I know what you’re thinking - do we really need another trip report for Roys Peak? The answer is probably not but it seemed a shame not to put something on the website, particularly considering that we pop up Roys Peak pretty much anytime we are in Wanaka. Regardless of how popular it is no one can deny that it is a great little trip and therefore we think it's worthwhile writing about it.
The Roys Peak car park is reached on the road from Wanaka to Glendhu Bay about 10 minutes out of town. It is well signposted and pretty much impossible to miss (look for the myriad of campervans and rental cars parked up). This track is extremely popular so I highly recommend arriving early to find a car park. If you’re a bit of an earlier riser try turning up in the dark with your headlamp to give yourself time to summit and watch the sunrise (which can be spectacular) from the top.
The four wheel drive track is wide and easy to follow all the way to the summit. The steepest part of the track is actually right at the bottom so if you are finding the first part really bad don’t panic - you are doing the worst bit. After this steep beginning the track traverses around the side of the mountain then begins to climb steadily again toward the summit ridge. If you are travelling up this part of the mountain in the dark it is not uncommon to see a string of head torches above you slowly making their way up, reinforcing just how popular the trip has become. Upon reaching the summit ridge you will notice the crowds and queues formed looking to the north. This is the now famous instagram spot where the masses flock to get that perfect snap looking out over Lake Wanaka towards Mt Aspiring. The important thing to realise at this point is that you are not at the top yet! The track continues to climb and skirts the western flank of the mountain before popping out at the summit. Don’t expect to be alone by this stage, I think I counted more than 80 people on the final part of the ridge watching the sunrise the last time I was up there.
If you’re up for an extra challenge (or want to leave the crowds behind) try traversing along to Mt Alpha. It is possible to continue all the way out to Spots Creek via Mt Alpha but you will need to organise someone to pick you up at the end of the track which finishes about 10km out of Wanaka on the road through to Cardrona and the Crown Range. Doing this is definitely a more significant undertaking than Roys Peak so make sure you are well equipped and are comfortable with your navigation skills.
Anytime I head up Roys Peak I try to embrace the crowds of people. As kiwis we are spoilt by the myriad of different tracks we have access to and the relative lack of people around. Most trips I do we hardly ever see anybody so it’s a bit of a novelty to share a track with tens if not hundreds of other hikers. You will see people heading up Roys Peak in sneakers and skinny jeans, and others who appear to have enough gear for an expedition to the Himalayas. As long as people stay safe then I think it is awesome to see so many people out there enjoying the outdoors. As per all our trips we recommend you take plenty of warm gear as it will be cold at the top - this trip is definitely an alpine excursion and shouldn’t be taken lightly (regardless of what the people in their jeans may think…). In winter there will be snow so best keep this trip as a summer option unless you have the skills and equipment to be up there at that time of year. Also, take plenty of water as there aren’t any good places to fill up once you're on your way.
The return trip to and from the summit of Roys Peak is about 16km with a total elevation gain of about 1230m. The time taken to complete it varies significantly depending on your fitness levels. Most people will complete a return trip in 5 - 6 hours, if you are fit and running it will take a little over 2 hours. Alternatively, if you are keen to just plod and your fitness isn’t what it used to be then budget on 7 - 8 hours total and take plenty of snacks.
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