The Santa Cruz trek is a popular three-to-four-day hike that goes through the Huascaran National Park in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, which is located near the town of Huaraz. The best time to do the trek is during the dry season, from May to September.
The hike may be done in two directions: from Vaqueria to Cashapampa, or from Cashapampa to Vaqueria. However, from the logistical perspective, it may be better to go from Vaqueria to Cashapampa, because from Cashapampa it is easier to go by public transportation back to Huaraz. It is also physically easier to start in Vaqueria, as you will start at 3700 m and go up to 4750 m, as opposed to start at 2900 m from Cashapampa
There are a couple of options to get to Vaqueria:
- All-inclusive trip with one of the travel agencies in Huaraz. Make sure to choose a reputable agency.
- By colectivo to Yungay, leaving Huaraz at around 05:30 and from there with another colectivo that goes to Yanama, leaving at 07:00 from Yungay. Get off at Vaqueria. Price in total approx. S/3.
- Find an agency that has free space in their bus. If the company already has a group, but some free space is available, it is possible to go for S/30. Otherwise, they will offer you the price for private transportation (approx. S/200 per car).
Fees and permitsEdit
There is a fee of S/65 to enter the Huascaran National Park, which allows you to stay in the park for up to 21 days. It's essential to buy as there are two checkpoints along the route. When entering the park via collectivo, combi or minibus, the driver may or may not remember to stop at the park office and let extranjeros (foreigners) pay the fee and receive a ticket, so if you speak a little Spanish you might want to remind him.
Hiking is the main option for getting around, although there are small villages where it is possible to rent burros and horses. OpenStreetMap has good coverage of the area. Openandromaps has an excellent offline free vector map that covers all of Peru, with detailed topographic information. Additionally it is possible to purchase an Alpenverein map at Huaraz for S/80 or a copy with just the trek for S/20. There are signs at important junctions. On average, it takes four days and three nights to do the trek.
The base camp of Alpamayo, chosen by the German magazine Alpinismus to be the world's most beautiful mountain.
There are no possibilities to buy supplies during the hike.
It is essential to bring cooking supplies, i.e. gas and stove, as fires are prohibited.
There is plenty of water available, with the exception of the area surrounding Punta Union (the highest point along the route). It is essential to sterilize the water, using purification tablets, a filter or by boiling it, due to the overwhelming presence of animals.
There are several camping possibilities around the trek, but bear in mind that in order to preserve the nature and avoid erosion it is essential that you camp at one of the designated campsites. The following designated camping spots are listed in the order from Vaqueria to Cashapampa.
- 1 Paria. Recommended camp site for the first night. Free.
- 2 Taulipampa. Recommended camp site for the second night. Free.
- 3 Ahruaycocha. Alpamayo Base Camp - good destination for a side trip on the third day. Free.
- 4 Llamacorral. Recommended camp site for the last night. Free.
- Santa Cruz Trek B&B (Santa Cruz Trek Hostal), Avenida Interoceanica 719, Nueva Florida, Huaraz, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Santa Cruz Trek Hostel is special point of meeting for solo travelers and backpackers where they can join a group for trekking and climbing Santa Cruz or Huayhuash, Offers comfortable dorms in wide rooms, easy access to downtown for ATMs, banks, markets, shops and more. Daily departures for guests to the Santa Cruz Trek, minivans and buses available for the Santa Cruz trail head, connecting tours around Peru. US$10.
- Illariy. A beautiful place located at Vaqueria, you can find lodging and food, email@example.com.
Beware of cows, always keep your food inside your tent and close it, don't leave anything unattended: cows will eat anything!
From Cashapampa, take a colectivo to Caraz. Locals will pay S/6, but others can be asked for double the price. From Caraz, you can get by colectivo to Huaraz (S/6).