Huaraz sits amongst the massive peaks of Cordillera Negra and Blanca, making it an adventurer’s paradise. Laguna 69 is probably the most popular day hike for visitors spending time in this Peruvian city. It isn’t hard to see why Laguna 69 is so popular, as its vivid turquoise waters, glaciers clinging to rugged cliffs, plummeting waterfalls, and overall gorgeous landscape make for an unforgettable hike. So, we’ve provided all the details of our incredible experience at Laguna 69 and everything you need to know about visiting this little slice of heaven.
Finding a Laguna 69 Tour
There are endless tour options to pick from, and many of them are located along the main street that the Plaza de Armas sits on. Most offer the same itineraries to each destination, and many work together to fill spots for the next days’ trips. We booked our tour with Lalo Tours and prepaid 35 soles (just over 10 USD) for the full day, including transport and a guide. While we were there, we also booked an incredible trip to Pastoruri Glacier. It is important to ask different companies for prices and what’s included to ensure that you aren’t getting ripped off.
You can do the Laguna 69 hike on your own, but paying for private transport to get there will cost just as much, if not more. We have also heard that you can take public transportation to and from the trailhead, but we didn’t see any vehicles except tour vans and individuals who had their own cars driving along the road in the park.
Before taking on the Laguna 69 hike, it is a good idea to spend a day in Huaraz to acclimate and shop around for tours. For more information on the city, check out our Huaraz city guide. Huaraz sits at 3,050 meters (10,000 feet), and some peaks in the area reach to 6,700 meters (22,000 feet). The hike to Laguna 69 starts at 3,800 meters (about 12,500 feet) and ends at over 4,600 meters (15,100 feet). Our first day, we did a fairly easy hike to Laguna Wilcacocha to acclimate a bit.
The Bumpy Road to the Trailhead
Four in the morning came way too fast, and it was pretty difficult to get out from under the covers into the unheated room. But, we were excited for the day ahead and wanted to make sure we were ready by the time the tour company came to pick us up around five. A van pulled up outside and we hopped in with several groggy tourists.
The sun rose over the snowcapped mountains as we drove through the tranquil outskirts of Huaraz. About half way into the three-hour drive, we stopped in a small town for breakfast. This is not included in the tour, but you can buy sandwiches, coffee, tea, and use the restroom. We got two egg sandwiches, paid the entrance fee to Huascarán National Park, and then we were on our way.
Ten minutes before starting the hike, the van stopped at Laguna Llanganuco, a turquoise lake surrounded by towering cliffs and fairytale-like trees. As the van rolled up the hill, the guide explained that we’d have three hours to hike up to Laguna 69, an hour to relax at the lake, and then a couple hours to hike back down.
The Spectacular Hike to Laguna 69
The van stopped and everybody started off at their own pace, the guide trailing with the last in the group. We hiked at a brisk speed in hopes of avoiding the crowds that were heading to the lake. We made pretty good time, taking an hour and 50 minutes to reach Laguna 69. The first 40 minutes were fairly flat with a slight incline, winding through the quinoa trees along the flowing creek. It was mostly cloudy, and white wisps of fog clung to the snowy peaks above. It was absolutely stunning, but we hoped that the sun would come out soon.
The trail began to climb up the hillside, and we could definitely feel the altitude after spending the past few months living in Lima at sea level. We took the opportunities to stop and take pictures while catching our breaths. After about 30 minutes of climbing, we reached a small lake, and the trail wound around it and lead through a muddy valley.
The sun came out, giving us the motivation to make it up the last incline to reach Laguna 69. These steep switchbacks were by far the most brutal part of the hike. As we came over the crest of the rocky hill, a small patch of the bright blue lake was visible. When the lake came into full view, it took our breaths away. We were up there pretty early, which was nice for taking pictures. We found a flat rock and ate our packed lunch as we admired the blue water and icy cliffs.
The sun made the water even more vibrant, giving it the appearance of blue Gatorade. As the sun warmed the air, a chunk of glacier broke free of the cliffs above and came crashing down the hillside across the lake, taking mud, rock, and water with it. The roaring sound echoed through the basin, and we sat in awe watching it happen. We were lucky that the skies were clear despite being there in the rainy season.
After a couple hours at the lake, our guide hollered our group name and we made our way down. We took our time on the way back because we didn’t want to be waiting at the van for a while. The descent was almost as rough as the way up because of our tired knees supporting us down the rocky trail. After an hour and a half, we made it back to the van. Just in time to beat the rain storm.
The drive back felt incredibly long, and it probably did take a bit longer since we encountered a tree that had fallen into the road. We arrived in Huaraz around six in the evening and hobbled to our hostel, tired but thrilled for the day.
The Laguna 69 Hike at a Glance
Tour Cost: S/. 35 per person + S/. 10 park entrance fee
Tour Duration: 12-13 hours
Hike Distance: 8 miles/13 kilometers round trip
Hike Duration: 5 hours given to hike + 1 hour at the lake
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet/800 meters
What to Bring: Rain jacket, warm jacket, first aid kit, comfortable hiking shoes (they will get wet), plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and lunch, camera
When to Go: The dry season runs from April to October, but there are fewer crowds between late November and early March
Have you been hiking in Peru? What was your favorite hike?