A visit to New Zealand would be incomplete without witnessing the beauty of Lake Wanaka. For those that want incredible views without struggling up the difficult Roy’s Peak Track, the Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track has you covered.
This 7.3 km/4.5 mile trail offers incredible vistas over both Diamond Lake and Lake Wanaka, while being structured in a way that allows for greater freedom when deciding how to complete your route. Choose to visit Diamond Lake or continue onwards to the Rocky Mountain summit. We can guarantee that this will be a trail to remember.
About the Hike
The Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track is one of the top trails near Wanaka. The full trail is a combination of several smaller routes that converge together into a figure-8 shape. This trail structure gives you a lot of freedom on what you want to see, as there are spectacular views every step of the way.
On the way up to the Rocky Mountain summit, hikers will pass both Diamond Lake and the Lake Wanaka viewpoint. Each viewpoint acts as a great potential turnaround point if interested in completing a shorter route.
The views along the trail are stunning, and given the moderate level of difficulty, it’s no surprise how this hike is one of the best.
The stats below detail the full Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track. For those interested in completing just the hike up to Diamond Lake or the Lake Wanaka viewpoint, view the end of this article for detailed statistics.
Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track Hiking Stats
Distance: 7.3 km (4.5 miles) roundtrip
Total Ascent: 520 m (1,710 feet)
Lowest Elevation: 325 m (1,065 feet)
Highest Elevation: 765 m (2,510 feet)
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track map
Google Earth View of the hiking trail.
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
The trailhead is located in the Diamond Lake Conservation Area. To get here from Wanaka, drive Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road to the Diamond Lake Conservation Area (about 20 km, 20 minutes). On this drive, you will pass the Roys Peak Track parking lot and Glendhu Bay.
The trailhead is located at the far end of the Diamond Lake Conservation Area parking lot.
Hiking to Diamond Lake
The trail begins from the edge of the parking lot located at the base of Rocky Mountain. You’ll start off on a moderate climb along a wide gravel road. This is arguably the only boring part of the hike. As the road doubles back onto itself, the grade will even out.
Not even 10 minutes into the hike, you will reach a trail split that loops around Diamond Lake. There isn’t much of a difference between the directions you take as both will follow along Diamond Lake. For those looking to reach the Rocky Mountain summit quickly, take the left path, which is slightly shorter.
For those who want to enjoy a stroll around Diamond Lake, continue right. The trails will converge within a third of a mile.
Diamond Lake Bird View
Shortly after passing Diamond Lake, you’ll begin a steep ascent through the trees. Expect a rocky track with a few staircases thrown in. You’ll knock out a good portion of the hike’s elevation gain here, so continue pushing forward.
Ten minutes after beginning this ascent, you’ll reach the Diamond Lake Bird View. Here you can enjoy a view overlooking the lake below as well as a prominent mountain pass further on. This will be your last view of Diamond Lake until your descent, but don’t worry. The sights only get better from here on up.
Diamond Lake Bird View
Lake Wanaka Viewpoint
A few short minutes later, you’ll reach another trail split. Take the left trail if you’d like to head straight up to Rocky Mountain summit. If you want views over Lake Wanaka, travel the trail on the right. We recommend taking the right trail as the views you receive are incredible and not offered on the left trail up to Rocky Mountain.
Upon taking the right trail, you’ll be treated to your first views of Lake Wanaka about a mile into the hike. The trail will slowly ascend along a dirt path. Follow this in the direction of Lake Wanaka. At 2 km/1.25 miles, a spur trail will appear to the right. Follow this for another quarter mile to reach the Lake Wanaka viewpoint.
The view speaks for itself. This panoramic lookout is incredible and definitely worth the extra effort. Feel free to spend some time here to refuel and soak in the landscape.
Lake Wanaka Viewpoint
Rocky Mountain Summit
Once back on the main trail, continue upwards towards Rocky Mountain. You’ve already knocked out more than half of the route’s total ascent, but from here to the summit, expect a steeper trail. Up here you’ll find less hikers and also a less-traveled path. The trail now is thinner and overgrown at some points.
Two miles into your hike you will reach the final trail split. Both directions lead to the Rocky Mountain summit and are of relatively equal difficulty. Take the right trail so you can continue to enjoy views out over Lake Wanaka.
The view from the trail
Your climb will continue for another half mile before reaching the summit. Here the trail becomes narrow as you hike along the cliffside and climb in a series of switchbacks. With every step you take, the sights only get more expansive.
