The town of Huaraz (Peru) is located at an altitude of 3052 meters and is a perfect location for some hiking trips in the Andes Mountains. To get used to the altitude, it’s smart to go on a couple of short acclimatization hikes, like the one to Laguna Wilcacocha.
How to get from Huaraz to the trailhead?
Laguna Wilcacocha is located a little outside of Huaraz, near Puenta Santa Cruz (3160 meters). To get there, you’ll have to take a collectivo (a small bus). There are two different collectivo’s you can take: bus E or bus 10. You can find them on the corner of Av. Raymondi and Jr Hualcan in Huaraz. A ride will cost you 1 sol and if you let them know you want to go to Laguna Wilcacocha, they will tell you where to get out. The drive will take about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
Start of the hike
When you get out of the collectivo, you’ll see a bridge. You have to cross the beautiful river Rio Santa and follow the road until you see the trail on your left side. The trail is pretty steep and if it’s your first hike in this area, you’ll probably be out of breath in no time because of the altitude. Take your time, go slow, and take small steps. That really helps!
Santa Cruz village
After hiking for about 45 minutes, you’ll reach the small village of Santa Cruz. There will be a crossing here, and it doesn’t matter if you go left or right, as long as you go up. You might meet some locals who are happy to speak to you, but you might not understand a word they are saying, because they don’t speak Spanish but Quechua.
When you’re hiking up the hill, don’t forget to look back every once in a while, because the views are spectacular.
After approximately 75 minutes, you’ll reach some steps (for me, this was the hardest part of the hike) and when you reach the top, you’ll see Laguna Wilcacocha. The lake is located at an altitude of 3700 meters.
Yes, you made it! After a strenuous hike with climbing 600 meters, you’ll reach a great place to relax and enjoy the view.
Laguna Wilcacocha is not a very big lake, so if you still have some energy left, you can walk around it (it only takes you 15 minutes).
Then it’s time to return to Huaraz. You have to take the same trail to go back. You’ll notice once you go down, you’ll get more oxygen and you’ll be able to enjoy the views more and more.
Laguna Wilcacocha is an excellent acclimatization hike if you’re planning to do some big hikes on a high altitude.
Distance 6.6 kilometers
Ascent 585 meters
Time Hiking up to the lake will take about 2 hours, and going down will take about 1 hour.
Make sure to put on sunscreen (even when it’s freezing), because sunburn will happen. Wearing a hat or a cap is also recommended.
Huaraz is a great first stop during a one-month backpacking trip in Northern Peru. There are plenty of hostels and hotels to stay, and also some great restaurants. It’s also really easy to go on hiking trips, either with a tour or just on your own.
I stayed in Hostel Akilpo, which I can highly recommend. The owners (2 brothers) know everything about hiking in the area of Huaraz and can give you all the information and maps.
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– Travel tips Peru: everything you need to know before you go
– A month in Peru: the perfect itinerary
– Everything you need to know about the Inca Trail