Essential Tips for Hiking Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

Roy's Peak is a popular day hike in New Zealand's South Island

If you haven’t heard of Roy’s Peak, you’ve probably seen it. The viewpoint from this famous hike is practically the postcard picture for travel in New Zealand and for good reason too! But as beautiful as the view and hike is, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a steep 3 hour trek (for most) to the top, and when I say steep, I mean steep. It was entirely uphill, entirely without shade, zero exceptions. Most say it’s more strenuous than the other famous New Zealand hike, the Tongariro Crossing, and I’m inclined to agree. The effort is definitely worth it, but just make sure you’re prepared beforehand with my tips below on hiking Roy’s Peak.

View from Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand


But first: if I’ve already scared you off with the mere thought of a 3 hour one-way, all uphill hike, check out Wanaka’s easier, less known-about hike, Mount Iron. It still affords great views over Lake Wanaka and a good work out, but is much shorter and less steep.

1. Do Not Walk to the Trailhead (Catch a Ride Instead)

The trail begins about 75 minutes’ walk from central Wanaka, and trust me, you do not want to add another 2.5 hours of walking to the trailhead and back on top of this already-tiring, 5 – 6 hour hike.

Roy's Peak hike in New Zealand is a 6 hour, steeply uphill day hike from Wanaka
Wanaka, Zealand (view from Roy's Peak)

If you have your own car, you’re set. Just head over and park in the lot at the start of the trail (map below). If you don’t, try to meet people in your accommodation who are doing the hike and have a spare seat (it is the main “thing to do” in Wanaka, after all). There’s also always hitchhiking, but I personally opted to book the shuttle from my hostel. They booked us a Yello! cab ride for NZ$10 a piece, but Yello! is a company you can also call privately and book on your own.

2. Consider Hiking at Sunrise

I definitely did not do this, but if you’re itching to do a sunrise hike while in New Zealand, this is the one! Roy’s Peak is a very popular hike to do at sunrise, so while you will have to hike up in the dark, at least you won’t have to hike up alone in the dark. If you choose to do this, be sure to have necessary equipment, like a headlamp.

Beautiful Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

3. Use Hiking Poles if You Can

As this hike is very steep, it’s a tough one on the knees, especially on the way down. My right knee was a little sensitive for over a week afterwards! Especially if you already have knee problems, and even if you don’t, consider bringing along hiking poles to alleviate some of the pressure off your knees.

Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand
See all those steep zig zags?!

4. Bring Enough Water (Seriously)

I hate using hole-in-the-ground toilets on hikes, so I try to hydrate the evening and morning before a hike and to sip sparingly while on the hike if I can. It worked well for the infamous Tongariro Crossing hike, where I surprisingly didn’t even need to finish what water I brought. But while hiking Roy’s Peak, that all went out the window. I was chugging all the way up, and I had to ration to save enough for my lunch at the peak.

Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand

5. Bring a Cap & Sunglasses

As I’ve mentioned a couple times now, this hike has zero – and I mean zero – shade. So dress accordingly. Bring a cap or visor, wear a pair of sunnies, and reapply sunscreen every few hours. The sun in New Zealand is particularly strong.

Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand (solo female traveler)

6. Dress in Layers

While there may be zero shade on the way up, once you get to the top, it can be a bit chilly. So, as is the case with pretty much every hike in New Zealand, bring layers. I was sweating like a pig on the entire way up, immediately threw on all my layers once at the top, and started shedding all the layers off as I made my way back down!

Roy's Peak (a hike from Wanaka) is one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand's South Island
All of the sudden I was IN the clouds and VERY cold.

7. Pack a Meal & Snacks

It goes without saying that on a 6 hour hike, you’ll definitely need to eat. There are two nice spots to choose from for your lunch break; the famous viewpoint, and the peak, which is actually 30 minutes past the famous viewpoint. The peak was a lot chillier and windier than the viewpoint on the day I did this hike, so keep that in mind as you decide where to sit down and refuel!


Well, there you have it, folks – my tips on hiking Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand! Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions on completing this hike. And if you’ve hiked Roy’s Peak yourself, please share any tips you think I’ve missed!

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Planning on doing the Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand? It's a tough one, but one of the South Island's best hikes. These are the tips I wish I knew before hiking Roys Peak.
Planning on doing the Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand? It's a tough one, but one of the South Island's best hikes. These are the tips I wish I knew before hiking Roys Peak.
Planning on doing the Roy's Peak hike in Wanaka, New Zealand? It's a tough one, but one of the South Island's best hikes. These are the tips I wish I knew before hiking Roys Peak.


  • hannah
    January 17, 2022 at 8:42 PM

    Did you hike it alone/ do you think it would be okay to hike alone? Or I’m sure it would be popular enough you’d run into people on the way?

    • That Travelista
      March 6, 2022 at 9:18 AM

      Hi Hannah! I apologize for my delay in response. Yes, you can hike it alone. Many people start hours before sunrise in order to catch sunrise from the summit. So at pretty much any time between sunrise and the late afternoon, there will be other hikers. I “hiked it alone” in that I went and walked it without a companion. But I took a cab organized by my hostel, and so others got dropped off at the same time. There were already plenty of people hiking.

  • josypheen
    April 23, 2020 at 3:31 PM

    Love love looove this hike!

    I am rubbish at instagram, so i had no idea how famous it was before we got there! I was super surprised to find a long line at the famous viewpoint. We had to wait a while as there were some ladies who spent aaaaages on their insta-photoshoots!

    It was pretty worrying to see so many people attempting it with no water (or just teeny bottles of water.) I think your tips are fab, but i’d add in the summertime, the earlier you start it, the better. As it’d be sooo hot to hike up in the middle of the day.

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:39 AM

      Yes, it always feels a little strange waiting in a line on a mountain rather than at a proper “attraction!”

      Thanks for adding that tip! I hiked it in the beginning of fall, so I can’t imagine how much tougher it would have been in summer at the same time of day I hiked. Starting early would have been crucial!

  • Andi
    April 23, 2020 at 9:48 AM

    Looks stunningly gorgeous.The landscape reminds me of a luxury home realty show where they went to the far corners of the Earth to find gorgeous homes- and one of them looks like it was set right in the middle of this area! I would love to get to NZ one day and this would be high on my list of things to do!

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:35 AM

      Oh how interesting – I wonder if it was in New Zealand! I hope you get to visit eventually after this pandemic, and I’m sure you’ll love it when you do. 🙂

  • iemexploring
    April 23, 2020 at 6:47 AM

    Wow that a great read! will be pinning this for when we visit!!

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:33 AM

      I’m sure you’ll love your trip when you go! Lots of other pretty things as well that are not too far from this hike. 🙂

  • Patricija
    April 23, 2020 at 4:53 AM

    Wow this place is beyond words! So, so beautiful!

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:32 AM

      Hope you get a chance to see it in person some day 🙂

  • arracaptures
    April 22, 2020 at 4:15 PM

    OMG all those photos are so inviting! I would defo recommend this to my friend who wants to go back to NZ!

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:31 AM

      You totally should! It’s one of those cliche, “must-do” hikes in the country 😉

  • thethompsontrotters
    April 22, 2020 at 11:15 AM

    Wow! This seems like a strenuous hike but the photos turned out amazing!!

    • That Travelista
      April 25, 2020 at 12:30 AM

      Definitely strenuous, but stunning views!


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