The saddle at Roy’s Peak Track. You can see Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Mount Aspiring National Park, and the Southern Alps.

Roy’s Peak Track | A Hidden Gem With Breathtaking Views

Want to hike one of New Zealand’s most instagram worthy trails? Hike Roy’s Peak Track in Wānaka on the South Island. This trail zigzags up Mount Roy from Wānaka Lake with mesmerizing views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s very challenging, as it’s a 2-3 hour ascent up the side of the mountain, but well-worth it for the views. Especially at its saddle as you can get a photo that looks like you’re standing on a cliff with nothing but mountains and lakes surrounding you. This post covers Roy’s Peak Track, how to get here and what to expect.

The saddle viewpoint at Roy’s Peak Track


Roy’s Peak Track

Roy’s Peak is one of the most iconic hiking summits in New Zealand, renowned for its saddle view.

The trail is challenging at 10 miles (16 km) including return with an elevation gain of 4,297’ (1,309 m). The New Zealand Department of Conservation that maintains the trail, says it’s a 5-6 hour hike including return, but I find their estimates a little overly generous. It took me less than 3 hours to hike to the summit and a little over an hour back down, about 4 hours total hiking, not including my time spent taking photos and enjoying the stellar views.

The track is well-groomed and easy to navigate, but is considered hard in AllTrails for the steep and steady switchbacks up Mount Roy. It’s not technically difficult or overly steep. If you’re fit and determined, you can do it.

It’s located between Wānaka and Glendhu Bay about a 10-minute drive east of central Wānaka, which is about an hour northeast of Queenstown.

If Wānaka is not a stop on your agenda of the South Island of New Zealand, I highly recommend considering it as it’s a smaller, less touristy version of Queenstown. It was founded by the Māori who visited Wānaka in summers to hunt and fish. Today it’s a year-round resort town. In the summer it attracts hikers, jet boaters, mountain bikers, kayakers, skydivers, and more, while in the winter it attracts skiers, tobogganers, and snowshoers.

Roy’s Peak Track Parking Area

There is a small parking area at the foot of the trail to park cars and camper vans. It’s located on the left-hand side of Wānaka Mount Aspiring Road. The parking area fills up quickly so try to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Note: Make sure to read up on New Zealand parking offenses and fines and park in a legal spot.

$2 NZD Trekking Fee

At the start of the trail, just outside of the parking area, there’s a small metal box for the $2 NZD trekking fee. The fee is based in the honor system, but since this is to maintain the hiking the trail, and its a small fee, it’s really worth it. You just need to remember to bring a $2 NZD coin to pay it!

Roy’s Peak Track Switchbacks

The trail incline starts immediately as it zig-zags back and forth in front of Lake Wānaka. The trail is groomed with small rocks and generally in very good condition. It’s also fairly wide, so it’s easy for individuals and groups to pass those hiking at a slower pace.


You’ll see steep vertical shortcuts between many of the switchbacks. Especially on the lower part of the trail. You can take these if you’re up to it, but they drastically increase the incline. I did a few on the way up, but the incline without them is pretty steep, so my heart was already pumping. I found myself using more of them on the way down after hiking for 3-4 hours.

Although the view from the saddle is one of the most instagrammed trail summits in New Zealand, the trail getting there is actually a bit boring. The switchbacks just zig-zag back and forth over the same terrain with almost the same view most of the way up. They feel a bit like the maze-like lanes at security in the airport. Plus, Although the views of the lake become more and more amazing as you head up, the switchbacks slow your elevation gain, so it’s a bit visually boring.

Don’t be surprised if you see some sheep grazing on your trek though…

Sheep grazing and Lake Wanaka on Roy’s Peak Track


Roy’s Peak Track Saddle

As you approach the saddle of Roy’s Peak, the view from the trail becomes more and more beautiful. At the saddle itself, there’s small trail that veers off and heads closer to Wānaka Lake. It’s 262’ (80 m), taking just a few minutes to walk to its end for the best view.

The saddle at Roy’s Peak Track. You can see Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Mount Aspiring National Park, and the Southern Alps.
Roy’s Peak Saddle

The viewpoint there overlooks Lake Wānaka, its bays, peninsulas, and islands, the Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri o te Moana) in the distance, Mount Aspiring (Tititea) and Lake Hawea. There will be hikers congregating here, but most are polite and take turns to get their photo.

Before this small trail, there’s small area for hikers to sit in the ground and the hillside to rest and have a little picnic. There are also toilets here (but you need to bring your own paper).

