Hiking Roy’s Peak: Everything You Need to Know Before the Climb

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, USA

If you haven’t heard of Roy’s Peak, you’ve probably seen at least one glorious pic of it on Instagram. With bird’s-eye views of sparkling Glendhu Bay and fresh air that feels therapeutic to inhale, it’s hands down one of the best hikes in New Zealand. Oh, did I mention that most people hitchhike to get there? This arduous adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, so lace up your boots and get ready to exit your comfort zone.

Wanaka, New Zealand: the Gateway to Roy’s Peak

Wanaka, Wanaka
Wanaka, New Zealand.

New Zealand has a killer reputation for adventure, and Roy’s Peak is no exception. This semi-brutal, yet intensely worthwhile, hike is right next to the picturesque town of Wanaka, not to be confused with Wakanda (sorry Marvel fans). It takes an hour and a half to drive from Queenstown, but you’ll probably be too busy looking out the window to bother checking the time anyway.

Wanaka, Wanaka
Wanaka, New Zealand.

Wilderness in Wanaka fully encapsulates New Zealand’s beauty: crystal clear lake waters meeting beech forests, snow-capped mountains mingling with the clouds, and classic Kiwi friendliness. You might never want to leave. Both hiking aficionados and roaming rookies visit quite often with the agenda of tackling Roy’s Peak. Most will opt to stay a few days because, even though Roy’s steals the show, it’s certainly not the only act on stage.

If You’ve Never Hitchhiked, It’s Time to Start

Roys Peak, Peak
Wanaka, New Zealand.

Unless you plan to rent a car, you’ll have to find a creative way to get to the trailhead. Although it isn’t terribly far from town, it still takes about an hour and a half to walk, using precious energy needed for the actual trek. “Just hitch your way there,” was the friendly advice garnered from a local in town when asking about how to reach the mountain’s base. Why not?

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

There’s not much public transportation around Wanaka, and no need for it either. Save your bus money. With a highly active population of hikers, bikers, and all-around nature enthusiasts, this town thrives off of living a healthy lifestyle. 

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

It’s forecasted to be fairly easy to find a lift to Roy’s since the route is popular among backpackers. Hitchhiking in New Zealand is legal, and generally quite trustworthy due to the safety of traveling within the country. If you’re lucky, you might just find a hiking buddy on the way!

Do Yourself a Favor: Bring Snacks

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

This 9.7 mile heavily trafficked trail isn’t for the faint of heart, so prepare for a tough (yet beautiful) workout. The switchback trail has plenty of spots to take a break for a breather and a bite when the incline gets the best of you.  With sheep grazing next to you on the mountainside, you won’t be snacking in solitude.

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

The round trip will take roughly 5-7 hours, meaning you’re more than likely to spend most of your day on this majestic mountain. A hearty supply of snacks and water is critical, just be mindful of the fact that you’ll be carrying all of it uphill. Whether you fancy trail mix or an arsenal of homemade PB&J sandwiches, you’re going to need some fuel after the 23rd switchback.

The sun in New Zealand is stronger than other parts of the world due to a lack of ozone, but it can still get chilly at the top, especially if you trek later in the day. Pack your sleeves with some snacks for when the wind picks up.

Bask in the Glory of the Roy’s Peak Summit

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

The views from the top will have you feeling euphoric, especially coupled with the surge of endorphins from all of that leg-burning exercise! A gaggle of hikers can be found milling about at the top of Roy’s Peak, marveling at the 360-degree postcard setting. Some are taking selfies, others are still catching their breath, and a few might even be cracking a beer that they stowed for this very moment. 

Roys Peak, Peak
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand.

If you ascended alone, don’t be surprised if you make the return with the company of a few new friends. If there’s one thing special about Roy’s, besides the lure of the landscape, it’s the magnetic unity of hikers all there for the same reason, regardless of who they are or where they come from.