When I first researched about which day hikes to do near Wanaka, my first choice was Roys Peak. However, we soon realized that it’s also everyone else’s first choice too – which means it’s going to be a very crowded hike. Roys Peak is a very popular track with an amazing view from the top, no doubt, but from what I’ve read, it’s a pretty dull experience since it just zigzags up the hill without much view to look at.
Thankfully a friend I met through Instagram (Liz from Young Adventuress who actually lives in Wanaka) recommended doing the Rob Roy Glacier Track. It looked very beautiful and after our long Ben Lomond summit adventure just two days prior, we really were just looking for an easy yet scenic day hike. A few pictures later we were completely sold, and off we went to check out the Rob Roy Glacier Track!
If you are looking for an itinerary for New Zealand South Island, you can check out my South Island itinerary overview here
How to get to Rob Roy Glacier Track
Rob Roy Glacier Track is part of Mount Aspiring National Park, just a short one-hour drive from Wanaka. The “Rob Roy” name came from the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor, named by the first Europeans who settled around the area in the 1870s. The Rob Roy track is billed as an easy track that even older children can do.
Getting to the start of the Rob Roy Glacier track is very convenient. From Wanaka, you simply take the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring road until you reach the very end of the road, to a place called Raspberry Creek Carpark.
The drive itself is quite an unusual drive. Firstly, the drive up was a very scenic one – you get to overlook the Lake Wanaka area and the mountain range around it.
Secondly, around the last 30km of the route, the nicely paved road ends and is replaced with an unsealed, gravel road that drives you through private farms on either side.
Pay close attention to the road signs as farm animals are let loose and they sometimes would use the road as well. We had to wait patiently behind a herd of cows several times while driving into the park in the morning.
We also saw a farm dog herding a flock of sheep back into their pen. This is actually my first time ever witnessing a herder dog in action, and I was super impressed. They are so smart and efficient! And super cute to boot 🙂
Finally, after driving through what seemed like countless animal crossings, we arrived at the Raspberry Creek Carpark with this amazing view of Matukituki Valley.
Word of caution: this Raspberry Creek Carpark is notorious for car break-ins so do not leave anything valuable in the car!
The Rob Roy Glacier Track
Overview of the Rob Roy Glacier track
- Distance: 9.6km return from Raspberry Creek Carpark (6km for the track to lower lookout, 3.6km to return to the car park)
- Elevation gain: 495m
- Recommended time: 3.5 hours return journey for the lower lookout, including time for rest and photos
From the Raspberry Creek Carpark, just follow easy signs to Rob Roy Glacier Track. This will take you through to a walk in the extremely scenic Matukituki Valley.
After about 2km of walking along the river in the valley, you’ll know when you’ve arrived at the start of the Rob Roy Track. The trailhead is clearly marked by that green DOC (NZ Department of Conservation) sign and a swing bridge that crosses over West Matukituki River straight into the track.
I’m so glad to report that the DOC website didn’t lie this time – this track is indeed very easy relative to the past two hikes we did in New Zealand (which was Lake Marian and Ben Lomond Summit – click for my experiences for those hikes!). There were a few steep-ish climbs but it was very short and I barely noticed the incline.
I also found the alpine vegetation along the track to be very interesting. Some parts of the track looked like something from Lord of the Rings, some other parts looked like something straight out of Grimm’s Fairytale.
Finally, after about 1 hour and 15 minutes of leisure walking and stopping to take photos, we reached the Lower Lookout to Rob Roy Glacier!
Although the weather was cold, it was a very sunny day and we could see steam (?) on the glacier. (Update: I was later told these aren’t steam – they are just fresh snow being blown off by the strong wind!)
We did not go to the Upper Lookout point due to time constraints. Also, there was an avalanche warning sign on the path to the Upper Lookout point.
The path to the Upper Lookout is prone to avalanches during springtime. But if you are there during the right season, then you definitely should continue on. Just make sure you check ahead and see if the weather conditions are favorable. We took some time sitting around, eating our snacks, and taking photos at the lower lookout of the glacier before turning back to the carpark.
On our way down, we passed by a few groups of hikers just barely heading into the track. This is such a contrast from earlier that morning when we didn’t see anyone else coming onto the track. I guess the Rob Roy track is more popular in the afternoon! At least in the wintertime.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Rob Roy Glacier Track. It was the easy but scenic walk we were looking for. It wasn’t too physically demanding and the sights you see along the track (and the drive there) were very interesting. Definitely would recommend this to friends looking for an easy day hike!
If you are looking for more things to do in New Zealand South Island, you can check out my South Island itinerary overview here