Roy’s Peak Track Summit

After the return from the small trail to the viewpoint at the saddle, it’s another mile (1.5 km) to the summit of Roy’s Peak. The sign here says it’s 30-minutes, but it’s really closer to 15.

The trail becomes very steep here and is less groomed, so you need to watch your footing if you hike this section of the track.

Finally, you reach the summit of Roy’s Peak. There’s a large rock mass ant the top and radio towers (as this is the highest point in Wānaka), This is the spot at the summit to sit to admire the views. It’s beautiful here, but not quite as beautiful as the viewpoint from the saddle.

The summit of Roy’s Peak Track
Roy’s Peak Summit

For this reason, many people decide not to continue all the way up to the summit. Especially if it’s a cloudy day. Also, it may be cloud-free at the saddle, but cloudy at the summit. If so, it’s really not worth the extra elevation.

When I was at the summit, there was a gentleman paragliding solo from the top. Unfortunately, once he launched over the edge, I couldn’t see him anymore so I did not get a photo. I’m sure it’s an amazing place to paraglide if you know what you’re doing.

How To Get To Roy’s Peak Track

Self-Drive

The parking area for Roy’s Peak Track is about a 10-minute drive west of central Wānaka. Follow Wānaka Mount Aspiring Road to the small parking area on the left-hand side of the road.

As noted above, the parking is limited, so it’s best to get here early in the morning or late afternoon to find a spot.

Shared Ride

Hiking Roy’s Peak is one of the top things to do in Wānaka, so chances are high other travelers will be looking for rides as well.

If you’re staying at a hostel (see Where To Stay In Wānaka below) they will probably have a board for people list an interest in a shared ride (mine did, although no one else was going the same day I was). If not, see if you can stop by one of these hostels and add your name to their board.

Taxi

A taxi is another option, but expensive at about $30 each way from central Wānaka to Roy’s Peak (as of April 2024). A taxi is best if you have a group that you can share the costs with.

Two popular taxis here are Yellow Taxi and Tuk Tuk Taxi, which has cute little tuk tuks advertised as eco-freindly. Call to verify latest pricing and availability.

There is talk of Uber coming to Wānaka, but as of April 2024, it is not available.

Shuttle

I’ve heard about shuttles to Roy’s Peak, but only ran into dead ends looking for it. Ask at your accommodation of the iSite center for more detials.

Walk

While it is possible to walk to Roy’s Peak from Wānaka, the track is already quite challenging, so it makes for a really (really) long day of walking.

The start of the trail is 2.2 miles (3.6 km) from the Wānaka Tree Viewpoint and 4.5 miles (7.3 km) from the center of town. This means, depending on your starting point, you’re adding 4.4-9 miles to your hike.

Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is a very popular way to get to Roy’s Peak from Wānaka. You need to consider your risks when doing this as you never know who the person is picking you up, but it’s generally considered safe in Wānaka.

To do this, make a large sign with Roy’s Peak on one side and Wānaka on the other and walk along Wānaka Mount Aspiring Road (you’ll need to keep the sign in your backpack while you hike for the return). This is what I did and got a ride most of the way in each direction.

Best Time Of Day To Hike Roy’s Peak

Many people hike Roy’s Peak early in the morning to see the sunrise at the saddle. Estimate that it will take you 2.5-3 hours to get to the saddle and back this off of the sunrise time. For example, sunrise on February 1st is at about 6:39. To get to the saddle for sunrise, you will want to start the trial at 3:30-4:00 AM. Likewise, if you want to see the sunset from the saddle, back off 2-3 hours from estimated sunset time.

Which is better? The lookout faces northeast, so the sunrise in the east is technically better.

If you do choose to hike for either sunrise or sunset, make sure you bring a headlight or torch with you. Also remember to wear some warm layers, as the temperature will be much cooler in the dark.


Best Time Of Year To Hike Roy’s Peak

Late spring (November), summer (December, January, and February), and early fall (March), are the best times of year to hike Roy’s Peak. The track is closed October 1st to November 10th for lambing. In the winter, only hike if you have winter alpine hiking experience as you will need tools like crampons and an ice axe to hike. Plus, terrain above the 1000 meter mark is avalanche territory.

Make sure to check the weather before your hike to see if there is any snow at the peak or adverse weather. Use this link at NIWA to check the weather and any advisories.

My hike was in February and I was blessed with an absolutely perfect day. The air was slightly cool, so I didn’t get too warm during my ascent, yet it wasn’t too cool either.

Is Roy’s Peak Track Harder Than Ben Lomond Track?

