Roys Peak – New Zealand’s most instagrammed hike?

Roys Peak – New Zealand’s most instagrammed hike?

Roys Peak - New Zealand's most instagrammed hike?Our next fantastic day walk in New Zealand was the famous Roys Peak. My mum has a friend called Roy who is keen to see the views from Roys Peak, so out of all the day-hike options near Wanaka, this is the one that we thought we should try! My plan was to take so many photos that Roy wouldn’t have to climb the mountain himself. The weather forecast sounded perfect so we were hoping to see some good views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains.

It was only after I took my favourite Kiwi jump shot that I found out that this is one of New Zealand’s most photographed day hikes. So, meh. We weren’t original in Wanaka, but I still had great fun on this beautiful walk.

Roys Peak Trail Map

Roys Peak Trail – Basic Information:

Name: Roys Peak, near Wanaka in New Zealand
Height:ย 1578 m
Distance: 16 km
Time: It should take 5-6 hours
What to bring: Read through the 10 essentials:
– Comfy shoes
– Food
– Loads of water. Seriously we saw people rushing up with teeny bottles. I hope they were okay.
– Camera to capture the stunning views
– If you have walking poles, bring them! The path is easy, but the steep slopes can be tough on your knees on the return journey.
– Warm layers as it is always chillier than you expect at the top!
– Sun cream – this is New Zealand and that sun wants to burn your skin! There is virtually no shade on this hike.
How hard is it: The path is incredibly easy to follow. The thing that makes this difficult is the elevation gain and the heat. The best way to manage it is to start very early in the morning so you can avoid the hot Kiwi sun. We finished at noon, and the people who were just starting up the mountain looked like they were really suffering.
Other important information: The Roy’s Peak track goes through private farmland and is closed in October for the lambing season.

Start early for Roys Peak!

We had been very hot the previous day on our walk around Lake Wanaka, so we decided if we really wanted to climb a mountain, we should have a super-early start. Our plan was to leave our hotel at 5:30am so we could start the hike before the sun rose just after 6:00am. It turned out for Roys Peak, that isn’t early enough! The car park was already half full even though we were up and walking at around 5:45am. It seems that most people went even earlier to watch the sunrise from the peak.

Watching the sun rise

We stopped by the memorial for Arthur Stanley Scaife to watch the sun pop over the horizon. While Marc was capturing photos of the sunrise, I started listening to some happily chatting birdies. There was a large group of California Quails. I love the black feathery plume at the top of their heads! They have a sweet ‘meep’ -like call and they all chat to each other constantly as they rush around under the bushes.

Once the sun was fully up in the sky, we left the quails and kept walking up Roys Peak’s switchbacks looking down on the gorgeous glowing views.

Roys Peak is covered in very, very dry grass. It wasn’t quite as lush as I imagined New Zealand would be, but this yellow grass looks amazing in the golden light of the sunrise.

As you zig-zag your way up Roys Peak, you get better and better views of the surrounding mountains. Every few hundred meters of elevation gain shows off another layer of mountains in the distance. It’s beautiful.

The best location for sheep?

The lucky creatures that get to enjoy these views every day are the Kiwi sheep! This is Dorothy. Marc named her, but I had a conversation with her while we both enjoyed the view. You can tell I was mostly concentrating on Dorothy because the horizon in my photo is really wonky!

This is a busy walk

As you get higher, the path gets steeper. We had walked quite a lot in the last week (including our epic hike up to Mueller Hut.) Roys Peak track is one of the easiest to follow, because the path is obvious and very smooth BUT it is still hard work to walk up such a steep slope. You really do have to make an effort to see these views!

Despite the effort, I have never seen so many people on a mountain so early in the morning! As we neared the ridge, there were soo many people coming down from the Peak! It turns out most people had climbed the mountain from 3 am, and then spent a while freezing at the top of the mountain, waiting to see the sun rise. We could also see quite a lot of people who had started after us, slowly coming up the path lower down the mountain. I am used to climbing mountains in Ireland, where it is totally normal to not meet another soul all day. It was a bit of a shock to see this many people, especially before 8:00 in the morning!

New Zealand’s Most instagrammed spot!?

Once you make it up to the ridge-way on Roy’s Peak, there is this gorgeous view! We stopped off to eat an apple and so that we could take this jump shot. Can you see me!?

