As the most iconic hike in New Zealand’s South Island, my expectations were high when I set off for the 5-7 hour return trek to Roy’s Peak. This day hike is located just a short drive outside of Wanaka and is sure to be one of the most memorable days on your New Zealand journey. Here you will find the ultimate guide to hiking Roy’s Peak in New Zealand.
Guide to Hiking Roy’s Peak
Lake Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s crowning jewels. While there are many day hikes you can choose from in the South Island, this is the most iconic. Roy’s Peak is an easy hike, though it will take 5-7 hours to complete in full. It is best to arrive early for the hike, especially in the summer months when the car park quickly fills with cars and camper vans. In the winter this hike is much quieter and you can enjoy it mostly to yourself, though you might want to consider your shoe choice as the summit can be icey, slippery and covered in snow.
On the way up
The hike to Roy’s Peak commences at the base car-park, which is located just a ten minute drive from the town of Wanaka. The total climb is 1300 metres, and will take 5-7 hours to complete from the base to the summit and back again.
The hike is not difficult and the path zig zags across the mountain. It isn’t until you reach the final part of the trek that the hike becomes a bit steeper, though this hike suits any fitness level (mine included!) I would recommend wearing a good pair of hiking shoes you have already worn in, especially if you are hiking in winter when the peak is covered in ice and snow.
The views on the way up to Roy’s Peak are just as stunning as the summit, so it can be difficult to keep up momentum when you just want to stop and take it all in. However the summit itself is a great achievement, so be sure to keep going!
On the way up you will likely encounter some of the friendly locals, mountain sheep who call this place home. The track actually crosses private farm lands, so be sure to remain respectful of this and leave no trace.
Reaching the Summit
Once you do reach the summit, the views are spectacular. From the peak you can see Lake Wanaka below, where you will spot two small islands in the middle of the lake. If you have more time to explore Wanaka, consider taking a boat out to these islands for a day of private swimming and short hikes.
The best time of the day to visit really depends on the weather, however for photography enthusiasts you cannot beat sunrise and sunset. It has become a more popular choice to complete the hike before sunset, camp at the top, and also see the sun rise the next day. This is a great choice in summer as it will allow you to enjoy the stillness of the dramatic backdrop, with fewer hikers choosing to spend the night at the summit.
Tips for Hiking Roy’s Peak
Be sure to pack a snack or a light lunch. This hike is not too long (5-7 hours) but if you want to spend an hour at the summit taking photos, you are likely to be on the longer side of that timeframe.
Be sure to wear hiking shoes as the hike is a steady incline to the top. If you are hiking in winter, make sure you take extreme care at the top where it gets icey and is often covered in a light layer of snow.
This hike is most popular in summer, however hiking Roy’s Peak in winter provides fewer crowds and you can enjoy the mountain mostly to yourself.