Hiking Roys Peak for Sunrise
As one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, Roys Peak should be on your list of things to do! But, don’t just do it on any plain day or you’ll find yourself standing in a queue for that “perfect Instagram shot.” This blog includes all of the information you need to know before tackling Roys Peak for yourself (especially if you want to hike Roys Peak for sunrise and miss out on the crowds!)
Complete Guide to Hiking Roys Peak
New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking hiking trails that wind and weave their way through its beautiful landscapes. If you spent 1 year hiking a different trail every day in New Zealand you would still come short of hiking them all. However, there are a few hikes that really stand out from the rest. There are the ones that literally take your breath away – Roys Peak is one of them.
It’s safe to say that Roys Peak is now one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand. Its most famous view is from a viewpoint just shy of the top, here you can take a breathtaking photo overlooking Lake Wanaka. Roys Peak is one hike you will definitely want to do while visiting New Zealand, and in my opinion, it is the best day hike in New Zealand!
But word has gotten out about just how beautiful this day hike is and now it seems like everyone is doing it! This makes for cramped trails and ques to take photos (yes, people line-up on the side of the mountain to get a photo!)
When we hiked Roys Peak at sunrise there were only about 4 other people on the entire mountain! Sure, we didn’t have the place to ourselves but there was no queue and instead, all of us were helping each other take awesome sunrise photos!
So, in this blog, I not only reveal everything you need to know before you hit Roys Peak trail but also include a little bit of extra info on hiking at sunrise (in case you aren’t fond of huge crowds!)
Where is Roys Peak?
Getting to Roys Peak
Reaching the Roys Peak carpark from Wanaka is super easy. Simply take the main street along the lake left (if you’re facing the lake). This road is called Ardmore Street but it turns into Mount Aspiring Road after the Wanaka Recreational Reserve. Once on Mount Aspiring Road, just go straight until you reach the carpark. It is signposted and is on your left-hand side.
Parking at Roy’s Peak
At the start of Roys Peak is a large car park. In the summer months, this carpark fills up very early. Hiking first thing in the morning is the best way to ensure you get a parking space. If you arrive after 10 am spaces become very limited.
Please note, freedom camping in the carpark is not allowed. If you do freedom camp here you are risking a hefty $200 fine!
Amenities at Roys Peak
At the start of the trail, there is a drop toilet. There is also a toilet at the viewpoint near the top. But other than these two toilets there are no other facilities.
It is necessary to bring your own drinking water as there is none along the way and drinking from the streams is ill-advised (mainly due to farming runoff).
Roys Peak Weather
During the summer expect the temperature to rise over 20⁰C in the day time. This can make the hike to Roys Peak very hot (so be sure to bring plenty of water!) The hottest summer months are January and February, with December and March also being quite warm but just not as much so.
The main winter months are June to September. During these months you will likely find snow near the top of Roys Peak. This can make the tril slippery so you should wear some good hiking boots or even consider using crampons!
The Best Time to Hike Roys Peak
At sunrise! This time of day offers the best views as the sky glows and lights up the surrounding mountain peaks. Not to mention, it makes the hike all that much more exciting hiking up in the dark!
In the early hours of the morning, there are also way fewer people than during the day. When I hiked Roys Peak for sunrise, there were only a couple of other people at the top watcing the beautiful show with me. Then, a couple of hours later on my way down, I passed litrally dozens of people walking up. I felt lucky to have had such a peaceful experience.
If you have the choice, hiking during the months of October, November, April, or May are also much less busy. These months are considered the “shoulder season” for tourism meaning there are just generally fewer tourists around.
The Hike to Roys Peak: Trail Info
The Roys Peak carpark sits at a mere 200m in elevation and the summit at a massive 1500m. This means in order to get those magnificent views you must climb almost 1300m in elevation and walk 8km one way!
The path is really well maintained, wide, and is in a classic switchback formation most of the way. In several different spots, it is necessary to pass over fences, however, there are steps to help get you over.
Once you start the hike you will pass through private farming land. This means farm animals will likely be around, so don’t get frightened like Bailey and I did when we almost stumbled over a sheep in the dark when we hiked up for sunrise!
After you pass through the farming land you will then enter the conservation area which is run by the DOC (Department of Conservation).
Getting the Roys Peak Instagram Photo
We know you want to…so let us tell you that the famous Roys Peak picture is NOT taken from the summit and instead taken at a viewpoint about 30 minutes shy of the summit.
When you get close to the top of Roy’s Peak you will reach a sign that says you have reached the viewpoint and that the summit is another 30-40 minutes further up. There is a toilet here. This is where the famous Roys Peak Instagram photo is taken from!
Roys Peak difficulty?
As mentioned above, the trail is 8km long and elevates almost 1300m. This makes Roy’s Peak a medium to hard hike depending on your fitness level. While it isn’t overly long, the steep incline the majority of the way up is tiring especially for those who don’t exercise regularly.
The way down is the same way you went up. This part is tough on those with bad knees.
How long does it take?
