There were 3-4 streams of fresh water along the trail. We drunk the water and filtered, and refilled it as we proceed. If you do not want to use the Grayl, then 2L per person is a minimum.
- High energy snacks : you will need those. Pack few energy bars and raw energy balls. In New Zealand, we fell in love with Tasti products. Healthy and delicious (no sponsored).
- Lunch : it’s worth to pack up a few sandwiches and have a little picnic at the view point. We also packed hard boiled eggs as it’s a great protein source and bananas.
- Rain jackets : a lightweight rain jacket should be something you have in your backpack during any activity in New Zealand. The weather changes drastically here.
- An extra layer, a hat and gloves : this is an important one. As you will climb the temperature will decrease. It drops almost 1°C each 100m you climb. This means that the temperature will be 12°C lower than the one you started with at the bottom. We find the light weight Uniqlo jackets to be very useful during all our trip in New Zealand. They take little space, weight almost nothing and are very warm.
- Sunscreen : the sun is very strong in New Zealand and you can get sunburnt very quickly. A good sunblock should be in your backpack while hiking Roy’s Peak.
How to dress?
Dressing for a long, hard hike is not easy. You will get really warm already minutes into the hike as it leads constantly uphill. However, the wind is pretty strong which means you will feel the cold coming thought.
DO NOT wear thermal clothing for the hike. The thermal wear keeps the heat produced by your body. This means after only few hundred meters, you will feel like your body is burning hot under the thermal shirt (speaking from experience).
We suggest a comfortable, breathable pants and a t-shirt as a base. Girls would feel good hiking in leggins. However, if you are usually cold (as me) this layer wouldn’t be sufficient. In this case, wear loose natural fabric pants instead.
Pair it up with a hoodie or a sweater and wear a light jacket on top. As you get warmer you can remove the layers. Once on the top it will get chilly again, you will be able to put it back on.
↬ Note : We’ve seen people hiking in shorts and t-shirts. At the beginning of the hike the weather was lovely, but at the summit it started raining and got extremely cold. Don’t be one of those fools who came unprepared.
Wear comfortable shoes. Hiking boots are highly advised for this hike. The path is well maintained and even, but the way is long and it would be easier in proper footwear. However, in summer good sneakers would be fine as well.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely! The views from the viewpoint are hard to beat. But it’s that satisfaction of making it all the way up that’s really rewarding. This is a hike that pushes your limits. It challenges you. And you can prove yourself that you can do more than you would normally think.
After 3h of hike we were exhausted. We could see the top when I said : ‘I am not a quitter, but I never wanted to quit that badly’. Now looking back I feel so proud of myself that I kept going and reached the top. Worth every sweaty drop.