Roys Peak is one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand and a must-do. With stunning views over Lake Wanaka and the snow-capped peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park, Roys Peak hike will be etched in your memory. It’s a bucket list experience for many travelers coming to New Zealand.
Although it can be crowded along Roys Peak track because of its popularity, there are options to beat the crowds. But you’ll have to be early. Hiking Roys Peak before sunrise is a magical experience to see the first light peaking over the mountains. But with 8 kilometers and 1,258 (4,127 feet) meters elevation one way, you can expect Roy’s Peak hike to be hard. Especially when hiking up to the summit in the middle of the night. But oh boy, what an unforgettable experience it is! Find in our complete guide everything you need to know about hiking Roys Peak. What to prepare, the best time to hike, the difficulty and much more!
→ Important note:
Roys peak is closed from 1 October to 10 November each year for lamb season.
If you’re in Wanaka and want to do a similar hike, then Isthmus peak is great alternative.
Take note that Isthmus peak is closed each year from 20 November until 20 December for lamb season.
How to get to Roys Peak Trailhead
Roys Peak Track car park is easy to find as it is located along the Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road. From the town of Wanaka, it is only a 5-minute drive to get to the trailhead, but from Queenstown it will take you about an hour to get to Roy’s Peak parking area. There are 100 parking spaces available which might sound like a lot. But because of Roys Peak’s popularity the parking lot is usually full by 9 AM! So if you’re not coming early enough, you either have to wait for someone leaving, or take the shuttle from Wanaka with Ritchies shuttle service.
The first sunrise hikers are usually back at Roy’s Peak parking lot at around 10 AM. So if the parking is full around that time, you might be lucky with a car leaving. Important to know is that it’s not allowed to park at the side of the road because of safety reasons. Your car will be towed away, and you can also get a hefty fine.
If you’re planning to hike Roys Peak while staying in Queenstown, then the best option is to rent a car. This not only gives you the freedom to come and go whenever you want, but you can also explore more of Wanaka after finishing the hike. Plus, driving from Queenstown to Wanaka and the other way around is just amazing! A fun little day road trip!
What is the best time to hike Roys Peak?
It’s generally our standard answer to the question ‘when is the best time to hike…’: before sunrise! Yes, that means you will have to start hiking early morning around 4 AM depending on the season (check the exact sunrise time so you won’t be too late!).
Hiking Roys Peak before sunrise has a lot of benefits. Especially in the peak season which is mostly in the summer months. You will then not only beat the crowds, but you’ll also be back before it gets too hot to hike.
Another great time to hike Roys Peak is in the late afternoon before sunset. For the photographers, it might be interesting to know that the sun, depending on the month, rises from the right of Roys Peak and the sun sets on the left side. Of course, it will change a bit, but you will never see the sun directly in front of Roys Peak. Generally is Roys Peak with sunrise much better for photography than sunset.
In terms of the best time of the year to hike Roys Peak the shoulder months are the best. These are April, May and September October. There are fewer people and lower temperatures in these months. Another option is to hike Roy Peak in winter. But then you can encounter some snow at the summit so you might need crampons.
Roys Peak Hike key facts
Before we dive into the details about Roy’s Peak track, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you’re well prepared!
Roys Peak hike time and distance: The total distance of Roys Peak is 16 kilometers out and back which takes around 6 to 7 hours to finish for the average person. Depending on how long you spend at the summit of course and how many breaks you take during the hike.
Roys Peak difficulty and incline: Roy’s Peak is considered a challenging hike in New Zealand. Of course, this totally depends on how experienced you are with hiking. Be prepared for the 1,258 meters (4,127 feet) elevation gain over 8 kilometers which is not a joke for the legs. You will need to be reasonably fit to hike Roys Peak and definitely bring (more than!) enough water. Roys Peak height is 1578 meters so you will hike most of Mount Roy to get to the summit.
Be insured during your travels!
A slip can happen during hiking before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.
We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting an insurance with them!
Roys Peak hike trail description
The start of the track is over private farmland which is why you have to climb a small ladder over a fence to get on the trail. Here you will also see a sign with the $2 NZD track fee. This money is used to keep the track maintained and clean.
Because this first part of Roys Peak track is used for sheep farming, you probably see lots of sheep around. If you plan Roys Peak as a sunrise hike, you want to use a head torch to see the sheep as it’s still dark if you start hiking.
Keep in mind that Roys Peak is private land and closed annually for lambing season from the 1st of October to the 10th of November. So plan your trip accordingly, or otherwise hike Isthmus peak as a great alternative.
The Roys Peak switchbacks
The beginning of the hike starts directly with a steep climb, which continues the whole way up until you reach Roys Peak summit. Although it’s gradual, it feels never-ending with the countless switchbacks while you climb up the side of the mountain.
