Santa Cruz Trek
Duration: 4 days (trekking 6 hours per day or 3 days trekking 8 hours per day)
When to go: Best from May to September (during the dry season)
Altitude: 2900m to 4750m
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Fees: S/.65 entrance fee to Huascaran National Park (valid for 1 month)
This is the most popular trek in the Cordillera Blanca due to the incredible mountain scenery including snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes and beautiful meadows. The 45 km hike is not particularly difficult (rated moderate) so long as you have acclimatized for a few days in Huaraz. The altitude along the trail ranges from 2,900m to 4,750m. Due to the large number of trekkers this trail attracts in the peak season there are now established campsites and pit toilets at regular intervals along the route.
You can walk the trail in both directions starting at either Cashapampa ( 2 hours by bus from Caraz) or at Vaqueria (2.5 hours by bus from Carhuaz).
If you are doing the trek with a tour operator it makes very little difference where you start, but independent travellers may prefer to commence at Vaqueria since there is a daily bus from Huaraz allowing sufficient time to trek to the campsite on the first day and get a good start on the high pass the following day. At the end of the trek you can catch one of the early afternoon buses out of Cashapampa.
Maps of the Region
Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash 1:100,000 published by Felipe Diaz and Alcides Ames gives a good overview of the basic trek routes
Alpenvereinskarte Cordillera Blanca Nord (Peru) 0/3a (Austrian Alpine Club) 1:100,000 most detailed and accurate map of the region
Both maps can be bought in Huaraz
South American Explorers have produced a good map of the route which can be bought at their office in Lima or Cusco.
Trekking in the Central Andes (Lonely Planet) contains detailed day-by-day trail descriptions and maps
1st Edition published June 2003. ISBN 1-74059-431-2
Backpacking and Trekking in Peru and Bolivia. Hilary Bradt 7th Edition, also has a good description of the route as well as many others in the Cordillera Blanca.