If you are passing through Wanaka, some sixty miles north of Queenstown, do not miss the Roy’s Peak / Skyline Track. The start is on the road from Wanaka to Glendhu Bay. It is probably the best known hike in the region. It takes about 5 hours to reach Roy’s Peak at 1578m altitude and about ten hours to make the Skyline Track which continues on the ridges to arrive on the Cadrona Road about ten kilometers before Wanaka.
After spending my first two days in Wanaka, I moved to the Glendhu Bay Motor Park, a little piece of paradise and tranquility. Located a 10 minute drive from the start of the Roy’s Peak trail, it was the perfect opportunity. Thursday, February 23, the weather was supposed to be perfect, so I decided to do the hike.
Day 1. February 2017 | ReachingMt Alpha, 1630m
The time to make my bag, to leave my belongings I don’t need at the campground and to join the beginning of the trail, it was already 10am. It was sunny, no clouds in the sky, the day expected to be very hot. The car park of the trail was full! A hundred camper-vans, pick-up and trucks were already on site! I had not realized but there are really many people who do this hile! Especially when the weather is so perfect. We advanced almost in a single file!. Not really my cup of tea. Especially as the climb goes damn hard. The dirt road advances in steep zig-zag across the flank of the tussock covered mountain. At least it’s not New Zealand forest (which I’m starting to get a little fed up with). Reverse of the medal, with a cloudless sky, one heats quickly.
The ascent was long. It took me almost 5 hours to reach the top. But then what a view! Lake Wanaka and its various islands stretch before my eyes as well as the entire Wanaka and Glendhu Bay area. The U-shaped lake, resulting from glacial erosion (like most of the lakes in the region) is immense. There are a lot of islands in the middle of the lake ranging from the smallest (Ruby Island) to the biggest (Mou Tapu Island.) The Southern Alps unveil their steep peaks with Mount Aspiring National Park on the left. View from the summit, Wanaka area seems almost flat, while in reality the ground is quite wavy. I experienced it with my bike a few days ago.
At the top, it’s a little bit like musical chairs to find a free spot. I walk away a little continuing on the small path of Skyline Track. Indeed, my plan is to rest until 5pm, so that the temperature drops a bit then continue on the Skyline Track to reach Mt Alpha, spend the night in my little tent and tomorrow morning back down via the ridges.
I spend two quiet hours relaxing and contemplating the landscape. Then I leave. Most people are already gone, it’s much quieter. In the way that I go, there is no one. The path becomes smaller and zig-zag abruptly on the ridge. The climb to reach Mt Alpha is quite difficult because very steep and the ground crumbles a little. Around 6:30pm I finally reached the summit: Mt Alpha, 1630 meters above sea level! The view is breathtaking and apart from the screeching of the cicadas, it is an absolute calm. I set up my tent on the summit, at the level of the path – the only spot relatively flat – and I spend a perfect evening contemplating the landscape and the sunset.
Day 2. February 2017 | Going back to Glendhu Bay
Contrary to what I thought, my night was not as peaceful as I had hoped. Indeed, as soon as the sun disappeared behind the horizon, the wind appears and big squalls shook my tent all night. In the end I didn’t sleep a lot. Alarm clock for sunrise. I followed its evolution, minute by minute, while it gently illuminates the peaks and the valleys around me. I resume my hike, continuing on the ridges, gently descending towards the mainland.
After an hour the trail leaves the ridges to sink abruptly towards a creek – Spotts Creek – embedded in the mountains. A bit less charming. The end of the trail will be much longer to reach than I had thought, the path zigzagging through the creek and then across paddocks. I had to step over several fences. I saw almost no one on the way. I finally arrived at the small car park located on the edge of the Cadrona Road which I followed a few days earlier. 5 minutes only to hitchhike before a local gentleman takes me in his pick-up to drop me to Wanaka. It’s a beautiful weather, very hot, like yesterday and I took the opportunity to enjoy a ice-cream and lounging along the lake before hitching again (barely 3 minutes to wait this time, decidedly I am lucky) to return to the campground in Glendhu Bay.
The Skyline Track is definitely a superb hike. On the other hand beware, the ascent and descent are quite steep and difficult.
Summary: The Roy’s Peak Track followed by the Skyline Track is a path following the mountain ridges around Lake Wanaka and offering superb views of the surrounding area.
Location: South Island. The departure is generally from the Roy’s Peak Trail parking lot, along the road to Glendhu Bay.
Duration: To reach Roy’s Peak, plan 5 hours of steep climb. To make the entire Skyline Track, usually 11 hours of walking is required.
Distance: The Skyline Track is about 11km long.
Hiking stories is a love letter to nature, to walking and camping. And to all that’s come with it: weather troubles, muscles pain and noisy tourists on the trails.
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