The Roys Peak track in Wanaka is one of those locations in the South Island of New Zealand that everyone has heard of or knows about, and for very good reason. I can honestly say that the view from the Roys Peak hike in Wanaka is one of the best in New Zealand, if not THE best. From the Roys Peak track summit you can see the glacially carved mountains and valleys that have shaped and formed Lake Wanaka, you can see across the incredible Southern Alps and the always majestic Mount Aspiring, you can see the township of Wanaka and out to Hawea, it really is such a beautiful sight.
Standing out on the famous Roys Peak lookout isn't just an opportunity to get a famous photo, it actually transports you to on the the best versions of standing on top of the world just for a moment, an escape from reality. The first time I stood out on the end of the ridgeline it was for a Roys Peak sunrise and not another soul was in sight. I really felt as if it was just me and nature, and of course nature was showing off in its best form possible.
I've been up at the Roys Peak track summit twice now, and twice up at nearby Coromandel Peak which is accessible by foot (unmarked track) or helicopter if you have permission from the landowner (Coromandel Peak Wanaka is on private land). Both views are very similar, with Coromandel Peak just having a slightly different ridgeline and view across Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park.
Don't let the popularity and Instagram hype of the Roys Peak hike put you off from visiting or completing it yourself. It really is worth the slog up the hill and sometimes you can still get lucky (especially at sunrise) and have it to yourself.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE ROYS PEAK TRACK WANAKA
Distance: 16km return
Location: Start from the Roys Peak Carpark, Wanaka
Getting from Wanaka to Roys Peak: Travel to the Roys Peak Carpark which is around 6m outside of the Wanaka township along the Mount Aspiring Road. The Roys Peak Carpark is a decent size but in the New Zealand Summer months it can get very crowded so you will need to keep that in mind. There are public transport options available or consider cycling/walking to the carpark. The track starts right at the carpark and is sign posted.
Time: 5-6 hours return via the same track
Elevation gain: 1,228 metres
Difficulty: Intermediate - high level of fitness is required for this track as it is a steady incline the entire way. During the winter months the section above 1000m is challenging with snow so crampons are a must and a decent level of experience hiking in snow/avalanche terrain.
Accommodation: There is very limited space to camp up on Roys Peak as most of the land is in private ownership and Department of Conservation states you can't camp there. There is however a small section beyond the summit along the ridge line which is a grey area. Personally I have never camped and completed the hike as day hike only.
Closed: The track is closed for lambing from the 1 October - 10 November each year.
Facilities: One toilet at the Roys Peak Carpark and one toilet at the famous Roys Peak viewpoint (both long drops)
Safety: The track is fairly exposed for most of the way, and because you are entering an alpine zone in the winter, it is recommended you check the weather forecast and take extra warm clothes just in case you get caught out. During the summer be sure to take plenty of sunscreen and water as there is no shade or water supply.
WHAT CAMERA GEAR I TOOK
Canon 5DMkiv body
Canon 16-35mm lens
Tamron 70-200 lens
Nisi Filters (10 stop, 6 stop and 0.9nd grad)
Lightweight travelling tripod
Spare battery x 2, charger and spare memory card
ROYS PEAK PHOTOS AND THE HIKE
The first time I hiked the Roys Peak track was in the thick of winter in New Zealand and the small town of Wanaka had recently had a good dump of snow. I was travelling the South Island New Zealand on my yearly winter NZ photography trip to update my portfolio and see some new incredible landscapes.
The Roys Peak hike had been on my list to hike for about 2 years since taking an incredible helicopter flight up to nearby Coromandel Peak a couple of years earlier. From Coromandel Peak I could see the Roys Peak summit and I knew I had to tick off the bucketlist location at some point.
HIKING ROYS PEAK WINTER
I decided that I wanted to photograph Roys Peak winter as I really wanted to have snow on the famous Roys Peak lookout and have the small person on the edge of the ridgeline surrounded in snow.
So one early August morning some friends and I decided that today was the day and we were going to hike the Roys Peak track in winter. I made sure to have crampons in my bag as I could see there was snow on the ridgeline, and also the appropriate alpine gear to keep warm and toasty. Our plan was to photograph Roys Peak at sunset and hike back down afterwards, so we knew we needed warm gear, good hiking boots, head torches, water and our dinner and food supplies.
THE HIKE TO THE SUMMIT
We started the Roys Peak hike just after lunchtime so that we had plenty of time to get up to the Roys Peak Lookout and summit before sunset. The morning cloud had burnt off and it was a beautiful day to go up to the top and take in that stunning view.
The Roys Peak track is well maintained with wide paths most of the way crossing through private farm land. As you climb each switch back up the mountain you would have covered 1228 metres and 8 kilometres by the time you reach the summit which is definitely hard work by the time you get there! Because we were hiking in winter we also had to trapse through snow for the last 1/3 of the hike, but luckily it was quite packed in and easy to navigate through.
I have to say the view doesn't change too much when you're hiking up Roys Peak and the same farmland view can get a little monotonous after a while, but trust me it's worth it for when you reach the famous Roys Peak lookout.
The climb to the summit from the famous lookout is a little more dicey than the rest of the track especially during winter and will take you around 30 minutes to get to the top.
FAMOUS ROYS PEAK LOOKOUT
The famous Roys Peak photo that you see all over social media is not from the summit of Roys Peak but actually around 30 minutes before that. You will know when you get there as you'll see the long drop toilet and sign to the summit, and also that famous ridgeline to walk out to.
ROYS PEAK SUNSET OR SUNRISE?
I've been lucky enough to experience amazing conditions on the Roys Peak track at both sunset and sunrise, and I can honestly say that both are just as good as each other. The difference at sunrise is that there aren't as many people around. Golden hours at both sunrise and sunset light up the tussock grass beautifully and if you're lucky you might get some beautiful clouds to paint the sky.
If you're not camping and completing the track in one day you'll have to walk it at dark either going up for sunrise or coming down for sunset.
ROYS PEAK WEATHER
During the winter months (which is anywhere from beginning of June to the end of September) the ridgelines can be covered in snow especially up at the Roys Peak summit (0°C to -10°C is not uncommon). The temperature can drop dramatically as soon as the sun starts to dip in the sky so warm alpine winter clothing is a must do and good hiking boots with crampons.
During the months (beginning December to end of February) Wanaka has an average temperature of 24°C so it can get really hot on the Roys Peak track especially as there are no shady spots to shelter from the sun. Be sure to take lots of water with you!
IS THE ROYS PEAK WALK WORTH IT?
A resounding yes (as you can see by the photos!). If you're in Wanaka and have the day free then I absolutely encourage you to climb Roys Peak and see that incredible view for yourself.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on the Roys Peak Track. I hope it might provide some inspiration to complete this amazing little hike yourself and have the best time doing it.
If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.