When I started planning my 7 days in New Zealand one of the first things that popped up online were photos of the Roys Peak hike. We didn’t spend long in New Zealand but as avid hikers we knew we couldn’t miss such an iconic and challenging experience. In this post I’ve put together everything you need to know about hiking Roys Peak. From the basics like the trail overview, how to get to Roys Peak, what to wear and what to bring with you, to a more personal review of the hike and whether it’s really worth the hype.
- 1 Roys Peak hike overview
- 2 How to get to Roys Peak
- 3 How long does it take to hike Roys Peak?
- 4 When is the best time to hike Roys Peak?
- 5 How to dress for the Roys Peak hike
- 6 What to bring with you to hike Roys Peak
- 7 What is it actually like to hike Roys Peak? An honest review
Roys Peak hike overview
Before I jump into my advice on how to prepare for hiking Roys Peak, I figured it would be useful to cover the basics of what the hike is actually like. Roys Peak is a 16km return hike, meaning its 8km to go up and then on the same track 8km to get back down. There is a change in elevation of 1,228m. If like me you have no idea what that means in real life terms I can now tell you that that’s pretty steep. The track is well treaded and easy to walk along, but always at a constant incline.
How to get to Roys Peak
The closest town to Roys Peak is Wanaka (6km) but you can also easily get there from Queenstown (68km). From Wanaka you drive 5-10 on Mount Aspiring Road till you reach the Roys Peak Track car park, where the hike starts. The parking lot is free but isn’t very big so make sure to get there early so you don’t have issues with where to leave your car.
How long does it take to hike Roys Peak?
The recommended time to complete the hike is 5 to 7 hours. We brought sandwiches with us to have lunch once we reached the peak. Including our lunch break and several breaks during the hike to catch our breath and take photos it took us 7 hours.
When is the best time to hike Roys Peak?
There are two parts to this question; when is the best time of the day and when is the best time of the year to do the Roys Peak hike. Regardless of the time of year you should aim to start hiking Roys Peak as early in the morning as you can, so that the parking area isn’t full yet and to give you all day to complete the hike. Especially in winter when the days are shorter you want to be done hiking before it becomes dark. It has also become popular for people to do the hike up in the afternoon, camp at the summit over night, watch the sunrise and then head back down the following morning. If you’re not a fan of camping you can also hike up in the early hours before dawn in time to see the sunrise. These obviously give you the opportunity to enjoy the hike without the crowds, if possible I would make sure to do it with someone else. Even if the terrain of the track is easy to walk up you don’t want to have to wait for the following day for someone to rescue you if something were to happen.
Now moving on to the best time of year to hike Roys Peak. The track is actually closed from the 1stof October to the 10thof November for lambing. The hike actually crosses private farmland and the owner has the right to close it whenever he wants. If Roys Peak is a must-do on your New Zealand bucket list, make sure to visit at another time of year! December to February is the best time in terms of weather; with higher temperatures, longer days and low chance of rain you have the best circumstances for hiking Roys Peak. However it’s also the busiest time of year so you might struggle to find space in the car park and will have to wait to take photos at the iconic viewpoint (although having more people to chat with during the hike isn’t a bad thing!) If you’re planning on doing the hike in winter (June to August) the New Zealand government website recommends bringing alpine equipment such as ice axe and crampons, which might be a bit intense if you’re a casual hiker. Spring and autumn probably give you the best chance to enjoy a relatively not so busy hike, while also offering mild weather conditions.
How to dress for the Roys Peak hike
Roys Peak has a considerable change in elevation, meaning that there will also be a considerable change in weather conditions. The hike is tough and even in autumn or winter it will have you sweating as you hike your way to the top. You might want to do the hike in a t-shirt but once you reach the peak the air will be much chillier. You will be glad to have an extra jacket with you to wear on top. A solid approach I always recommend is the onion method, where you set off with a number of different layers and can take them off or wear them throughout the day accordingly to the weather changes. To hike Roys Peak I was wearing a tank top, a thermal long sleeved shirt, a heavy hoodie and a light waterproof jacket.
What to bring with you to hike Roys Peak
Considering you’re about to hike 8km up a mountain with a 1.2km incline, you want to keep the contents of your backpack to a minimum. However there are a few essential things I recommend you take with you.
Plenty of water: Roys Peak is a challenging hike; you don’t want to get dehydrated so make sure to bring plenty of water with you. I usually bring more water than I think I will need and always end up drinking it.
Food & snacks: There is no coffee shop or restaurant at the summit of Roys Peak so make sure to bring any food you might want to eat during the hike with you. I recommend especially high-energy protein bars or similar nut based snacks, this is not the time to be on a diet, you will need all your energy to complete this hike!
Sunblock cream: The hike is all along the side of a mountain with no trees or shade whatsoever. Especially if you’re visiting in summer you might want to bring sunblock cream with you to avoid getting sunburnt.
Wind block jacket: Even if you’re hiking Roys Peak in summer and on a sunny day there’s no harm in packing a light wind block jacket in your backpack. There’s a chance that the wind will pick up close to the peak, especially if you’re all sweaty from the hike you don’t want to just stand there and get cold.
What is it actually like to hike Roys Peak? An honest review
It’s an extremely challenging hike.
I like to consider myself a fit person, but I really struggled hiking up Roys Peak. The trail is easy to walk up but it’s at a constant incline, which will start taking its toll after a while that you’re hiking. I found the way down just as challenging as the way up if not more, due to the strain on my knees.
The trail up is fairly monotonous.
As I already mentioned the terrain of the track is easy to hike up since it’s a well-treaded and wide trail, there is no climbing, no rope assisted climbs and no scrambling over rocks required at any point. Some might say it’s a plus, others might say it makes it boring. The trail just zig zags up the mountain and other than the beautiful views, it’s just a steady walk up the mountain.
There’s the peak you see in photos, then there’s the real peak.
6.5km into the hike, where the toilets are located, is the lookout point that you see in photos. This isn’t the actual peak of Roys Peak, you still have another 1.5km, approximately 30 minutes, of hiking to get there. While we were sat there eating our lunch we heard a lot of people asking the ones that were coming down from the peak if it is worth the extra hike. Some will tell you that yes absolutely you have to go all the way to the top or it’s as if you hadn’t hiked Roys Peak at all. In our case since we were there on a very cloudy day there wasn’t actually much of a difference in view, so we chose to stop at the lookout. There’s nothing wrong with this, the best views are from the 6.5km lookout anyway.
Don’t be discouraged by a cloudy day.
We were there at the start of May (autumn in New Zealand) and were unlucky with the weather as it was a very cloudy day. We did the first 45 minutes of the hike under the clouds, a solid hour in the clouds with no visibility, and the rest of the hike above the clouds. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the iconic view over Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains, but seeing the mountains peaking through a blanket of clouds was pretty stunning too.
Is it worth it?
Yes. Roys Peak is advertised as one of the best hikes in New Zealand and rightly so. Even if the trail can be monotonous after a while the views are simply stunning all throughout, even if you don’t make it all the way to the top. If you’re up for a challenge Roys Peak is a very rewarding hike.
Have you hiked Roys Peak? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! If you’re planning to hike Roys Peak I hope you find this guide useful, if you have any specific questions feel free to reach out to me.
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