Hiking The Santa Cruz Trek, Cordillera Blanca, Peru

mountains

The Cordillera Blanca is a majestic mountain range in the Ancash region in Peru. Known to be one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world, it has several peaks measuring over 6,000 m.a.s.l and spectacular glacier lakes. Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru rises to 6,768 meters high and is located here. The Santa Cruz trek is protected as part of Huascarán National Park and this park is a Unesco World heritage.  The park is the habitat of the spectacled bear, puma and Condors that fly over the high mountain valleys.

Trekking Santa Cruz

The best way to experience this natural beauty is by hiking the Santa Cruz trail, which is one of the most popular treks in Peru. It is not as tough as some treks bit the scenery is just as beautiful.

First day: visiting the local communities

On this first day, a van picked us up at our accomodation and drove to Llanganuco Valley until we reached our start point of the trek in the town of Vaqueria. From here we walked and had the opportunity to see local villages that have preserved traditions from the Inca times.

local indigenous community in Huaraz

santa cruz peru

Around this area people speak Quechua and they rely on agriculture (fed with the water from glaciers) for their main income. However, global warming is changing the level of snow in the Cordillera Blanca and it is making the ice to melt and retreat. This has led to more villagers depending on tourism to help to preserve their farmland and houses. After 4 hours walking we reached our campsite in Paria 3,800 m.a.s.l with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

campsite in santa cruz trek huaraz

Second day: Reaching Punta Union Pass

On our second day, we start ascending towards Punta Union pass (4750 meters), this route was used by a pre-Columbian culture known as Chavín as a route for transporting goods from the Andes to surrounding valleys. On this day, we enjoyed panoramic views of the mountain peaks in La Cordillera. After 3-4 hours hiking up in the zig-zag path we will reached the Punta Union pass , the highest pass on the trek where it is possible to see the peaks of many other beautiful mountains and the beautiful turquoise lake of Taulicocha.

Punta Union pass Santa Cruz Trek

Next we descend for another 3 hours to our next campsite in Taulipampa (4250m) where we have the view of the famous Artesonraju mountain peak. Its peak is used as the logo of Paramount pictures, the American film producer company.

campsite in santa cruz trek huaraz peru

Third and final day: return back to Huaraz

On the third day, we walk down the valley and see some spectacular lakes and stunning views of the cordillera (including Santa Cruz peak). As we descend, you will be able to notice a steady change in vegetation as we follow the river. After 6 hours walking, a van was waiting for us to bring us back to Huaraz. The adventure is not over yet as there are beautiful views of the mountains and the fertile valley as we decent to the main road below.

lake

third day in santa cruz trek

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Important things to know

  • The trek of Santa Cruz can be accomplish in 3 or 4 days. The maximum altitude is 4,750 meters at Union Pass, however the real difficult thing to face in here is the altitude sickness. If you are coming from sea level or anything less than 2,500 meters, I do recommend to rest 1-2 days in Huaraz to acclimatise before you start this hike. The level of fitness required for this trek is moderate. On the second day of the trek, the walk is long and the hike should be done at your own pace to give you enough time to acclimatise before reaching the highest pass on the trek.
  • You will only carry your day-pack during the day if you go with a tour.
  • Campsites are available on the trail beside water sources.
  • Bring some cash, you can buy food and drinks on different spots on the trail.
  • Bring a repellent, you can get mosquito bites at the lower altitudes.

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When is the best month to this trek? and How much does it cost?

The best months to do this trek is from May to September in the dry season. The cost is 300 soles approximately(for a basic tour). The price of this trek does not include the entrance fee of the Huascarán National park. National and international tourists have to pay 10 soles for a day ticket and 65 soles for 21 days **.

** our prices given above have to be used as a reference only. The prices changes every year, therefore I suggest to confirm the prices above with your tour operator.

What is included on this trek?

  • Transport: From your hotel in Huaraz to the starting point of your trek, and from the finishing point of your trek back to your hotel in Huaraz.
  • Experienced and Qualified Guide.
  • Cook, porters and horses/mules to carry your rucksack.
  • 2 Breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners. If you are vegetarian or vegan please inform this to your agency so they can arrange your meal in advanced.
  • Camping Equipment: tent, sleeping mattress, dining tent, table and chairs.

What is NOT included on this trek?

  • Entrance fee for the National Park.
  • Sleeping bag. You can rent sleeping bags from your tour operator.
  • First breakfast, last dinner, soft drinks or alcoholic beverages.
  • Medical treatment, travel insurance, tips, additional expenses as a result of emergency.

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What to bring on this trek?

  • Small daypack.
  • Sleeping bag (only if you have it otherwise you can rent it from your tour agency).
  • Walking sticks if you have knee problems.
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers / or rain poncho.
  • Water bottle with filter and/or water purification pills.
  • Toilet paper, personal toiletries, small towel
  • Comfortable shoes, ideally hiking boots.
  • Head torch (with spare batteries).
  • Sun protection: sunscreen (factor 40 minimum), hat, sunglasses.
  • Comfortable clothes, ideally clothes that dry quickly and are warm such as Merino wool. Most important to bring are leggings and trekking pants, underwear, trekking socks, long thermal tops, gloves and hat.

santa cruz hike

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Tell us what you think. Have your visited or planning to do Santa Cruz Trek?
We love to hear from you so please leave your comments below.

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About Thomas Cummins

Thomas has a Data Management background, but he has always loved traveling and exploring the world. Photographer and husband, he has travelled over 29 countries and lived in Ireland and Australia. He has a passion for doing and sharing information of small and long hikes, mountains and outdoor activities around the world.

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