Roy’s Peak is that Instagram-famous, why haven’t I been there, I really want to go there, where is that anyway, and I can’t believe this is real life picture-perfect hike. This long day trip is as rewarding as it is challenging and is accessed through my favourite place in the world: Wanaka.
Where: 6km outside Wanaka (small parking lot is off of Mount Aspiring Road)
Closest City: Wanaka, New Zealand – it is possible to walk to the track via the Waterfall Creek Track
When: All year, minus lambing season (October through mid-November)
Length: 16km return (8km to top)
Hiking Trip Base Cost: $0 (day trip!)
Additional Variable Costs: any new hiking gear, a flight, accommodation off the trail, gas/a rental car to get to the trail, etc.
Roy’s Peak Itinerary and Route
Wanaka to Roy’s Peak (8km)
Drive from Wanaka on Mount Aspiring Road towards Glendhu Bay/the West Coast. About 10min out, stop and park at the Roy’s Peak Track parking lot. The track is 8km of steep uphill to the top. Along the way you’ll cross cows, tussock, and meadows before reaching the treeline into alpine territory.
Snow abound, the views of the surrounding mountains, Lake Wanaka, and Wanaka itself get better the higher you go. Most of the way to the top, you’ll reach that iconic ridge where so many photos before have been taken and shared. This is your moment – embrace it! At the top, the views of the youthful peaks all around are incredible and made all the better knowing it’s all downhill from there.
Roy’s Peak to Wanaka (8km)
The way down is quick and easy. If the timing is right, enjoy the sun as it sets on the Lake and town below!
Roses n Thorns
Rose (the best part)
The descent. On our way up, we were keen to make it to the top and pushing the pace. On the way down, a long meandering of the trail included hundreds of photos (many poses, many faces) and so many moments of laughter and chatter. I walked halfway down with my friends, then sped ahead to walk the rest alone. As the sun began to set, I sat on a rock with a clear view of the lake and town below, and sang. Sang songs! I sang to myself and myself alone, loud and proud and clear and strong – poorly, I’m sure, but loudly. It was the most free feeling of joy. How long has it been since you couldn’t help but sing out loud, you were so overcome with happiness? It was a song from the heart in its purest form.
Thorn (the worst or most hilarious part)
Cheese buns. I ended up climbing Roy’s Peak because the night prior I had (a bit drunkenly) agreed to it after returning from the bar to my flat, where my flatmate would (allegedly) ask if I wanted to join. Thus, in the morning, when he knocked on my door at 6am to “make sure I still wanted to go” and I was still asleep, I had little time to prepare. I chucked a water bottle and a raincoat into an otherwise empty pack and on my way out, grabbed a pack of 6 cheese buns. To this day, I’m still not even sure that they were my cheese buns – I don’t remember. Alas, all I had to eat for breakfast and lunch and trail-side snacks was 6 large cheese buns. I ate them all.
Bud (the new friend)
Not a new friend, but a new version of an old friend. I did this hike with 3 others; one of which was my flatmate Dana. Dana is and was a hardcore mountaineer through and through. Outdoorsmen doesn’t even cut it – he is a man of the woods. He studied geology with a fiery passion, and has dedicated his life to outdoor education and environmental chivalry. Unfortunately, Dana had been locked inside for much of the semester due to a concussion he got in his first month in New Zealand. Roy’s Peak was Dana’s grand debut! Too long trapped inside, Dana came back with flying colours and enjoyed Roy’s Peak more than I thought anyone possibly could. His positivity and strength through the whole ordeal was admirable, and it was a privilege to be with him on his return to the wild.
Gear and Food List
This is a day trip, but a tough one at that. You’ll need to pack layers for the summit and alpine temperatures as you climb, as well as lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Good trail shoes or boots are highly recommended.
Lunch: snacks throughout the day including pepperoni sticks, tortillas, a LOT of peanut butter, granola bars, GORP, and dried fruit
Make it Happen
- Understand the route and pick a time of year you want to go. As always, DOCNZ has wonderful planning information: Roy’s Peak Track
- Choose your itinerary and where you will stay the night before and after (either in Wanaka or campsites nearby). Again, this is ideally part of a longer journey in New Zealand so see where it fits in.
- Once that is locked in, book your flights and/or transportation to the park
- If flying, fly into Christchurch and rent a car. If you don’t have a car, it is extremely easy to catch a ride from Wanaka to the start of the trail.
- The fun begins! Plan your meal, get your gear in order, and start walking to work and taking the stairs to make your trip as fun as possible
- Get outside and do the thing