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New Zealand (Day 2): Hiking Roy's Peak with a stop at the #ThatWanakaTree

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Summary: Rightfully labeled one of the best hikes in New Zealand, Roy's Peak is a challenging 10-mile hike consisting of jaw-dropping views and unrelenting elevation gain. This out-and-back hike is worth the effort as the landscape, views, and sheep along the way, collectively are the epitome of a perfect New Zealand hike. We also stopped to see the most photographed tree in NZ, #ThatWanakaTree

Getting there. Roy's Peak and the Wanaka Tree are located on Lake Wānaka. The drive to the town of Wanaka is about an hour and ten minutes from Queenstown. You can stay in Wanaka or make it a day trip like we did. The drive up and over the mountain passage on Highway 6 features some great scenic stops (photo below).

#ThatWanakaTree We couldn't drive past Wanaka without stopping at New Zealand's most photographed tree known as That Wanaka Tree. Parking is located just a few hundred yards from the tree in a public park which conveniently has public restrooms as well. This willow tree is famous for nothing more than being in the water on a gorgeous lake but whatever, why not just join the tourist fun and snap the same famous pic?

Roy's Peak. A challenging 10-mile, out-and-back hike, Roy's Peak is both breathtakingly beautiful and also quite the workout. To give you an idea, after we completed this hike and talked with locals in the region, each time they said, "oh you did THAT hike?" So let's just say, it's a bit infamous. That being said, we are sure glad we took on the challenge.

The Start. Parking is located right at the trailhead with a bathroom available to use before your start. We were here at the end of December and it was already pretty warm. We recommend a very early start, sun protective clothing, hats, sun block, and plenty of water. There is zero shade on this trail. Also, bring layers because you'll see that after climbing 4,200 feet to the peak, it can be pretty cold at the top.

The hike begins with a gorgeous view of Lake Wānaka below. The entire five miles up is straight up with only a few short stretches of flat ground. While unrelenting, at each rest break, we turned around and looked out onto breathtaking horizon.

Getting to the Top. Towards the top of the climb, the terrain changes. The rocky peaks, we are told, come from the fact that this mountain range is brand-new and still developing. Rounded tops of mountains develop from years of being weather worn, whereas new mountains like Roy's Peak, are jagged and sharp. The landscape looks straight out of Lord of the Rings.

Roy's Peak. Near the top of the Peak, we hit fog. The combination of bright colors of the landscape and whisps of white fog, made for such a cool effect. The very top of the peak is marked by a radio tower. Here, we had a snack before making our way back down.

Don't forget the sheep. Apparently there are 5 sheep for every 1 human in New Zealand. That number is pretty hard to fathom. We did see our fair share of sheep, including some up close and personal visits with these adorable animals during our Roy's Peak hike.

Hike to the End. As you can imagine, what goes up, must come down. The hike to the bottom is straight down and while faster than going up, it is just as punishing. This time though, you don't have to turn around to get the view and instead, you're entire descent is one gorgeous scene after another. While correctly rated as "hard," we would say that this hike was definitely worth the effort. It was memorable for it's views, sheep, and difficulty.


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