Before traveling to Peru, the Cordillera Blanca mountain range wasn’t even on our radar. But after completing the high altitude hike to Laguna 69 and seeing its glacier crowned electric blue waters, we can confirm that this is a hike which rivals even the most sought after routes in Patagonia like Torres del Paine. Take a look at our photos and see why you need to add this area to your next South American adventure.
The Laguna 69 Hike
You know a hike will be impressive if the views on the way to the trailhead are alone worth a visit. Before even arriving at the Laguna 69 hike, we were treated with some of the most stunning scenery. The main event is so pretty that the incredible yet lesser Laguna de Llanganuca wasn’t even mentioned as a selling point.
The route starts by winding through a long valley of unique plants and flowers. Tall and rugged mountains surround the trail on all sides, creating a welcome distraction from the noticeable shortage of oxygen.
After a three kilometer walk alongside a babbling stream, the trail reaches a waterfall and begins to climb up the mountain to the first plateau.
This plateau, a long and flat reprieve from the climb, opens up giant views of peaks and glaciers draped in every direction.
At the end of this last easy portion, the trail takes an inevitable upturn and begins the longest and steepest traverse to the Laguna. Coupled with the near 4,500 meter elevation at this point, progress tends to be a little slow going.
Having heard little about Laguna 69 prior to departure, we were unprepared for the spectacle awaiting atop the final climb. Despite our limited expectations, the view at the top would have exceeded any we could have had.
The complete semicircle of sparkling white glacier sat like a crown of ice above the most artificially blue waters we could imagine.
The rocks are almost void of color, creating a vivid contrast between the laguna and surrounding cliffs.
Despite the growing popularity of the hike, we found that most people stayed near where the trail meets the lake, meaning that we were never crowded for picture space.
Hike Type: Out and back
Total Distance: 8.2 miles / 13.7 kilometers
Total time: 5.5 hours including 2 hours at the lake
Starting elevation: 3,850 m / 12,631 ft
Peak elevation: 4,604 m / 15,104 ft
Difficulty: This is a moderate hike made more difficult by the elevation. The trail is generally wide and stable.
How to Get to the Laguna 69 Hike
There are really only two ways to reach the Laguna 69 hike if you don’t have your own vehicle or don’t want to spring for an expensive private round trip taxi.
First, there is the “tour” option. We use this term very loosely because this is actually group transport to the trail head disguised as a tour. I know this sounds confusing, but the packages sold by travel agents in Huaraz include only transport and a guide whose sole purpose is to make sure everyone makes it back. There is no obligation to hike with, near or even within earshot or eyesight of said guide. But if like us you shudder when you hear the word tour, there is another option.
It is possible to reach the mountain solo by using the local form of public transport, collectivos. These shared taxis leave Huaraz starting early morning and head towards the town of Yungay. From what we understand, this ride costs five to seven soles per person and takes one to one and a half hours. Once in Yunguy, you need to switch to a different collectivo or cough up for a private taxi to go the remaining hour to hour and a half. The collectivo costs around fifteen soles per person for this remaining portion (at least 20 for the taxi), meaning that the one way cost to reach Laguna 69 by public transport is 20 soles on the low end. But the larger problem is not that this is simply the one way cost, but that if you do choose to take this route, you now have no scheduled return transport.
This area is on an out of the way windy dirt road and taxis do not sit around waiting for hikers. If you decide to go at it on your own, you will now have to hitch a ride back, hope to stumble across a wayward collectivo or talk with one of the “tour” bus drivers and try and snag an available seat.
While we typically spring for the local way, difficult route or just choose the option that sounds all around more fun, we decided to suck up our pride on this trip and join the group transport bus. We booked our trip with Andes Hard through the Akilpo Hostel which picked us up bright and early to start our day at 5:30am. The going rate for the bus trip to and from Laguna 69 trailhead is only 30 soles, or around $9 per person. As soon as we exited the bus, we left the group of purse toting, blue jean and fashion shoe wearing athletes behind and still got to enjoy our hike alone. Getting to the laguna ahead of schedule gave us more time to enjoy the scenery. On the return trip to the bus, having a book or other entertainment is helpful while waiting for the other passengers.
The risk of having no transport back was too great. In fact, even finding it and paying the same as the outgoing trip would still be more expensive than riding the tour bus. Our trip included a scheduled breakfast stop, although the food was not included. Regardless of how you get there, you will still need to pay the additional park entrance fee which is 30 soles for a 1 day pass, 60 soles for a 2-3 day pass, and 150 soles for a 4-30 day pass.
Laguna 69 Hike Packing Essentials
- Packable raincoat (learn how to make any raincoat packable)
- Warm extra light puff jacket
- Layered clothing
- Brimmed hat
- Warm gloves, hat and/or buff
- Hiking boots
- Water bottle
- Water filter (there are infinite water sources so don’t overpack water if you have a good filter: we carry a Sawyer Squeeze)
- Camera (with polarizing filter to help show the blue of the lake)
- Lunch for lakeside picnic
- Hiking poles (optional)
If you enjoyed this then you will love these other amazing hikes in South America:
- Hiking Guide to Cajas National Park, Ecuador: The Best Cuenca Day Trip
- The Only Complete Guide to Hiking in El Cocuy National Park, Colombia
- A Trekkers Guide to the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador
- How to Day Hike Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador
We are taking an eight month trip in South America as part of a twenty month trip around the world. Want to know our secret? We have a step by step planning guide to help you get prepared for long term travel.