The Ultimate Sunrise Hike; Roys Peak in Wanaka

A hike up Roy's Peak is quickly becoming a must-do with any visit to New Zealand. With the help of Instagram, this is top of traveller's list when exploring the South Island to try and recreate the stunning scenic photos plastered all over social media. 



I am constantly researching things to do in New Zealand, especially hikes because there is nothing I enjoy more than an out-of-this-world-view. I quickly found photos of Roys Peak and added it to my bucket list immediately. A few friends who I met along my travels said they were in Wanaka not even 5 years ago and hadn't heard of Roys Peak at the time, now its on everyone's lips. 

Roy's Peak is found in Wanaka on New Zealand's South Island. At 1578m high, you will be treated to some of the most surreal views over Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. 

The boom in social media has meant that once secret hikes or trails are now becoming top tourist attractions. I mean, it was never a secret, it's a great big mountain looking over Lake Wanaka with a well-marked track , kinda-hard to hide - but the popularity of it in the last few years has soared. Everyone is desperate for that shot at the lookout with the lake and the mountains in the background, no shame, I did it too. 
If you plan to hike Roy in summer, be prepared for the crowds - which is why I would suggest to go for sunrise - we still had a fair size group at the summit, but not nearly as many as were starting the walk up as we were coming down. 


Absolutely nothing else in the world matters once you reach the summit and start to the see the sun illuminate the mountains and lake. It is by far one of the most spectacular views in the world and one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences in my lifetime. 
Summiting a mountain, or finishing a hike is always a great feeling, but something about Roy's Peak is special - it is something else to behold. 

How to get there; 
I was worried about trying to get to the start of the hike trail without a car. There is no designated shuttle company who drop off in the middle of the night and I didn't fancy adding an extra 6.8km by walking. After speaking to a few locals they pointed me in the direction of a taxi company who have jumped on board and taxi the masses who wish to tackle the hike to reach the summit for sunrise. 
Yello! cabs do pick ups outside Base on Brownston Street from 2am onwards. Give them a call the evening before, from 8pm and tell them you want to do Roys Peak for sunrise and want picking up at either 2am or 3am. It's a 10-seater cab (I think), if the taxi is full, it's $5 per person, or if it's its just you, or a couple others you split the $25 fare. The taxi will do trips back and forth until everyone has been picked up. 
Contact then at; 03 443 5555 

Otherwise if you have your own car, you can take the 10 minute drive from Wanaka to the car park on Mount Aspiring Road. 
No car & don't want to get a taxi? You can start even earlier and make the 1.5 hour walk from Wanaka to Roys Peak trailhead. 



What to Wear; 
I conquered Roy on a clear summer's night in January 2019 - temperatures at the summit were around 5 degrees Celsius with ALOT of wind. 
I wore & carried the following with me; 
- Long Nike leggings 
- Woollen hiking socks 
- Walking boots
- Sports Bra
- Nike Sports Vest 
- Long sleeve cotton top 
- Long sleeve thermal top 
- Windproof Kathmandu Jacket 
- 2 x buffs 
- Cap 

Layers is the absolute ket here. Hiking up you'll get warm and sweaty pretty quickly but then when you summit and are stood around waiting for the sun to rise you'll soon be throwing on all the layers and in need of extra ones. The wind is very strong at the top so make sure you pack a windproof layer. I was uncomfortably cold at the top so wish I had packed gloves and an extra layer to throw on. 
For the descent, once the sun had fully risen, I changed into shorts, Nike vest and my cap. 



What to Take; 
With any hike, make sure you take plenty of water, food and clothing. 
Getting up at 1:30am was not the easiest, but a can of Red Bull soon saw me energised and ready to rock & roll. I took some extra energy bars, a sandwich, fruit and 2L of water. 
The main thing I was grateful for was my torch, and not a torch on your phone, a PROPER torch - depending on how clear the sky is, you might get away with being guided by starlight though. 
If you plan to use the one toilet on the hike, make sure you take along some tissues & hand sanitiser. 
Sun cream is a must - even though you're hiking in the dark, when you descend in the sun, you are fully exposed for 2-3 hours with no spots of shade. The sun is extremely strong in New Zealand so make sure you take some factor 50 with you. 