It took Bailey and me just under 2 hours to reach the viewpoint and then another 30 minutes to the summit. That being said, we were racing up for sunrise and only stopped momentarily to catch our breath from time to time. For those not in a hurry, allowing 3 to 4 hours is more than enough time to get to the summit.
In summer (December, January, February), the heat combined with the incline will have you stopping for breaks more frequently, and in winter (June, July, August) the icy conditions near the top can really slow you down. For this reason, it’s important to allow more time during these months,
Getting down was a lot easier and takes around 1.5 hours.
As a whole, I would allow 5 to 7 hours for the roundtrip hike!
Camping at the top of Roys peak is somewhat of a grey area. Although the DOC website does not state that you cannot camp there, it also doesn’t say that you can. It is common for people to camp but you must do so at your own risk. Alternatively, you can just call and ask your local DOC office.
Hiking Roys Peak for Sunrise or Sunset
I highly recommend hiking Roys Peak for either sunrise or sunset. This is honestly the best time to hike Roys Peak because you escape the crowds of people that visit every day. During my hike up Roys Peak, I shared the trail with only 4 other people. However, on the way down, I must have passed over 100 people heading up at around 10 am!
One of the big problems with the large crowds of people during the day is the “Roys Peak queue”. This was made famous after a photo of the line up for the Roys Peak viewpoint went viral. This queue forms at the famous photo viewpoint, and in my opinion, hinderers your experience. At sunrise, you will almost have the entire viewpoint to yourself!
If you are into photography then hiking up to Roy’s Peak for sunrise is a must do!
What to bring: How to Prepare for Roys Peak Hike
Hiking Boots – To be fair, if you don’t have hiking boots you can complete the hike without them especially in summer. However, in winter the trail can become covered in snow so some waterproof hiking boots will help a lot. If there has been a lot of snow then crampons would also be handy. If you’re looking for a great pair of hiking boots, the ones we use are the Mammut Trovat. They are a great boot and we highly recommend them!
Water – There are no places to fill your water bottle along the way unless you have some form of water purification, a great choice is a LifeStraw water bottle. In summer though, the small streams dry up and with the hot temperatures and relentless sun so bringing a few liters of water per person is highly recommended. 2 to 3 liters should suffice.
Hat and sunscreen – New Zealand’s sun is extreme! The large hole in the Ozone layer is right above New Zealand and as such you will burn more easily here. Be sure to get a reef safe sunscreen so you can protect New Zealand’s waterways.
Food – You will likely be spending the best part of a day up there so bringing some snacks along is a great idea. There’s nothing worse than hiking while you’re hungry!
A torch – If you are hiking up for sunrise then you will need some light!
Is hiking Roys Peak Worth It?
Yes!! This is a very easy question to answer. The views from the top and viewpoint are some of the best I have seen in New Zealand!
Although the hike can be crowded and is rather hard, I would highly recommend not missing it and would say it’s one of the best things to do in New Zealand! And, if you hike up for sunrise it won’t be nearly as busy as during the day! Please, please do not miss this hike!
Roys Peak Accommodation
There is no accommodation at the top or bottom of Roys Peak. Instead, you will have to stay in Wanaka. In Wanaka a few great options are:
Please note, prices change depending on the time of year so please click on the links attached to get and exact price and check availability
- The Base Wanaka – The Base is a hostel chain in New Zealand. They are great for budget travelers who like socialize and meet other travelers. A dorm bed here starts at $30 NZD per night and a double for two people at $90.
- YHA Wanaka – YHA is another hostel chain and are always really good hostels to stay at. The YHA Wanaka is a little more pricy but is more suited to the more relaxed traveler. A dorm bed here starts at $40 and a private at $110
- Wanaka Hotel – The Wanaka Hotel is a luxury mid rage hotel. Here you can expect a traditional hotel setting in a very ideal and beautiful location. Private rooms start at $150 for two people.
- Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka – The Bella Vista is another hotel in a fantastic location. This hotel is very similar to the Wanaka Hotel, however, I much prefer the hotel grounds of the Wanaka Hotel. Private rooms start at $160 for two people.
Roys Peak Alternatives
There are so many amazing hikes in New Zealand that are actually reasonably close to Roys Peak. Some of our favorite alternatives to Roys Peak include The Tasman Glacier, Hooker Valley, Sealy Tarns, Ben Lomond, Fernhill Loop, and the Queenstown Hill!
And don’t forget to read about all of our adventures in New Zealand!
Other Things to do near Roys Peak
In and around Wanaka there are a few amazing places to check out! Some of our personal favorites are:
- Wanaka Lavender Farm – Only a couple minutes outside of Wanaka is a lavender farm which makes for some perfect photo opportunities!
- Diamond Lake Walk – This hike is much easier than Roys Peaks but offers some gorgeous views!
- That Wanaka Tree – This is the most famous tree in New Zealand. While we don’t overly rate it as anything special, many people do so you should probably check it out for yourself and see what you think!
- The Blue Pools – Easily one of the most popular tourist attractions heading from Wanaka to the West Coast. You need to see the blue water!
- Thunder Creek Falls – This is one impressive waterfall!
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October 16, 2018