Rapid Fire Guide to Trekking Huascaran National Park | Peru

For all the adventurous hikers out there in the world … if you haven’t put trekking into the Andes on your shortlist then what are you really doing?!

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For all the adventurous hikers out there in the world … if you haven’t put trekking into the Andes on your shortlist then what are you really doing?! During my month-long plus trip in and out of Peru, I knew I wanted to notch up some amazing hikes along the way, but nothing prepared me for Huascaran National Park. First I want to admit this was never on my Peru radar and thank the Irish lad I met on a collectivo in El Salvador for shedding light on this amazing gem. After a quick web search, I knew my plans were changing indefinitely once I landed in Lima.

Getting To Huascaran National Park

Don’t worry, this isn’t as daunting as it seems. First get yourself to Lima, preferably by flight if you aren’t already in South America. I would suggest staying a few nights in Lima, two max, to get a feel for the place. Most people stay in Miraflores (super metropolis-like) or Barranco (very hip/granola/artsy-like) which is about a 45-60 minute Uber ride from Jorge Chavez International Airport. There are plenty of beautiful sites, parks to stroll through, and places to eat to keep you busy for a few days.

From here simply book a day or night bus towards Huaraz some eight hours away from Lima to the north. Alternatively, you can fly from Lima to Ancash (an hour’s flight.) I opted for a day bus from Cruz Del Sur, an affordable luxury, relatively, bus company, that service a lot of the tourist destinations in Peru. A day bus is great to see some of the natural surroundings. The bus itself was much more comfortable than anything I’ve been riding in since landing in Latin America, but there are cheaper options so you can always shop around. The station isn’t far from either neighborhood in Lima which is a plus. Cruz’s service was top notch from my experience and they do provide a small snack on board with media entertainment, privacy curtains, and a bathroom (number one only my friends.) I will say the aircon was very irregular in operation, sometimes it will be super hot or super cold.

Once you arrived in Huaraz don’t be scammed by the taxi drivers waiting like vultures outside. If your lodgings are in town you are most likely only a 10-15 minute walk from them. And there are plenty in the center of Huaraz so skip this part. But if you are me and booked La Casa de Marajua BB (a VERY solid place with an amazing family who runs the joint) then you’ll need to haggle because it’s out of town. Pay no more than 6 soles. NO MORE. I didn’t know this until I checked in and ended up paying 15 soles from the 25 the driver initially wanted. My lesson should save ya a few headaches.

So Many Hikes So Little Time

Now that you’re here the big question is which hike to do?! In a perfect world, and that’s hardly a reality, we would do all the hikes in the best weather possible. Naturally. If you come to Peru during the wet season (Nov-Mar) you’ll be greeted with warmer temperatures but cloudier days with a possible chance for showers. In the dry season (Apr-Oct) the temperatures are cooler but sunny days are quite abundant. Going in one or the other doesn’t always mean ideal conditions or torrential downpours, the important thing is you are here.

Time is of the essence and we all wish we had more of it. You can totally lose yourself in the many multiple-day treks offered by various tour guides in the region and I highly suggest you do. The Santa Cruz trek has RAVE reviews for good reasons. Unfortunately for me, I had only a few days in Huaraz in addition to looming political unrest throughout the country I couldn’t get myself into a multi-day trek. Despite the setback, these are my favorite day hikes when I was in Huarascan National park.

Pro Tip: If you plan to spend more than a few days trekking the national park I advise getting their week passes to save some soles!

Laguna 69

  • Length: 8.6mi/13.85km
  • Starting Elevation: 13,033ft/3,972.5m
  • Highest Elevation: 15,625ft/4,762.5m
  • Elevation Gain: 2,592ft/790m
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Cost: S/50-60 tour. S/30 for park entrance

By far one of the MOST picturesque hikes I’ve ever done in my life … and I’ve hiked my fair share! Take elements from your favorite hikes, mesh them together, and have a backdrop of 13,000 ft. Add in some alpine cows for good measure. The result is Laguna 69 and it’s magnificent! Your jaw will be dropping in every direction from views of the Andes in the background to rushing clear water from falls just steps away.

Your reward at the end of the trail is a pristine glacial lake that feeds the streams below. On this particular day, there were only people from my tour bus, roughly 20 of us, who got to enjoy the lake all to ourselves.

My first high-altitude hike since Acatenango in Guate, Laguna 69 did not fail to take my breath away, literally. Heed this advice for any and all high-altitude treks:

  • Take your time to acclimate, usually a few days before anything strenuous
  • Drink lots of fluid, hydration is the friend here
  • If symptoms worsen descend to reacclimate and then ascend
  • OTC medication can help, but also can worsen symptoms
  • Take your time on the trek, this is truly a marathon, not a sprint
  • Altitude sickness affects everyone differently no matter how in shape you are

The best way to experience this hike is with a tour or a private car. From Huaraz, the trailhead is about a three-hour drive away. This does not make it the most easily accessible from a transportation standpoint. Tours can vary anywhere from S/50-60 ($13-15.50) so you can definitely shop around. Don’t forget the S/30 ($7.8) to be admitted to the park itself.

