The complete guide to hiking Roys Peak in New Zealand; one of the most popular hikes in Wanaka and the entire South Island.
If you google “best hikes in New Zealand” or any such variant, you’ll likely get Roy’s Peak as the number one answer. The obvious truth is that Roys Peak is an incredibly popular hike, with views well worth the early wakeup!
The truth is that Roys Peak has become somewhat of a Wanaka icon. With breathtaking views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring (Tititea), and the surrounding ice-capped peaks, combined with a super accessible hiking track to the summit, the reason behind its popularity is no surprise.
In this guide, I’ll answer all of your questions about hiking the Roys Peak track, including valuable tips and what to expect.
- Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Roys Peak
- Where is Roys Peak?
- How to Get to the Roys Peak Track
- What to Expect on the Roys Peak Track
- Roys Peak Lookout
- When is the Best Time to Hike Roys Peak?
- Is the Roys Peak Hike Worth it?
- Quick Tips
- More Photos from the Roy’s Peak Hike
- MORE THINGS TO DO NEAR WANAKA
Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Roys Peak
- Hiking Distance: 16 km return
- Hike Duration: 4-6 hours return
- Elevation Gain: 1230 m
- Roys Peak Height: 1578 m
- Difficulty: Moderate
For most active people, the Roys Peak hike would be considered to be fairly moderate in difficulty. However, it's important to consider that quite a bit of incline is involved, with the trail climbing a respectable 1230 m from the car park to the summit (1578M).
With that said, the trail is very well-maintained. It is so wide that you'd expect a car to almost be able to drive up to the summit. The incline is also spread out over a 12 km distance, which means the gradient isn't too steep either.
Those considering hiking Roys Peak should prepare for a constant upward slog. Expect anywhere between 4-6 hours to complete the hike with occasional rests.
Related:37 Best Things to do in Queenstown
Where is Roys Peak?
Roys Peak is located only a short 6 km drive from the Wanaka foreshore. The trail is easily accessed from a large car park on the side of Mount Aspiring Road.
How to Get to the Roys Peak Track
Roys Peak's popularity is largely due to just how easily accessible the trail is from Wanaka. The drive is less than 10 minutes from town.
If you don't have a car or a camper, then you could hitch to the trail from Wanaka. Many people depart on this hike daily, often before sunrise. d
Sticking a thumb out anywhere on Mount Aspiring Road heading towards the track will almost guarantee you a ride.
Tip: How to Get Around in New Zealand
Rent a car! New Zealand is very safe for motorists & driving is the best way to explore the country.
Make sure to book in advance using a comparison site like DiscoverCars to get the best deals. Or, if you want a camper, my favourite in NZ is Spaceships.
Shuttle to Roys Peak
Unfortunately, there is no direct public transport or shuttle bus that stops at the Roys Peak track parking area.
However, there are taxis and Ubers that operate in Wanaka. If you really don't want to hitch, then that will be a good option.
Hiking GPX File
Here is a GPX file made using my recording of the track with my Garmin GPS watch. If you'd like to download the track, you can by clicking the link below.
Remember that you should never use GPX maps as a main means of navigation. Trails change rapidly and certain sections or routes may not be suitable in varying conditions.
In regards to the Roys Peak New Zealand hike, you won't need much to navigate as the trail is very wide and obvious all the way to the peak.
GPX File: Download
My Strava: Visit
Related: ROCKY MOUNTAIN SUMMIT TRACK
What to Expect on the Roys Peak Track
After arriving at the trail car park, you'll see a point to walk over a fence, which marks the start of the track. There is a donation box here that is optional but a great way to say thank you to the private landowners who have opened the trail to everybody.
The start of the track gives you a good basis of expectations for what's in store. Most of the hike continues on this wide, winding ascent up the side of the mountain, all the way to the Roys Peak summit.
