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What to Know BEFORE Hiking Roys Peak From Wanaka

What to Know BEFORE Hiking Roys Peak From Wanaka

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Discover everything you need to know before Roys Peak in New Zealand; one of the most popular hikes in Wanaka and the entire South Island.

Almost everyone who visits New Zealand has seen that photo– the epic hiking shot from the famous viewpoint overlooking Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring (Tititea), and the surrounding ice-capped peaks. The truth is, Roys Peak has become somewhat of a Wanaka icon but offers a very accessible hiking track to the summit.

However, unlike That Wanaka Tree, the Roys Peak hike lives up to the hype, and I believe the views are well worth the early wake-up! In this guide, I’ll answer all of your questions about hiking the Roys Peak track, including valuable tips and what to expect.

Roys peak hike

What You Need to Know To Hike Roys Peak

  • Hiking Distance: 16 km return (10 mi)
  • Hike Duration: 4-6 hours return
  • Elevation Gain: 1,230 m (4,127 ft)
  • Roys Peak Height: 1,578 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasonal Considerations: The trail is closed from 1st October to 10th November for lambing. Winter hikes may require crampons or Microspikes/Yaktrax due to snow and ice.
  • Parking: The car park fills up quickly, often by 9 am. Arriving early is crucial to secure a spot.
  • Map: My Strava | Download GPX (.gpx 1.9 Mb) - not necessary for navigation as the trail is very wide and obvious all the way to the peak.

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 1,230 m+ from the car park to the summit (1,578 m).

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.

Hiking below roy's peak in new zealand

Where is Roys Peak?

Roys Peak is located just 6 km (3.7 miles) from the Wanaka foreshore, making it a convenient and popular hike if you're staying nearby.

The trailhead is easily accessed from a large car park on the side of Mount Aspiring Road, which is well-signposted and easy to find.

Roys peak map

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.

This car park has around 100 spaces, but it fills up quickly, often by 9 am. To secure a parking spot, aim to arrive early in the morning. If you're staying in Wanaka, the drive to the trailhead takes less than 10 minutes.

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. Sticking a thumb out anywhere on Mount Aspiring Road heading towards the track will almost guarantee you a ride.

Peter's lookout drive we seek travel

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.

I always DiscoverCars to get the best deals. Or, if you want a camper, I've had good experiences in NZ with Spaceships & Travellers Autobarn.

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. You can also ask your accommodation, several hostels in Wanaka offer sunrise shuttles to the trailhead.

Tip: If you're too late and the car park is full, check out the nearby Rocky Mountain Trail for similar views.

Girl getting her boots on in the dark from her car getting ready to hike roy's peak
Haylea preparing for an early start on the Roys Peak track.

My Experience Hiking Roy's Peak for Sunrise

After arriving at the trail car park, we saw a point to walk over a fence, which marked 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.

Roys peak hike in wanaka for sunrise

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.

Hiking roys peak track

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.

Wanaka sunrise
View of Wanaka from the Roys Peak Track

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.

Hiking the roys peak track in wanaka

You might notice that some sheep and cows 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!

Sheep at the roys peak track
Sheep enjoying the view of Wanaka

Roys Peak Lookout: The Famous Photo

After approximately 6 km of walking at approximately 1,300 m of elevation, we 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!

Roys peak lookout at sunrise
The famous Roys Peak New Zealand lookout

Hiking to the "True" Roy's Peak 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. However, recently the landowners began closing the trail from the 1st of October to the 10th of November for lambing.

In my opinion, the best time to hike Roys Peak 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.

Roys peak track
Hiking Roys Peak in summer

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!

Wanaka from the roys peak track

Quick Tips

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
  • Sunscreen
  • Muesli Bar or other Trail snacks
  • Sturdy boots or trail runners
  • Lightweight clothing
  • Rain Jacket
  • Camera

More Photos from My Roy's Peak Hike

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.

Hiking the roys peak track
Roys peak track
Roys peak track wanaka
Roys peak track wanaka
Roys peak track wanaka
Roys peak hike in new zealand
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.