New Zealand is a beautiful country with stunning nature. The number one activity when visiting is hiking. Or tramping as the locals call it. There are tons of great tracks with awesome views, and one of those is the Rob Roy Glacier Track near Wanaka. You’ll cross the roaring West Matukituki River over a swing bridge, hike through a beech forest, and end up at a viewpoint where you can admire the Rob Roy Glacier. It’s an exhausting, but beautiful hike.
Here’s everything you need to know about hiking the Rob Roy Glacier Track near Wanaka.
The Rob Roy Glacier Track – practical info
The Raspberry Creek car park, where the Rob Roy Glacier Track starts, is about an hour west of Wanaka, in Mount Aspiring National Park. To get to the car park, you’ll have to brave 30 km of unsealed road, which is over half of the drive. In our Spaceships Campervan, that took us some 40 minutes at a speed of 50 to 80 km/h. The Department of Conservation (DOC) website warns about the last 10 km being a fine weather road that’s subject to washouts and flooded creeks. We can confirm that. It’s best to check the road conditions before you leave, to prevent having to turn back disappointed.
The Rob Roy Glacier Track itself is a return track, which took us 4 hours to complete. The path takes you over a swing bridge, through a small mountain gorge, into a beech forest, and up to a viewpoint over the Rob Roy Glacier. There are pretty steep parts, and our legs were jelly at the end of the hike, but it’s stunning! Be warned though, the weather can change rapidly because of the mountainous area, so dress appropriately. From May to November there can be avalanches that cross the track, so be sure to check the DOC website or the visitor centre for any alerts. You can find more information here.
Hiking the Rob Roy Glacier Track – our experience
After a good night’s sleep at Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park, we woke up pretty early to get to Mount Aspiring National Park. I was driving our Spaceships Campervan when we reached the unsealed part of the trip to the start of the Rob Roy Glacier Track. It’s a washboard road waving through meadows, probably not recommended for larger RV’s. Brecht read in Scott’s NZ Frenzy guidebook to drive fast to smoothen out the bumps, and eventually convinced me that’s the best way to get to the Raspberry Creek car park. You’ll find that parts of this road are sealed or nearly sealed, and other parts are small and winding.
When we reached the first ford, I was certain we wouldn’t make it to the Raspberry Creek car park. We would have to turn back. No idea what I’m talking about? Well, a ford is a shallow spot where a river or creek crosses the road. We were driving a campervan, not a 4×4 Jeep! After a heated discussion, we drove through and made it to the other side in one piece. A couple more of those would follow. We made it through (and back) without damaging our campervan. Be careful though! And keep an eye out for stray sheep as well. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
We finally made it to the Raspberry Creek car park at the head of the Rob Roy Glacier Track and started hiking at about 9:15. After 20 minutes of walking we arrived at the swing bridge. We hadn’t seen anyone else yet, but we did share the track with some cows. About 5 minutes after the swing bridge you’ll see a bench. This is where the steep part starts. It’s not all steep though, there are a few flat and descending parts as well. At one point we seemed to be descending just as much as we had climbed up a couple of moments before. Quite depressing, but luckily we brought a podcast to distract us during the hard parts of the hike. Actually to distract me, so Brecht wouldn’t have to put up with me complaining all the way.
The Rob Roy Glacier Track takes you through a beech forest, but do keep an eye out for nice photo opportunities all along the path. You’ll hear the West Matukituki River rumbling and you can see the mountain gorge through the trees. At 10:30, after over an hour of hiking, we arrived at the lower lookout. The Rob Roy Glacier already looks impressive from there, but wait ’til you get to the upper lookout. We took a 5 minute break and had a snack before continuing our hike.
Another 30 minutes of hiking (and listening to the podcast) later we arrived at the upper lookout. It wasn’t as high as we expected, but it’s nevertheless an awesome viewpoint. We found ourselves a nice spot on the rocks to enjoy the view over the mountain walls with a couple of waterfalls, the valley, and the Rob Roy Glacier (duh!). If you have some patience, you might see some snow or ice fall down. I know we did! Too bad there was fog (or clouds?) hanging over the glacier.
We sat around for about 20 minutes, soaking in the view and taking some pictures, before heading back to the lower lookout for a quick 15 minute lunch. Around that time, noon that is, it became kind of busy. We regularly crossed other hikers while descending back to the Raspberry Creek car park.
We were really glad to have made it back to our campervan, as our legs were jelly! It was an exhausting couple of hours, but definitely worth it!
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