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 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. Trusting the local, we looked into it. It looked very beautiful and after our 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 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 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 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 in 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 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 from 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 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 constraint (we had to go back to do some work). 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, where we didn’t see anyone else coming into the track. I guess the Rob Roy track is more popular in the afternoon! At least in the winter time.
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 in) 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
Thanks for the informative post. If you recall, I was wondering how the river crossings were driving to the car park? Would a 2wd sedan be able to reach the carpark.
I think it should be ok, but there are some gravel roads which might make a new driver feel anxious
Thanks for all the tips, information and amazing photos! I have a trip planned in Sept this year. Great that I came across your post! 🙂
Have fun in NZ Justina! It is truly the most beautiful places I’ve been to so far.
Thank you for sharing your adventures in New Zealand! I read that you went during Winter? I am wondering if you had to use snow chains for your car when you were driving around during this period. May I know which month it was that you visited NZ in this post?
Thank you for taking the time to read and answer my questions!
Hey Zoey, I went in August so it was at the tail end of winter. We didn’t need snow chain, but there was a freak snowstorm in Wanaka a day after we had left town and I think you might need snow chains for situations like that. Maybe you can ask the locals / your car rental place when you get there? They’ll know better.
Thank you Melissa for the information!
Hi Melissa, Thanks for such an informative blog. We are heading there in a fortnight. Was wondering if i would be needing hiking boots or regular sneakers are sufficient for the above hike and Mt. Aoroki one?
Hey Draveena, for Hooker Valley Track a sneaker would do if the conditions are good. For others I recommend hiking boots, especially since it’s going to be a bit cold.
Read your interesting post on Rob Roy Glacier Track hiking.
I am 75 yrs old and would rate my fitness level as moderate at best. I love mountains, but considering my age and fitness level, should i even consider doing above mentioned hike?
Appreciate receiving your frank advice.
Thanks and regards,
Hi Nihar, I think you can try it anyway, and turn back if you cannot complete. The track is mostly flat but it does require walking
Thanks, Melissa! I don’t have issues walking, but steep climbs could pose problems. Going by the pics you posted, views from the lower lookout would be worth the attempt. Would you agree?
yeah definitely! There are a few sets of stairs on the track, but it’s not long so I think it is doable if you go slowly. There are also a few somewhat steep sections but it is a very small section of the track.
It’s also a very popular hike so should anything happen (knock on wood) there would be people around who could help. In any case make sure you are going with someone else, just in case!
Nice picture 😂 what is the camera you used?! Plz tell me
Hi Seeun, I used iPhone 8 Plus!
These are stunning! Your photos are so gorgeous and remind me so clearly of the time I went to Wanaka a few years back. (Those are some pretty wild animal crossings though!)