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How to Hike Roys Peak at Sunrise and Sunset

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Roys Peak Hike on the New Zealand South Island

Roy’s Peak on New Zealand’s South Island is a total grind but 10000% worth it! Watching the sunrise from the top of Roy’s Peak is something that we will never forget.

From the moment our alarm clocks went off at 3:30am to the time the sun popped over the horizon and lit up the mountains around us, it was an adventure for the books!

girl standing on Roy's Peak Mountain in New Zealand at sunrise with a cloud inversion

Roy’s Peak is 16km / 9.9 miles return with an elevation gain of 1,310m / 4,297 ft and it definitely feels like a huge hike because of how long it is. The views from the top however, make you forget about the climb instantly because they are so stunning.

Throw in a sunrise or sunset and you will be drooling by how magical the view is from Roy’s Peak. Hiking to Roy’s Peak for sunrise or sunset is a Bucketlist NZ experience that every hiker should do.

Dave and I climbed to the top of Roy’s Peak for sunrise during our 8 day van life trip around the South Island of New Zealand and we can confirm that it is one of the best hikes on the NZ South Island.

This guide will give you everything you need to know about hiking to Roy’s Peak at sunrise or sunset, including what to expect on the trail, the stats, where to park and where to stay nearby the night before/after and more!

Couple standing on Roy's Peak at Sunrise

📃 Hike Stats

Distance: 16km / 9.9 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,310m / 4,297 ft
Time: 6-9 hours
Dogs allowed: No

Toilets: Yes, in the parking lot

☀ How to Hike Roy’s Peak at Sunrise

Hiking to the top of Roy’s Peak for sunrise is no easy task but it is still an extremely popular thing to do amongst travellers and van lifers.

We stayed in a campground in our campervan, not too far away from the trailhead (you are not allowed to camp in the parking lot). We had done loads of sunrise missions before this but I actually think this might have been our first ever sunrise hike!

After having dinner and prepping our bagels for breakfast the next day on the hike, we tried to get an early night’s sleep. Why is it always so much harder to sleep when you know that you have to get up super early the next morning?!

Our alarms went off the next morning at 3:30am and away we went! It was super cold because it was late April which made it hard to get moving.

When we reached the parking lot, we were joined by about 10 other sunrise hikers. All we could see was a bunch of headlights heading up the trail in front of us.

We had tried to account for about 3 hours to hike up in the dark but ending up running a little late and racing a bit towards the end to get there in time. Sunrise was close to 7am at that time of the year which definitely made it easier than if it was Summer.

We had never seen the trail before and so it was really weird not knowing what the view was going to look like.

Finally we reached the top and the sun almost immediately started popping over the horizon. I can’t describe how excited Dave and I were! It was incredibly beautiful and something we would both do again.

❗ Things to Consider Before Hiking Roy’s Peak

  • The weather can be extremely unpredictable. Remember that you will be high up on a mountain and it can get very cold, even in the Summer.
  • It is a very long hike. Remember to bring plenty of food and water.
  • If you are planning on hiking Roy’s Peak at sunrise or sunset, make sure you bring along a fully charged headlamp.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when they can expect you back.
  • Hiking Poles might save your knees and feet a little. If you have some, bring them.
Girl at Roy's Peak looking out at view

ℹ Everything You Need to Know About Hiking to Roys Peak

📍 Where is Roy’s Peak Located

Roy’s Peak is located in Wanaka, Otago on the South Island of New Zealand. From Wanaka, it is only a 9 minute drive to the parking lot for the trailhead.

From Queenstown it is a 1 hour drive to Roy’s Peak.

From Christchurch, it is a 5.5 hour drive to Roy’s Peak.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

Where is the Roy’s Peak Trailhead and Where to Park

Roy’s Peak Hike has it’s own parking lot right at the trailhead. The parking is located off Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road, about a 10 minute drive from Wanaka.


There is a toilet located in the parking lot and another one up at the lookout.

🥾 How Hard is the Roy’s Peak Hike

Roy’s Peak is a challenging hike. It is extremely long and unrelenting. We found the hike up not as bad as the hike back down. The entire trail is up / down a steep sloped trail so hiking back down is very hard on your knees, feet and muscles.

If you have hiking poles, I recommend bringing them along for this hike.

🕐 Roy’s Peak Hiking Time

Roy’s Peak takes a total of 7 hours on average but could take anywhere from 6 – 9 hours.

🐶 Can Dogs do the Roy’s Peak Hike

Dogs are not allowed on the trail to Roy’s Peak.

Photo of Roy's Peak in New Zealand

⌚ When is the Best Time of the Year to Hike to Roy’s Peak

You cannot hike Roy’s peak from 1 October – 10 November as the trail is closed for lambing each year.

During Winter, the trail becomes very snowy, so you will need to carry alpine equipment such as ice axe and crampons. There is also an avalanche risk on this mountain so Winter is not the best time to hike Roy’s Peak.

