Crystal blue hues: the Laguna 69 day hike

23 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

You just arrived in Huaraz, and you are looking for an active way to ease into the altitude. Or maybe, your time in the Cordillera Blanca is limited and you are looking for a short but worthy day trip. No matter the reason, the hike to the Laguna 69 will leave you craving for more of the incredible Huascaran National Park scenery. Perched at 4572m, the Laguna 69 is a real postcard background but also a great way to get your body acclimatized to the altitude of the region. 

How to Get to Laguna 69

Depending on your traveling preferences, there are different ways to get to the Laguna. However, as it takes around 3h of driving to reach the entrance of the park, all day options will leave early morning – think around 5am – to make sure that you have the time to hike up at your own pace and avoid altitude sickness. If the sound of starting your day with a long drive is dreading, you can opt to camp near the trailhead not far from Llanganuco Lake and set off for the hike directly the next morning. This is also a great option if you want to arrive to the Laguna before the crowds and get that perfect shot of the crystal blue waters.

The first option, and arguably the most convenient one, is to join a tour from Huaraz. Like for every treks and tours in the region, this can be booked directly from the city or online and should cost you between 40 and 55 soles, including transportation and a guide but excluding the 30 soles for the National Park’s entrance fee. While tours are often a practical but more expensive way to visit a place, booking the Laguna 69 Day Hike through an agency will in fact be quite similar to what you would pay by going on your own. Then why doesn’t everyone do that, you ask? While having your transportation organized offers indeed greater peace of mind, it also means that you will be traveling with hikers of very different fitness level. This won’t matter so much on the way up, as you may (and should!) hike at your own pace; but when returning to the bus you might have to wait a long time for other hikers to descend, or feel rushed because others are waiting for you. If this is not something that bothers you, a tour is definitely the way to go.

the Laguna 69 day hike

Laguna 69, a day hike from Huaraz

If you do mind waiting for others to return on the way back, a taxi is an option for you. It will be much more expensive, costing around 180 soles for a roundtrip (that includes waiting time), but at least you will be able to leave as soon or as late as you get back from the Laguna 69. Be warned, however, that reaching the trailhead with a taxi will take you as long as with group transportation as the road conditions are far from being optimal.

The last option, for those of you wanting to get the full local experience, is to take public transportation. The first leg will be by bus from Huaraz to Yungay and will cost you 5 soles. The first bus leaves Huaraz around 5:30am, but make sure to check the schedule at least a day ahead. From Yungay, you will have to take a taxi, wait for a collectivo, or hitchhike to the start of the trail. The way back from the Laguna to Huaraz might be more difficult, but you can ask if one of the tour buses has a free spot or catch a minivan to Yungay directly from the main road – these don’t follow a strict schedule, but the last one should be around 3/4pm. While this is a more unpredictable option, it is also an adventure in itself and might lead to great travel stories.

The Laguna 69 Hike, a day hike from Huaraz

Laguna 69, almost there

The Hike

You are at the beginning of the trail, ready to take on this challenge every traveler to the Cordillera has been raving about. You look at the seemingly flat path in front of you and wonder: is it really going to be that difficult? The start of the 6 km long hike is indeed rather easy, taking you for a walk alongside the river with views of glaciers in the distance. After the first kilometer, however, the path already starts to go uphill; and the real challenge comes 1 km away from the lake. This is a very steep section, and the altitude will make you question your breathing abilities. Don’t give up so close to your goal but remember to take your time and to drink a lot of water. Soon enough, a glimpse of the bluest water will make you forget about the effort and while your breath will still be short, it will be because of the beauty of the landscape unfolding in front of you. If you feel adventurous enough, refresh by taking a dip in this iconic Peruvian spot; and you will soon feel ready to do it all over again the other way around.

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