Peru is one of the most frequently chosen destinations by adventurers, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country is filled with treks that await anxious travelers to discover them.  Some of these routes are the most popular in the world, with only a few still being kept a secret. Santa Cruz Trek is one of the remaining secret treks.

The Santa Cruz Trek
photo: Esmée Winnubst

Where is the Santa Cruz Trek?

The Santa Cruz Trek is part of the Huascaran National Park, which is one of the many natural reserves of Peru. The trail is also part of the Cordillera Blanca.

The Cordillera Blanca is a mountain range located in the Andean region of the country. It extends for 124 miles, is 19,690 ft tall. Which makes it perfect for high altitude adventures.

The Cordillera also has hundreds of glaciers, the water of these contribute to the lakes that lay within the mountain range. These lakes make up a huge part of the breathtaking views you’ll encounter if you decide to visit.

Man with backpack trekking
Photo by Usman Omar 

Why should I trek Santa Cruz?

Like the Huayhuash Circuit and the one day hike “Laguna 69”, the Santa Cruz Trek is also one of our favorite routes of the Cordillera Blanca. 

The trek starts in Huaraz, a small town in the base of the mountains. This will be the perfect place to start your adventure. The locals will make sure that you; see, taste, and live an authentic Peruvian experience. 

One or two days after your arrival to Huaraz, you’ll start one of the best hikes of your life. The rocky path will take you through the glaciers and show off some of the most amazing views of the Peruvian mountains. You will also get a chance to be next to the freezing turquoise waters of the lakes which are produced by the melting peaks. 

If you are traveling in a small group you can find trekking companies that offer a local chef to accompany you during the expedition. You’ll have the unique opportunity to taste the authentic flavors of Peru above the clouds, if you should choose this option. 

The incredible views, the discovery of new places, and the nights under the stars are just the tip of the iceberg. After the four days of the expedition, you’ll probably have made some new friends that share your same passion for adventure.

Airplane
Photo by Deniz Altindas 

How do I get there?

Huaraz is the starting point of most of the Cordillera Blanca’s routes. So if you want to get to Santa Cruz, you first must get to the town of Huaraz. 

In order to do so, you first must take a flight to Lima, the capital of Peru. When you arrive there you’ll find a wide variety of transportation services. One of the many busses or vans can surely accommodate your needs.

Huaraz is an 8-hour drive away from Lima, so the cheapest option to get there is by bus. If you are traveling alone you can find some public bus routes that can take you to the town. Or if you are traveling in a group of 5-15 people then you and the group might be better off getting a private van.

Women knitting
Photo by: Chany Crysta

Where should I stay in Huaraz?

Going to Huaraz means traveling through time. This small, rustic town has remained untouched by urbanization. In other words, the town keeps the essence of a true mountain town.

Furthermore, it is recommended that you stay at least one night in the town before starting the trek. This will help your body get used to the high altitude.

One of the most visited cheap hotels in Huaraz is the Jacal BackPacker. It offers free wifi and parking for its guests, plus beautiful views of the mountains. In addition, it has been chosen as the best value hotel in the town.

hiking the Santa Cruz Trek
Photo: Madeleine Deaton

When should I visit?

The rest of the world might have four seasons, but in the Andean mountains, there are only two. The rainy season starts in November and ends in April. Therefore the dry season starts in May and ends in November. 

If you are planning to complete the Santa Cruz Trek make sure to schedule your trip during the dry time of the year. Since many routes are known to close during the rainy season. 

The two seasons dictate the extremely tough climates of the mountains.  So you should always check the weather report twice before getting to Peru.

Donkeys in the Cordillera Blanca
Photo by Simon Matzinger 

Santa Cruz Trek Difficulty 

Santa Cruz is actually one of the shortest routes of the Cordillera Blanca. However, this doesn’t mean that it is the easiest.

You could say that the trail is the middle ground between the Huayhuash Circuit and the Laguna 69 hike. Since the expedition isn’t as long as the first but it is definitely more demanding than the second.

To complete the trek you will hike approximately 30 miles in a 4 day period. Plus the route is at 15,584 feet above sea level so it can be very physically demanding.  As a result, it’s advised that you must be at least 12 years old and have trekking experience to attempt the circuit.  

However, with a little training and preparation, even the novice trekker can certainly complete the Santa Cruz Trek. 

Man running
Photo by Tikkho Maciel 

Training 

As mentioned before the trek is moderately challenging, so people interesting in trekking the Santa Cruz should be used to having an active lifestyle.

Despite having a great level of fitness, everyone should train before attempting to complete this route.

Here are some tips for training for the Santa Cruz Trek:

People hiking
Photo: David Macru

Hike at Higher Altitudes 

 Santa Cruz is at thousands of feet above sea level. As a result, the air is thinner. Which makes it harder to breathe and easier to tire. This is also the cause of mountain sickness  

To avoid that you should accustom your body to physical activities in high altitudes. Try to complete small hikes in places near you at higher altitudes. By doing this your body will not tire as easily once you are at high altitude in Peru.

Keep in mind that acclimatization is extremely important when you’re doing any type of high altitude excursion. So make sure to sleep in Huaraz for one or two nights before starting your adventure. 

Reflection of a person running
Photo by Holger Link

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio 

In order to complete this trail, you should train at least 1 hour a day.  You’ll build stamina which will help endure everything that the mountain throws at you. 

