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Hike the iconic Roys Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Quick facts about Roys Peak hike in Wanaka, South island New Zealand

  • Time taken: 7 hours

  • How far: 16km return

  • Elevation: 1578m

  • Difficulty: Moderate. (Fairly flat with some steeper inclines) A good level of fitness required

  • Location: Wanaka, South Island New Zealand

  • Campsite with facilities close by: Glendhu Bay campsite or Top 10 Holiday Park

  • Be aware: This walk is sometimes closed is some months of the year for lamb shearing, usually Oct-Nov, be sure to check before

When we began to research hikes in the South Island of New Zealand, Roys Peak quickly became top of our ‘must-do’ hikes of the trip. If you are looking for inspiration in other parts of the South Island New Zealand, then check out our full Ultimate 3 week guide to South Island New Zealand in a campervan on a budget, which includes other hikes and activities during your visit.

Roys Peak Summit - View from the top of Roys Peak

Roys Peak is probably one of the most instagrammed walks in New Zealand, but for good reason. The panoramic views from the top of Roys Peak is candy for your eyes, a photographers dream, and an epic reward for all hikers. The breathtaking views can be seen for miles in all directions across Lake Wanaka and the surrounding rolling hills - totally worth the achy legs next day.

Where does the hike begin?

Roy’s Peak is about a 10 minute drive out from the centre of Wanaka. The car park is well sign posted and you can leave your camper/car right at the foot of the start which makes life easy for when you get back down. The parking lot is off Mount Aspiring road and is free and fills up quickly, and so would recommend getting there early!

What to expect?

The path is a well-trodden wide dirt track that leads all the way to the top. It starts off with a steep incline, which flattens out in the middle, but does then turn a little steeper as you near the top. Expect a constant incline all the way to the peak. It is worth noting, there are two peaks, one being the highly photographed point next to the toilets. The other peak takes another 30-45 minute walk (also sign posted) from the photographed point. This will add another 1-2.5 hours including time to take some photographs.

How long should I allow?

This really depends on your fitness the time allowed to take some photographs and general breaks for something to eat and rest. We consider ourselves fairly fit, and allowed a lot of time for photos and took us around 7 hours to get up to the iconic ‘photo point’ and back down again. This included time at the top to eat some lunch and soak up the views too. We decided not to trek on up to another hour to the very, very top as we were pretty overwhelmed with the views already.

When is the best time to visit?

No matter what time of year we would recommend either starting early to tackle this hike, due to the free car park and also temperatures during the day. If hiking in the summer, you will want to tackle the hardest part before it starts reaching midday temperatures, and if it is in the Winter, you will want to reach the top and down again before it gets too dark. If you decide to attempt this hike in Winter, it is worth checking out the NZ government website which recommends to carry ice picks and crampons due to the weather conditions.

As for timing, some decide to set off on the hike late afternoon and camp at the top to wake up for the sunrise. If you are not a fan of camping at the top, then an early morning start would be better.

Even if you see a cloudy day from the bottom, don't let this discourage you from beginning the hike as the weather can change pretty quickly.

What should I wear for the hike?

The weather can change dramatically from the bottom to the top due to the elevation. Due to the constant incline we got pretty hot and so would recommend wearing a t-shirt and then layer up. The air was pretty cold at the top and so a light weatherproof jacket would be recommended and a hoodie or something similar easy to carry to the top.

What else should I take with me?

  • Water as much as you can carry! We took the biggest bottle we could carry each and that was enough, we ran out just as we reached the bottom

  • Snacks It is a workout to get to the top and will definitely need some lunch or snacks when you reach the peak, there isn't anywhere to purchase food or water so ensure you have enough with you

  • Sun cream The entire way up you are exposed to the sun so this is a must. Start as early as possible to avoid the hottest part of the day. We headed off around 7am and reached the top around 11am spending quite a bit of time for photos along the way. Coming down was still pretty brutal in the afternoon hot sun but not as bad as it would have been still going up!

  • Hat we never go far without our hats. Ever!

  • Hiking boots or comfortable trainers some parts are steep so the extra support is well worth it, we recommend a hiking boot that also supports your ankles, the track is fairly even but its still a dirt track

  • Camera don't forget your camera! The views are spectacular and you will want to capture the moment on film

Final Thoughts?

In our complete honest opinion, Roys Peak is not the most riveting hike. The constant incline was a struggle at times, despite us considering ourselves to be fairly fit. The path pretty much zig-zags up the side of a mountain and so you can have quite similar views all the way to the top. There are no parts you will need to struggle with i.e no scrambling, or climbing required, so if you're up for an adventurous hike, this is probably not be it. However, if you're keen for a fairly casual hike with awesome landscapes to enjoy along the way then this could be for you... we are glad we did it.

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