What you need to know about Roys Peak
Roys Peak is one of the most popular day hikes in all of New Zealand. This is because of it’s well defined path and it’s moderate difficulty. Anyone who is after a little challenge and amazing scenery picks this track to hike. This however does mean it can get quite crowded but I think the views are worth it. So if you are only in New Zealand for a limited time, and you want to see some spectacular scenery and want a challenge, it’s definitely something worth doing.
The hike itself is a 16km return hike which should take around 5-6 hours. The summit stands at 1578m high and looks over Wanaka, Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri o te Moana) which include Mount Aspiring (Tititea). The track is well formed and crosses through grassland and private land. Basically, you will see a lot of sheep. I wasn’t expecting the sheep on my first hike at sunrise and the weird noises they made in the dark really confused me until I spotted one.
“With stunning panoramic views across Lake Wanaka, Roy’s Peak is a great way to experience true South Island beauty.”
To get there it’s only a short 6km drive from the center of Wanaka or a 68km drive from the center of Queenstown. The track starts at Roys Peak Track Car Park just on the Mount Aspiring Road. The car park for the hike isn’t the biggest so please be respectful and think of others before parking your car. A lot of taxi companies in Wanaka offer a shuttle service to and from the track so this may be a good option, especially on a nice day. Or alternatively if you want a bigger challenge you could walk there via the Waterfall Creek Track which takes you along the lake front (via the famous Wanaka Tree) and to the Roys Peak track. Alternatively you can bike this route as well.
What to Pack for the Roys Peak hike
Before heading out on this hike think about the weather conditions for the day and plan accordingly. If it’s sunny make sure you pack a hat, sunglasses and sun lotion. If it’s cold make sure you pack extra layers and even a hot drink if you have a thermos. It’s always important to pack for any eventuality, the weather can change so quickly in New Zealand, especially when you are up a mountain. Pack a rain jacket and a hat and scarf, no matter what the conditions. These items aren’t heavy and can be really useful if the weather changes suddenly.
If you are hiking at sunrise (like I did) make sure you take a head torch, and make sure it’s charged! Please don’t just rely on your phone torch! It gets cold that early in the morning, even in the summer so it’s best to keep your hands warm and not holding your phone. Also if you have a head torch it means you won’t drop it and potentially break your phone. It also keeps your hands free to keep yourself balanced and makes it easy to stop for water breaks.
Food and Water
With all hikes I would recommend packing plenty of both. Plan out your meals for the time you will be hiking and then add an extra meal to that. It’s always best to be prepared, and even though this is a popular hike with lots of foot traffic, it’s still possible to get lost and that extra bit of food could be a lifesaver. As for water I would recommend taking around 2 liters of water per person, depending on the conditions. If it’s very hot and sunny, I would definitely recommend taking more. I know it’s hard work carrying so much food and water when you might not need it. But you will be thankful for it when you do need it.
When I have hiked at sunrise I made sure I had a small breakfast before leaving the hostel and then had a proper breakfast when I got to the summit. There nothing better than watching the sun come up whilst drinking tea and eating a breakfast burrito. I also had a couple of cereal bars in my bag in case of emergencies, but luckily I didn’t need them.
My experiences hiking roys peak at Sunrise
I have been lucky enough to hike the Roys Peak track twice, both for sunrise. The first time was in January and the other in May. According to the DOC website the hike should take approximately 5-6 hours return, so I allowed 3 hours to make it to the summit for sunrise. So after some quick Googling to learn what time sunrise would be for the day I wanted to do the hike I worked out exactly when I needed to start the hike. Both were around 3am.
If I’m waking up at 3am it means my brain is definitely not working properly. So if I ever do any activities which start this early in the morning I always make sure I prepare the night before. I look up for the weather for the following day and decide on my clothes accordingly. I pack my bag with my food for the day, snacks, water, extra layers, sun lotion and whatever camera gear I think I should take for the adventure I’m having. In this case I think I took my Canon and my GoPro.
Walking in the dark isn’t the most fun experience but if you are lucky you will get a clear morning. On both occasions I was able to see the Milky Way when I started the hike and I even saw a few shooting stars. But once you get moving it’s best to concentrate on what you are doing and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I’m usually a fast walker so I reached the summit on both occasions way before sunset, so I found a comfy spot to sit (out of the wind) and waited patiently for that magic moment when the sun starts to show it’s face.
I can tell you, after waking up so early and walking constantly up hill for the best part of 3 hours, it’s such a magical experience. If you get the chance and you feel like you can handle this challenge, I would definitely recommend it. After appreciating the sunrise and taking a few hundred pictures it’s time for the hike down to the car. This can sometimes be harder as it’s more difficult for your knees. But coming down a mountain whilst people are still making their way up gives you a weird sort of satisfaction. You were one of the few to make the effort and put your body through that just to see those few magical moments. There’s a reason I’ve done it twice.
Would I recommend this hike?
Definitely! It’s perfect for anyone with moderate to high fitness. Just think about what time of year you will be hiking and therefore how busy it is and plan accordingly. Just think, not that many people will be crazy enough to wake up at 3am to put on their hiking boots and head up a mountain. So if you do decide to go at this time it will be a lot less crowded and a lot more enjoyable. On the other hand, if you don’t mind the crowds, go for it during the day. Just remember if it’s hot and sunny to wear a hat and take plenty of water. There is absolutely zero shade on this hike so be prepared for a full day in the sun.
For more information on this hike and others, I recommend heading over to the official DOC website.