When I first researched about day hikes near Wanaka, my first choice was Roys Peak. However, we soon realized that Roys Peak is also everyone else’s first choice which means it’s going to be a crowded hike. It’s a very popular track with an amazing view from the top, no doubt, but overall it’s a pretty dull hiking experience since it just zigzags up the hill without much to look at.
A friend I met through Instagram (who actually lives in Wanaka) recommended the Rob Roy Glacier Track. The track looked very beautiful and after our Ben Lomond summit adventure just two days prior, we really were just looking for an easy but scenic day hike. The pictures sold us and off we went to Rob Roy Glacier Track instead of Roy’s Peak.
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. Rob Roy name came from the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor by the first Europeans who settled around the area in 1870s. The Rob Roy track is billed as an easy track that even older children can do.
Getting to the start of the 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. This drive itself is a not a common drive. First, the drive up was a very scenic one – you get to overlook the Lake Wanaka area and the mountain range around it.
Then, around the last 30km of the route, the nicely paved road ends and is replaced with unsealed, gravel road that drives you through private farms on either side. Pay close attention to the road signs, 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!
Finally, after driving through what seems like countless animal crossings, we arrived at the Raspberry Creek Carpark with this amazing view of Matukituki Valley. Word of caution: Although beautiful, this carpark is notorious for car break-ins so do not leave anything valuable in the car!
The Rob Roy Glacier Track
Overview of the track
- Distance: 9.6km return from Raspberry Creek Carpark (6km for the track to lower lookout, 3.6km to return to the carpark)
- 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 into walk in the extremely scenic Matukituki Valley.
After about 2km of walking along the river, 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.
The DOC website didn’t lie this time – the track is very easy in relative to the past two hikes we did in New Zealand (Lake Marian and Ben Lomond Summit). There were a few steep-ish climbs but it was very short that 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 out of Lord of the rings, some other part looked like something straight out of Grimm’s Fairytale.
Finally, after about 1 hour and 15 minutes of leisure walking and photos, we reached the Lower Lookout to Rob Roy Glacier. Although the weather was still cold, it was a very sunny day and we could see steam (?) on the glacier.
We did not go to the Upper Lookout point due to time constraint, but if you have the time and the season is right, then you definitely should continue on. Just make sure you check if the weather conditions are favorable. I did see this avalanche warning sign on the path before proceeding to the Upper Lookout point. If you are hiking in the Spring, I suggest you heed the sign, since the path to the Upper lookout is prone to avalanches during springtime.
We took some time sitting around, eating our snack and taking photos at the lower lookout of the glacier before turning back to the carpark. On our way back, we passed by a few separate groups of people just barely heading into the track. Coming in, we barely saw anyone else. I guess the Rob Roy track is more popular in the afternoon.
I 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 in) were very interesting. Definitely would recommend this to friends looking for an easy day hike!