Wild Camping on Roy’s Peak in New Zealand


Standing over 1500m above sea level, Roy’s Peak in New Zealand provides breath-taking views over Lake Wānaka and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Follow One Planet Journey guest writer Louise Plank, who spent an action packed 4 months travelling in Thailand, Bali, and Australia. Since January 2024 she’s exploring New Zealand, and here she presents insider tips for wild camping and a successful ascent of Roy’s Peak.

High up view of mountains and lakes amid a sunrise.
Sunrise from Roy’s Peak in New Zealand.


Roy’s Peak, on New Zealand’s Southern Island, offers a challenging yet rewarding day hike if you seek breathtaking panoramas. This 1,578-metre peak stands between Wānaka and Glendhu Bay, its tussock-covered slopes providing a scenic climb. Hikers traverse farmland with sheep before ascending a well-formed track, eventually reaching the ridgeline where the views steal the show. Lake Wānaka unfolds below, a turquoise jewel amidst mountains like Mount Aspiring.

Why Roy, you ask? The prevailing theory is that the peak got its name in honour of Rob Roy MacGregor, a celebrated Scottish folk hero known for his defiance against authority in the early 18th century.

A cow on a grassy mountainside
Expect to see cows and sheep on your way up Roy’s Peak


How to get to Roy’s Peak

Roy’s Peak is located a 10-minute drive from Wānaka and just over an hour from Queenstown on the Mount Aspiring Road. Parking is limited, so during high season you are advised to walk/ bike/ use public transport to the car park. 

I completed the hike at the beginning of autumn, and the sun’s rays were still intense. To avoid getting burnt to a crisp, I recommend doing the climb early at sunrise or in the evening for sunset. I left the carpark just before 4pm and found the temperature perfect to walk in since the shade from the towering mountain provided shelter as I began ascending Roy’s Peak. 


The Hike

After a spontaneous decision with a group of friends to do this hike, we picked a random day and, thankfully; the weather was on our side. With hiking snacks packed and water bottles filled up, we took off. There is a $2 donation at the start of the walk, which goes towards track maintenance. You’ll shortly pass a toilet which is worth using, despite the foul stench! It’s the only one until the viewpoint, and remember to bring your own toilet paper.

Hiking track with on mountain ridge with groups of people.
The tussock-covered hills of Roy’s Peak


Now you have an 8 km climb to the summit. Even though the track is wide and clearly marked out, Roy’s Peak is not for the faint of heart. The elevation change is a steady 1200 metres through private farmland (avoid the shortcuts) and with my camping gear chaotically packed on my back, my legs definitely felt it. I kept reminding myself that the views are going to be worth it and if I only put one foot in front of the other, I’ll make it in no time. The first kilometre is the steepest, so keep the faith. It is safe to say the hike was both a physical and mental challenge, although it’s not considered a technical climb. No ropes or scrambling required. With that said, it made reaching the viewpoint even more rewarding. We almost missed the sunset, catching the subtle hues of pink and yellow right before the day came to an end.

Sun setting over a vista of lakes and mountains
Sunset view of Roy’s Peak, New Zealand



After the obligatory photos at the viewpoint, we ambled down to our camp spot for the night. We spent the rest of the evening watching the stars illuminate the night sky. When the occasional shooting star flew past it left us all in awe. There were five of us, so we made the smart decision to sleep in the same tent to contain as much heat as possible to prepare for the chilly night ahead. My alarm went off at 5am and on about 1 hour of sleep, we hiked 30 minutes up to the viewpoint, then another half hour to reach the summit. That feeling of reaching the top was one of my proudest moments when I could see how far I had climbed.

Narrow mountain track leading to viewpoint of a lake with a group of people looking out.
Popular viewpoint for great photos


Sunrise at Roy’s Peak

We were the first to summit, and from our vantage point, we watched a trail of torches from the hikers below as they made their way along the winding track. You reach the peak on a narrow trail but it’s wide enough to avoid vertigo. About 20 minutes later, the initial light of dawn appeared. The sky lit up with an array of colours; a vibrant, orange glow on the horizon soon turned into a pastel pink bordering the snowy mountains. As the sun slowly emerged, it cast its golden rays over Lake Wānaka, creating a peaceful atmosphere. I couldn’t help but think how lucky we were to witness such a spectacular view and how New Zealand keeps exceeding my expectations.


Tips for climbing Roy’s Peak

There are a few points to know before you take on Roy’s Peak:

  • Don’t underestimate the climb, it is difficult due to the high elevation. Ignore the crazy people that are running the track and go about it at your own pace.
  • The hike is 16 km (10 miles), which takes an average of 6/7 hours to complete. The descent is straightforward, but take care if you find yourself in wet conditions.
  • Recommended packing: Lots of water and snacks, sun cream, walking poles and wear layers including a windbreaker (when you walk up you’ll want as little clothes as possible, but the temperature drops and the wind increases at the summit).
  • It is one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes for a reason. Sunset is a quieter time to hike but equally incredible, so if you enjoy avoiding crowds, the evening would be a great option. 
  • You are legally allowed to camp below the summit, but be careful because the first part of the hike (between the gates) is owned by farmers. Make sure you pack everything you unpacked and do not leave any litter. 
  • Every year, Roy’s Peak is closed for the lambing season from the 1st of October to the 10th of November.


Have you been to New Zealand? What is your favourite part? Let us know in the comment section! Subscribe to our newsletter and benefit from travel guides, sustainable tourism and luxury travel tips, insightful interviews, and inspirational places to visit. One Planet Journey – The World’s First Deep Travel Magazine.


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