If you look carefully, you can see there are five other girls crouching down while Marc took my jump shot! This is where I discovered this mountain is uber-popular on instagram! Those girls were there for aaaages. Each one ran to the end and took all sorts of ‘natural’ poses while we watched from afar eating our apples. I went over and had a good natter while we waited for them to finish their photos, but after about 20 minutes I asked if I could just run up and take my photo so we could keep going to the top! They were really sweet girls, but blooming ‘eck! It turns out some ladies need to take a LOT of photos before finding their one instagram piccy!

There were even more people at this spot on our way back down. You can see why everyone likes this view. It is really gorgeous. Just be prepared to wait if you want to take your own photo here!

I did post the photo above on instagram, but I am never going to be an insta-star! I jumped twice to get that photo. It’s just Marc is really good at taking jump-shots without spending a long time trying to capture them!

Reaching the Peak

The next part of the walk goes around the back of the ridge to follow the path to the top of Roy’s Peak. This last little climb is actually pretty easy after the grueling hours lower down the mountain. Somehow, we arrived at the top after all the sun-rise watchers had left, but before most of the day hikers had arrived. So we were rewarded with the spectacular views of Lake Wanaka all to ourselves.

You can’t really tell from my photo how vertical that drop-off was. It was pretty, but eep, it was also super steep! It’s perfect for another jump-shot!

This is the view down the the look out (where we took my previous jump shot.) Apparently lots of people don’t bother coming all the way to the top of Roy’s Peak, they just come for that first view. I personally think the view was even better from the top, so if you visit Wanaka – keep going and climb to the actual peak!

It took us 3 and a half hours to reach the top of Roys Peak (although that included our long break with the instagrammers, so you can probably easily manage it in 3 hours.) We spent a while relaxing at the top, but even though it was only 9am, we were already pretty hungry so ate some of our lunch! By the time we were ready to leave the summit, there was already a small crowd up there.

Roy’s Stunt Sheep

So earlier, I introduced Dorothy the sheep, thinking she had the best possible sheep view. Well, on the way home, we saw this sheep, Clarence, who wanted an even more epic view. He spent a while leading his sheep friend up onto that cliff. I stopped to get out my zoom lens to capture this stunt-sheep, but my eyes are better than my lens, so they still look teeny.

Husband Chasing

While I was watching stunt sheep, Marc kept walking, so that teeny dot in the distance is my husband wandering off without me. Oops. I did run to catch up, but once I had made it around the next corner, the views were all gorgeous again, so I stopped for more photos and lost Marc again.

I had so much fun taking photos on Roys Peak. But I never quite caught up to Marc again. I’d run, almost catch up, and then get distracted by the stunning views, take more photos, then realise I had been left behind again! So the rest of my photos of Roys Peak involve Marc’s back as I chased him down the mountain!

I’ll finish this post with some amazing panoramas from the top (or near the top) of Roy’s Peak. Gorgeous eh!?

If you plan to do this walk, you’ll probably want to have a good rest and eat some fantastic food afterwards. If you’d like ideas for that click through to my post about relaxing and eating by Lake Wanaka. Or you can find ideas for the rest of your travels in New Zealand here.

72 thoughts on “Roys Peak – New Zealand’s most instagrammed hike?

    1. Thanks Ruth!

      I was most worried about dangling my camera to take that photo!! I made sure it was firmly around my neck!!

  1. Wow! Your photos are amazing! I can certainly understand why this spot is IG heaven – it looks like heaven on earth ๐Ÿ˜Š Congratulations on the climb and keep sharing more NZ pics!

    1. Thanks Lisa! We are always up for a climb, so that was the best bit for me. I feel like I should have probably done more research and known it was an epic IG spot in advance. (Oops)

  2. Wow, this looks awesome!! Reminds of the dragon back hike that we did a while ago in Hong Kong (seems to be a just a litle bit better view on this one ;)). Thank you for the guide! Definitely something to do when visit New Zealand.

    1. Ooooh a Dragon Back Hike sounds amaaaazing! I mean, I can sort of imagine the shape of the ridgewalk just from the name! Did you write a post about it?

    1. It was a really good place for a walk. Although it must be really strange for locals to see so many people up there all the time! It makes me wonder if it was as popular before instagram became a thing.

    1. It’s totally fun if you manage it!

      When I lived in Japan, I used get people to go drinking/karaoke all night, and *then* climb a (small) mountain for the sunrise. That way, you don’t actually sleep, so you don’t have to wake up early. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Oooh if you have a Kiwi bucket list you should toootally add this. Although, there are other amazing sounding walks nearby that would have fewer people if you prefer quiet hikes…

  3. Oh my… What a spectacular hike… The view is incredibly beautiful. Totally worth all the effort. As for husband chasing, happens to me all the time. I get so lost in the views that I am always at the end of the group ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Yaaay! lol I am glad I am not the only one that does this! We both have long legs, but his are longer and he walks sooo fast! Our blokes need to give us more time to soak up the views!!

