Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,478.00 ft (1,060.09 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
31.00 mi (49.89 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Santa Cruz Trek is one not to be missed if you are planning on travelling to Peru, or maybe it’s the whole reason why you decide to head to Peru in the first place! The Santa Cruz Trek takes place in the beautiful Huascaran National Park. In the park you can expect snow-capped peaks, turquoise rivers, glacier lakes, colorful flora, and even wild horses to surround you.

This trek is usually accomplished in four days, but it can be done in as little as three or as many as five depending on whether you decide to take side routes during you backpacking trip (which is highly recommended). It is a 31-mile hike including the side-route to Laguna Arhuaycocha. You do have the option to begin in the town of Cashapampa or Vaqueria. This guide assumes a starting point in Vaqueria and a finish in Cashapampa.

Before embarking on this journey, it’s important to note that you will be in elevations between 2,900 meters (Cashapampa elevation) and 4,760 meters (Punta Union Pass) during your hike. Due to this, make sure you hang out in the nearby town Huaraz (2,791 meters) for a couple of days before heading out on the trek to get acclimated. Huaraz is a busy town for the Andean indigenous people as well as for hikers and travellers. Here you will be able to ask questions about how to get to the park entrance, stock up on food for your hike, and rent camping equipment if needed. Make sure to grab a poncho if you don’t already have one; no matter what the season, it might rain.

To get to the trailhead, you will need to catch a local camineta, a Peruvian bus, to the village of Vaquería. When you enter the park, the driver will stop at the park entrance so that you can sign in and pay the fee. In 2018 the fee was 65 soles. The trailhead is easy to spot once you get to the village, but if you need help, the locals will show you the way. From here it’s smooth sailing in terms of directions. The trail is well-marked and there are not many forks.

There are three main campgrounds and several unofficial camping areas that are a mile or two, give or take, from each of the main campgrounds. Neither the official nor unofficial campgrounds have facilities. The main campgrounds (Paria, Taullipampa, and Llamacoral) as well as the unofficial camping areas are all on the app maps.me, which also includes the entire trail, so it is recommended to download the map before your trek so that you can use it offline.

Day one will include an approximately 5.5-mile hike to the first camping areas. This day will include both trekking on a dirt road as well as singletrack trails through farmland. On day two, prepare yourself for a 7.5-mile hike and reaching the highest elevation of the trek, Punta Union Pass. On day three, be sure to hike to the stunning turquoise lake, Laguna Arhuaycocha. Day four is the shortest day of the trek and consists of an approximately 6-mile hike from the Llamacoral campsite.

Notes: On day one and day two, anytime you see a sign that says “Punta Union,” follow that trail. Also, anytime donkeys or horses are coming toward you or behind you on the trail, you must get out of their way by taking a step off the trail until they pass.

Logistics + Planning

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

4

Pros

Stunning views. Intermediate hike.

Cons

Popular route. High altitude.

Trailhead Elevation

12,139.00 ft (3,699.97 m)

Highest point

15,617.00 ft (4,760.06 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Glacier
Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Fishing
Family friendly
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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