Try to do cardio exercises, walking, running, or cycling are great options that can be done almost anywhere. These will make your heart rate up, and help you to have lean muscles.

This is great for trekking since you have to be in shape to move easily, and strong enough to be able to carry the gear plus your own weight during the long hike. 

hiker drinking water
Photo by Martin Jernberg 

Eat well, drink well, sleep well. 

There are three key points to any training regime that are often overlooked. 

  • getting enough sleep 
  • having a balanced diet
  • drinking enough water 

These things are basic to have the strength to reach any goal, but especially to complete any kind of high altitude expedition. So be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, have a carb dense and nutrient dense diet, and sleep between 6-8 hours daily. 

Try to do these three things every day for at least 3 months before you start your adventure in Peru.

People hiking
Photo by Tim Foster 

Solo Trekking Vs. Group Trekking 

One of the most important decisions when traveling to any destination is with who are you going with, or if anyone.

The truth is that both options have its perks. On one hand, if you are trekking solo you might be able to walk and explore things at your own pace. On the other hand, if you decide to travel with other people you might create or strengthen bonds with other people. 

Here are some things that you should take into consideration before making a decision. 

Person camping in the Santa Cruz Trek
Photo: Masa Sakano

Trekking solo

Traveling alone is something that everybody should do at least once in their lifetime. Roaming freely around the corners of the world show you things about yourself that you might not be aware of. 

Traveling alone is a great opportunity to meet and try new things. Being by yourself takes you out of your comfort zone. So once you are out there you’ll be more open to meet new people and try new things.  Maybe you’ll get to do amazing things that you didn’t believe were an option before. 

Just remember that if you are trekking Santa Cruz alone you will need to do things by yourself. So its really important that before you start exploring these Andean Mountains you make sure that you have some knowledge of the routes and that all of your equipment is in order. 

It is also advised that before trekking you have some sort of first aid knowledge. If there are any emergencies you’ll know exactly what to do until help arrives.

Group of people hiking
Photo by Ashim D’Silva 

Trekking with a group 

For many people trekking with a group might be a lot more fun. Since it means creating new memories that can make or strengthen bonds with people. 

Traveling with other people is a great way to motivate you. Having other people around you that are interested in accomplishing the same goal is a great way to keep your spirits up. Which will make completing the trek a lot easier. 

Plus traveling with others is safer than being alone. If you are in any kind of trouble someone in your group will help you. 

Group of people hiking at dawn
Photo by Vishnu Prajapati 

Guided Trekking

This option combines the best of trekking alone or with a group. Since you will be able to explore the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca uninterrupted, at the same time that you enjoy all the perks of traveling with a group.

For starters trekking, companies will take care of the annoying details of your trip. Such as transportation, entrance fees to Santa Cruz, and gear rental. 

Plus guided trekking also gives you the chance to meet more people. This kind of expeditions is often made up of 10-15 people, apart from staff members.  So even when you are traveling alone you’ll definitely meet new people.

Old first aid kit
Photo by rawpixel 

Travel Insurance 

Trekking can be considered a dangerous activity. High altitude and distant locations make any trek prone to accidents. 

The Santa Cruz trek is in one of Peru’s most underrated destinations. Which means that it is even more difficult to get to than more popular trails.

This means that if you have an emergency you will need an emergency evacuation. Unfortunately, these are very expensive so you should hire an insurance before flying to Peru. 

Try to choose a service that includes: 

  • High altitude emergency evacuations
  • Coverage of medical expenses 
  • Protected hiking and photography gear

Most trekking companies include all of their guests in their insurance. But if that is not your case check World Nomads. Their prices are affordable and they cover all types of activities.

It is highly probable that you will not use the insurance, but being prepared is always a good thing. 

trekking gear
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse 

Santa Cruz Packing List

If you are traveling in a group then you should know that some trekking companies offer to bring tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads for every member of the expedition party.  

But if you are traveling alone you should definitely pack the before mentioned.

Trekking Gear

  • Cash
  • Passport and copy of it
  • Water Purifier
  • First Aid Kit (If you are traveling alone)
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Guidebook
  • Headlamp
  • Pocket knife
  • Pack cover 
  • Trekking Pole
  • Gloves
  • Hat

Personal Hygene

  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Towl 
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Toilette paper 
  • Deodorant
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun block 

Clothing

Overpacking is a mistake that most of do when traveling. Bringing to much clothes can cost you extra money and energy. 

So in order to avoid just that be sure to do the following before filling your suitcase. 

Check the climate of the Cordillera Blanca:

The Andean region of Peru has two very different seasons; the rainy one and the dry one. Be sure to check the climate before packing. This way you’ll only bring appropriate clothing for the harsh weather conditions. 

Pack In Layers

Plan your hiking outfits ahead and then only pack the items that serve the same purpose. This way you’ll save space in your suitcase, but you’ll still be prepared to face the challenges of the Santa Cruz Trek. 

Santa Cruz Trek, Peru
Photo: Esmée Winnubst

Having a chance to dine in the heights of Peru and meeting new people are just some o the things that make the Santa Cruz Trek an unforgettable experience. 

Some people think that completing the circuit is too difficult or expensive, but with the right information and a little preparation, this will be one of the greatest adventures of your life!

Author

She was born and raised in Mexico City, where she started her career as a food and travel journalist. Working with different national magazines she realized that her mission is to share her love for adventure with the world. When she is not working she is probably searching for new places with exciting flavors.

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