The Santa Cruz trek is a 31 mile (50 km) hike, with the highest point being over 15,500 ft (4,750 m) above sea level. We got an awesome off-season price of only $90/per person and set off on the trek Thursday morning with twelve other twenty-something backpackers. Check out technical stats of a similar hike here.
Our journey began at 6 am when we were picked up from our hostel, and then driven over five hours (3 spent on incredibly rocky/bumpy roads) to Huascarán National Park. We ate lunch at the trailhead, then hiked for three hours to our first campsite. It was a relatively easy first day, with only a few uphills and minor altitude changes.
The second day was handsdown the prettiest part of the trek. Our guide said we had an eight hour day ahead of us, with five hours up to the highest point (Punto Union) and three hours down to the next campsite. However, we were a young and energetic group and managed the entire day’s hike in only six hours! That meant we reached our campsite at 12:30… so what were we going to do the rest of the day? After lunch, our guide offered us another side hike to a glacier-fed lake. While everyone else napped, five of us set off on the two hour hike up to Lake Arhuaycocha. Our guide didn’t actually accompany us on this portion, so we somehow managed to lose the trail toward the very top and ended up bouldering the last 50-100 meters to the lake. It was fun, exhausting, and so worth the views along the way!
The third day, our guide asked our group whether we wanted to finish the whole trek that day. She thought it would only take us another six or seven hours to make it to the finish, where we could camp in the little village for the third night. We all voted to do that, otherwise we probably would have ended up at the third campsite by 10 am. Our legs and knees were pretty achy from our ten hours of hiking the previous day, so we took it slowly and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The last night of camping, we enjoyed a few cervezas with our fellow hikers and had the pleasure of listening to some traditional harp music played by our campsite host.
Overall it was a beautiful trek, and we are so glad we learned about it from other travelers.