A full guide to the Rob Roy Glacier track – the best hike in Wanaka, New Zealand
Thanks for visiting my website and your wish to read more about the Rob Roy Glacier track in Wanaka, New Zealand. The Rob Roy Glacier walk is definitely the best hike in Wanaka and a must-do if you only have one day to spend here. I’ve done various other hikes in the area and can honestly say that none of them impressed me as much as the Roy Roy Glacier hike. So in this article I’ll give you all you need to know about hiking in the Rob Roy Valley. Enjoy!
About the Rob Roy Glacier Track New Zealand
The Rob Roy Glacier walk is definitely one of the finest half day hikes in New Zealand. It’s located within the borders of Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand’s largest national park offering some of the most scenic views in the country. It’s a complete dreamland of high mountains, glaciers, wild rivers and deep canyons. There are plenty of amazing hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park, such as the famous Routeburn Track as well as the lesser Lake Sylvan Track. Within the Wanaka region, there are a few nice hikes you can check out, the Rob Roy Glacier trail being the most popular one. Don’t let the word popular discourage you though because even though the trail receives plenty of visitors, it receives way less than the even more famous Mount Roy hike.
The trailhead is located about an hours driving outside of Wanaka near Raspberry Car Park and the reason it receives less visitors than Mount Roy is because it’s trickier to get to. I’ll tell you more about that later! The Rob Roy Glacier Track length is 10 kilometers return and will take you some 4 hours. Maybe even a bit more as it’s stunning all the way and you’ll probably be taking loads of pictures!
Rob Roy Glacier Track difficulty
The trail can be done by anyone who has some experience in walking and more important: walking up for several hours. You will not really enjoy the hike much if you don’t have sturdy boots and enough stamina. I came across a bunch of people who never really hiked before and they had quite a hard time going up. If you don’t think you’ll be able to hike up to the Roy Roy Glacier Upper Lookout, you may consider to hike to the first viewing area only, which will already give you some great impressions of Rob Roy Glacier. The total altitude gain of the Roy Roy Glacier Track is about 450 mts and the difficulty is given by Department of Conservation is ‘Walking track: well formed easy walks from a few minutes to a day.’
Rob Roy Glacier track weather
What can I say, it’s an alpine environment and thus you will find all weather options here. I’ve spent quite a few weeks in Wanaka during my trip in 2018 and have experienced all kinds of weather in the Wanaka region. I visited both in January and in March and easy time it was wet and cold for at least a few days. Luckily, I had time to wait for good Rob Roy Glacier weather to hike which was definitely a bonus. If you wish to hike the Rob Roy Track in winter, you will most likely only be able to hike up to the first lookout because of avalanche danger. This is generally between May and October. Current alerts can be found here.
About Rob Roy Glacier Wanaka
The Rob Roy Glacier is a small hanging glacier just nine kilometers south of Mount Aspiring, the highest peak in the Mount Aspiring National Park. It streams down from 2.644 m. high Rob Roy Peak to a bench above the valley where it breaks up above a cliff located at 1.500 mts. Unfortunately, due to the climate change I’ve seen Rob Roy Glacier recede so make this visit a priority while traveling to New Zealand!
Roy Roy Glacier Walk – my experience
Before I tell you more practical tips about how to get to Rob Roy Glacier from Wanaka and other things to consider, I’ll first give you my personal story and experience. That’s why you came to my blog in the first place, right? Below you’ll find my story!
‘The drive to the Rob Roy Glacier is stunning already and my friend and I are taking our time. We know there are some rivers to be forded and even though I have bought a car, I don’t feel confident that my Toyota Corolla will make it through. Just as we start to wonder how more river fords there will be, I see a lot of cars parked next to the road. At first we assume this is the trailhead, but it later turns out that the next river is too deep for many cars to be forded safely and visitors have decided to leave their car here and cross by foot instead. We follow the advise, find a place for our car and head onwards to the start of the Rob Roy Glacier hike.
We still have a few kilometers to hike along the unpaved road and some rivers to cross. Some of them can be crossed by hopping from one boulder to the next, some are a bit wider and need to be crossed by just walking through the river. Eventually we reach the trailhead near Raspberry Creek parking area where there are plenty of other cars who decided to continue driving. The AA is there too so it seems like not all cars where able to make it without problems.
Hitting the Rob Roy Valley Track
After we slap on another bit of sunscreen and drink some water, it’s time to hit the trail. The first bit is relatively flat and after crossing the West Matukituki River on a large swing bridge, the gradual climb starts. Up, up and up through the woods and along the Rob Roy Stream. The forest is quite dense and the heat goes up, too. Every now and then we take a small break to drink a bit of water as it’s an incredibly hot day today. After about an hour we reach the first viewing area. From here, you can peek right through the trees and catch the first glimpses of Rob Roy Glacier.
