Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit Track | An Epic Short Walk Near Wanaka

A common trait that we noticed while hiking in New Zealand was that if you wanted to summit a mountain, you’d better expect to ascend an average of 1,000 m in elevation! Needless to say, we were stoked to find the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track near Wanaka – a worthy adventure, especially when you need an active rest!!

Now don’t get us wrong, the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit is still no walk in the park – you have Mt Iron in Wanaka for that – but it does offer a fantastic alternative if the elevation and distance of Isthmus Peak or Roys Peak seems too intimidating.

We spent almost three weeks in Wanaka, exploring every hiking trail we could find, and can honestly say that we thoroughly enjoyed the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track. We didn’t expect much from this smaller mountain, but it packed a punch that continuously captivated us throughout our morning adventure.

In this post, you’ll find a detailed guide to hiking the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track. We’ve included the best route to choose, which section you can miss and helpful tips to avoid the majority of the crowds.

Best sunrise viewpoint on the Rocky Mountain Summit Track overlooking Lake Wanaka

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Important Information About Hiking The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track Near Wanaka

Quick Statistics For The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track

Distance
8 km circuit

Time
2.5 – 3.5 hrs

Navigation Difficulty
Easy – See details below

Trail Difficulty
Moderate – with easy alternative routes

Physical Effort
Moderate

Elevation Gain
491 m

Highest Elevation
757 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: car park, toilet

Where Does The Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Track Start?

Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track Trailhead

Situated on the banks of Lake Wanaka, to the west of Glendhu Bay and Wanaka, you’ll find the Diamond Lake and Hospital Flat Conservation Areas. Protected within these conservation areas are the popular Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain.

The trailhead for the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track can be found on Wanaka Mount Aspiring Rd at the Diamond Lake Car Park. The car park consists of a large gravel area (that fills up quickly in summer), an information board and a portable non-flush toilet.

How To Get To The Diamond Lake Trailhead

The Diamond Lake Car Park is located 20 minutes west of Wanaka, on the way to the Matukituki Valley – part of Mt Aspiring National Park. Unfortunately, there are no public transport options for Diamond Lake so you will need to drive yourself.

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Driving From Wanaka To Diamond Lake Car Park

The drive from Wanaka to the trailhead at Diamond Lake Car Park is an easy and incredibly scenic one. You’ll head west out of Wanaka, following the Wanaka Mt Aspiring Rd, and pass Roy’s Peak and Glendhu Bay before finding a sign for the Diamond Lake turn-off – roughly 6 km past Glendhu Bay.

Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track Car Park

The car park is located on the right side of the road and is easily visible. Despite the car park being quite large, it fills up quickly in summer – especially on weekends – and there are no designated lines. If you arrive early, be mindful of how you park to avoid creating any unusable spaces.

Click Here For Directions To Diamond Lake Car Park

Who Is The Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Hike For?

Standing on the summit of Rocky Mountain Track looking over Mt Aspiring National Park
Standing on the summit of Rocky Mountain

The best thing about the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track is the fact that there are several routes you can choose that vary in difficulty. The full loop involves some exposure and light scrambling, but this can be avoided if you’d rather stick to the easier trails.

Diamond Lake alone is a super easy walk that consists of mostly an old dirt road. It takes roughly 10 minutes to walk the short 700 m to the lake, with a minimal elevation gain of 65 m.

With that said, even the most challenging sections of these trails are easily doable for experienced beginners and above. You can even assess your skill level as you go because the difficulty gradually increases as you ascend Rocky Mountain. 

Is The Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit Track Worth It For Experienced Hikers?

Beautiful landscape on the western side of the Rocky Mountain loop Track
Western side of the Rocky Mountain Summit Track

While the Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit Track is most suited towards families and confident beginners searching for a little thrill, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it if you’re an experienced hiker.

We truly enjoyed exploring Rocky Mountain and if you have time, we highly recommend adding it to your list of walks in Wanaka. However, if you’re short on time then we suggest prioritising other day hikes such as Corner Peak, Rob Roy Glacier and Isthmus Peak.

