The trailhead for Laguna Wilcacocha is situated just 7km outside of the city of Huaraz making it an optimal destination for a day hike. It is a great hike to do solo (without a guide) to acclimatize to the elevation before a more serious hike, but it is certainly worth the work to just take in the views even if you don’t have other hikes planned.
How to start:
Grab a colectivo (mini-bus) in downtown Huaraz, near the Plaza de Armas at the intersection of Raymondi & Hualcan. The colectivos actually stop on Hualcan. We nearly missed it while waiting for it on Raymondi – one of the busier thoroughfares. You’ll want to take either the 10 or the E, they are clearly marked above the windshield. Let the driver know you’re headed to Laguna Wilcacocha and they’ll drop you off right at the trailhead. The price is S/1 per person, which is about 30 cents (USD) a piece. The colectivos do not wait so be ready to literally jump on, but if you miss one, don’t worry because they arrive frequently. Make sure you have a good breakfast and pack some snacks as there is nothing available once you’re at the trailhead. You’ll want to start early as the rain and clouds typically roll-in in the early afternoon.
The hike starts right on the side of the road, you just cross over a bridge by foot and you’re on your way!
It starts off fairly steep but you soon get used to it. The trail is not clearly marked on the way up, but is much easier to follow on the way down. On our way up we missed a turn on the trail and ended up walking down the road for a bit, and then followed a local straight up through the fields until we landed back out on the trail. This “route” was definitely more intense and we wouldn’t recommend it – always follow the trail if you can. The trail ends at the laguna. You can see in the garmin link that our way down was much more direct.
While the laguna itself is a bit underwhelming the views of the Cordilleras Blancas are absolutely stunning. You’ll want to spend some time and have lunch here while taking in the scenery. Throughout the hike and even by the laguna is farmland, so you’ll encounter quite a few locals maintaining their crops and livestock. The way back down is very clear and you’ll have no problem staying on the trail all the way back down to the road.
The hike stats: Elevation gain: 1,800 feet/ 549 meters. Distance: 4.9 miles/ 7.9 kms. Walking time: 2.3 hours. Final Elevation: 12,000ft/ 3,658 meters
You’ll grab another colectivo on the road to get back into town. As soon as we made it to the road a colectivo was coming around the bend. We were lucky as we didn’t have to wait a second, but even if you’re not as lucky as us they come minutes apart so the wait is never long. Be prepared for your stop and have all your belongings ready because they barely stop for you to jump off. On the way to and from the hike we were the only tourists on the colectivo, it is a very efficient and affordable way to travel throughout the towns in this region.