Make sure to push onwards though because it’s getting even more beautiful. From here, the trail also gets rockier (this is why to wear your hiking boots!) as you are entering alpine vegetation. The trees have mostly gone from here and soon we reach the viewing area of Rob Roy Glacier and Mount Rob Roy. There’s no real trail end so we just decide to walk a bit further until we reach a place we feel comfortable hanging out for a while. Rrom the Rob Roy Glacier Upper Lookout we take snapshots, grab a snack and soak in the sunshine and amazing views of the icefield above us. Rob Roy Glacier: you have not disappointed us!
On the way back we decide to try and catch a ride as we don’t feel like walking all the way back along the gravel road. As I hear the first car coming up from behind I put up my thumb and to my surprise, the car stops. It’s a large 4WD with a New Zealand family, who offer us a seat in the back of their truck. Some stuff is rearranged and soon after we are back at our car. Thanks for the ride guys, if you ever read this blog article!’
Extra tip: if you have good weather like we did, it may be hard to capture the glacier with your camera as the sun will be in front of you. We arrived at the Roy Roy Glacier Upper Lookout at about 2.00 pm and had difficulties catching the glacier without sunbeams.
Wanaka to Rob Roy Glacier – how to do it!
As mentioned before, this track is somewhat tricky to get to and there for receives less visitors than the Mount Roy hike, for example. The main reason is that the majority of the road into the valley is unsealed (30 kms) and that the last 10 km is a fine weather track only. You’ll have to ford various streams with your vehicle and those may become impassable. In our case, it was a fine day however the days before it had rained a lot causing the streams to become rivers. For an indication, check the video in this article, you’ll see one small river crossing and a major one towards the end.
Rental vehicles are usually not insured for driving on unsealed roads and/or river crossings. Make sure you aware of this before commencing the drive. We witnessed a bunch of backpackers having to be towed as their vehicle didn’t make it across the stream.
If you don’t want to risk driving your vehicle all the way to Raspberry Creek parking lot, you can take a shuttle from Wanaka. There are various companies offering this service, however I cannot recommend any by personal experience. You can find all the best options here.
Before setting out with your own vehicle make sure to visit the Department of Conservation office in Wanaka they are located at the corner of Ardmore Street and Ballantyne Road. They will be able to tell you about the latest road conditions and whether it’s safe to drive your own vehicle or not.
Alternatively, you can join a guided Rob Roy Glacier tour or a Rob Roy Glacier guided walk, for example with Eco Wanaka Adventures. As I traveled independently, I again cannot confirm they are the best option however this one seems to get good reviews!
Rob Roy Glacier Track or Roys Peak Track
Well I can be short: Rob Roy Glacier day hike is definitely more worth it. I’ve done both and in all honesty, I didn’t enjou the Roys Peak Track much. It’s overrun by (unexperienced) hikers who don’t have an idea of what they are doing. All they want is the famous Instagram picture and then take off again. The trail up to that point is quite boring, all the way up and far less scenic than the Rob Roy Glacier Track. Roys Peak is a great example of overtourism so if you ask me whether to hike Roys Peak or Rob Roy Glacier, then the glacier hike is definitely my answer.
Rob Roy Glacier map
You don’t really need a hiking map for this trail since it’s rather easy and well defined. If you still want some kind of idea of the area you’re hiking in, then download this brochure by Department of Conservation which has a basic map of the Rob Roy Glacier hike.
Where to stay in Wanaka
I’ve visited Wanaka plenty of times and can recommend some nice accommodations when you’re on a bit of a budget. During my most recent trip I stayed one night at Mountain View Backpackers (great and cosy!). If you want to be where the buzz is then you may opt to stay in BASE Wanaka although it wasn’t my favorite to be honest.
If you are camping, then you can best stay at Top 10 Wanaka which is near town. If you’re looking for a somewhat secluded location, then Lake Outlet is a great option, but it’s a bit further away from it all.
Bookings are a must for Wanaka. I had a hard time finding a bed when I was solo traveling and I tried booking a few days ahead. You can check all Wanaka accommodation options here.
Conclusion and disclaimer
The Rob Roy Glacier Track is definitely among the best hikes in Wanaka. Before you set off, make sure to order your copy of Lonely Planet New Zealand and the New Zealand hiking guide which has plenty of other hiking options near Wanaka, too.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below. This article contains affiliate links, meaning that if you book or purchase via my website, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.