The Laguna Churup hike in Huaraz, Peru, is well worth adding to your South America bucket list. Hiking to the lake and towards Nevado Churup, involves exploring an adventurous trail. Better yet, the trek is super easy to do from Huaraz. In this travel guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Laguna Churup day hike. After a trail description, we’ll provide up-to-date information on how to do this day trip independently. For completeness though, we’ll also talk about tour options.
A Helpful Guide For the Laguna Churup Hike in Huaraz, Peru
Use this guide to help plan your Laguna Churup hiking experience in Huaraz, Peru. In particular, if you want to visit solo, this guide will talk about just that. On top of this, we’ll cover everything else you need to know before you tackle this trail. So, where exactly in Peru is the hike located?
Also known as Churup Lake, Laguna de Churup, Churup Laguna and Lago Churup, Laguna Churup is located in the Huascaran National Park. This national park is nestled in the beautiful Cordillera Blanca. The Laguna Churup hike actually starts in the small town of Pitec, which is located just outside of Huaraz. In fact, Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region in Northern Peru.
Anyway, before we get into the finer details on how to visit solo, let’s talk about the hike itself.
Laguna Churup Hike Details and Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 7.1km
- Time: 4.5–6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 660m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Pitec
Laguna Churup Hike: Trail Description
After a quick drive from Huaraz, the hike starts with a gradually ascending trail from Pitec. You’ll pass some wooden signage, directing you towards Nevado Churup and Laguna Churup, as the trail continues to climb.
Turn around to enjoy views of Cordillera Negra. This is the mountain range facing opposite the Cordillera Blanca.
Given the high altitude, the fairly casual ascent is much tougher than it looks. Eventually, you’ll reach the Huascaran National Park ticket office, where you’ll pay your entrance fee. Shortly after, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. We recommend choosing the path to the right. In turn, from this point, you’ll be doing a pseudo-anti-clockwise loop. That way, you’ll ascend the steepest and trickiest section before arriving at Laguna Churup. You’ll then head to the Mirador, before descending a simpler trail and returning to the original fork in the trail. From there, you’ll follow the same trail, you initially ascended, back to Pitec.
By following the path to the right, you’ll ascend a trail, which becomes steeper and steeper. Along the way, you’ll pass a campsite.
Not far from the campsite, you’ll pass a waterfall. In fact, the trail continues alongside this waterfall. You’ll need to use steel chains to assist in your elevation up the track.
After using the chains, the trail becomes less obvious. Basically, you’ll continue towards Nevado Churup and the lake, clambering over a series of large rocks. Eventually, you’ll reach the shores of the gorgeous lake, which sits at the foot of the magnificent Nevado Churup.
Laguna Churup and Nevado Churup
Laguna Churup is one of the most breathtaking lakes in Peru. Certainly, the effort involved with hiking to the foot of Nevado Churup is all worth it to see the lake up, close and personal. The lake has a jaw-dropping green tinge, which reflects the surrounding jagged mountain landscape brilliantly.
Personally, we didn’t enjoy great weather during the hike. So, our views of Nevado Churup were quite limited. But, on a clear day, you’ll, hopefully, get a view of the mountain, which stands 5,450 metres above sea level.
After a rest, it’s time to head to the Mirador. From the shores of the lake, it’s a short, but steep hike to the Mirador. From there, you’ll enjoy a different perspective of the lake. In the opposite direction, you’ll have a decent vantage point of the Cordillera Negra.
Once you’ve soaked in all of the beauty of Laguna Churup and Nevado Churup, it’s time to retrace your steps to finish the hike. Or, alternatively, it’s possible to add on a short out and back to Laguna Churupita.
Laguna Churupita is a small lagoon that isn’t far from Laguna Churup. Beck and I were tempted to add on the approximate two-hour out and back hike to Laguna Churupita from Churup. Because there are hourly colectivos running from Pitec to Huaraz from 2–5pm, transport back to Huaraz isn’t an issue.
