When it comes to trekking in Peru, many will often think of Cusco and the famous Inca Trails leading to Machu Picchu. While there are many great trails around Cusco, there are also other destinations in Peru with much to offer when it comes to hiking. One excellent trekking destination in Peru is Huaraz.
If you are traveling from the North of Peru down, Huaraz is a great stop to get yourself more acclimated before getting to higher altitudes places like Cusco for trekking. Huaraz is a key part of my acclimatization strategy.
Huaraz has some well-rated multi-day hikes, with the famous ones being Santa Cruz and Huayhuash. Unfortunately, I was on a tight schedule to get down to Cusco for my Inca Trail Hike (pre-booked five months ago). Therefore, I did not manage to do either of the treks due to time constraints. The weather was also not great when I was there in October, which is just before the rainy season.
Nonetheless, there are many great day hikes to enjoy Peruvian nature. Most of these hikes are situated in the Huascaran National Park. I was fortunate to get relatively good weather for most of the day treks I did.
Here are four that I went on and another good option that I did not manage to visit within the limited time I had.
Laguna Wilcacocha (12220ft)
I did the Laguna Wilcachocha hike right after an overnight bus from into Trujilo. It is simple to get to as you can grab a collective yourself. You will ultimately end up at a breathtaking lookout point over the mountains and a lake that glitters under an intense sun.
In the early morning of arriving in Huaraz, I threw left my backpack in the hostel, grabbed some breakfast, and went straight for this trek. The early start was a great decision as I managed to have the peak area to myself (and dog) before seeing more hikers when I descended. The weather also changed turned bad later in the day.
Terrain: Dirt/Mud path with rocks
Terrain Difficulty: Easy. The greatest challenge is the altitude since it is the first hike upon arriving in Huaraz.
Scenery: Andes Villages, Grassland, Snowcap mountains, and lake at the top. The bonus of meeting villagers along the way and see how they go about their daily life.
How to get to Laguna Wilcachocha
Flag down a collectivo at the main street of Jiron 28 de Julio and Av. Confraternidad Internacional Oeste. Double-check with your hostel as routes might change. The express way goes straight to the starting point, which is just some construction sheds on the side of the road.
Pastoruri Glacier (Classic Tour) (16,256ft)
Pastoruri Glacier is another glacier that is receding quickly due to climate change and might not be around for long. This is actually a very short trek, but I wanted to visit the glacier, and my purpose here was to test my body reaction at higher altitudes and cold temperatures.
It turned out to be a freezing trip due to the snowy/rainy weather. I put on my raincoat for extra cover, but the snow flew mercilessly into my face. It was hard to stay dry, and I had to keep my head down mostly. Nonetheless, I made good time on the ascend and had quite a bit of time at the glacier. We were lucky that the weather cleared for a bit to reveal the glacier in all its glory before snowing heavily again. I descended quickly to keep my gear as dry as possible.
Terrain: Stone pavement
Terrain Difficulty: Easy short hike, option to take a horse. The main challenge was the natural elements. The location is at a high altitude, and since we didn’t have the best luck with the weather, it was very cold and snowing heavily.
Scenery: Snow mountains and lakes. The main sight is the diminishing glacier that will cease to exist in a few more years.
How to get to Pastoruri Glacier
Recommended to book a tour with an agency or at your accommodation. The tour will usually include a visit to the world’s largest bromeliad (plants), the Puya Raimondi, and the springs of Pumapampa. Undrinkable carbonated water where the colors change visually depending on the angle you view it from. There will likely be a stop in the middle of the journey for a snack/meal.
There is also a more challenging day trek to Rurec Glacier. Further acclimatization is recommended before embarking on this trek.
Laguna 69 (12600ft – 15000ft)
Laguna 69 is the most popular day hike in the area, and for a good reason. The view of the turquoise lake on a good weather day is breathtaking. I would argue it is comparable to some sceneries I’ve seen in Patagonia.
You really want to try and get good weather for this hike; otherwise, you might not even be able to see across the lake. I rearranged my itinerary and delayed the hike for one day based on the weather forecast. That really paid off as we had much better luck with the weather and scenery.
Huffing and puffing my way up, I managed to clock good timing for the ascend. I started with 4 layers and kept stripping down to just 1 within 30 minutes.
I had decided to put in more effort for this hike as I wanted to have as much time at the lake as possible to await good weather. Although it turned out, we were pretty lucky with it. Had almost 2 hours at the lake, having lunch and hanging with other hikers before heading down.
Terrain: Dirt, mud path, rocks, streams, fields
Terrain Difficulty: Moderate. Nothing too tricky with the tracks in general, apart from avoiding mud, poo, and getting shoes wet. 2 slopes were particularly testing on stamina with the altitude. The final 1km of the ascend is the most challenging and felt like the first 3 km combined, but push on as it is the last leg.
Scenery: The turquoise laguna 69 with a snowy mountain backdrop. On a clear weather day, you will even be able to see the mountain’s snow peak. There are also great views along the way, including waterfalls, lakes, snow cap mountains, and animals.
How to get to Laguna 69
Recommended to book a tour with an agency or at your accommodation. The tour, which is technically just the transport, usually also stops by Llanganuco Lagoon for some photos before arriving at the starting point to trek Laguna 69.
Lake Paron (13632ft)
Laguna Parón is the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca. It is possible to do Lake Paron as a longer hike, starting from the base. However, the only company that offers that required a minimum of 10 participants; and there wasn’t sufficient demand when I was there.
As such, I went with a classic tour instead. The classic Lake Paron trip drives directly to the lake and involves a 20mins hike up to Mirador. Since I was anticipating good weather from the forecast, can’t say we were lucky with it.
There was some sun, but it was also quite foggy and slight drizzle during the climb. Despite there weather looking better during transport up and down the lake, we could not see the glacier peaks really well.
Lake Paron is located pretty far from Huaraz and will take you a full day trip. Considering the long travel duration from Huaraz, I would encourage doing the longer hike if possible to make it more worthwhile.
Terrain & Difficulty: The longer hike involves a more direct upward route cutting through forestation, while the vehicle takes a windy road up. Considering the terrain up to Mirador, which is just a jumbled mess of rocks, terrain difficulty is moderate, especially if the rocks are wet from the rain.
Scenery: Lake Paron, mountain peaks, and waterfall.
How to get to Lake Paron
There are many tour agency that offers trips to Lake Paron. You might even be able to book it with your hostel as they partner with agencies.
Laguna Churup (15091ft)
Laguna Churup is another popular half day trek for most hikers. Some call it a preparation hike for the longer Laguna 69. The trail starts at 3800m and ascends to the beautiful Lake Churup. You also have the option to go further to its smaller, sister lake – Laguna Churupita.
One advantage of this trek is that it is considerably near Huaraz, and you can do it yourself without having to go on a guided tour. This can be a half-day trip if you can make the collectivo back in the early afternoon.
This trek involves sections that require you to work with ropes. There is a mandatory short section, and a longer and tougher one, which you can avoid by taking an alternative route. This could be fun to some and a put off for others; just choose the path that suits you best.
How to get to Laguna Churup:
Take a collectivo from Avenida Agustin Gamarra and Avenue Antonio Raymondi. Find one that heads to Pitec
The collectivo driver usually waits for hikers back at the starting point at 1pm (double-check with him as this might change). If you miss the return timing, you would have to walk back to Lapu town, about 45mins – 1hour away, and get another collectivo to Huaraz.
There are many great and popular destinations in Peru. However, Huaraz offers a paradise for avid hikers and should not be overlooked if that is your cup of tea.