  4. It’s kinda funny, when you travel to places like this it’s always nice to have photos that look candid. It’s just a different vibe than “OMG look I’m on top of a mountain!” But it’s still fake. If only we could have robots follow us around to take lots of nice authentic candids haha. (especially when your travel mates arent big into photography)


    1. Oooh Knurly, I wonder if that will be the next step in drone technology, oooh the pressure to not look daft all the time!

      I have a feeling I’d just stick with looking daft(!)

      It’s not really candid, but i realise that you can see my knickers in the jumping photo at the top of this mountain. I’m also pulling a slightly ridiculous face BUT I was having such a laugh that I just posted it anyway. Heh. This is why I’ll never make it as an insta-star!

  5. This looks like a great hike! The views are amazing and a lot of great tips in here. I’ll definitely start early and bring plenty of water. How sweet that those girls kneeled down for your jumping shot ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I know right! I was so busy jumping that I didn’t notice until when I looked at the photo later!

      I was really worried about people without much water. We had 7 liters between us, but we saw people with only about 500ml. I really hope they didn’t end up with heat stroke!

  6. Thank you for including so many gorgeous photos in your post. I have the same problem:re stopping to take photos and never catching up to my husband. I am always doing the catch up run, but easily get distracted. It’s easier to manage in nature, but in a busy city, I get super anxious when I get too far away from him.

    1. Ha! I’m glad I’m not the only one with a speedy husband!

      I don’t mind so much in cities as I’m normally the one showing us the way… I don’t really mind in mountains either its just I *try* to keep up! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I just wrote about Rob Roy Glacier and have a post about Roy’s Peak , I LOVE that walk! and yes most instagramed with the famous pose lol great post!

    1. Thanks Lauren! I am glad I am not the only one that loves this walk!!

      Can you let me know the link for your post about the Glacier? I’d love to see it (I tried clicking through your avatar, but it wasn’t working…) I really like seeing places I’ve been through other people’s eyes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Sooooo gorgeous!! Youโ€™re so adventurous. As much as Iโ€™d like to say Iโ€™d be the kind of person who climbs huge mountains at 5 AM, letโ€™s be real ๐Ÿ˜‚. So, Iโ€™ll just continue to live vicariously through you! I canโ€™t believe the amount of people and those who climbed the mountain at 3 in the morning ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ!

    1. I know! They made us look like wimps for waking up at 5am! I was not expecting that!!

      You’d’ve been okay going later as well…we were just lazy. Strangely, it is way easier (and the lazy option) to wake up early. It just means you sweat waaay less.

  9. Nice to hear another perspective of Roys. I went in May – close to winter, and there was absolutely no one. Ice started forming after the “Instagram spot” so it was a really nice time to go.

    1. Woah! It must have been gorgeous if the surrounding mountains had a little snow too! It must have been really chilly at the top!!

      We visited NZ for a friends wedding in the summer, but I think I would love to see it in other seasons.

      1. No idea yet – but hiking will definitely be on the agenda!
        (If this reply comes through multiple times, I apologize. I kept getting an error message each time I tried to post it!)

        1. Niiice! I hope you have an amazing trip! You have to blog about it afterwards!

          p.s. I am sorry about the error message. I think it happens sometimes when people reply through WP.

  10. New Zealand’s high up on my list and I’m totally bookmarking this for when I do go. Thanks for the tip about starting early too. I always forget how crazy hot it can get around noontime. Definitely not ideal for hiking! Can for sure see why those girls were just taking photos non-stop at the peak. What a view!!!

    1. Argh! Jas, I am so sorry! I missed this comment (it fell into the spam filter!)
      But thank you! I am really chuffed that you read it and that you are heading to Roys Peak!! I hope you have gorgeous weather for your walk.

  11. A couple of questions: California Quails in New Zealand: What came first, the discover naming of the quails? Did they get imported from California to New Zealand? That’s so interesting. Second, do you just jump up in the air and hope that Marc catches the shot? Or do you have some of signal? Or is the air so clear that you could shout out “do it now!” and still be heard.
    I am so excited about going hiking next weekend! And we’re going ti Iceland to hike next fall. Wondering about shoes!! Do you use hiking boots? How did you pick them? So many questions!!