Admittedly, though, after recently hiking the 5-day Ausangate and 2-day Colca Canyon treks, we were content with just hiking to Churup. If you’ve got the time and energy, the add-on to Churupita is absolutely worth it. This lake is small; but, it’s equally impressive. By adding on this extension, you’ll hike a further 2–3km and gain another 100 metres or so. In addition, you’ll get even closer to Nevado Churup. So, you’ll get better views and insight into the immensity of Nevado Churup.
As mentioned, Beck and I didn’t really have enough in the tank to hike to Churupita. Instead, after enjoying the views from the Mirador, we used the downhill return to our advantage by speed hiking our way back to Pitec.
HOLD ON – what’s speed hiking? Read more about it here.
Visiting Laguna Churup: Independently vs Group Tour
Now that you know a bit about the trail itself, let’s look at whether you should visit independently or with a tour company. For many day hikes in and around Huaraz, accessing the trailhead using public transport is difficult or impossible. For that reason, doing a tour for the Pastoruri Glacier, Laguna 69, Hualcacocha, Paron, Rajucolta and Queshquecocha treks make sense. Indeed, roundtrip transportation provided by these tour companies solves the issue of trailhead access. But, accessing Laguna Churup is actually super easy. Organising a colectivo from Huaraz to Pitec for the Laguna Churup hike is very simple.
Perhaps, another reason to do a group tour is value for money. Certainly, at around S/45 ($11USD) a pop, group tours to Laguna 69, Paron and Pastoruri Glacier are very cheap, efficient and convenient. On the contrary, cheap group tours to Churup don’t exist. That’s because it’s so easy to get to and hike Churup independently. So, tour companies don’t bother to offer cheap group tours. The demand simply isn’t there. Ipso facto, visiting Churup by yourselves, from Huaraz, is a logical choice. In fact, the Laguna Churup hike is one of the easiest day hikes, in all of Peru, to do by yourselves.
So, how do you get to Laguna Churup?
Laguna Churup: How to Get There and Back Independently
The Laguna Churup hike starts in Pitec. Conveniently, Transport Turistico Andes Peru run a colectivo service to Pitec from Huaraz. The earliest possible service leaves at 7am. But, it only leaves when it’s full. Personally, Beck and I arrived at 6:50am, to ensure we would get on the first service. But, when we visited, the first service left at around 7:20am. Thereafter, services will continue to run to Pitec, as long as there are enough people to fill a colectivo. The cost of this return service is S/20 ($5USD) per person. So, you only pay $2.50USD each way! Expect the journey time to be around 45 minutes. Use the interactive map below to find the address for Transport Turistico Andes Peru.
In terms of returning after the hike, as previously mentioned, colectivos run from Pitec to Huaraz hourly from 2–5pm. Personally, Beck and I returned to the trailhead at around 1pm. In reality, Laguna Churup is more of a half-day hike, than a full-day hike. Like us, other hikers returned at a similar time. Because there were enough people to fill the colectivo, the first service back to Huaraz actually left at around 1:30pm. An earlier departure from Pitec to Huaraz isn’t a guarantee. But, it’s possible if many hikers return early enough. Anyway, given the latest departure time of 5pm, you have ample time to explore Churup and even Churupita.
Laguna Churup Tours
As mentioned, we don’t think it’s worth doing a Laguna Churup tour. Of course, there are many laguna day tours in Huaraz worth doing because of convenience and value for money. But, in this case, a tour isn’t worth it. Doing the Laguna Churup hike solo is the right choice.
Despite this, you may prefer to do a tour if that’s your personal preference. Each to their own. You’ll find GetYourGuide and Viator offer Laguna Churup tours. For peace of mind, you can book these well in advance. In addition, you’ll get a decent cancellation policy. Of course, booking a Laguna Churup tour upon arrival, in Huaraz, will likely be cheaper. But, you may not get much in the way of a cancellation policy, if needed for any reason.
The entrance fee for the hike is S/30 ($8USD). This is the daily rate for visiting the Huascaran National Park.