Navigation On The Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Track 

Hiking past trail signs on the Rocky Mountain loop trail

Navigating your way along the crisscrossing trails at Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain is made easy with plenty of signage at each track junction. The paths are well-worn and simple to follow, with sporadic orange trail markers where needed.

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Which Direction Should I Walk The Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit Track?

The Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit Track is divided into three loops that can be linked together to form the full 8 km circuit. The three circuits – in order – are Diamond Lake Loop Track, Lower Circuit Track (which includes Lake Wanaka Lookout Track) and Rocky Mountain Track. 

There is no major benefit from choosing one direction over another, however, it is easier to climb up the eastern side of the Rocky Mountain Track and descend the western side. Below is a map illustrating the direction we walked, which we recommend for both views and the best scrambling experience.

Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track Map

You may notice that we don’t suggest completing the full loop around Diamond Lake. Of course, you can do this if you’d like – it doesn’t add much time at all – but it wasn’t very exciting and didn’t offer any good viewpoints of the lake.

Best Time To Hike The Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Track

Due to its relatively low elevation, the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track is accessible year-round. But the best time to complete this walk is in Autumn or Spring, when the temperature is slightly cooler but the distant peaks are still coated in snow.

With that said, the track near the summit can become slippery and muddy in wet conditions and would be increasingly more challenging in snow or ice. In these conditions, continue to assess your skill level and turn back if it becomes too treacherous.

Hiking the Rocky Mountain Summit Track on a beautiful summer day

Best Time Of Day To Hike The Rocky Mountain Summit Track

The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track is a popular day walk in Wanaka – not quite as ridiculously popular as Roys Peak, but still enough to fill the car park. We highly recommend arriving early to avoid the majority of the crowds.

Furthermore, the absolute best time to hike the Rocky Mountain Summit Track is for sunrise. For your effort, you’ll witness the sunrise casting a golden glow over Lake Wanaka and the majestic mountain peaks rising from the vivid blue shoreline.

Where Is The Best Spot To Watch The Sunrise On Rocky Mountain?

Lake Wanaka Lookout overlooking Lake Wanaka from the Rocky Mountain Summit Track
Lookout above Lake Wanaka Viewpoint

There are several spots along the Rocky Mountain Summit Track that will leave you breathless once the sun peaks above the jagged line of mountains to the east. 

Below is a list of the top three places that we recommend stopping at to watch the show.

  • At the Lake Wanaka Lookout (roughly 2.5 km mark)
  • A little further along the eastern side of the Lower Circuit Track, just after a rock slab, you’ll see a track leading off to the right that offers a slightly higher viewpoint compared to the Lake Wanaka Lookout (roughly 3.1 km mark)
  • The summit, where you’ll receive 360-degree panoramas – and you may even be lucky enough to see the sunlight hit Mt Aspiring

What To Pack For The Rocky Mountain Summit Track

Hiking up the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track

The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track takes between 2.5 to 3.5 hours to complete. Therefore, you’ll need little else other than some water, a couple of snacks and a warm layer for the summit – it can get super windy up there!

A grippy pair of hiking shoes or trail runners are most suitable for this track unless you’re planning to reach the summit in winter. We recommend wearing a waterproof pair of hiking boots if the trail conditions call for snow or deep mud.

Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Track Notes

Diamond Lake Car Park To Diamond Lake

Walking on the dirt road to Diamond Lake in Wanaka

Begin your walk by jumping over the stile and steadily ascending along an old dirt road. You’re afforded beautiful views of the mountains beyond Glendhu Bay as you walk. The gradient levels out after roughly 500 m and shortly after that, you’ll arrive at Diamond Lake.

The lake stays hidden for the time being and you’ll have the choice of taking the left or right trail around the lake. We suggest taking the left trail as it offers the best views of the lake and is slightly shorter.

Diamond Lake

Diamond Lake To The Lake Wanaka Lookout

Continue along the left trail as it dips into the bright green forest flanking Diamond Lake. You’ll reach the northern end of Diamond Lake 600 m later where another track junction awaits. Take the trail leading north (straight ahead) to begin the ascent to the Lake Wanaka Lookout and eventually, Rocky Mountain Summit.