Including the spur trail for the Lake Wanaka viewpoint, you’ll reach the summit of Rocky Mountain at 4.2 km/2.6 miles. Here you’re treated to wonderful 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountain ranges. It takes roughly 2 hours to reach the summit from the carpark given the route that’s been described above. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch, as the views don’t get much better than this!
The view from the Rocky Mountain summit
Finishing the Hike
On your descent, you have the option to take the trail you ascended on or the western path. The western path is a more direct trail down to the carpark but be prepared for some steep sections with thick overgrowth. This is a thin dirt path that cuts between high grasses and bushes, but for the most part you’ll be exposed to the sun similarly to your ascent. You won’t have any views out over Lake Wanaka, but you’ll still be able to admire the mountain ranges. It’s roughly a 3.7 km/2.3 mile descent in either direction on your trip to the finish.
View along the return hike
Our Route Recommendation & Alternatives
When we completed the Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain track in April of 2023, we chose the routes outlined in the article above. Luckily, there are numerous ways to complete this track which we have outlined below. These routes are all shorter versions of the full trail described earlier in this article. If you complete the full trail, you will pass all of these major viewpoints.
Diamond Lake Only
For those that want an easy hike and still enjoy some pretty scenery, this short but sweet trail is perfect.
From the car park, follow the trail up to Diamond Lake. At the split that takes hikers up to Rocky Mountain, go right to loop around Diamond Lake. Follow this trail back to the carpark.
Distance: 2.1 km (1.3 miles) roundtrip
Total Ascent: 75m (245 feet)
Time: 40 minutes
The view as you circle around Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake Bird View
This is only slightly longer than the Diamond Lake hike with an extra climb.
Here you can enjoy a walk around Diamond Lake and see it from a bird’s eye view. Add an additional 0.24 km (0.15 miles) if circling around Diamond Lake on the return.
Distance: 2.6 km (1.6 miles) roundtrip
Total Ascent: 147m (483 feet)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Rocky Mountain Lake Wanaka Viewpoint
This route is a little over half the distance of the full Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain track.
Here you’ll take a spur trail that leads to some absolutely incredible shots of Lake Wanaka. This route is ideal for those that want to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Wanaka without completing the full 7.3 km (4.5 miles) hike.
Distance: 4.5km (2.8 miles) roundtrip
Total Ascent: 260m (852 feet)
Time: 2 hours
Our Recommendation – Full Route:
For those interested in completing the full route, we recommend taking the paths described in the article above up until reaching the Rocky Mountain summit.
Take the short path on the left side of Diamond Lake, hike up to the Diamond Lake Bird View, and continue onto the spur trail to visit the Lake Wanaka Viewpoint. From here, hike back onto the main trail, continue your climb until reaching the final junction, and take the right path to the Rocky Peak Summit. Upon summiting, take the same trail back down. This allows you to enjoy looking out at Lake Wanaka on both your ascent and descent. When back at Diamond Lake, take the trail that splits left to enjoy a longer stroll around the lake.
Between the Lake Wanaka viewpoint and the Rocky Mountain summit, the views over Lake Wanaka do get better, but not by a crazy amount. For those that are either short on time or don’t want to complete the full route, we recommend the Rocky Mountain Lake Wanaka Viewpoint trail.
The view along the trail to the Rocky Mountain summit
What to Bring on the Hike
Hiking shoes are ideal, but you can get by with a sturdy walking or running shoes.
Hiking poles. Hiking poles are optional but they take the stress off of your legs and help to ease leg pain and fatigue.
Water and snacks. At least 1 liters of water in the summer.
Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. For much of the hike you will be exposed to the sun.
Camera. Even a smartphone will do. The viewpoints along this hike are a great place to use the panorama feature.
If you have any questions about the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track hike, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand
HIKES IN NEW ZEALAND: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is often labeled as the best day hike in the world. The Hooker Valley Track offers awesome views of Mt. Cook, Roy’s Peak is a gorgeous hike in Wanaka, and Abel Tasman National Park also makes a great spot to go hiking. The Routeburn Track is another fantastic hike and can be done as a big day hike or multi-day trek.
SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, spend a few days in Wanaka, hike the Routeburn Track, drive the Southern Scenic Route, visit the Marlborough Wine Region, and visit Franz Josef and Glacier Country. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.
NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include spending a day or two in Auckland, hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, visiting Cathedral Cove, touring Hobbiton, cruising the Bay of Islands, and seeing glowworms and blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.
We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.
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