Straight up, the Four Lagunas trek is the best day hike in Huaraz, Peru. Surprisingly, there isn’t much, if any, information about the Four Lagunas trek online. In fact, I am the first blogger to write about this amazing trek, which visits, as you guessed, four lakes. By doing this breathtaking day hike in Huaraz, you’ll visit, in order, Laguna Radian, Laguna Mullaca, Laguna Carhuac, and, also Laguna Ahuac, after summiting Paso del Zorro. Truly, the Four Lagunas Trek was our favourite day hike in Huaraz. It was even better than the popular Laguna Paron and Laguna 69 hikes.
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Hiking to Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac & Ahuac: The Ultimate Guide
In this guide, the first guide to detail the Four Lagunas Trek, we’ll cover everything you need to know. We’ll review the hiking specs and provide a GPS-guided map. Then, we’ll provide a trail description and awesome photos of Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac, Paso del Zorro and Laguna Ahuac. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect during the incredible Four Lagunas trek.
Where in Huaraz is Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac & Ahuac?
Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac and Ahuac are all located just outside of Huaraz. In fact, Huaraz is the capital city of the Ancash region in Peru. From Huaraz, it’s super easy to do the Four Lagunas Trek independently.
Actually, the four lakes are located in the Huascaran National Park, which is nestled in the spectacular Cordillera Blanca. In this sublime mountain range, there are many epic hikes to do. Of course, the Four Lagunas trek is just one of the amazing day hikes you can do in Huaraz. To that end, let’s look at the nitty-gritty details of the hike below.
FYI – Beck and I paid for a Huascaran National Park 4–30 day pass for S/150 ($38USD) per person. You won’t actually need this pass nor need to pay any entrance fee for this hike. But, it was required for entry to Laguna 69, Churup, Hualcacoccha, Llaca, Shallap, Pastoruri Glacier and twice required for the Santa Cruz trek. Indeed, 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 visits.
Four Lagunas Trek Quick Stats and Map
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 23.5km
- Time: 9–11 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,580m
- Difficulty: Very difficult
- Trailhead: Wilcahuain
- Map: Wikiloc
Four Lagunas Trek Description
In the next sections, we’ll detail the sensational Huaraz day hike that passes Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac, Paso del Zorro and Laguna Ahuac. But, before that, it’s worth noting that this trek isn’t for the faint-hearted. We’ve rated this hike as extremely difficult for a few reasons.
Firstly, it took us roughly nine hours to complete this hike. That’s with large stretches of speed hiking and only one prolonged rest (20 minutes) for lunch. Secondly, the trek reaches 4,980 metres above sea level at Paso del Zorro. Sure, the views from Paso del Zorro are some of the best in Huaraz. But, you’ve got to really earn them. Trekking around 5,000 metres above sea level is tough business. If you haven’t acclimatised properly, don’t attempt this hike.
Finally, trail navigation between Paso del Zorro and Laguna Ahuac can be difficult in the snow. Thankfully, there are helpful markers throughout. But, it’s possible for these markers to be covered by snow. That’s why you should ask locals about track conditions before you do the hike.
After arriving at Wilcahuain, you’ll start with some road walking that winds through the forest. Eventually, you’ll reach signage for Laguna Radian. Turn right and you’ll proceed past farms. This is when the gruelling ascent to Laguna Radian begins.
As you gain elevation, you’ll enjoy superb views of Cordillera Negra and Huaraz, in the opposite direction. So, don’t forget to turn around!
After 4km, the trail gently flattens and the hiking gets a bit easier. At 5.5km, you’ll finally reach Laguna Radian – one of the better-known lakes in Huaraz. Admittedly, Beck and I were a bit disappointed by Laguna Radian. In the dry season, the lake essentially reduces in size. So, Laguna Radian wasn’t as spectacular as usual. If anything, Laguna Radian is the least impressive lake during this Huaraz day hike.
Perhaps, it’s better to visit Laguna Radian, in Huaraz, during the rainy season. But, in the same token, we would definitely recommend doing this long hike in the dry season. Obviously, to avoid rain and bad weather.
To continue the trail, simply walk to the other side of the lake. That’s where you can re-join the trail. Honestly speaking, we were unaware of this. So, we continued by briefly weaving through the forest until re-joining the trail. Anyway, not too far along, you’ll enjoy views of Laguna Radian from a distance. Then, you’ll continue on a dirt track cutting through the grassy mountainside. Eventually, you’ll reach a sign for Laguna Mullaca. From here, the trail steeply descends, before a tedious series of ascending switchbacks.
Thankfully, the switchbacks eventually end. By this point, you’ll be deep in the forest. You’ll then hike by a cascading stream, before reaching Laguna Mullaca.
Laguna Mullaca is possibly Huaraz’s best-kept secret. Admittedly, Laguna Radian was no match for this lake. Truly, Laguna Mullaca was breathtaking. It was the perfect place for lunch and a quick rest.
