Hiking Roys Peak for Sunrise
October 16, 2018
As one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, Roys Peak should be on your list of things to do! This blog includes all of the information you need to know before tackling Roys Peak for yourself.
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 you would still come fare short of hiking them all. However, there are those few hikes that really stand out from the rest, the ones that give you views 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. Roys Peak is famous for its spectacular views over Lake Wanaka and the viewpoint at the top is now famous for getting that magical picture! 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!
Here’s everything you need to know about hiking Roys Peak, New Zealand!
Where is Roys Peak?
Roys Peak is located only a 5-minute drive from the town of Wanaka in the Otago district in New Zealand’s South Island. From Queenstown, Wanaka is only a one-hour drive.
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 signed and on your left-hand side.
At the start of Roys Peak is a large car park, but in the busy months of summer this carpark fills up very early. Hiking first thing in the morning is the best way to ensure you get a parking space (and in summer it is also a far cooler option!)
Please note, freedom camping in the carpark is not allowed.
At both the start and end of the trail there is a toilet. There is also a toilet at the viewpoint near the top. But other than a couple of 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).
The Roys Peak carpark sits at a mere 200m in elevation and the summit 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 and wide. It 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). Once you get close to the top you will reach a sign that says you have reached the viewpoint and that the summit is another 30-40 minutes up.
If you are trying to get the famous photos on the peak then the viewpoint is where you need to be. The summit is not where the famous photo is taken from! Some people get confused by this and keep on hiking up past the viewpoint. Of course, this is not a problem if you are there during the day, but if you’re going up for sunset or sunrise this information is critical so that you are in the right place at the right time!
How hard is the hike?
As mentioned above, the trail is 8km long and elevates almost 1300m so I would have to rate Roys Peak a moderate to hard hike.
While it isn’t overly long, the steep incline the majority of the way up is tiring especially for those who do not exercise regularly. The way down is the same path as the way up and can be hard on the 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, the heat combined with the incline will have you stopping for breaks more frequently, and in winter the icy conditions near the top can really slow you down.
Getting down was a lot easier and can take around 1.5 hours.
As a whole, I would allow 6 to 7 hours for the hike roundtrip!
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. I have personally hiked up for sunrise an there are a few benefits such as the amazing views with stunning colours (if you’re lucky), far fewer people (I only shared the trail with 4 others) and cooler temperatures (although this can be a bad thing in winter).
If you are into photography then this is really a must do!
What to Bring
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.
Water – There are no places to fill your water bottle along the way unless you have some form of water purification. In summer though, the small streams dry up and with the hot temperatures and relentless sun so bringing a few litres of water per person is highly recommended. 2 to 3 litres 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.
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!
Is it 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! Please, please do not miss this hike!
There are so many amazing hikes in New Zealand that are actually reasonably close to Roys Peak. Some of our favorites include The Tasman Glacier, Hooker Valley, Sealy Tarns, Ben Lomond, Fernhill Loop, and the Queenstown Hill!
And don’t forget to readl about all of our advetures in New Zealand!