Santa Cruz Trek

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Santa Cruz Trek

Santa Cruz Trek is a route through the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, part of the iconic Andes, in Peru.

Beginning in Vaquería and finishing in Cashapampa, the Santa Cruz Trek take you through the stunning scenery of the Huascarán National Park.

The path runs for 50 kilometres through valleys, lakes and snow-capped mountains, and it is a great place for hikers who want to step up to more challenging routes, or want to begin high altitude hiking.

Rated in the National Geographic and one of the world’s best hikes, if you like to enjoy majestic surroundings and peace and quiet on the trail, the Santa Cruz Trek is a winner.

Highlights
  • Stunning mountain scenery
  • Blue lagoons
  • Waterfalls
  • Wildlife
  • Introduction to high altitude hiking
Walk Map
About the route

This trail can be walked in either direction, however if you want the gradient to be on your side, with the least amount of climbing, begin at in Vaquería.

While you will need to carry all your food supplies with you if you walk independently, there are streams where you can replenish water supplies. Boiling or purifying water is essential before drinking.

  •  Travel

Huaraz is the nearest town to the start of the trail. You will find a range of accommodation as well as shops to get supplies for the trek.

If you fly to the Jorge Chávez international airport at Lima, there are bus services to Huaraz. It is a 400 kilometre drive that takes around eight hours.

There are also flights that go from Lima to Huaraz.

The trail head at Cashapampa is a 1 hour 30 minute drive from the small town of Caraz.

  • Length

The Santa Cruz Trek is a 50 kilometre route through mountain terrain.

This trek can be completed in three days. However to make the most of the scenery, side trips and taking the altitude into consideration, allow a one or two more days.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

The Santa Cruz Trek is graded 4/5. While there are some flat valley sections, there are steep inclines and long climbs.

Eventually you will reach an elevation of 4750 metres at Punta Union, the highest point of the trail.

Becoming acclimatised to the altitude is essential. To do this, spend some time in the towns at either end of the trail, and take one or two day hikes in the area before beginning this trail.

If you are of good overall fitness, and have become acclimatised to the surroundings, the Santa Cruz Trek will be an enjoyable experience.

The way is mostly obvious and clearly marked, although it is a good idea to have a map and a compass with you.

  •  Experience

To get the most enjoyment from this trail, having a good level of hiking experience is key.

You are likely to be hiking for some hours each day, on moderate to challenging terrain, carrying you backpack with equipment and supplies.

If you are not fit enough to do that, it will make the journey a chore rather than a pleasure.

Another factor to consider is altitude. Some people are effected more strongly than others, but it is a good idea to get your body acclimatised before you begin your trek.

To do this arrange a few day hikes before you set out for the Santa Cruz Trek.

  • Permits

You are required to pay a fee or approximately $20 to gain entry to the Huascarán National Park.

This money goes towards conservation of the area. Tickets to the park can be purchased in advance in Huaraz, or from the trail head at Cashapampa.

  •  Guided or Self-Guided

You can walk the Santa Cruz Trek either guided or self-guided.

There are tour operators that provide guided walks. If you choose this option, you can have some of your bags carried by donkey along the route, lightening your load.

When you are hiking on tough mountain terrain, having a group with you and people to set up cooking facilities and tenets for the night can make your trip more enjoyable.

Choosing to walk independently has its own advantages. You can enjoy the quietness of the trail and stick to your own itinerary. However, it will require more planning and your fitness levels will need to be strong.

best time to walk

The best time to walk is from May to September, as this is when the weather is most settled.

It is the dry season, and temperature go up to around 14°C during the day and can drop to freezing at night.

It is possible to hike this route all year round, but if you are not experienced in mountain hiking it is best to avoid the rainy season from October to March when weather is both wetter and colder.

No matter what the season, mountain weather can be changeable so it is important to be equipped for a range of conditions.

Take plenty of layers and a good sleeping bag suitable for minus temperatures.

  • A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
Much of this day is travelling from Huaraz to Vaquería. It take around four hours by shared mini-van. When you begin the trek, Vaquería to Paria Valley is: 12 kilometres

Day 2:
Paria Valley to Taullipampa: 12 kilometres

Day 3:
Taullipampa to Llamacorral: 12 kilometres

Day 4:
Llamacorral to Cashapampa: 11 kilometres

You have the opportunity to shorten or lengthen your hiking trip by taking side excursions along the route.

Accommodation

There are several official campsites along the trail. As well as the opportunity to wild camp if you choose to do so. Official campsites do not have any facilities, although you might find toilets in some.

If you choose to walk with a guide, toilet tents are put up for your convenience. The guides will dig a hole in the ground, put the tent around it, and fill it in again afterwards.

Wild camping is a bit of a grey area, and while it is not officially encouraged, plenty of hikers do it. No matter where you camp, it is important to leave no trace behind to keep the area clean.

What to do

Be inspired by the mountain landscape. This trail is fairly quiet, giving you plenty of time and space to relax and immerse yourself in this special place.

Take a side trip to Laguna Arhueycocha, a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Follow a side track the base camp of the Alpamayo mountain and see mount Artesonraju peak with an elevation of 6025 metres.

Look for wildlife and birds, such as condors. There are also jaguars in the Huascarán National Park, although you will be lucky if you see these secretive creatures.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking
Difficulty 4/5
Starts at Vaquería, Huascarán National Park 02000. Peru
Finishes at Cashapampa, Huascarán National Park. 02250 Peru
Length of route 50 Km
Average time to complete 3 - 5 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsNo
Highest point 4750 metres
Permit requiredYes
Equipment neededCamping equipment, food supplies, Trekking gear, walking boots
Countries visited Peru