Peru’s Santa Cruz Trek Beginner’s Guide


Cordillera Blanca trek in Peru offers the greatest cluster of mountain peaks in the Western part of the world, with more than 30 summits higher than 18,000 feet. The best way to experience its beauty is through the Santa Cruz Trek, which is considered one of the best hikes in the world. This trail will reward you with high mountain peaks covered in snow, open valleys, rivers, as well as colorful lagoons.

Even though many other treks have a lot to offer, you can see a collection of everything while hiking the Santa Cruz Trail Peru in only four days. But, you still need to prepare well to have a successful trip. In this article, we will talk about what you need to know about this hike, from its cost to how to pack.

Santa Cruz Trek General Info

What You Need to Know

  • Length: 3-4 days
  • Distance: 31 miles
  • Highest point: 15,617 feet – Punta Union pass
  • Best Time to Travel: May-September
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Closest Place: Huaraz
  • Additional Info: You can do it with a guide or by yourself

Hiking Guide

When to Travel

The best period to hike Santa Cruz Trail Peru is May to September because of the dry weather. If you decide to hike during the peak season, it will give you more independence, but the weather will be more unpredictable. Just to be sure, check the weather conditions before setting out, and don’t forget to check the current conditions regularly since the weather in the mountains can be unstable.

Trek Difficulty

The difficulty of this track will depend on the weather condition, your pack weight, your experience, and your physical fitness. It is important to know that you will be hiking for 6-8 hours every day. The elevation gain will vary depending on the day, from moderate to significant. Hiking with less weight using a lightweight backpack, or a donkey for some of the equipment will allow you to hike longer with more ease.

Training before the hike is highly recommended. You can try out some of the day hikes to prepare your body for prolonged physical activity. Also, do some bodyweight exercises, such as lunges and squats, to increase your strength. Getting to know your body will help you with the altitude as well as achieving a successful trip.

How to Get There

You need to reach Huaraz, a small town in the mountains, to begin your hike. This town is located around 500 miles north of the capital, Lima. You can either take a bus from Lima, which will take you about 8 hours to get there. The other option is getting a flight from Lima, which is a much faster option because it lasts for about one hour.

The good news is you don’t need to get a visa to enter Peru. You can stay there for up to 183 days. However, it is a good idea to check these policies before your trip because they can change.

The Cost of the Trek

You will pay from $150-$300 for this track if you decide to go with a trekking company. There are many such companies, so you should do proper research. A higher cost usually means better food, guides, equipment, and service.

Also, you will have to pay 65 Peruvian Sol, which translates to around $20 for the Parque Nacional Huascaran fees. You can do this before your trek, but don’t forget to bring a copy of your passport. This fee goes to maintaining the conditions in this region, so it is more than necessary.

You should not forget to bring some extra money as well. For example, you may want to treat yourself after finishing the trail. Also, you may need to tip the staff, cooks, tour guides, as well as donkey drivers. Bear in mind that the tipping rate is about 10% of the cost.

Hiking Independently vs. Guided Hiking


The choice is up to you, so take into account your personal preference and experience. You may enjoy the flexibility and solitude of the independent hikes, but taking into account the transportation, logistics, and the cost of trekking companies’ services, it seems that you will get a good deal on a guided hike. Guided hiking does not require hiking with a large group because you could even get a personal guide, though the price is higher.

Completing the Santa Cruz Trek on your own is possible if you are an experienced hiker. It is easy to follow the trail because it is properly marked. Getting the adequate gear, a quality map, and the right permit is crucial for a successful independent hike. It is important to remember that unless you have a donkey driver, you will need to carry all the equipment with you.

Guided Tour Pros

  • Arranged transportation
  • Handled the necessary trip details
  • You will not have to worry about the schedule, route, food, etc.
  • High-altitude trekking safety
  • Information on local culture, region, etc.

Hiking Independent Pros

  • You choose where you camp
  • The schedule is more flexible
  • No need to adjust to the group
  • It is less expensive

Food and Water

Hiking with a company has many benefits, such as ready food. All of your meals will be prepared beforehand and you will also get a snack bag with fruit, cookies, and chocolate daily. Every afternoon, there will be a tea-time session, followed by some appetizers. Your food will be cooked over a stove but it doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious.

Usually, the dinner consists of soup, many main course meals, as well as dessert. You will be able to eat your meals in big tents, with the luxury of having a table with chairs. However, not every company offers the same services, so do your research beforehand.

On the other hand, if you want to do an independent hike, you have to carry all of your food and cookware, as well as plan your meals. Dehydrated backpacking food is the best choice because it is lightweight and it can last for days. Don’t forget to prepare a small stove as well as some desserts. You need a sufficient amount of calories to endure the physical effort of this trek.