Although the actual track tends to get monotonous, the views are a rewarding motivator. Stretching far out over Wanaka, the lake and far out to the distant peak of Mount Aspiring.
As the track climbs, you'll notice the green grass giving way to duller, native alpine grass. In winter, there is usually also snow and ice on the trail, especially as you climb closer to the peak.
You might notice that there are sheep and cows that tend to share the track. This is a reminder that you are hiking on private property. I personally find it awesome that kiwis are supportive of opening their land for everyone to enjoy!
Roys Peak Lookout
After approximately 6KM of walking at approximately 1300M of elevation, you will have reached the famous Roys Peak lookout.
There is a signpost at a small fork to the lookout, and beyond this, you'll even find a toilet. The lookout point is a small ridge that continues out to the right, which makes for a great shot if you get a buddy to snap it from the slope just near the fork.
The famous lookout view is arguably more impressive than the summit itself, which results in many people not continuing on.
However, after making it this far, it'd be a crime to turn around now!
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The "True" Summit
C'mon, with only another 1.5 km and less than 300 m more elevation, you better be ready to pull up the bootstraps and keep going!
The push to the Roys Peak summit from the lookout is very similar to the rest of the hike.
The final section has an optional shortcut that follows the steep ridgeline. I followed this path on the way up as it was a little faster. I would imagine that this section would be very dangerous and difficult in winter.
After finally reaching the 1578M Roys Peak summit, it was time for us to relax and enjoy the view. Except, we were unfortunate to have persistent, heavy cloud cover hovering at the summit. So, for us, there were no views.
Luckily, the clouds lifted later in the morning, which gave us great views from the lookout point just below the summit.
When is the Best Time to Hike Roys Peak?
By far, the best time of the day to hike Roys Peak is before sunrise. Depending on the season, aim to arrive so that you make it to the Roys Peak lookout for sunrise.
Of course, this means the majority of the climb will be in the dark. However this also has its benefits, especially if you're hiking in summer; since the New Zealand sun can get pretty harsh.
In terms of seasons, Roys Peak can be climbed year-round. The best time to hike Roys Peak, in my opinion, is in spring, between September to November. During these months, there will most likely still be icing on most distant mountains, while blossoming flowers dot the trail.
Is the Roys Peak Hike Worth it?
I'm sure we've all seen those iconic Roys Peak lookout photos on Instagram. Yes, the view from the top is incredible, and the hike is definitely worth it.
However, there are a few caveats. Perhaps due to the irresistible Instagram-fueled "travel-lust" photo ops from the lookout, the trail is very heavily trafficked.
I'm sure that the last thing you want is a queue of other tired hikers that trail off into the distance in your photos.
Still, I find that even the most crowded trails are fairly empty before sunrise. In the case of the Roys Peak track, we still met a few other keen hikers and even a couple of campers along the way. But it was far from the jam-packed car park that you'd expect around lunchtime.
In essence, the Roys Peak hike must when visiting Wanaka - just leave early to beat the crowds!
Below I've also included some quick tips to help you plan a day of hiking to the summit of Roys Peak.
- Start in the early morning
- Check Wanaka weather updates
- Prepare for an icy, slippery trail in Winter
- Notify somebody of your intentions
- Keep your pack light
- Be prepared for swift changes in weather
Roys Peak Packing List
Here are some essentials for hiking Roys Peak.
- Water bottle
- Muesli Bar or other Trail snacks
- Sturdy boots or trail runners
- Lightweight clothing
- Rain Jacket
More Photos from the Roy's Peak Hike
Here are some more photos from our hike to Roy's Peak.
MORE THINGS TO DO NEAR WANAKA
I hope that you enjoyed this guide to hiking the Roys Peak track in Wanaka New Zealand. If you're still planning your trip or up for some spontaneous adventures, why not check out some of my other guides in the list below.
If you have any track updates or questions, make sure to help other hikers out by leaving a comment below.
A great starting point for hikes is this guide to the 31 Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.