National Park Guide:
Destination: Huascarán National Park, Peru
Length of Stay: 1 Day (November 2018)
National Park Entrance Fee: 30 Soles (~ $10 USD)
Huascaran National Park has some of the best hikes in Peru. Here we will go over a couple of the best hikes in Huascaran: the famous Laguna 69 and Santa Cruz treks. The hike to Laguna 69 is absolutely mind blowing. It's one of the harder hikes we have done, but by far the most beautiful scenery you could imagine.
The park was about a 3 hour drive from Huaraz, but much of that is on an unpaved road. In fact, there isn't a single paved road in the entire park. It is extremely primitive compared to other National Parks we have been to, which is part of its allure. There was something calming and unique about the untouched environment of this place.
Nonetheless, regardless of the hike you choose to do, the 30 Sole (~$10 USD) is required to enter the park. We thought this was more than reasonable since most of the U.S. National Park entrance fees are more than 3x that price!
Hiking Pro Tip: Bring a plastic bag, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer with you on the trail. You never know when nature is going to call and you'll need to hit the head. Rather than leaving toilet paper behind in the park, pack it out with you. It might sound gross, but this is much more eco friendly than leaving TP behind. Toilet paper actually takes quite a while to decompose out in the open. Plus it's not a pleasant site to leave for other hikers. We used this method and had no issues taking our toilet tissue with us.
Min: 12,797 ft. | Max: 15,160 ft. | Gain: 2,363 ft.
If you're doing a day trip to Laguna 69 from Huaraz, be prepared for a long day because the drive takes about three hours each way. The hike takes approximately 6 hours to complete so you're looking at a 12-13 hour day (leaving around 5 am). However, we did get to stop at a cool little breakfast place on the way to the park. The food is delicious and super cheap - an egg sandwich was 3 Soles (less than $1 USD). It's also a nice place to take a bathroom break. Be warned you should probably bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Though, this is the case with most places in Peru.
The hike to Laguna 69 is absolutely mind blowing. It's one of the hardest hikes we had ever done, but by far the most beautiful scenery you could imagine. This hike is an 8.1 mile out-and-back trail that has an elevation change of 2,670 ft. The first two miles take you through a valley with winding streams of glacier water and oxen grazing in fields. It starts out pretty flat so once we got to the halfway point we were feeling pretty good.
Not too long after the halfway point, we hit loads of switchbacks that made us gain elevation quickly. Once we made it to the top of the first series of switchbacks we hit a false peak and we thought the elevation climbing was done with. Wrong. After hiking through another valley, we reached the final set of switchbacks. This was the toughest part, but so worth it once you get to the top. The glacier water at Laguna 69 was out of this world. We stopped for a short lunch break and to catch our breath before descending back down.
**Pro Tip** - bring lots of layers for this hike. We were sweating during the first part but after we got to the lake at the top, it started raining/hailing. It's definitely worth bringing a warm jacket and/or a poncho with you on this hike as the weather changes quickly. Also make sure you bring plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person).
Min: 9,695 ft. | Max: 15,524 ft. | Gain: 5,559 ft.
The Santa Cruz trek is quite challenging, though we heard it's one of the best hikes in Huascarán National Park. Full disclosure, we did not do this one. In fact, we didn't even know about before we got to Huaraz. Our hostel, Alpes Huaraz, can also help you book this trek. We met some people at the hostel who said this trek was absolutely amazing. This trek typically takes 4 days/3 nights to cover the full 30 miles.
Some trekking companies even offer to carry your gear for you. Costs online will vary anywhere from $150 - $300+ USD depending on the services offered. One hiker we talked to said that all he had to do was carry his water. The hired guides even provided porters to carry the gear and set up the tents/prepare food at the camp sites. He said it was nice not having to do anything, but that kind of took the fun out of the backpacking experience.
Anyway, we would recommend connecting with Alpes Huaraz before booking anything online. They offer a 4 day/3 night trek for 430 Soles, which is roughly $130 USD. This is most likely cheaper than you will find anywhere online. Like I mentioned before, we would have saved some money booking through them instead of a third party online. Their trek to Laguna 69 was only $11 USD instead of the other company's $ 17 USD.
If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Huaraz, there are plenty of hostels ready to be your base camp for trekking. Our personal favorite is Alpes Huaraz because it has an amazing atmosphere and ready to help you start your adventure.
From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.
Dorms: $7.11+ USD
Private Rooms: $19.21+ USD
Amenities: Free Breakfast, Free Wifi, Tours/Travel Desk, Luggage Storage, Bar, Laundry Facilities
Dorms: $4.53+ USD
Private Rooms: $15.11+ USD
Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Tours/Travel Desk, Self Catering Facilities, Laundry Facilities
Dorms: $6.00+ USD
Private Rooms: $16.00+ USD
Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, 24 Hr Reception, Games Room, Free City Maps