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One of the best hikes in the world
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. If you are looking for something more challenging, consider the longer and more difficult Alpamayo treks. Or do both. 🙂
Note: This page is a stub. We were last there in 2005. Things have changed. You can recommend improvements by leaving recommendations or links in the comments on this page. Our editors will consider them. Thanks for your help!
AT A GLANCE
- the jumping off point is Huaraz, one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world
- 50km (31mi) plus sidetrips
- 4 days on the Circuit
- cross Punta Union 4760m (15,617ft)
- you can do this adventure independently or hire a guide
Why We Like This Hike
- PERU, all things considered, just might offer the best alpine hiking in the world
- safe & gorgeous hiking in the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia
- bandits have not been a problem here
- excellent weather May to September
- appropriate for all experience levels, assuming they are acclimatized to altitude
- highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán at 6,768 meters (22,200 feet)
- red quenua trees and stunning turquoise lakes
- hot springs near the start of the trek
- dramatic mountain road trip out, the Portachuelo de Llanganuco, some like even better than the trek!
- travel in Peru is inexpensive
- Nevado Santa Cruz (6247m)
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.
- 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
Trekking Permit (Turismo Aventura) for Huascarán National Park costs some amount of money.
Due to ineffective Park management there are many questions you won’t have answered until you get to Huaraz. Check at Cafe Andino in town for recent updates from hikers recently returned from the mountains.
- normal route is 50 km (31+ miles) plus sidetrips
- 3 nights in the tent, 4 days hiking recommended
- shoulder season hikes might be possible, weather permitting
Here’s one itinerary recommended by Cordillera Blanca:
Day 1: Huaraz – Cashapampa – Llamacorral (3700m)
Day 2: Llamacorral – Jatuncocha – Taullipampa (4250m)
Day 3: Taullipampa – Punta Unión pass (4750m) – Paria (3850m)
Day 4: Paria – Vaqueria – Llanganuco – Huaraz
The easiest and safest way to do Santa Cruz is with a guide:
- Peaks and Places high end hiking & climbing tours
- Cordillera Blanca
- Peruvian Andes Adventures
- PERU BERGSPORT
- Peruvian Mountains
These companies have been stable while many other have come and gone. Leave a REPLY if you have personal endorsement of any others. Santa Cruz is simple and popular enough that we’d wait until arrival in Huaraz before deciding on what guide to use.
Chris Benway, an American, has lived in Huaraz for years. He is the best source of information on all things Huayhuash. He organizes international groups out of his coffee shop, Cafe Andino.
Tip 25% or so including left-over food & gear if you are happy with the service.
Organizing to trek Santa Cruz is easy compared with the other best hikes out of Huaraz, Alpamayo and Huayhuash. It’s very popular. Transportation to and from the trailheads is dead easy.
We recommend you wait until arrival in Huaraz to organize Santa Cruz independently or with a guide.
South American Explorers Lima is your first and best source of information in advance of traveling to Huaraz(South American Explorers was closed in 2017. We are not sure whether they will ever reopen.)
- Cafe Andino and other gringo restaurants in Huaraz will be even better
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Trailblazer Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash 2015 – The Hiking & Biking Guide
- Trekking in Peru: Trekking and Travelling in the Huaraz, Cusco and Arequipa Regions (Lonely Planet CUSTOM Guide) 2008 – Sara Benson
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes 2003
- Climbs and Treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash of Peru 2005 by Jeremy Frimer. In case you decide to hike the nearby Huayhuash on the same trip.
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Peru
- Footprint Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador 2011
- leave a comment if you know of a good map
Best Web Pages
- bucketlistly – Santa Cruz Trail, Huaraz Independently
- Clever Hiker – Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz trek hostel
- wikipedia – Huaraz
- wikipedia – Huascarán National Park
- wikipedia – Cordillera Blanca
Best Trip Reports
- Kristin Santa Cruz Trek in Peru Without a Guide 2018
- Alison Kohn 2014
- Erik & Alina 2013
- Rand Shoaf 2013
- BBC Travel 2013 – Trekking Peru’s Santa Cruz trail
- Adventure Junkies
- Rick DeLong – Santa Cruz and Alpamayo Treks
- Noel Wigdor 2006
- Barbara Colliander 2006
Click PLAY or watch Kraig Adams (drone) on YouTube. (2019)
Click PLAY or watch Kristin’s solo hike on YouTube. (2018)
Click PLAY or watch BoundlessTraveler 2012 on YouTube.
Watch a flyover.
Click PLAY or watch Sean Davis’ trip 2008 on YouTube.
Note: This page is a stub. Questions? Suggestions? Leave a REPLY on this page. Our editors will reply.
5 Replies to “Santa Cruz Trek”
Just doing a little marketing research for a group of us who live in the Callejon de Huaylas. What would be your opinion as to why Huaraz is a better place to stay then say Carhuaz/Caraz which are closer to the entrances to the parks you talk about?
Good question. I’ve stayed in both. Huaraz is bigger. Has more amenities. More restaurants. A bigger food market.
That said, I’ve met people who head straight for Caraz.
I would like to recommend Trailblazer’s
Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash – The Hiking & Biking Guide
I personally like their hand drawn maps.
Cheers and happy hiking!
Gracias Carlos. We’ll add your recommendation.
Great maps in the Guia Inca de Ancash a book by Walter Wust