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.
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 :)
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.
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.
Once you’ve climbed up a few hundred metres, you will begin to appreciate the mountain and the views that it delivers.
We took every opportunity to have a little break!
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.
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:
Looking across to Mount Burke:
Finding solice on the peak:
Looking over Lake Wanaka, with Mount Aspiring mountain ranges as the backdrop:
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.
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:
A skull left on the summit:
A beautiful and timely rainbow:
Just a little delirious:
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.