FYI – Beck and I paid for a Huascaran National Park 4–30 day pass for S/150 ($38USD) per person. We used this pass for entry to Laguna Churup, as well as Pastoruri Glacier, Laguna 69, Hualcacoccha, Llaca, Shallap and twice required for the Santa Cruz trek. By visiting more than 5 places at Huascaran National Park, it’s worth buying this pass. Otherwise, you’d need to pay S/30 ($8USD) for each of these destination visits.
Things to Know Before Doing the Laguna Churup Hike
Before you hike to Laguna Churup in Peru, there are a few useful things that’ll help prepare you for your visit.
- The entrance fee isn’t usually included in a tour. If you do a tour, remember that the S/30 ($8USD) entrance fee isn’t covered. You’ll need to pay this amount, in cash, at the ticket office, during the hike.
- The guide provided on a tour may speak English. But, this isn’t guaranteed. Make sure to ask the tour company in advance if you require an English-speaking guide.
- Expect crowds. Laguna Churup is one of the most well-known and popular day hike options in Huaraz, and, indeed, Peru. Particularly on the weekend, locals who also visit, ensure that the areas surrounding the lake are full of people.
- Explore around the shores. Most people will arrive at the lake and hang out there. If you have the energy, follow the Churupita trail, which means briefly following the lake in a clockwise direction. Even if you don’t hike all the way, you’ll find a quieter spot to chill out along the way.
- Laguna Churup is a high-altitude hike. This hike isn’t a walk in the park. You’ll need to acclimatise properly before taking on this trail. Let’s look at hike difficulty, altitude and acclimatisation below.
Personally, we’ve rated the Laguna Churup hike in Peru as moderate. Given the high altitude, this hike certainly isn’t easy. You’ll likely be huffing and puffing without much exertion when you’re ascending. In terms of trail navigation, the initial trail from Pitec to the fork in the trail is very easy. But, on the path leading right from the fork, there are sections that are difficult to navigate. Especially once you’ve used the chains to climb, trail navigation is challenging onward to the lake.
So, exactly how high is Laguna Churup in Peru?
Laguna Churup and Huaraz Altitude: Acclimitasation is Necessary
You’ll likely be visiting Laguna Churup from Huaraz, which is 3,050 metres above sea level. The trailhead of the hike, Pitec, is approx. 3,850 metres above sea level. And, Laguna Churup is around 4,450 metres above sea level. Given the high altitudes involved, altitude sickness isn’t out of the question.
Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers who reach unaccustomed high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. You can’t predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided it in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it the next time you visit high altitudes.
To avoid altitude sickness, you should acclimatise properly. Indeed, you’ll hear about many strategies that’ll help you avoid altitude sickness. But, the single most important way to reduce your chances of altitude sickness is to avoid going up too high, too quickly! Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you arrive in Huaraz, you should have at least two days’ rest before you hike. This should give your body time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the third day, your body should be able to tolerate approx. 3,550 metres. So, by the third day; perhaps your body might not be quite ready for the Laguna Churup hike, which reaches a height of 4,450m.
To help bridge the gap, you should do some acclimatisation hikes. Personally, we started with Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m) and then worked our way into higher altitude hikes. Other acclimatisation treks to consider include Laguna Shallap (4,250m), Yanacocha and Uruscocha (4,270m) and Rajucolta (4,271m).
Tips to Help With Altitude Sickness
There are many other simple tips you can follow to reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking. Walk slower than you usually would. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat them too quickly. Also, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You may also benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. This is what the locals recommend. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly in the first place, you shouldn’t need these.
Laguna Churup Weather: Best Time to Visit
Unfortunately, the typical Laguna Churup weather is cloudy and overcast conditions. This is similar to the typical Laguna Paron and Laguna 69 weather experienced by many visitors. Indeed, most photos that you’ll see of Churup are not complemented by clear blue skies. This typical weather generally holds true whether you visit in the rainy or dry season. Of course, your chances of good weather are better in the dry season, which runs from May to October. But, this is during the peak tourist season. So, visiting the lake in the dry season can be when it’s at its busiest.
