Nestled in the white-peaked Cordillera Blanca range in the Andes, the classic 4-day Santa Cruz backpacking trip may be one of the most beautiful treks in the world.  Only 10 minutes by car you can enter the trek on the Cashapampa side. While many people flock to the trails near Machu Picchu, this overlooked hiking mecca north of Lima has a fraction of the visitors, offering relative solitude for such a spectacular place. This trek winds its way through the valleys of the Cordillera Blancas while passing beautiful turquoise lakes on its way to the highest point on the trek, Punta Union.  Whether you go independently or with a Organized Guided group, this trek will leave you craving more for what this area has to offer.


  • Distance: 50 kilometers / 31 miles
  • Days Needed: 3-4
  • Highest Elevation Reached: 4760m/15,617ft (Punta Union pass)
  • Best Travel Time: May to September (dry season)
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
  • Closest Town: Caraz
  • Total Distance: 50 km / 31 miles
  • Beginning elevation: Vaqueria (3700m/12,139ft) or Chashapampa (2900m/9,514ft)

As always, difficulty ratings depend on your experience, physical fitness, pack weight, & weather conditions. Each day you will be hiking for roughly 6-8 hours with moderate to significant elevation gain, depending on the day. We can organize a Guide and  all the equipment and meals so you will only carry a day pack, allowing you to hike longer distances more comfortably.

We highly recommend training before your trek. Put a backpack on and do some day hikes. Get your body ready; do some air squats and lunges to build up leg strength.



The largest lake in the White Andean Chain, located 48 km E from the Lodge, after a 2 hour drive reaching  4185 m, nested and surrounded by several snow peaks such as Aguja I 5,840 m, Aguja II 5m888 m, Aguja III 5,775 m, Caraz I 6,025 m, Qaras II 6,020 m, Qaras III 5,720 m, Artesonraju 6,025 m, Parón 5,600 m, Pirámide 5,885 m, Chacraraju W 6,112 m, Chacraraju E 6,001 m, Pisco 5,772 m, Huandoy E 6000 m, Huandoy N 6395 m and Huandoy W 6,356 m. It is one of the most popular areas for climbing in Peru, including the so famous The Sphinx 5325m, a granite monolith, offering at least 13 big wall routes.

The lake, formed as a natural moraine reservoir, has a catchment area of 44.3 km², it is 3.7 km long (E-W) and average of 700 m width (N-S), the original depth was about 75 m, but today the level was lowered ca. 15 m to prevent the collapse of the moraine. The water from the lake was formerly used for the Cañón del Pato hydroelectric scheme, since 29 July 2008, this condition has ceased. The lake itself is within the borders of the Parque Nacional Huascaran The water level is controlled by a tunnel and underwater gate, to keep water level at 4,155 m asl aiming a double objective: to prevent the overflow and the resulting risk for the downstream population and to manage the river discharge. The high concentrations of dissolved lime give the water of Lake Parón a turquoise color.

It is a popular day hike for those willing to acclimatize or even ride a mountain bike downhill (note: there’s almost a 2,000 m drop to Caraz). It is possible to camp on the west and east shores, and from the east end, an easy walk can lead to the impressive pyramid or Artesonraju (the Paramount Picture’s logo).