One of the best hikes in the world is the
Santa Cruz Trek
This hike is also known as:
- Quebrada Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz - Llanganuco
- Punta Union
By far the most popular hike in the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains) of Peru, even non-hikers love this adventure. It is a near perfect high altitude trekking experience.
Current status of still evolving proposed new regulations for hikers: "if people choose to hire a guide, it must be a professional guide - not a pirate guide, and the environment must be respected, and all mountain workers (and agencies) WILL pay tax" .
WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE
- PERU, all things considered, offers the best alpine hiking in the world
- safe & gorgeous hiking in the world's highest mountain range outside of Asia
- excellent weather May to September
- appropriate for all experience levels
- red quenua trees and stunning turquoise lakes
- hotsprings near the start of the trek
- dramatic mountain road trip out, the Portachuelo de Llanganuco, some like even better than the trek!
- bandits have not been a problem here
- travel in Peru for as little as US$20 / day
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Santa Cruz is not an easy hike. You must cross a high pass, Punta Union 4760m (15,617ft) for most hikers a personal altitude record!
The pass can be cold & windy. But the real danger on this hike is altitude sickness. Fortunately, the approach to the pass is long and slow allowing time to acclimatize. You can turn back, or rest an extra day, if you feel sick.
Happily, almost everyone who starts this trek manages to finish.
- normal route is 50 km (31+ miles) plus sidetrips
- 3 nights in the tent, 4 days hiking recommended
- best months are May to September
- shoulder season hikes might be possible, weather permitting
- campsites and toilets are available though some are crowded
- basic food and drink may be available en route. Bring some cash.
- biting insects can be a problem near water, especially at the Paria campsite
- cattle & other domestic animals may steal food or damage your tent at some campsites
- gladly there are no banditos robbing hikers
- Trekking Permit (Turismo Aventura) for Huascarán National Park costs about US$20 / person. This controversial fee & the ineffective Park management are under review. Drastic changes may be coming.
- no other restrictions are in place yet
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If you are looking for something more challenging, consider the longer and more difficult Alpamayo treks.
If you sign on with a trekking company, they will arrange your logistics. No worries.
This logistics section is geared for independent hikers.
We recommend the standard Santa Cruz route, Cashapampa to Vaqueria (4 days, 3 nights) then catching the bus out to Yunguay.
The exact route is described in Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes except we advise you avoid wet Paria campsite, staying at Cachinapampa instead on the third night.
- start in Huaraz, one of our favourite hiking cities
- many hikers get there by bus Lima to Huaraz (8-10 hours)
- new alternatively you can now fly to Huaraz on LC Busre
- set-off for your trek from either Huaraz or Caraz, both excellent mountain town jumping off points
- Huaraz has an excellent public market & gear shops for outfitting your trip.
- shared taxi (1-2hrs) from Caraz to trailhead at Cashapampa
- finish at Vaqueria, catch the bus back to civilization
- do not reverse the route
INDEPENDENT OR GUIDED?
Most hikers hoist the pack and do this trip independently. They rent whatever gear they need in Huaraz or Caraz.
Independent hikers should budget (minimum):
- public transport from Huaraz > Caraz = US$3 / person.
- shared taxi from Caraz > Cashapampa = US$2 / person
- bus out from Vaqueria > Yungay = US$3 / person
- transport out from Yungay > Huaraz = US$1 / person.
- Trekking Permit = US$20 / person (65 soles)
- tenting = free
- rental gear, if needed, in Huaraz or Caraz
Do not pay any other fees on this trek unless you are given a receipt.
If you do not feel confident to do this hike on your own, there is no shortage of help available.
If you are looking for a guide and/or pack animals for Santa Cruz:
Rates are fixed each year and will likely go up:
- Guide - US$50 / day
- Cook - US$23 / day
- Mule driver - US$10 / day
- Food - US$10 / person / day
- Pack animal - US$5 / day
Check at Cafe Andino in Huaraz when you get there for up-to-date rates. Tip 25% or so if you are happy with the service.
More likely you will sign on with a tour which will give you a flat all-inclusive price. Check to make sure they are paying for your Trekking Permit.
Tours are relatively inexpensive and easy to organize with a couple of days notice in Huaraz. Or you can make the mistake of signing on with an over-priced international adventure travel company. We saw one on-line site asking nearly US$2000!
BEST TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS
- Alpenvereinskarte, Cordilleras Blanca Nord Peru
You can pick it up in Huaraz though it is not really needed. Your guidebook map will get you through safely.
South American Explorers sell Llanganuco - Santa Cruz (1:50,000) a simple trekking map. US$5 members, $7 non-members.
After this site, the best links are
For the general region:
BEST PHOTOS & TRIP REPORTS
OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS
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