Everybody said that Laguna Churup was a hike out of Huaraz that is easy to do on your own. We had been on many tour company hikes on the trip which is something I’m not used to, I love doing things solo. The hike to Churup was short enough, close enough, and the sole plan of our day – it was the perfect one to try our hand at navigating Peru. To be honest, it was a bit confusing to get there and the trail was not as clearly marked as some of the more popular hikes we had done throughout the country – but we survived to tell the tale and I am happy for the independent experience. So here’s my guide to the trail:
+One hour outside of Huaraz by collectivo
+Approximately 4.5 miles long
+Start elevation 12,600 feet
+Ascent 2,000 feet
+Use the app Maps.me for trail directions
How to get there?
Public transportation comes in the form of a ramshackle van called a collectivo. They gather at the gas station on Gamarra con Jr. Caraz, you should get there no later than 8AM. Our gracious host Zalera drew us a map on how to get there. You bargain on a price (no English) they will take you from Huaraz to Pitek, near the trailhead. The drive is wild up the unpaved mountain roads, I wondered if the collectivo was going to break down along the way. There was some confusion on our drop off point, we seemed to be spit out on more of a herd trail rather than the very well marked trailhead path we would later come down.
Our driver told us to meet him in a town we had passed by, Llupa, by 2PM for a ride home. Then we were on our own.
We were using an app called MAPS.ME which had the trail directions on them, they were relatively accurate until the end when I lost service completely. The hike is UP from the very beginning, our herd path finally funneled us to an official sign and guardhouse. We hiked on a Sunday when no workers were present, but on other days you may have to pay a price of 10 soles to enter the national park.
Past this point the trail became much more obvious and even flattened for a period of time which we so appreciated.
This is a high altitude hike so the elevation gain is much more potent if you aren’t entirely acclimatized. There is a sizable waterfall that you will get up close and personal with.
At one point there was an unmarked fork and we ended up taking the high path which is definitely a bit sketchier. Steep precipices and narrow paths eventually led us to the Laguna Churup Mirador, high above the lake.
The lake was absolutely magical framed in mountains, and we had it all to ourselves. Quite cold, we hurriedly ate our picnic and kept going as not to lose our body heat. We would return on the regular trail, more technical requiring rope usage –it was nice to have formed a loop.
On the way back down follow the signs towards Pitek, the official well marked chalky slightly slippery trail.When we got to the base we had to take a strange back road trail beside peoples homes and farms through the countryside to avoid the narrow mountain road.
It was an interesting cultural understanding to see up close how people lived in this area. At a certain point the map app stopped working and we questioned every step of the way on how to get back to town to meet the collectivo driver. We knew to keep heading downhill, but at a certain point the road kept splitting and both directions went down. We were assured by local children and elderly women that we were indeed heading towards Llupa. There was a family hanging out on the their roof who shouted hellos at us. They actually spoke a tiny bit of English and they asked us if we climbed the ropes. It was a warming interaction. Somehow on our walk we ran into the collectivo driver, who sign languaged us that he was dropping some people off in some remote rural location and he would swing back around later. Would he find us? We kept walking. Everyone said that Llupa would have tons of collectivos waiting to take you back down, but I guess December is the off season for this hike and really no one else was around. Eventually our driver found us we made it back to town.
It was certainly an adventure to do this hike on our own and although at times nerve wracking, very memorable. We were on no major time constraint for the day and left plenty of time for mistakes. There was no point in this area I ever felt uncomfortable by my surroundings, local mountain folk were very friendly and more than happy to point you in the proper direction or chat. Maybe it was because it we visited during the off season, but the area was very devoid of other hikers and modes of transportation (other than our particular driver) which might have made things more obvious. Either way it was a spectacular hike and I felt like I was getting an authentic Peruvian experience.