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: 1578 m
Distance: 16 km
Time: It should take 5-6 hours
What to bring: Read through the 10 essentials:
– Comfy shoes
– 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.
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.