From Laguna Mullaca, it’s possible to visit Laguna Carhuac. Keep in mind, that there isn’t any signage or trail to follow to Laguna Carhuac. Truth be told, Beck and I didn’t go to the shores of Laguna Carhuac. That’s because we knew we would enjoy views of both Laguna Mullaca and Carhuac as we ascended Paso del Zorro. If you’re keen to hike to the shore of Laguna Carhuac, this is certainly possible. Below, you’ll find a map that’ll give you a rough idea of how to get there.
As mentioned, we enjoyed stellar views of Laguna Carhuac from the climb up to Paso del Zorro – some of the best views on offer in Huaraz. But, be warned, the hike up to Paso del Zorro is steep and at high altitude. Hopefully, you’ll have good weather. Admittedly, we couldn’t see either of the lakes when we started the ascent due to low-lying mist. Luckily, the mist cleared as we approached Paso del Zorro, and we got to enjoy mind-blowing views.
Paso del Zorro
After enjoying awe-inspiring views of both Laguna Carhuac and Mullaca on this Huaraz day hike, you’ll arrive at Paso del Zorro (4,980m). When we visited in early June, the mountain pass had a healthy covering of snow. We had actually been told that there wouldn’t be any snow on the trail. So, we were definitely surprised when we arrived!
After enjoying your final views of Laguna Carhuac and Mullaca, you’ll descend the other side of the mountain pass.
As you descend, you’ll be gobsmacked by the Mars-like terrain beyond Paso del Zorro. The initial descent provides awesome views of the red rocky landscape. In fact, you’ll be climbing down this rocky landscape, which can be difficult to navigate. Even with helpful white arrows, it was sometimes hard to follow. Soon enough, though, the trail flattens as it heads towards Laguna Ahuac.
During your descent, you’ll approach the fourth lake of this hike – Laguna Ahuac. It’s actually the largest lake you’ll see during the Four Lagunas Trek. It doesn’t quite have the amazing colour of Laguna Mullaca. But, the sheer size of Laguna Ahuac makes it a very impressive and beautiful lake to explore.
Once you’ve enjoyed a rest at Laguna Ahuac, it’s time for the steep descent back to Wilcahuain. You’ll have around 6km of pure descent from Laguna Ahuac, which is quite tedious. This is especially true as you’ll be tired at this stage. Beck and I enjoyed speed hiking during this part of the trek.
What’s speed hiking? It’s our love; but, sometimes it’s not possible to speed hike at high altitudes. Thankfully, we were able to end this hike with some speed hiking. Read more about it here.
Eventually, you’ll reach Huascaran National Park signage in Wilcahuain. This signals the end of the hike.
Four Lagnas Trek Recap
The Four Lagnas trek is a brilliant day hike. Indeed, if you find yourself in Huaraz, spend a day hiking to Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac, Paso del Zorro and Laguna Ahuac. Of course, the Four Lagunas Trek was hard. But, it was, undoubtedly, our favourite day hike in Huaraz.
Hiking Trail Alternatives for Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac & Ahuac
If the Four Lagunas Trek sounds like a bit much, there are alternative hikes, that still include visiting these lakes. Let’s go through these options below.
- Laguna Radian: it’s possible to simply do an out and back to Laguna Radian. From Wilcahuain, it’s around 11km and takes approx. 3–4 hours.
- Laguna Ahuac: similarly, you could do an out and back to Laguna Ahuac. From Wilcahuain, it’s around 12km and takes about 4–5 hours.
- Laguna Radian and Laguna Mullaca: this option avoids the tough ascent to Paso del Zorro. But, this option would make for a longer hike at around 26km. This option would also take 9–11 hours. Basically, from Wilcahuain, you’d do an out and back to Laguna Mullaca, passing Laguna Radian on the way. With this option, you could also include a quick out and back to Laguna Carhuac.
- Laguna Ahuac and Paso del Zorro: if you only want views of Laguna Carhuac and Laguna Mullaca, without visiting their shores, you could do an out and back to Paso del Zorro. This trek would be around 18km and take 6–8 hours.
In reality, the Laguna Radian and Ahuac day hikes are more popular than the Four Lagunas Trek because they’re much easier.
How to Get There: Accessing the Trailhead For Laguna Radian
Getting to the trailhead for the Four Lagunas trek is super easy. In fact, the trailhead for the Four Lagunas trek is the same one used for the out and back hike to Laguna Radian.
From Huaraz, head to the corner of Jr. Cajamarca and 13 De Diciembre. Here, you’ll find colectivos heading to Wilcahuain (bus Line 13). Colectivos are regular, running every 10 minutes and starting at 6am. Because the Four Lagunas trek is a long hike, we recommend getting the 6am service. Colectivos from Wilcahuain to Huaraz generally finish around 6pm. So, assuming you catch the 6am service, you would start the hike at around 6:30–6:45am. Even if you took 11 hours, you’d make it back to Wilcahuain by around 5:30–5:45pm. The journey costs S/2.50 ($0.50USD) per person and takes around half an hour, each way, respectively.
