Is the Roys Peak hike in Wanaka on your bucket-list?
Hiking the Roys Peak track with the kids was by far one of the highlights of our South Island road trip. We’d seen the photos, and read that it was challenging. So what was it really like?
QUICKLY, ABOUT ROYS PEAK
Length: 16 km return via same track
Summit elevation: 1578 m
Lookout elevation: 1300 m
Nearest town: Wanaka (6km)
Suggested time: 5 – 7 hours
THE ROYS PEAK HIKE
The Department of Conservation website describes the fitness required for this hike as ‘high’, and the gradient as ‘steep’…
I have to admit I felt nervous starting out! It was about one hour in when I seriously questioned what on earth we had set out to do… Oscar reckoned the view was just fine one hour into it and we could just check it out from right there.
[I think we were all tempted(!), but glad we pushed on].
The scenery that unfolds from behind the blankets of morning cloud is breathtaking. It is exactly like in the pictures. You can see all the way out over the lake with Wanaka township in the distance.
The trail itself is not technically difficult. The path is a well trodden farm road wide enough for an off-road 4×4 vehicle to drive. But the gradient is steep. And the uphill slog is relentless. It literally zig-zags up the side of the hill. And remember, you are climbing uphill for 1300m straight.
So is it worth it? Yes. Yes, and yes! The Roys Peak hike is renowned as one of the best hikes in New Zealand. Our boys are only 4 and 6 years old, but with (a lot of) encouragement, they managed it. If you are up for the challenge, then without doubt, it is worth every uphill step.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?
Including our lunch break at the top, it took us a total of 7 hours. Over four hours is on the steep uphill gradient to the lookout point. From there you can go a further half hour up to the official summit. We didn’t, as the summit was clouded and an extra half an hour uphill climb was not negotiable at that point. Instead, we sat happily at the lookout eating our picnic feeling extremely satisfied with the climb, and wow-ed by the view.
WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE?
The Roys Peak hike is not an easy walk. I would consider us to be reasonably fit at the time of hiking Roys Peak, having done various hikes as a family both in New Zealand and around the world. But in saying that, I am voting the Roys Peak hike as the hardest we have ever tackled.
The uphill gradient takes your breath away. Literally. It’s a constant and steady incline. The hike returns downhill on the same track, and the descent is tough on toes and knees. The kids didn’t seem to find it hard on the downhill, and half jogged in parts. (Yes, after on occasions saying how they couldn’t possibly walk a single step further on the uphill..).
But the reward at the top is hella breathtaking. In the best way. And I wouldn’t stop to hesitate in recommending the Roys Peak hike as a bucket-list one.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Parking is free for the Roys Peak hike, but there is a $2 suggested donation kindly requested at the start of the track.
Regardless of the time of year, get to the start of the track as early as possible. Allow yourself all day to do the hike to ensure you aren’t returning in darkness.
December to February is the best time in terms of weather, but this is also the busiest tourist season and the track can be crowded. We did the hike in late May, so it was dark starting out and very cold in the morning. But as the sun came out, and the higher we hiked, it warmed up and the temperature was mild. The conditions were ideal.
WHAT TO BRING
- Water. The Roys Peak hike has a 1300m change in elevation. Even if its cold starting out, its going to warm up as you walk. Take more water than you think you will need to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Layers. Regardless of the time of year, layers of clothing are the best approach. We dressed the kids the same way; a singlet, thermal layer, fleece, and waterproof/windproof outer layer.
- Hats and gloves. We were all thankful for both especially first thing in the morning.
- Food. We packed snacks for all of us and a picnic to eat at the top.
The nearest major town to the track is Wanaka (6 km away). Queenstown is 68km away. The track starts at the Roys Peak Track car park on the Mount Aspiring Road near Wanaka. Get there early to allow time for the trek and also to ensure a carpark space at peak season times.
WHERE WE STAYED
The night before doing the Roys Peak hike we stayed in Albertown. After completing the hike we drove to Queenstown. [Check out our epic road-trip post for the full 25 South Island campsites we recommend].
WANAKA: Albertown Campground
Location: Directly off State Highway 6, Albertown.
Cost: $10 per adult, $5 per child.
Facilities: Flush toilets.
About: Large reserve adjoining the Hawea River. A cheap alternative to staying in Wanaka. Basic facilities but the perfect location to use as a base to do the Roy’s Peak hike.
QUEENSTOWN: Queenstown TOP 10 Holiday Park
Location: 70 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point, Queenstown
Cost: Powered site from $50 p/n (50% off for second night)
Facilities: Amazing facilities; spa pool, drying room, laundry. Kids loved the big jumping pillow and playground.
Donuts and a burger from Fergburger made for the perfect tourist activity post-hiking up that beast of a mountain…
Have I tempted your wanderlust for a once-in-a-lifetime hike? What do you think about hiking Roys Peak with your kids?