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Laguna 69: A Challenging One-Day Hike

  • 7.28k views

Located in the imposing Cordillera Blanca, Laguna 69 is considered to be one of the exquisite lakes, out of more than 400 lakes in the Huascarán National Park. Reaching Laguna 69 makes for a tough but rewarding one-day hike. Simply given the number 69 at the time of the creation of the park, the name has stuck on. The day hike up to this sublime body of water high in the mountains has become one of the most popular Cordillera Blanca hiking trails.

Overview

Although Laguna 69 day hike is popular as an acclimatisation hike, it is a worthwhile hike in its own right. It can be done with a guide or independently. The starting point is Cebollapampa, from where the trail continues steadily up into the mountains, taking in some lovely mountain scenery along the way. Most of the walk is of moderate difficulty but the section immediately before the lake is much tougher. After this arduous final slog, the beautiful Laguna 69 is revealed, the crown jewel of the Huascarán National Park. 

Highlights

  • Laguna 69, the undoubted highlight of this hike
  • Moderate trek for most of the way, suitable for all hikers 
  • Easily accessible from Huaraz
  • Can easily be completed in one day
  • Hiking trail passes through attractive Andean scenery and gorgeous lakes 

Lowlight

  • Independant travel to the trailhead and back can be complicated and expensive. Guided tours are recommended. 
map of laguna 69 hiking trail
Overview map of Laguna 69 day hike

Laguna 69 - Hike Facts

  • Altitudes and Temperatures

This is a high-altitude hike. The trail starts at Cebollapampa at 3,850 m and reaches a maximum altitude of 4,550 m at Laguna 69. Temperatures can be warm during the day but can easily drop below freezing at high altitude once the sun disappears. Generally, the temperature will drop 1 degree Celsius per 200 meters of altitude.

  • Trek Difficulty

This hike is considered medium to difficult due to the high altitude as well as the tough final section leading up to the lake. It is not suitable for people who are not in fairly good physical condition (as in able to hike 5-6 hours). The high altitude adds to the difficulty and at least a day of acclimatisation in Huaraz is recommended.

  • Trek Duration

The full-day excursion takes around 10-11 hours in total. This includes transport to and from the trail as well as around 5-6 hours of walking.

  • Remoteness

The hike takes participants along trails through uninhabited mountain scenery at high altitude. However, the transfer to the trailhead from Huaraz takes only around three hours so the hike will never take you far from the nearest significant settlement.

  • Accommodation

People attempting this hike usually base themselves in Huaraz. As it is only a one-day hike including 5-6 hours of walking, people do not usually require accommodation on the trail. Longer variations of two or three days are possible. Since no accommodation is available on the trails, if you do a multi-day hike, accommodation will be at tents. If you are a first time trekker then a guide is recommended.

  • Best Season

The best time of year to tackle the Laguna 69 hike is from May to October which corresponds with the dry season. This is also the coldest time of year. It is possible to complete this hike at any time of the year but outside of the dry season. During the wet months of January to March, the trails will be slippery making the hike significantly less enjoyable.

  • Transport to the Trailhead

You will need to drive from Huaraz to Cebollapampa at the beginning of the day and then back to Huaraz on completion of the hike. It is possible to do the hike independently and this will require arriving at Cebollapampa by a public transport or a private taxi. This can be very time consuming and even more expensive.

  • Permits

This hike is located in Huascarán National Park and participants are required to obtain a permit. You are not allowed to enter the park without booking through an official local tour agency. You will stop at the checkpoint on the way into the park to register. It is still possible to attempt the trail with no guide. Permits booked can be acquired at the Park Office in Huaraz.

Laguna 69 - Hike Itinerary

A standard Laguna 69 hiking itinerary makes an early start from Huaraz. From there, hikers are driven to Yungay where some tours stop for breakfast. After Yungay, the road leads into the Llanganuco Valley from where it is possible to catch sight of the exquisite Llanganuco Lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, which change colour according to the time of year. Some tours stop here for photographs.

After this, the drive continues to Cebollapampa and the start of the trail. The first part of the hike is relatively flat and easy and offers spectacular views of some of Cordillera’s mighty snow-capped peaks including Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru at 6,768 m. Soon, the trail becomes tougher as it starts to lead up to the lake itself. After reaching Laguna 69 and spending an hour or so there, hikers return along the same trail and transport takes them from Cebollapampa back to Huaraz.

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Llanganuco lakes are the first attraction on the Laguna 69 hike trail
The Llanganuco Lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, change colour according to the time of year 
Llanganuco lakes are the first attraction in the Laguna 69 day hike trail
Hiking trail towards the Llanganuco lakes, the first attraction of the day hike
Laguna 69 day hiking trail lies in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range
The hiking trail offers exquisite views of snowcapped mountains in the Cordillera Blanca

Alternative Day Hikes and Treks

For those who do not wish to walk up to Laguna 69, day trips are available from Huaraz to see the twin Llanganuco lakes, including some more gentle walking around their shores if desired.

For those hoping for something more challenging, it is possible to combine a hike to Laguna 69 with the Santa Cruz trek, another famous Cordillera Blanca trek. This more ambitious option would take four to five days to complete.

Mount Huascaran can be seen from the Laguna 69 hiking trail
Mount Huascaran (6,768 m) is the highest mountain in Peru as seen from the Laguna 69 hiking trail
Laguna 69 is the most beautiful lake in the Huascaran National Park
The calming turquoise waters of Laguna 69 is the final destination of the trail

Safety Tips

Laguna 69 day hike is not considered risky. If you go with a guide, the main concerns will be altitude sickness and fatigue. Since the entirety of this hike is above 3000 m, the air is thinner and it is easier to tire. The final ascent to Laguna 69 is particularly tough. This means a reasonable level of fitness is required to complete it.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can strike anyone at altitudes of above 2000-2400m and the entirety of this hike is considerably higher.  A day or two of acclimatisation at Huaraz is strongly recommended before attempting the Laguna 69 day hike. This is also a suitable hike for further acclimatisation before attempting longer and higher treks in Peru. 

Please read our article about altitude sickness for further information.

What to Bring

The weather in the mountains is notoriously changeable and hikers should bring clothing for rain as well as protection from the sun. A good pair of walking boots is essential.

Whether the hike is your main objective or preparation for something longer and more challenging, the Laguna 69 da-hike is a popular trail and with good reason. It offers some truly breathtaking Andean vistas and after several tough hours of walking, participants are rewarded by the magnificent Laguna 69, a true gem of the Huascarán National Park.

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