When it comes to water, enough for your daily needs will be provided by your trekking company. But, it is recommended to bring a large enough water bottle for your daily needs. For example, you can bring 2 medium-sized bottles for easier packing. However, if you are hiking independently, it is crucial to bring a water filter so you can have fresh water at all times. Remember to drink up because hydration is crucial during such hikes.

Gear Checklist

Even though trekking the Santa Cruz Trail in Peru takes no longer than 4 days, you will need adequate equipment to finish your journey. Here’s a list of things you need to pack:

  • Daypack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Hiking shoes or hiking boots
  • Water filter
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking pants
  • Hiking shirt
  • Hiking shorts
  • Fleece jacket
  • Socks
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Gloves

Keep in mind that you should keep everything lightweight because of the elevation gain. This will make your journey more comfortable and you will be able to hike longer distances.

Personal Hygiene

You should be aware that the Santa Cruz Trek is truly wild, so don’t expect a luxury treatment when it comes to personal hygiene. Some companies will provide you with a bucket of warm water daily. But, it is best to pack a reasonable supply of wipes. This can be truly game-changing in these conditions. Also, bringing a hand sanitizer is essential for achieving maximum hygiene levels.

When it comes to the bathroom, many companies will set up a toilet tent with a hole for you to use every night. It is certainly not the most glamorous thing on the Santa Cruz Trail in Peru, but it is necessary for every hiker. However, toilet paper is not always provided so make sure you carry your supply throughout the journey. Of course, following the leave-no-trace principles is a must.


Flies and mosquitoes can be very annoying at low elevations. To protect yourself, use some kind of protection, such as a spray, on your skin. Luckily, you will not spend most of your time at lower elevations, so you don’t have to worry about them too much.

Travel Insurance

If anything bad happens along the trek, you will need evacuation which can be very expensive because most locations are remote. That’s why getting travel insurance can save you lots of money and trouble. Just in case, purchase an insurance plan which covers evacuations as well as high-altitude hiking.

Hiking Safety

If you decide to hike with a trekking company, you will be provided with regular first aid kits. On the other hand, if you are doing the Santa Cruz Trek on your own, you will have to prepare yourself for an emergency. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Learn more about Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and take the required precaution.
  • Listen to your body and drink lots of water.
  • Get travel insurance that covers high-altitude hiking and emergency evacuation.
  • Do not hike alone.
  • Make sure to follow the weather conditions.
  • Do not forget to pack a first aid kit.
  • Move whenever you encounter mules or donkeys on the trail, letting them pass safely.
  • Pay close attention to the trail to avoid injuries.
  • Write emergency numbers on paper so you can easily find them if you need them.

High-Altitude Safety

Most hikers need some time to properly adjust to high altitudes, so no need to worry if you experience some Acute Mountain Sickness symptoms. However, never ignore them because AMS is serious, and can be fatal in some cases.  When hiking the Santa Cruz Trail Peru Trek, you will experience gradual ascent with a significant 15,617-feet elevation.

To properly adjust to such conditions, you can spend some time in Huaraz, with an altitude of 10,013 feet. Spending a few days in this place will prepare your body for this trek. But, you shouldn’t simply stay in this place. It is recommended to try some of its day hikes, such as Laguna Churup, Laguna 69, and Laguna Wilcacocha. In addition to being beautiful, these hikes will adequately prepare your body for what is coming next.

Responsible Hiking and Cultural Etiquette

  • Leave No Trace is the most important rule when it comes to any hiking route, including the Santa Cruz Trail Peru.
  • Do not leave any trash behind you. Do not leave anything behind to keep the beautiful Peruvian nature intact for other generations. If you want to help the locals, collect any trash you see, even if it does not belong to you.
  • Take proper care of human waste. Dig a 6-8-inch deep hole and don’t forget to fill it up when you are done. Collect and properly pack the toilet paper as well.
  • Make sure you dress modestly, especially when you are visiting towns. Women should be wearing longer hiking pants rather than shorts.
  • Always ask people for permission when it comes to taking photos. Even though most of them won’t have a problem with it, you should respect other’s privacy.

Globo Surf Overview

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek in Peru is one of the most beautiful things you can experience in the Western hemisphere. This route offers many things, including gorgeous mountain peaks, rivers, lagoons, and intact nature. This 31-mile hike can be completed in 3 to 4 days, but do not try to do it if you are inexperienced because of its high elevation points.

You can do it on your own, though hiking with an organized tour is recommended because of the many services it offers at a reasonable price. No matter how you choose to go, it is crucial to prepare lightweight gear so you can finish your journey comfortably. Getting travel insurance is also highly recommended since the hiking locations are remote. Prepare to be amazed by the beauty this hike has to offer!

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!