Four Lagunas Trek Tours
To our knowledge, no tour companies in Huaraz offer the Four Lagunas Trek as a tour. It’s possible to do this trek with a private guide. We’re sure you could organise this with a tour company in Huaraz. But, honestly speaking, if you’re an experienced hiker, acclimatised and in good physical condition, you should be fine hiking independently.
Best Time to Visit
Your chances of good weather are better in the dry season, which runs from May to October. Fortunately, this hike is not known by many tourists (for now). So, even when hiking in the peak tourist times during the dry season, you won’t see many people on the trail. Personally, Beck and I saw a group of four tourists and one local during the nine-hour trek. Of course, mountain weather is unpredictable. But, hopefully, you have good luck when you visit. Ideally, you’d want clear skies when you’re atop Paso del Zorro. This way, you’ll enjoy unbeatable views of Laguna Carhuac and Mullaca.
How to Properly Acclimatise
Before you do the Four Lagunas trek, you should acclimatise properly. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers when they reach unaccustomed high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. It’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it the next time.
You’ll hear about various ways to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chances of altitude sickness is to simply 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 (3,050 metres above sea level), 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. By this time, you should start with some hikes with a lower maximum elevation gain. For instance, Beck and I hiked Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m), Paron (4,300m), Churup (4,450m), Laguna 69 (4,600m) and Pastoruri Glacier (5,000m) before doing the Four Lagunas trek. As a result, we didn’t suffer from any altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are other simple ways you can reduce the likelihood of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat them too quickly. Also, drink plenty of water. In addition, 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.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
Of course, if you’re exploring Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Carhuac, Paso del Zorro and Laguna Ahuac 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 a great option for the budget traveller. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you can expect a nice stay that’s decent value for money. There are private and dorm rooms on offer.
- 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 accommodations in Huaraz. The hostel itself is very spacious. It features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast.
- Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is one of the best hotels in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is a top-notch hotel with nice rooms and modern facilities. If you’re exhausted from hiking in Huaraz, this would be the perfect place to relax and unwind.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times. This insurance isn’t just for digital nomads, it’s for everyone and anyone needing travel insurance for their trips. The Nomad Insurance is great value for money with just a small additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract – you can cancel any time you want, which will take effect the following month.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting days or weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more. Specifically, Nomad Insurance includes medical cover as well as standard cover for travel-related mishaps.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Press on the image below to find out more.
Other Hikes to Do in Huaraz
There are so many epic hikes to do in Huaraz. That’s why Beck and I spent over a month there trekking. We highly recommend doing the following trails when you visit:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: a brilliant hike for acclimatisation purposes.
- Laguna 69: one of the most popular day hikes in Huaraz.
- Paron Lake: one of the most beautiful lakes in Huaraz.
- Laguna 513: if the Four Lagunas Trek was our favourite day hike, then, Laguna 513 would be a close second.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: a barely-known trek that has a sensational turquoise-coloured lake, similar to Laguna 69 and 513.
- Pastoruri Glacier: a popular day excursion that includes a short high-altitude hike.
- Laguna Churup hike: a day hike that’s really easy to do independently.
- Laguna Llaca: is probably the most underrated day hike in Huaraz.
- Huayhuash Trek: a well-known world-class multi-day hike.
- Laguna Shallap: this trek leads you to a spectacular green lake!
- Laguna Queshquecocha: probably the least known day hike of them all, which passes three lakes.
- Santa Cruz Trek: another multi-day trek that’s an absolute must.
- Laguna Rajucolta: one of the easiest day hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: one of the most challenging day hikes in Huaraz.
What to Wear and Pack
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
When hiking to Laguna Radian and the other lakes during this day hike in Huaraz, you should also take 3L of water, snacks, lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a summary of everything you’d need for a backpacking trip in Peru, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
Bonus Tips For the Laguna Radian, Mullaca, Caruac & Ahuac (Four Lagunas) Trek
- Explore other lakes in Huaraz: hiking the Four Lagunas trek is just the tip of the iceberg! Read our Huaraz hiking guide to find out information on other great hikes to do in the area.
- Use Busbud: a convenient way to book bus tickets in advance at decent prices. We used Busbud to book our bus tickets from Lima to Huaraz.
- Be realistic: this hike is very challenging. Beck’s an experienced trekker, had completed plenty of high-altitude hikes in Huaraz beforehand, and, still, was almost in tears by the time we reached Paso del Zorro. Don’t do this hike if you’re not acclimatised or not in good shape.
Are you planning a trip to South America? Read our other guides to help plan your trip.