The way up might feel a little bit repetitive as there isn’t something ‘new’ to see after every turn. In comparison to some other hikes in New Zealand which are super varied, the Roys Peak walking track might feel slightly boring and particularly exhausting. Where other hikes in New Zealand show you a variety of landscape elements such as waterfalls, ancient forest, lakes, valleys and glaciers along the track, Roys Peak hike is just an incline over a gravel path while looking up to the summit and tussock grass. But of course, you hike up Roys Peak for the breathtaking views at the summit, and that is totally worth it!
If you want to hike super epic and varied trails in New Zealand then these are our recommendations:
Roys Peak Lookout
As soon as you get close to the famous viewpoint of Roys Peak viewpoint, you will feel a huge relief and totally understand why this is such a famous hike in New Zealand! From the main trail you can walk on the ridge line until the very end which is the best place to take pictures. If you have a zoom lens then it’s recommended for the photographer to stand further away to get a nice compression.
We arrived just in time for sunrise and there were not a lot of people at the lookout point, so we were very happy. We started shooting at the most Instagrammable place in New Zealand right away and were finished when most of the other groups arrived.
Getting THE famous Roys Peak Photo
Whether you come for THE famous photo of Roys Peak viewpoint or not, it’s worth it to take a picture anyway. Here are our tips to get some epic photos at Roys Peak.
If a person stands at the end of the ridge it looks as if they are standing ‘at the end of the world’ with a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains and inlets from the lake. So if you’re aiming for that ‘small person epic backdrop’ photo, then the photographer has to stand at the beginning of the ridge. The subject has to walk to the end of the ridge and stand on a small rock. It’s very important to frame the subject in the lake, not the mountains. Otherwise the person won’t stand out. For this kind of shot you can use several focal lengths to create more depth and compression in the pictures. The more you can zoom in with the lens, the bigger and closer the mountains will appear.
The photographer can also climb up the hill a little to get a higher perspective. In that case, you can see even more of the lake and surrounding mountains. It just depends which compositions you choose.
Bringing several lenses with different focal lengths also helps to get different perspectives. As photographers, we always bring several focal lengths. A photo at 100 mm obviously looks very different from a photo at 50 mm and creates more depth and compression.
Play around and have fun! But of course, give other people also the possibility to get THAT shot!
Roys Peak summit
The famous photo spot you get to at first isn’t the official summit of Roys Peak. So if you still have enough energy to push to the real summit then you’ll have to add another 20-30 minutes to the hike. The views from the top of Roys Peak are slightly higher and you will see the famous photo ridge below. It could be a great spot for a lunch break as the summit is less busy than the Roys Peak photo spot.
Roys peak vs Isthmus Peak
If you’re short in time and you need to decide between hiking Isthmus Peak or Roys Peak, then you might ask yourself which one is better. Although I don’t like to call places ‘better than the other’ because every spot has its own beauty, there are always pros and cons about one or the other.
Let’s first compare the facts:
Isthmus Peak: 16 km out and back with 1250 meters elevation gain.
Roys Peak: 16 km out and back with 1258 meters elevation gain.
So both are the same distance and the same amount of incline. This means in terms of difficulty you can expect quite the same at both hikes. Also, the gravel path is the same, so the only difference is the view and amount of people.
Roys Peak is a famous hike in New Zealand so you can definitely expect more crowds than at Isthmus Peak, especially in peak season. However, Isthmus Peak has gained popularity and is not a ‘hidden gem’ anymore.
Regarding which hike has the best views I can tell you the following. From the summit of Isthmus Peak you’ll have stunning, unobstructed panoramic views over Lake Wanaka with Mount Aspiring National Park and its snow-capped peaks as a backdrop.
Lake Hawea is on the other side where you have a great view during the hike itself, but not from the summit of Isthmus Peak.
Roys Peak has an iconic ridge where everyone takes pictures. So in terms of creativity, this isn’t the most challenging place for photographers. Everyone is taking the same kind of pictures, and especially in high season and later during the morning you can expect queues for taking pictures on the ridge.
All in all, there isn’t an obvious winner. Both are some of the best day hikes near Wanaka, pretty much the same kind of hike with slightly different views. We personally enjoyed Isthmus a bit more because it’s lesser known than Roys Peak.
What to prepare before hiking Roys Peak
Before setting off to Roys Peak, make sure you’re well prepared. If you’re an experienced hiker you can skip this part, but if you’re new to hiking in New Zealand, then take a moment to check this list.
- Bring more than enough water! Roys Peak hike is hard. You’re going to get sweaty and therefore thirsty. In the warmer months you might want to bring at least 2 liters of water per person as there is nowhere to fill up your water bottle along the way.
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes. This could be the ones with a higher ankle and good grip, or comfy trail running shoes. Because Roys Peak walking track is mostly a well-maintained wide gravel path, you won’t encounter uneven or slippery parts (except in winter).
- Hiking poles. If you haven’t used hiking poles before during hard hikes, you don’t know what you’re missing out on! Hiking poles will save your knees on the way down and are a relief for the lower back on the way up. Plus, it’s a complete body workout as you use your arms as well. We never leave our hiking poles at home (unless for really easy, flat hikes) as they are truly a game changer! It’s a great adventure themed gift as well for bdays or Christmas!