Laguna Churup

  • Length: 4.01mi/6.45km
  • Starting Elevation: 12,881ft/3,926m
  • Highest Elevation: 15,287ft/4,659.5m
  • Elevation Gain: 2,406ft/733m
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Cost: S/30 transportation. S/30 park entrance

A closer and much easier trek to get to that should be on the shortlist is Laguna Churup. Only an hour’s drive from Huaraz you don’t need a tour to get to the trailhead. Simply head to this location by 7am and there will be ample collectivos that will take you up and back. It does not get any easier than that. Please note the bus will not move until it is full of trekkers so it could be a few minutes wait or an hour.

The drive to the trailhead ended up being incredibly scenic, so take a window seat and enjoy.

Once you arrive it is a pretty straightforward out-and-back style route. There is a split halfway in. To the left, you will ascend higher and come out atop Laguna Churup. The right path is a little bit more adventurous. This path will lead you to the laguna itself but not without climbing some chains placed against the rock surface. A little bit like Zion’s Angel’s Landing but not as high up. You can switch the paths on the way down so you won’t go completely back the same way. I went chains up and high loop down. The chain section can be a little bit sketchy so please proceed with caution.

Don’t be fooled by its short length, this hike was TOUGH. I remembered climbing over a thousand feet within the first half mile and this wasn’t even close to the ranger station. If you have giant lungs this is where you should use them. Aside from this, the hike was another beautiful one. Without much in the way of a forest, you can really hear the echoes of the waterfalls being fed from Laguna Churup ahead. I ended up passing a few hikers (who I made friends with later and ended up trekking together afterward) on my way to the summit and enjoyed the laguna to myself for 15-20 minutes. It was worth every step and breath to get up there and made some great friends along the way!

Laguna Llaca

  • Length: 10.25mi/16.5km
  • Starting Elevation: 12,965ft/3,952m
  • Highest Elevation: 15,199ft/4,632.5m
  • Elevation Gain: 2,234ft/681m
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Cost: S/50 transportation. S/30 park entrance

With new friends in tow, we all decided to squeeze in one more day trek from Huaraz, and what a doozy it would be. After hiring a private car, because this is also only one hour away from Huaraz, some roadblocks courtesy of alpine cows, we made it a very discerning starting point. Our driver assured us that the trail is up ahead and with it downloaded on AllTrails we made our way. This would be our longest trek during our time here but it was a beautiful one. You kind of get the theme of these Huascaran hikes by now, right?

I fully advise you to ditch the dirt road (cars can drive to the actual laguna if you don’t want to hike) and head down into the valley. Here you have an almost out-of-movie scene with deep canyons on the side, and a fast-flowing river cutting through the landscape in the middle. Did I mention alpine cows and their horse counterpart just moseying about their day? During parts of the day, there was a slight drizzle that created a damp feel in everything, but not our spirits. Don’t forget you’re trekking the Andes with some cool mates, how often will you get to say this.

Laguna Llaca’s views did not disappoint, hardly anything right now could disappoint anyone of us. Snowcapped mountains in the background, a teal hue laguna in the foreground, and good conversations and laughter all around, I was happy to have shared this moment with some new friends in a country not our own. The best way to summarize the hikes we did would be simple: if Bob Ross painted any mountain scenes they would fall short of what we saw.

Honorable Mentions

In a perfect world with more time, these should be added to your list of treks:

  • Santa Cruz 4-Day hike: arguably one of the most famous hikes on offer in Huaraz, if you can spare the time then this is a must-do for any trekker.
  • Laguna Paron: the largest lake in the park, set against a beautiful backdrop of the Andes. You can hike the perimeter or enjoy some water activities.
  • Pastoruri Glacier: yes, you can visit a freaking glacier on your trip to Huaraz. Don’t pass this opportunity up considering we don’t know how much longer this will be around!
  • Climb Mount Huascaran: yes you can climb it! The ultimate adventure in Huaraz. If you climb it please let me know how it was!

What Else To-Do in Huaraz

Let’s face it you won’t be climbing or trekking the entire time in Huaraz, you’ll need rest, food, and other things to recoup your lost energy. Here are some nifty things to do while you are in town letting your legs recover.

  • Plaza de Armas – a great place to hang out for the afternoon and super close to the shops and eateries nearby. If you get a chance you might spot the lovely ladies with alpacas roaming around for a souvenir photo. Near banks and post offices.
  • Feria Artisan los Andes Huaraz (Artisan Market) – in need of souvenirs other than a picture then head here. A great spot, one of many, that has a lot of little things you can bring back along with alpaca ponchos, sweaters, or scarves. They do take credit cards if you don’t have cash.
  • Banos Termales de Monterrey (hot springs) – you won’t be trekking the entire time and relaxation is on tall order. Close to town via taxi is a great, cheap hot spring to chill out in. The water is brown but that is natural, trust me, I sat in it.
  • Mercado Central de Huaraz – is always a good time to check out the local markets. This one here houses a lot of vendors and a chance to see what the locals use to cook their everyday meals. Also, you can often find super cheap eats in corner restaurants located in these kinds of markets.
  • Places to Eat: Paulino’s Indian Cuisine, El Tio Enrique (bar), Mundo Burger, Anthares Pizza — all mentioned were some of my favorite places to eat or drink at when I was in Huaraz for a few days longer than expected. To boot they are quite cheap fares in comparison to other major cities in Peru

I wish I could have stayed longer in Huaraz and that area in general. What started out as not being a destination I had in mind ended up being some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It goes to show you might never know who you might run into during your travels and what might come of them from a simple conversation. Thanks to that mate on the collectivo in El Salvador for giving me such a beautiful detour.

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