The most famous one-day lake hike in the Cordillera Blanca mountains in Peru is the hike to Laguna 69. But if you’ve got the time for another day hike to another stunning lake in the Cordillera Blanca (and you want a flatter trail with far fewer humans on it), you should also do the Laguna Parón hike. Don’t miss our drone travel video above this stunning adventure travel destination.
At 17.1 square miles (44.3 square km), Laguna Parón (which you will also see spelled without an accent mark, as in Paron) is the largest lake in Peru’s Huascarán National Park which was created to protect an 840,000 acre (340,000 hectare) portion of the Cordillera Blanca area of the Andes.
This park is home to 27 peaks over 19,000 feet (6,000 meters) including Nevado Huascarán which is Peru’s highest peak at 22,204 feet (6,768 meters). It also protects more than 650 glaciers (hence the name Cordillera Blanca which means White Mountains in Spanish) at altitudes between 16,400 feet and 22,200 feet (5,000 meters and 6,768 meters). Huascarán National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
There are around 400 lakes in Huascarán National Park–so many that park officials decided to give them all numbers instead of names. However, the lakes that already had native names before the park was created in 1975 kept those names which is why Laguna Parón has a name and not a number.
Hiking around Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón sits at an elevation of 13,730 feet (4,185 meters) and the area is scenic from top to bottom with rugged hills, rocky glacial moraines, and snow-capped peaks all around.
Before exploring the lake trail, we headed up a 1 mile (1.6 km) trail to the Mirador (lookout) point. This required about 45 minutes of uphill walking, partly through a rocky glacial moraine over jumbles of rocks and boulders.
At the top, we got awesome views of some of the snow-capped peaks that surround the lake including 19,308 foot (5,885 meter) Piramide and 20,870 foot (6,360 meter) Huandoy which is the second-highest mountain in Huascarán National Park.
If we really craned our necks, we could see a teeny, tiny slice of the top of 19,762 foot (6,025 meter) Artesonraju whose nearly perfect conical peak is said to have inspired the pointy white mountain top in the Paramount Pictures logo.
The Mirador is the perfect vantage point from which to appreciate the size of Laguna Parón. Get your own birds-eye view of this lake in our drone travel video, below.
After walking back down the same 1-mile trail, we headed out on the trail that goes partly around Laguna Parón. This trail was flat and wide and uncomplicated at first, then it narrowed, got rockier, and began undulating.
This trail mostly hugs the shoreline of Laguna Parón so you’re never far from its milky blue water. We saw some ducks enjoying the lake too. Unfortunately, landslides and general neglect have obliterated long sections of this trail forcing hikers to tramp up hillsides and forge new trails on higher ground in order to get around landslides and other obstacles.
Just past the end of Laguna Parón, the trail starts to climb up a side valley toward a smaller lake called Laguna Artensancocho. However, when we were there this trail eventually required lots of bushwacking to get around nearly non-existent sections of trail. Sometimes we were walking along very steep scree-covered slopes with drop-offs directly into the lake. With less than a mile to go to Laguna Artensancocho the trail got too dangerous and we turned back.
Note that there is no trail that goes entirely around the Laguna Parón and we were told that hikers have died trying to bushwhack their way around. And remember that you must be out of Huascarán National Park by 5 pm so be sure to leave enough time to cover all the ground you want to around Laguna Parón.
Hiking around Laguna Parón by the numbers
Travel time from Caraz to the trailhead: we drove it in two hours each way–add 1.5 hours each way if you’re coming from Huaraz
Elevation at Laguna Parón: 13,730 feet (4,185 meters)
Trail distance to the Mirador and back down: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip
Hiking time to the Mirador and back down: 1.5 hours round trip
Trail distance around Laguna Parón and on to Laguna Artensancoco and back: 8 miles (12 km) round trip
Hiking time around Laguna Parón and on to Laguna Artensancocho: at least 3 hours each way–longer if the trail is in particularly bad condition
Total roundtrip time from Caraz: Allow at least 12 hours round trip from Caraz including driving time and hiking time and it’s more like a 15-hour day roundtrip if you’re doing it from Huaraz
Getting to Laguna Parón
The parking lot on the shore of Laguna Parón is only 21 miles (35 km) from the town of Caraz, but plan on at least two hours to cover that distance. The road turns to dirt out of Caraz and for the first hour, the road is in fair condition. The last section, however, is steep, narrow, and very rocky. If you’re coming from the town of Huaraz add another 1.5 hours to the travel time each way.
After entering Huascarán National Park, we paid an additional 5 soles (about US$1.25) when we arrived at Laguna Parón. This additional fee goes to the local community and it allowed us to park in a small but very scenic parking area (where free camping is also allowed) right on the lakeshore. There were about 10 other vehicles in the lot when we were there.
Even if you’ve booked your visit to this area with a tour company, you will need to purchase your own entry ticket to Huascarán National Park. Entrance fees for foreigners who want to visit Huascarán National Park are 30 soles (US$7.50) for one day, 60 soles (US$15) for an entry ticket that’s good for up to 3 days, and 150 soles (US$36.50) for an entry ticket that’s good for up to 30 days. You can buy entry tickets at the park entrance or you can buy them ahead of time at the national park office in Huaraz which is near the main plaza.
Glad we had
Having the right gear is important. We were glad we had the following items when we explored the area around Laguna Parón.
- hiking boots (for added balance, support, and protection on boulder-strewn and rocky terrain)
- layers including a rain layer (to call the weather changeable is an understatement and this area can get major rain in the rainy season which is from October to March)
- sunglasses (we’ve worn Costa del Mar sunglasses for years)
- good socks (we love our Point6 merino wool performance socks)
- water and snacks
- sun hat and sunscreen (this area is almost entirely exposed to the sun with little or no shade)
Continue planning your trip to the Cordillera Blanca and Huascarán National Park in Peru with our day-by-day trail guide for the iconic Santa Cruz trek, our post about the day hike to Laguna 69, our post about the epic drive through the Cañon del Pato, our post about visiting the Pastoruri Glacier, our photo essay from scenic Punta Winchus, our adventure town travel guide to Caraz, and our adventure town travel guide to Huaraz, the self-proclaimed Adventure Capital of Peru.
Here’s more about travel in Peru
Here’s more about Adventure Travel in the Americas
Here’s more about National Parks in the Americas