The Nitty Gritty

Location: Roys Peak, Wanaka area, Otago region, South Island, New Zealand
Distance: 16 km (5-8 hrs)
Trail style: Return
Climb: 1578 m
Grade: Easy, with steep inclination

Highlights of this trail:

  • Constant majestic views of Lake Wanaka on the climb
  • Cattle and sheep to keep you company on the trail
  • Spectacular insta-worthy photo opportunities

If you’re looking up trails to do on the South Island of New Zealand, do not forget to include Roys Peak to your itinerary. It is a quintessential New Zealand trail, complete with sheep scattering the paths and breathtaking views every second of the journey – whether you’re looking up at what’s ahead, or looking down, out and across Lake Wanaka to Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Bourke beyond.

Getting there

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If you’re staying in Wanaka, it is a simple 5 – 10 minute drive westbound on Mount Aspiring Road. We arrived at approximately 8:00 am, but even so, this is considered a late start. At this time, the car park was already full – so we parked our campervan on the side of the road. Many people choose to hike earlier at dawn to:

  • avoid the heat
  • avoid a late finish, and
  • see a spectacular sunrise.

We did this during autumn. The trail also looks spectacular during winter, covered in snow – but be sure to check for any alerts for snow and ice: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/wanaka-area/things-to-do/roys-peak-track/

All-in-all, the trail took approximately 8 hours (it will be quicker, say 5-6 hours if you’re carrying little), so this needs to be factored into any plans that you may have after the hike. As I carry a minimum of 3 litres water and camera equipment, I took a lot of breaks taking shots and having a rest. Thus extending any recommended times for this trail.

At the start of the trail is a little donation box – don’t forget to drop your $2.00 fee in :)

The trail

Reaching the summit is fairly straight forward from the Mount Aspiring Road carpark – no map necessary (unless you want to know what you’re looking at and get a sense of direction). There are alternate start points for climbing Mount Roy, but I will only write about this start as it is the most popular path to take.

From the car park, it is a steady path that climbs up towards Mount Roy in a zig-zag fashion. Occasionally, you will see slightly worn paths between the zags that people have used as short cuts.

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At the beginning of the trail, for a few kilometres, the path is littered in cattle and sheep dung. This soon passes as sections of the mountain are fenced off, with ladders for walkers to climb over.

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Once you’ve climbed up a few hundred metres, you will begin to appreciate the mountain and the views that it delivers.

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We took every opportunity to have a little break!

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We stopped regularly, ate snacks and watched the world go by. The zig-zagging spreads itself out further on the climb up, leaving longer paths towards the peak.

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The peak is a major pit-stop for walkers as it gives a stunning backdrop for photos. During peak times, there can often be a long wait to get your photo taken, but luckily I had walked up so slowly that by the time I reached it, I only waited for a minute or two.

At the peak, with Mount Burke in the background:

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Looking across to Mount Burke:

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Finding solice on the peak:

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Looking over Lake Wanaka, with Mount Aspiring mountain ranges as the backdrop:

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From the peak, it is another half hour or so to the Mount Roy summit. After a filling sandwich, I regained energy to push through this last leg, which again zig-zags itself on the climb. There are two paths that can be taken to the summit – one that follows a slow but easy climb, or an off-trail climb that is more direct – but steep (see image below). I went for the easier option, as one false step on the steep path looked like it would end up in a lot of pain.

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Once I reached the summit (there is a little shed and communication tower), despite being sweaty from the walk, I immediately pulled out my windbreaker as it was the weather at altitude was freezing. Even on a hot day, I recommend having a windbreaker or warm layer to keep your temperature stable – otherwise there won’t be much time to enjoy the views.

Lake Wanaka from the summit:

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A skull left on the summit:

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A beautiful and timely rainbow:

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Just a little delirious:

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Once we enjoyed the views of the summit, it was a breeze coming back down the mountain. We showered back at the caravan park and headed straight for a hearty dinner in Wanaka.

Disclaimer: Be smart and prepare for the conditions of the day. This site accepts no responsibility for any misfortunes. 

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