Hiking to high-altitude Laguna 69 in the spectacular Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the Peruvian Andes is filled with satisfying trail challenges and scenic pay-offs. Add in a quick dip in this glacier-fed lake and you’ve got a full day of Andean adventure in one of Peru’s most popular national parks.
Laguna 69 is located inside Peru’s Huascarán National Park which protects an 840,000 acre (340,000 hectare) portion of the Cordillera Blanca area of the Andes which is home to 27 peaks over 19,000 feet (6,000 meters).
This park 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.
Because there are also around 400 lakes in Huascarán National Park, park officials decided to give them all numbers instead of names. The lakes that already had native names before the park was created in 1975 kept those names. However, Laguna 69 was naturally formed in the 1980s which means it never received a native name.
But first, make a Llanganuco Lakes pit stop
Just past the park entrance, you’ll reach the Llanganuco Lakes area and it’s worth making a quick pit stop here to admire the lakes and mountain views.
The Llaganuo Lakes area of Huascarán National Park is home to Laguna Chinancocha and Laguna Oroncocha. Some scholars believe that Chinancocha Lake got its name from the Quechua word for female and Oroncocha Lake got its name from the Quechua word for male. The two lakes are separated by about 0.5 miles (1 km).
A pleasant flat trail takes visitors past the lakes which provide shimmering blue foregrounds for the massive peaks in the background which include Nevado Huascarán. At 22,204 feet (6,768 meters), this is Peru’s highest peak.
There are also rowboats and grazing alpacas to admire as you explore the Llganauco Lakes area (allow about 30 minutes to see this area).
Don’t miss the chance to check out a species of tree that will certainly catch your eye. Polylepis trees are distinguished by their stunted appearance and their trunks which are often quite red and covered in paper-thin peeling bark.
Hiking to Laguna 69 in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru
The first challenge for those hiking to Laguna 69 will be getting there. The road from Huaraz is mostly paved until you reach the park entrance. From that point on, however, the road turns to dirt and it was in very bad condition when we were there–more like a field of deep potholes than a road. It took us nearly three hours to (carefully) drive from Huaraz to the trailhead where we parked on the side of the road next to some tour vehicles.
The second challenge for those hiking to Laguna 69 is the altitude. Even strong hikers, if not acclimatized, will likely feel short of breath and weary during this hike that takes place at altitudes up to 15,147 feet (4,616 meters). Take your time and drink plenty of water.
From the trailhead, the clear in-and-out route climbs gradually through a valley that’s crisscrossed with rushing waterways as high-altitude lakes drain out toward the Llanganuco Lakes.
Next comes a fairly long series of fairly mellow switchbacks followed by a short steep climb up to a small lake at the foot of a cliff wall. This is not Laguna 69 (it’s called Laguna Esperanza or Lake Hope).
A flattish trail continues beyond Laguna Esperanza, followed by the final long steep climb up to Laguna 69 which is located at the foot of a glacier under a very imposing cliff wall and ice-covered Chakrarahu mountain towering above at 20,039 feet (6,107 meters).
This striking glacier-fed lake is less milky than some we’ve seen (the milkiness in glacier-fed lakes is caused naturally by minerals and sediments in the glacial ice), so the water in Laguna 69 is remarkably blue and remarkably clear.
Some brave trekkers take a dip in Laguna 69–usually a very, very brief dip–before returning back down the trail the same way they came up.
Get a birds-eye-view of Laguna 69 in our drone travel video, below.
When we hiked to Laguna 69 there were just a few dozen other hikers on the trail. In high season, however, there can be hundreds of hikers going to and from Laguna 69 which has become a very, very popular day hike.
It’s absolutely possible to do the Laguna 69 hike on your own. The trail is clear, no guide is necessary, and taxis and buses can get you to the trailhead if you don’t have your own vehicle. Remember that even if you’ve booked your day hike to Laguna 69 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.
Laguna 69 day hike by the numbers
Travel time from Huaraz to the trailhead: we drove it in just under three hours each way
Trail distance round trip: 8.6 miles (14 km)
Elevation climbed: 2,762 feet (841 meters)
Minimum and maximum elevations: the trailhead is at 12,790 feet (3,898 meters) and the trail climbs to 15,147 feet (4,617 meters) just before dropping down to Laguna 69
Elevation at lake: 15,092 feet (4,600 meters)
Hiking time: we did this hike in 2 hours up and 2 hours down but we are fast hikers and we were already well acclimatized to the altitude
Laguna 69 travel tips
Doing Laguna 69 as a day trip from Huaraz is a very long day (most tours depart at 5 am and return around 7 pm). If you want to do this hike at a more relaxing pace, consider an overnight in the area where there are two excellent options for overnight stays.
The first is Llanganuco Mountain Lodge. This stylish lodge, offering four private rooms kitted out with Peruvian textiles and wood-burning stoves, is located just outside the park boundary about a 2-hour drive from Huaraz. There’s also a bar, a restaurant, Wi-Fi, and solar-powered electricity from 4 pm to 8 am. It all adds up to a surprisingly plush stay in a remote and relaxing place.
Huascarán National Park also has a series of simple dorm-style lodges (called refugios in Spanish), including the Refugio Peru which is convenient for the Laguna 69 hike and the climb up Pisco which is a popular trekking peak. At the 60 bed Refugio Peru, you can book a bed in the shared dorm room (45 soles/US$11), a bed and breakfast (70 soles/US$17), or half board with a bed, breakfast, and dinner (115 soles/US$28).
A nice itinerary starts with a hike to the refugio, which is essentially at the base of Pisco mountain, followed by an overnight at the refugio and the Laguna 69 day hike the following day.
Glad we had
Yes, it’s a relatively short hike, but having the right gear is still important. We were glad we had the following items when we were hiking to Laguna 69.
- hiking poles (there’s no shortage of steep inclines and slippery surfaces on this trail and poles were also handy as we navigated through marshy flooded areas)
- hiking boots (no, your trail sneakers will not be good enough)
- 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 trail 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 hiking around Laguna Parón, 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