    1. It sounds like those Quails were introduced as a game bird. There are so many NZ birds that wander around on the ground that I thought they were local until I looked them up!

      Jumping: Yep – Marc is amazing. He just watched me start to jump and presses the shutter. He nearly always gets it first time. I married the right man for me! <3

      Oooh yay for Iceland. Right. I need to write a post for you (or at least share a location on fb.) we found the most amazing (and free) hot spring there! Do get hiking boots if you can. Iceland is quite volcanic and rocky so it will make it all soo much easier. To choose them, go to a hiking store and try on loooads. Then take them home and wear them around the house to make sure they are comfy. You also need to do some short walks in them before your holiday to break them in a little.

    2. p.s. Get some good hiking socks. They sort of hug the middle part of your foot, so don’t rub. They can really help stop blisters!

  12. On top of the world!! It’s frustrating when I see things so clearly and my camera doesn’t. I could see the tiny sheep dots (not to be confused with dips…) Lovely post!

    1. Yay that you can see the sheep dots! Human eyes are amaazing aren’t they. I mean, that is why it is so hard to capture the beauty around us with cameras…

    1. Thanks Suzanne!

      You could always do a few months house-sitting around New Zealand to have an excuse to see it all again. It’s one of the few places I could imagine living as soon as we arrived!

    1. Thanks Orla! It is pretty spectacular isn’t it!? The whole of NZ seems to be like this. It’s like a massive beautiful film set!

  13. Iโ€™d be right up with early crew…I bet sunrise up there is fabulous. In fact anytime looks fabulous Josey. Such intense blue skies and the air must feel so clean too. Itโ€™s the sort of place I love to see too. Donโ€™t suppose you saw Gandalf wandering about?

    1. If we saw Gandalf that would have made it perfect! You’re right though. We didn’t think of hiking up for the sunrise, but now I know how easy the path is to follow I’d be up for that next time!

    1. It was a bit strange, but I didn’t mind too much. The girls were from Germany and Japan (and I hadn’t spoken Japanese for months!) so I had a really pleasant chat while their friends posed!

      If I had known it was so popular before we started the walk, I’d’ve been more prepared for the huge number of people though!!

    1. Lol thanks Arden! I don’t think I could manage it while keeping a straight face! I do love seeing everyone elses insta piccies!

      I feel like that jump shot was one of my better ‘grams.

  14. Seriously, your jump shot is amazing! Kuddos to Mark. It also gave me butterflies in my stomach. I have a fear of heights (maybe this is why I’m fond of cross-country skiing – not so much downhill ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). The rest of your photos were also beautiful and I think your entire post should be smack-dab in the middle of a travel magazine. A beautiful post to go along with another beautiful hike. Thanks again for sharing your magical posts!

    1. Oooh thanks Erin! It’s funny, I hardly ever read travel magazines these days…there are sooo many amazing travel bloggers instead.

      It would be amaaazing if one day I could get paid to share this kind of thing though!

    1. Oooh yay! are you heading to Wanaka soon? It was really pretty, but take loooads of water and start early! I felt so bad for the very hot people was saw starting at noon!

  15. Fantastic photos Josy. The heat sounds great to me right now, since we are fighting with winter to break through to spring in Maine. It is a fight to the finish as I look out my window to see snow falling. I canโ€™t wait to feel some heat! Thank you for sharing your stunning photos of this hike. -Molly

    1. Thanks Molly! We left Vancouver in the snow to get to this summer loveliness! I have to admit though, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we came home again!

  16. I’ll never be an Insta-star either but then again I’m okay with that. I love your jump shots and what a perfect place to do them. It’s no wonder this location is so famous, it’s beautiful!

    1. Lol same! Mostly because I hardly ever take photos with my phone, so my instagram piccies are always weeks late! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Roy’s Peak was really nice though, and has a super-easy to follow path, so it is great that it is accessible to so many people!

    1. I wonder if you could bring your dog along with you? I bet you’d both love it in NZ if you could!

      The hiking there is all so well signposted, and the food is fantastic. I am sure you’d have a blast!

  17. What an amazing hike! Sounds like the views made the climb and getting up early well worth it!

  18. Beautiful photos of an impressive peak. Might have to check it out when we go back to NZ. A little weary of all the people though. Have you climbed Avalance Peak on the South Island? That’s my favorite day climb.

    1. Oh no! Karen I totally missed this comment. I haven’t climbed Avalanche Peak but I just googled it, and it looks epic! Woot for another excuse to go back to NZ!!

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