Hiking up the stairs past Diamond Lake near Wanaka
Passing the giant rock slab on the Diamond Lake Track

The trail becomes slightly more exciting once you leave the Diamond Lake Loop Track, with rocks scattered throughout the shady path as it ascends alongside a giant rock slab. Stairs assist with the steepest sections and after 400 m, you’ll finally get an unobstructed view of Diamond Lake below.

Diamond Lake Lookount on the Diamond Lake Track

After snapping a couple of pictures from the viewpoint, continue for another 100 m to your third track junction. It doesn’t really matter whether you start with the eastern or the western track, but we chose the eastern track to Lake Wanaka Lookout first – which ended up being a good idea as the trail became increasingly crowded as the morning wore on.

Taking the eastern track, you’ll continue to ascend over rocks on a loose gravel path. Every time the trees thin, you’re afforded continuously evolving vistas of the stunning landscape encompassing Lake Wanaka.

Walking to the Lake Wanaka Viewpoint on the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka

500 m after the third track junction, you’ll reach the path leading to Lake Wanaka Lookout. Follow the brief 300 m detour to a bare grassy knoll, where you’re gifted stunning vistas of Lake Wanaka, beautifully framed by the jagged mountain ranges that fill the horizon.

The Lake Wanaka Lookout To The Rocky Mountain Summit Via The Eastern Track

Standing on Lake Wanaka Viewpoint on the Rocky Mountain Track
Lake Wanaka Lookout

Once you’ve caught your breath and enjoyed the vistas from the Lake Wanaka Lookout, return to the Lower Circuit Track and continue your ascent to Rocky Mountain’s summit.

The gradient increases immediately once you step back onto the eastern track, with a narrow dirt path zigzagging up the steep slope. Just before you reach the plateau above, you’ll come to a fun rock slab that requires a little bit of scrambling.

Hiking up the steep rocky trail on the Rocky Mountain Summit Track

It’s over quickly however, and after a total of 3.1 km, you’ll climb over the rise to the plateau beneath the summit. A very short detour leads off to the right, taking you to a slightly higher and better viewpoint of Lake Wanaka compared to the one below. 

Standing above the Lake Wanaka Lookout on the Rocky Mountain Summit Track

After admiring the view from this new perspective, return to the trail and continue across the plateau to yet another track junction. The left track links up with the western trail, cutting out the summit. To continue onto the Rocky Mountain Track, take the right trail and continue ascending toward the peak.

The trail becomes slightly more technical from this point, with a few large steps required to clamber over boulders and up giant rock slabs. As you begin to traverse along the slightly exposed dirt track, you’re gifted unravelling vistas of the head of Matukituki River – its ice-blue water filtering into the vibrant Lake Wanaka.

Finally, after a total of 4.2 km and roughly 1 – 1.5 hours, you’ll arrive at the vast summit of Rocky Mountain.

Exploring The Rocky Mountain Summit

Lake Wanaka from Rocky Mountain Summit

The broad peak of Rocky Mountain offers incredible panoramic views of Mt Aspiring National Park and Lake Wanaka. The northwest vistas that were hidden until now offer glimpses into the Matukituki Valley and the Southern Alps, even showcasing the peak of Mt Aspiring/Tititea on a clear day!

Summit of Rocky Mountain Track looking over Mt Aspiring National Park
Mt Aspiring National Park

Sadly, it was incredibly windy when we reached Rocky Mountain’s summit, forcing us to continue on our journey after only a brief stop at the peak. We spent just enough time to run around and take in the various viewpoints offered by the bare peak.

Returning To The Trailhead Via The Western Track

Leaving Rocky Mountain’s summit via the western track, you’re afforded a slightly more peaceful descent compared to the eastern track. There is very little exposure on this side of the mountain and fewer rock slabs and boulders to clamber over – until you reach the treeline.

Hiking down the western side of Rocky Mountain near Wanaka

You’ll follow a dirt track – that can get quite muddy after heavy rain – as it zigzags down the rolling mountainside to the plateau below.

After 800 m of descending, you’ll arrive at the track junction for the little link track that cuts out the peak. Take the trail leading south to complete the full Lower Circuit Track, which continues to weave through rocky outcrops and tussock fields.