The best time to hike to Roy’s Peak is in Spring, after the snow has melted, or during Summer or Autumn. Beware that if you want to hike for sunrise in Summer, you will be waking up EXTREMELY early. If you are wanting to hike Roy’s Peak for sunrise, I recommend going during Autumn instead when the sunrise is later.

Autumn is also a really beautiful time to visit New Zealand when the leave turn orange, red and yellow!

☁ Catching a Cloud Inversion at Roy’s Peak

If you are looking to catch a cloud inversion at the top of Roy’s Peak, the best time would be in late Summer or early Autumn.

Girl looking out at cloud inversion on Roy's Peak

You can’t 100% predict when or where there is going to be a cloud inversion, but there are a few factors that contribute which you can check on before you set out for your hike.

Conditions that help cloud inversions
1. Calm Conditions with a slight breeze
2. Late Summer or early Autumn or Winter
3. Humidity of 80% or higher
4. Low clouds – You can check this on the Windy website

📵 Cell Service

You should have cell service for the majority of the trail.

🛌 Places to Stay Nearby that are SO Worth it!

If you are travelling to New Zealand’s South Island, chances are that you are either:

  1. Doing a Van Life Road Trip
  2. Doing a Road Trip with hotel accommodation

Below I have provided accommodation options for both, including campgrounds, budget accommodation and some really pretty hotels.


Hampshire Holiday Park – This holiday park is lake side and beautiful and where we stayed! It is only a 5 minute drive to the Roy’s Peak trailhead which makes it a great choice for sunrise!

Mt Aspiring Holiday ParkOnly a 3 minute drive from Roy’s Peak Trailhead, this holiday park has both camping facilities and cabins.

Cute Cabins

The Kanuka CabinThe Kanuka Cabin is about a 20 minute drive from Roy’s Peak, but is a perfect place to stay if you are looking to relax after your hike. They have a hot tub with beautiful views of the valley and mountains.

Kauri House Apartment – Famous for their delicious breakfasts, this apartment has some of the best views in Wanaka and is a 15 minute drive from Roy’s Peak parking lot.

Budget Hotels

YHA Wanaka – The YHA is a hostel that is located about a 7 minute drive from Roy’s Peak Trailhead.

Bella Vista Motel – located on the lake, the Bella Vista Motel is great for a one night’s stay so you can do your Roy’s Peak adventure.

🥾 Roy’s Peak Trail Description

The trail to Roy’s Peak is unrelenting switchbacks up a wide gravel trail the entire way to the top. Our knees were almost begging for stairs on the way back down to help mix it up a little.

Man sitting on Roy's Peak at sunrise looking out at the view

Each switchback is extremely long and each one feels like it will never end. Roy’s Peak is definitely not the most exciting hike, but the views from the top make the boring switchbacks worth it.

I remember looking up at the mountain in front of us in the dark multiple times while we hiked, trying to figure out how much further we had to go. It was so hard to figure out except for some lights from other hikers that we could see much much higher up. The darkness also made it easier by not knowing how much further we had to go.

🙋‍♀️ How to Avoid the Crowds on Roy’s Peak

Roy’s Peak is no secret and these days people come from all over the world to hike this mountain, yes even at sunrise.

It is almost impossible to avoid bumping into any other hikers at all, however there are a few things you can do to avoid the peak crowds.

  1. Go on a weekday
  2. Go for Sunrise – even though sunrise is more popular than ever, hiking during the day is EVEN more popular.
  3. Visit during the low season – NZ is a less popular tourist destination during Autumn (March – May) and Spring (September – November). Just make sure you visit outside of any school holidays!

☀ Is Roy’s Peak Better at Sunrise or Sunset?

Both sunrise and sunset at Roy’s Peak are spectacular, however at sunrise the light hits the mountains perfectly. You also have more of a chance to get a cloud inversion at sunrise.

Girl sitting on Roy's Peak at sunrise

⛺ Camping on Roy’s Peak

Not all that many people do this, but if you are into backpacking, you can camping up at Roy’s Peak. Yes it is legal. As the hike is so popular though, you will probably want to wait to set up your tent until most of the day hikers have left so that you don’t ruin the experience for them.

You are not supposed to camp on the very summit of Roy’s Peak, however you can camp just below the summit, or further along on the trial.

If you do decide to camp, make sure you pack out what you pack in. There are no rubbish bins up at the lookout.

🎒 Packing List

  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Hiking Boots or runners
  • Gloves and a beanie
  • Food
  • Hiking Poles (if you use them)
  • A warm jacket for the top – it gets pretty cold up there!
  • A rain coat just in case

Other Things to Do in Wanaka

Hiking Roy’s Peak isn’t the only thing to do in Wanaka. Wanaka is also famous for it’s Wanaka Tree which is a willow tree standing alone in Lake Wanaka that is visited and photographed by thousands of tourists every year.

A photo of that Wanaka Tree in Wanaka New Zealand

You can’t leave New Zealand without visiting the otherworldly Milford Sound. You can take a day trip from Wanaka on this scenic flight and cruise. During the flight, you will see some of the most incredible scenery of the mountains that the South Island has to offer. Then you will hop on a boat cruise and sail through the fiords to see the sounds.

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