Many people ask if Roy’s Peak is harder than Ben Lomond Track. Here are the stats:

  • Roy’s Peak is 10 miles (16 km) with return and has an elevation gain of 4,297’ (1,309 m).
  • If you do the full track of Ben Lomond it’s 8.3 miles with 4,425’ of elevation gain. This is from the base of the gondola to the summit.
  • If you start at the top of the gondola, Ben Lomond is 6.7 miles with 3,133’ of elevation gain.

If you calculate the elevation gain per mile, Ben Lomond is steeper that Roy’s Peak whether you do the full trail or start at the top of the gondola. Plus, the section of Ben Lomond saddle to the summit is incredibly steep and challenging.

Roy’s Peak, however, is more mentally challenging as there’s very little visual variety until you reach the saddle. The ever expanding veiw of Lake Wānaka and the mountains surrounding it is beautiful, but it feels like such a gradually improvement, you mainly focus on the somewhat monotonous trail.

Where To Stay In Wānaka

There are several hostels and hotels close to the center of town in Wānaka. I’ve added the place I stayed and some of the other places I looked at. Each of these get good reviews.

Budget

  • I stayed at the Mountain View Backpackers on this trip as I wanted to meet other travelers here. They offer 4-bed dorms, a shared kitchen for cooking, and laundry facilities. There’s also a Four Square market nearby for groceries. The main square, lake, and several restaurants are also in walking distance. I found the staff and guests really friendly here. The evenings here were relatively quiet as most people were up early to do some adventuring. The only thing I didn’t like about this hostel is that there were several digital nomads working in the kitchen. As a few of them were having live meetings in the kitchen/living room area, it kind of killed the social vibe (we were all trying to respect their meeting by remaining quiet).
  • Adventure Wānaka is another popular hostel here. They offer 6-bed dorms with a shared kitchen and lounge, laundry facilities, and free bike usage. It’s located near Mountain Backpackers above, so also close to groceries, the lake and town.

Moderate

  • If you want something a little more luxurious and private, stay at Lakeside Luxury Studio Apartment. These units festure modern decor and are situated with stunning lake views and within walking distance of central Wānaka. Rooms have tea and coffee making equipment.

Splurge

  • If you want more something even more luxurious, stay at Luxury Lakeview on Ardmore With Sauna. These units are located very close to the center of town and rooms feature mountain and lake views with kitchen and living room area, and, a sauna.

How To Get To Wānaka

Self-Drive

If self-driving, Wānaka is located about an hour northeast of Queenstown, about 4 hours southwest of Franz Josef Glacier, and about 5 hours southwest of Christchurch.

Shuttle

There is a shuttle from Queenstown to Wānaka that takes about an hour and 50 minutes and costs about $40 NZD (as of April 2024). See Ritchies for more details.

Bus

The Intercity Bus from Queenstown to Wānaka takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs about $40 NZD (as of April 2024). The Intercity Bus from Christchurch to Wānaka takes about 7 hours and costs about $100 NZD.

Shared Rides

Look for shared ride opportunities. There are several Facebook groups where you can post for shared rides (search for the latest in Facebook Groups), or sign up at Coseats, where drivers list rides they are offering and the cost.


Want More Of New Zealand?

For other great hikes in New Zealand, see my posts on Routeburn Track, Tongariro Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Cape Brett Walkway, Key Summit Track, and A Day Hike on Kepler Track. Routeburn, Tongariro, Kepler, and Abel Tasman are 4 of New Zealand’s 10 “Great Walks”, but all these hikes are amazing.

If you’re on the South Island, you can’t miss stunning Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, unmissable Milford Sound, and all the stops along the way on the drive from Queenstown To Te Anau and Te Anau to Milford Sound. There’s also incredible Franz Josef Glacier where you can heli hike.

Wanaka is also a must visit town, with amazing Roy’s Peak Track, That Wanaka Tree, and great skydiving. Christchurch is another great stop with amazing street art, many multicultural cafes, beautiful landscapes, and great museums.

If you’re a wine lover, stop in Marlborough to taste some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. There are many famous wineries (and non-famous, local ones) to stop at and enjoy great food and wine. Even better, many now also offer beer as well.

To help plan your trip, see my New Zealand Travel Guide. It covers the top destinations above, how to get around, when to visit, safety tips, and more.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

2 Comments

  • Erynn Crowley

    What stunning views! Your travel, lodging and hiking tips are so helpful. New Zealand and Roy’s Peak are on my bucket list. Now I just need to train for the hike. 😊

    • Julie

      Thanks Erynn! New Zealand is really amazing. I know you could do it…!

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