We went to Wanaka and Queenstown on the third leg of our trip. This part of the South Island is known as the Otago region and is my favorite region in New Zealand. The translation of Otago from Maori is disputed with some common translations being "isolated village" and "place of red earth". This makes a lot of sense after you visit this region and witness the reddish mountains that surround areas such as Queenstown which have contrasting aqua rivers flowing underneath.
After coming back for a second time to my favorite city Wanaka, we decided to do an amazing hike that I would even go as far to say that I would recommend over Roy's Peak if you're short on time. However I can't deny they are both absolutely beautiful.
If you can't decide which one to do, below is some info on Isthmus and Roy's Peak!
- Located in Wanaka about 6 minutes from city center
- Roy's Peak is 1,578 m (5177 F) above sea level
- Roy's Peak is considered easy grade (due to consistent gravel switch backs) and is one ongoing series of switchbacks
- Same view until until you reach the top but it gets better as you go!
- Requires high fitness
- 5-6 hours return
- You see Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring and surrounding peaks
- No Mountain Biking Available
- Track annually closed for lambing 1 October - 10 November
- Parking lot has been expanded but can be very crowded, AKA get there early!
- Department of Conservation (DOC) considers this to be one of their best day hikes.
- top section of this track has challenging avalanche terrain above the 1000 m mark.
- Located in Wanaka about 28 min from city center
- Isthmus Peak is 1,385 m (4,543 ft) above sea level
- Isthmus Peak is advanced grade (inconsistent terrain) and includes climbing different terrains
- Different views as you climb higher
- Requires high fitness
- 5-7 hours return
- Views of Lake Hawae, Lake Wanaka, Southern Alps & surrounding peaks
- Mountain Biking Available
- Track annually closed for fawning between 20 November and 20 December.
- Not very crowded parking lot
- This is not a well advertised hike in NZ
Pro tips for Roy's Peak: (We did it during Sept)
There will be a ton of cow and sheep poop on the track, so watch out!
In winter you may need alpine equipment such as an ice axe & crampons to reach the summit.
The famous shot of Roy's Peak isn't at the top. From that lookout you still have about an hour left before you reach the summit. I sabotaged myself and ate a full bag of nuts thinking I was done and had 1 hour to climb left.
You will most likely have to wait in line to get the famous picture on Roy's Peak.
The top of Roy's Peak is usually very snowy and you will need some shoes with good traction and preferably water proof, along with water proof pants. If you're afraid of heights, which I am, I'm not sure if you will reach the cell phone tower at the summit, which has a tiny narrow track leading to it with a cliff on one side and a nice large fall on the other.
Pro tips for Isthmus Peak: (We did it during Jan)
Don't be surprised if you see a ton of sheep!
There are a ton of really cool rocks jutting out to take photos on.
What looks to be the peak when looking up from the trailhead is actually only about 2/3 of the way, from that point there's still another hour or so to go before you get to the viewing point at the peak.