- Wear layers and a windbreaker. The weather in the mountains can change quickly. The blue sky when you left from the parking lot can change into windy, moody weather along the trail. At Roys Peak summit it can get very windy, so after you’ve arrived there with a sweaty body, you will cool down quickly. Therefore it is important to bring an extra vest or jacket to stay warm.
- Bring sun protection and or a hat – visor. The sun in New Zealand can be brutal! And because there is no natural shade along Roys Peak trail, you need to protect yourself from the harsh sunlight. We always bring a hat or visor to protect our face from the harsh sunlight. You also want to bring sunglasses but this might be obvious for most.
- Buy hikers wool in New Zealand’s pharmacy. This has been feet-saving for all our hikes in New Zealand! Hikers wool is literally just a bunch of wool that you can put in your socks where you feel pressure points. This will relief pain at your achilles, toes or anywhere else you feel pressure during hiking.
- Food. Make sure to bring enough food to keep you going during the hike. We always bring a banana, nuts, granola bar, eventually some bread and sometimes crackers with tuna. These are ‘easy to bring hiking foods’.
- Headlamp. Especially when you hike Roys Peak for sunrise or sunset, the trail will be dark so you’ll need a headlamp.
Best tours around Wanaka
Wānaka is a popular ski and summer alpine town which is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures. Closely located to Mount Aspiring National Park there are plenty of tours going from Wanaka to explore this dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. From scenic flights, jet boating, parasailing to hiking and biking, there is an activity for everyone. Find here the best tours in Wanaka.
Scenic flight Self-guided Hike and Jet Boat Ride
This action-packed tour lets you explore Mount Aspiring National Park by plane, boat and on foot. Soar over the snow-capped mountains during a scenic flight, hike along the banks of the Siberia River, then hop aboard for a thrilling jet boat ride along the Wilkin River.
Wine Tour with Wine Tasting and lunch from Wanaka
On this afternoon tour you will visit four boutique wineries in one of New Zealand’s most popular wine regions. You will learn the secrets behind these wines from the winemakers themselves, and stop at one winery for gourmet food with wine matching. Transport from your accommodation in Wanaka is included.
Wanaka Lake boat ride and 4×4 jeep Mountain Adventure
Get away from the crowds on this boat ride and 4×4 day trip from Wanaka. Start with a boat ride across Lake Wanaka and then you’ll hop aboard the 4×4 vehicle and drive up into the mountains. Your guide will tell you stories from Otago’s pioneer history and the gold rush era. Enjoy a delicious picnic with spectacular lake and mountain views.
Half-Day Level 2 Waterfall Climbing from Wanaka
Get the adrenaline pumping with this half day adventurous tour. Climb steel ladders and cross high, narrow bridges over waterfalls, swim in hidden natural pools and enjoy a picnic lunch beside beautiful falls. While no experience is required and full safety briefings are given, this trip is best suited to active travelers who are sure-footed and unafraid of heights.
Jet Boat and Wilderness Walk Tour from Wanaka
Speed along the Matukituki River in Mount Aspiring National Park during this exhilarating jet-boat ride. Admire spectacular landscapes, then hike past forests, waterfalls, and glacier-fed streams before ending your tour.
Feel free like a bird and fly high above Lake Wanaka during this single or tandem flight.
Riverside Biking Tour Lake Wanaka
Go on a stunning guided bike ride along the banks of one of NZ’s most beautiful and powerful rivers. Beautiful vistas and plenty of photo opportunities make this a must-do trip for hiking and nature lovers. A medium level of fitness is required for this 10-kilometre ride.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of roads.
We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
Best places to stay near Roys Peak
Wānaka is a super nice alpine town to stay in and a great base to explore the beauty of Mount Aspiring National Park. With stunning views on Lake Wānaka and the surrounding peaks, there is plenty of choice in self-contained apartments, vacation homes, or hotels. Find here the best places to stay in Wanaka.
Lakeside Luxury 2 Bedroom Apartment
This gorgeous 2 bedroom apartment is a home away from home with all the amenities you need and a stunning view of Lake Wanaka. With a fully equipped kitchen including a dishwasher, a patio with incredible mountain and lake views, a shared indoor pool and close location to Wanaka town, this luxury apartment is everything you need.
The Edgewater Hotel is great value for money with studios that have stunning mountain and lake views. With a day spa, sauna, tennis court and a a restaurant and cafe, there is nothing you will miss during your stay at the Edgewater Hotel.
Located on a 15-minute drive from Wanaka town, Hawea Hotel is a great budget-friendly option. You can still stay close to Wanaka and have lake views, but then on Lake Hawea. All hotel rooms, as well as the on-site restaurant and bar, feature beautiful lake and mountain views. The rooms include a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, a desk and a small seating area.
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Roys Peak hike. Make sure to put this awesome hike on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!
Fiordland National Park
Did you find this post useful? Save THIS PIN to your Pinterest board on Pinterest to read it later again.