How long does it take?
Honestly? 6-7 hours is pretty spot on. I find usually with hikes in New Zealand that when they say how long it takes, they are accounting for the slower walkers, if it says it takes 2 hours, I'll do it in 1.5 or less. Not with this one - the 6-7 hours is everyone. 
I really enjoy walking and hikes, but will happily say this hike is no joke and pretty hard. The path is well marked out, no ropes or anything to climb over other than a sty, the toughness is purely from constantly walking up the most steep steep monotonous paths.

Whether you complete the hike for sunrise, during the day, or for sunset - it is a FULL day trek, so make sure you put aside around 7 hours for this one. I got picked up at 2am from Wanaka, and made it back around 9:30am after hitch-hiking back. I was not hiking the entire time, I spent a lot of time at the summit and then photo stops on the way down. 


The hike & what to expect;
Distance; 16km Return
Elevation; 1228m
Time; 6-7 hours Return
Difficulty; Hard, like really hard

The entire hike is steep switchbacks straight up the mountain, with zero change of scenery. But if you're hiking up in the dark, you can't see anything anyway so that doesn't really matter. 
If you're after an exciting hike from start to finish, this isn't the one for you - this is literally for the view, not the journey soz. Pretty much the only reason anyone does this hike is for the most rewarding views at the top. 


From the car park, the zig-zag path starts and you can expect this for up to 3 hours. You won't be the only ones on the track, along with other hikers, you will be sharing the mountain with a f*ck ton of sheep. I started the hike with a group on my Stray bus, but soon walked off on my own as they were too slow for me - soz. I absolutely shat myself every time a sheep would run out in front of me from the dark. 
The one thing I liked about hiking in the dark, you have no idea how long you have to go until you reach the top - you just keep going and walking the next corner. Plus you have the benefit of not being burnt like a bitch the entire journey up. 
Maybe 2-hours into the walk, there is a sign-post for toilets - this is the only one on the trek aside from the ones at the carpark. 
When you are on the descent, make sure to stop off at these toilets - the ledge here is one of the two main spots to get that shot. 


Onwards & upwards, you are less than an hour from the summit. I was the third person to the top at around 4:45am, behind two lads who convinced me that what we thought was the summit, wasn't actually the summit. The fucks. 
When you reach the summit, with the pillars - stay there for gods sake. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. 
I spent the next hour being led to the back & beyond of Roys Peak and DOWN (that should have been a big give away!) the other side and then up another peak which they were sure was the right one. As we looked back up the mammoth of Roys Peak that we had just climbed down we all shouted profanities in unison. 
Literally had to drag myself BACK up the mountain and made it to the right summit, which we had been at an hour ago, just in time for sunset at 6am. 

The views are utterly beautiful and make the climb 100% worth it. 


It was bitterly cold at the top, and as soon as people had taken their photos, they were quick to leave and start the descent. I was determined to stay as long as possible because I wanted photos in full light. I sat in a ball in the grass with only my eyes visible and huddled for the next hour. Finally I gave up and started the walk down with all the stops on the way down for photos. 

I was so surprised at how steep the hike was; in the dark you can't really fathom it, but on the way down, when you see what you accomplished hours before, I was so thankful I did it for sunrise, and not in the heat. I honestly don't think I could do it during the day when you can see how far and how high you have to climb. 
Since doing it, a lot of people have asked about it and the top two questions have been "Is it really hard?" & "Is it worth it?" - Yes & Yes
If the hike was easy, the view wouldn't be nearly as rewarding now would it. 





Thanks for reading & happy travels 

♡ G

Join me on Instagram @gemwills 

& follow me as I continue my New Zealand Adventure! 


Coming next20 photos to make you book your flights to New Zealand 

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