Certainly, if you’re lucky and can time a nice day during the rainy season (November to April), then you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with. Of course, mountain weather is unpredictable. But, don’t worry. Beck and I visited on an overcast day and we still enjoyed mesmerising views of the lake.
Laguna Churup Facts
If you’re visiting independently, you won’t have a local guide to inform you about the area. So, here are a few fun facts about Laguna and Nevado Churup, Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca.
- The source of Laguna Churup is the snow-capped Nevado Churup.
- The lake is positioned at the entrance of the Quilcayhuanca Valley.
- Given the wealth of colours of the lake, it’s been nicknamed the Lagoon of Seven Colours.
- Laguna and Nevado Churup are located in the Huascaran National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- You’ll likely start this hike from Huaraz, which is considered the hiking capital of Peru. Huaraz has also been nicknamed the Peruvian Switzerland.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
If you’re visiting Laguna Churup from Huaraz, you’ll need a place to stay. We’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Accommodation Bella-Vista: this is one of the best budget options. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you can expect a decent stay that’s great value for money. There are private rooms on offer. But, you’ll obviously spend the least by staying in a dorm room.
- Mid-range – Krusty Hostel B&B: Beck and I really enjoyed our time here. Krusty Hostel B&B is one of the most highly-rated accommodation options in Huaraz. The hostel itself is very spacious. It features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast. Unexpectedly, the Wifi was excellent, all throughout the hostel.
- Mid-range – Churup Mountain Lodge: the Churup Mountain Lodge is located in Pitec, which isn’t too far from where the hike starts. By staying here, you could possibly skip the colectivo and walk to the trailhead from the lodge. Given its location outside of Huaraz city, this lodge provides stellar mountain views and a stunning natural ambience. Indeed, this lodge comes highly rated.
- Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is one of the best hotels in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is a modern hotel with lovely rooms and excellent facilities. This is the ideal place to relax and recover after hiking in and around the Cordillera Blanca.
Other Hikes to Do in Huaraz
There are so many epic hiking trails to do in Huaraz, Peru, other than just Laguna Churup. We recommend doing these other hikes in and around Huaraz:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: this should be your first acclimatisation hike.
- Laguna 69: is probably the most popular day hike near Huaraz.
- Four Lagunas Trek: our favourite day hike in Huaraz.
- Laguna 513: well, Laguna 513 could also be our favourite hike in Huaraz.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: a lesser-known hike featuring a stunning turquoise-coloured lake.
- Pastoruri Glacier: a popular day trip that includes a short high-altitude hike to an immense glacier.
- Laguna Paron: one of the most popular day hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Llaca: the most underrated day hike in Huaraz.
- Huayhuash Trek: a world-class multi-day hike that’s becoming more popular.
- Laguna Shallap: this hike leads to an otherwordly green lake!
- Laguna Queshquecocha: the least known day hike that we did.
- Santa Cruz Trek: a well-known multi-day trek that’s simple to do independently from Huaraz.
- Laguna Rajucolta: one of the easiest day hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: one of the most challenging day hikes in the area.
What to Pack and Wear
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are very comfortable. We love hiking in these boots
This camera is light and compact, so it's perfect for hiking. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes brilliant photos and 4K videos
It can get cold at high altitudes. This jacket is compact and doesn't take up much space in your backpack
This neck gaiter is really versatile. I used it to stop my neck from getting sunburned during the Laguna Churup trek
Always pack a waterproof jacket when hiking in the mountains in Peru
You should also pack water, snacks, lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a longer trekking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a backpacking trip, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Use Busbud: an easy way to book bus tickets in advance at a very reasonable cost. We used Busbud to book our bus tickets from Lima to Huaraz.
- Use the same colectivo for the Laguna Shallap and Laguna Llaca hikes: Shallap shares the same trailhead in Pitec as the Churup hike. In addition, the Llaca hike uses this same colectivo service to access the trailhead. Basically, these other hikes are just as easy to do solo.
- Visit Churupita if Churup is crowded: not many hikers will make the effort to go to Churupita. This would be a quieter spot for lunch and to relax.
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