Link trail for the lower Rocky Mountain Summit Track

At the 5.7 km mark, you’ll leave the tussock fields and enter a cool damp forest of ferns and giant rock slabs. Following the rock wall, an uphill track will try to trip you up, but continue straight on and you’ll pop out of the trees into a grassy field once more.

Hiking down the rocky trail past giant boulders
Descending dow the Rocky Mountain Summit Track through the Tussock fields

This doesn’t last long before you enter another band of trees and descend down a series of rocky switchbacks on a root-entangled trail. Take care as this section of the track is quite steep and can become slippery in wet conditions.

Hiking down the steep embankment with tree roots exposed

You’ll emerge from the trees shortly after and continue down to the track junction, completing the Lower Circuit Track and Rocky Mountain Track after 6.3 km.

From this point, you’ll return the way you came towards Diamond Lake. Once you arrive at the banks of Diamond Lake, you can take the left track to complete a loop around the lake, but it isn’t very exciting and doesn’t offer any good views of the lake. Instead, you can simply wander back the way you came and descend down to the trailhead a kilometre below.

Diamond Lake Loop Track near Wanaka

We completed the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track in 2 hours walking time and 2 hrs 45 mins total time. It was more fulfilling than we expected and offered incredible views of the mountainous valleys – without a great deal of effort.

Other Information For Hiking The Diamond Lake And Rocky Mountain Summit Track Near Wanaka

Leave No Trace

We are very lucky to have such pristine and wonderful nature to explore in New Zealand – mostly free of charge! To ensure we continue to have these incredible destinations to explore in the future – free of waste and ruin – we must be respectful and follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

It’s as simple as sticking to the designated trails, taking all your rubbish with you – including food scraps and tissues – and utilising the many public toilets around the Wanaka region.

Where To Stay Near Diamond Lake

The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track is just one of the many incredible things to do in Wanaka. We highly recommend using Wanaka as your adventure base for a few days while you explore, we promise you won’t be disappointed!

The Hidden Spring in Wanaka
The Hidden Spring

Our favourite place to stay in Wanaka is The Hidden Spring, located a short 5 minute drive north of the town centre. This quaint studio offers stunning mountain views and is very affordable – especially if you are a genius member on Booking.com!

Below is a list of our top recommendations for places to stay in Wanaka for all budgets:

  • Adventure Wanaka Hostel – A budget-friendly option, especially for solo travellers, that is centrally located and provides everything you need – including air conditioning and a large kitchen and dining area.
  • Edgewater Hotel – A mid-range budget option that offers lake views and a range of rooms to suit varying budgets. This hotel offers a peaceful setting just a short 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk from the town centre.
  • Ahuri Apartments – Providing a one or two-bedroom option, this mid to high-range accommodation is equipped with everything you need for a self-sufficient holiday, including a spacious kitchen and laundry.

Camping Near Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Summit

Glendhu Bay Campsite in Wanaka
Glendhu Bay Campsite

Our favourite way to explore New Zealand is by travelling in a campervan. There are countless amazing free or cheap campgrounds throughout the country, making it a super easy and enjoyable way to travel.

The closest place to camp near Diamond Lake is at Glendhu Bay Campground. However, if you’re travelling in a self-contained campervan then the Red Bridge Freedom Campsite – 30 minutes east of Diamond Lake Car Park – is the closest free option.

Check out our guide to the best campsites in Wanaka for more details and options nearby.

Final Thoughts

We were truly surprised by how much we enjoyed our morning adventure of the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track. The hike offers a little bit of everything, from peaceful forest trails to some fun beginner level rock scrambling – and let’s not forget the incredible views of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps!

If you’ve got extra time to spare or the thought of ascending 1,000 m or more in elevation is far from appealing, then this is a great alternative to the various other walks near Wanaka. While it’s certainly not a lesser-known trail, the crowds are far smaller compared to Roys Peak and if you get there early, you have a good chance of enjoying the trail with few others.

We hope that this guide has helped you decide whether the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track is the right adventure for you. If you have any further questions about this hike – or any others near Wanaka – then please feel free to drop a comment below or reach out to us via Instagram.

Happy Hiking 🙂