Huandoy Viewpoint & Laguna Parón: a stunning day hike from Huaraz, Peru
Widely considered to be one of Peru’s most stunning glacier lakes, Laguna Parón in Parque Nacional Huascarán is easily accessible as a day trip from Huaraz— photos of an impossibly blue lake framed by towering peaks of the Cordillera Blanca were all the encouragement I needed to cram yet another day of trekking into my already overflowing Peru itinerary. Featuring a fun scramble up to Huandoy Viewpoint and doubtlessly some of the best views I’ve ever seen, our day trip did not disappoint!
All the details: Laguna Parón day hike
Cost: Given the Class 2-3 scrambling required to reach Huandoy Viewpoint and the apparent inability of previous customers to accurately represent their own physical abilities, Akilpo only offers this day hike as a private tour. We paid $237USD for 3 people, which included transport from Huaraz, a knowledgable guide, and an excellent breakfast, lunch, and snacks— and we really can’t recommend the experience or the company highly enough.
Getting there: An Akilpo van will pick you up from your accommodation in Huaraz and drive you into Parque Nacional Huascarán, approximately 3hrs away.
Trekking distance: 5km
Elevation gain: 300m
Highest elevation: 4,562m
Trail hours: 2.5hrs
Top tips: The climb up to Huandoy Viewpoint is much more of a scramble than a hike, so I’d recommend hiking boots, a lightweight day pack, and a good sense of adventure. You can leave the trekking poles at home, but definitely bring a few layers, because it can get really windy at the top.
After spending the entirety of yesterday laid up at our B&B in Huaraz with a terrible case of bronchitis (and some other symptoms that don’t bear mentioning here), dad is a bit surprised to see me bright-eyed and bushy tailed at our 6am pick-up. The bronchitis has obviously not resolved itself overnight, but Maruja, the absolutely gorgeous woman who runs our hotel, brewed me up a teapot of something and it has basically brought me back to life, plus or minus a bit of mucus.
Eileen, on the other hand, is fully tapped out today, exhausted from the non-stop trekking we’ve done on the trip thus far and badly in need of the rest day I just enjoyed yesterday (although, to be fair, I did not enjoy any part of yesterday). That leaves me and dad to meet the Akilpo guide this morning for a private trek to Huandoy Viewpoint above Laguna Parón. It’s certainly not the kind of outing that would ordinarily warrant a guide, but to save us from many public bus transfers and transportation nightmares the day before we’re setting out on our independent 10-day Huayhuash Circuit, it is worth it.
As it turns out, the private tour is “worth it” on all fronts. After a somewhat lacklustre guiding experience on the Ausangate Circuit, dad and I have our faith completely restored by Leonardo, an experienced and energetic mountain guide who is a veritable wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Cordillera Blanca. He retrieves us from our B&B in Huaraz and allows us to sleep/edit photos in relative peace for the next 3hrs, but zips into action setting up breakfast as soon as we arrive at Laguna Parón.
We certainly weren’t expecting the delicious morning spread that awaited us, nor the actual table and chairs that were set up overlooking the lake. Instantly impressed (and even more-so when we get to eat Eileen’s crepes because she’s not there), the day is off to a wonderful start.
When we do eventually polish off breakfast and make a move, it’s to follow a steep, sunny trail along a glacier moraine. Leonardo easily gauges our fitness level and sets a great pace, not too fast but also not numbingly slow, which is much appreciated. I can’t help but laugh at the fact that Akilpo originally wanted dad, being aged over 60, to provide a doctor’s certificate saying he was healthy enough to embark on today’s trek. Little did they know, dad eats treks like this for breakfast! Thankfully, I managed to weasel out of the doctor’s certificate situation, but I’m sure Leonardo was pleased to find a capable mountaineer rather than whatever decrepit senior-citizen they were obviously picturing.
Before long, we leave the trail and begin the real adventure, which is a Class 2-3 scramble leading all the way up to Huandoy Viewpoint. The fun of boulder-hopping adds tremendously to the already wonderful day, bright blue Laguna Parón stretching endlessly beneath us and Huandoy towering overhead.
When we reach the viewpoint, about 90min after setting off, we happily spend (I couldn’t tell you how long, it’s a blur of excitement) snapping photos and enjoying the incredible scenery. Dad and I dig into the delicious snack bags Leonardo packed for us and I’m beyond happy, with a mouth full of Cookies & Cream Oreos and eyes full of the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen, that I pulled my infected self out of bed today.
We do finally break away from the highpoint, descending towards the lakeshore via a steep side-route where, like a Peruvian Mary Poppins, Leonardo pulls cutlery, plates, a thermos of hot tea, and curry out of his backpack for lunch. When I see the roti, I feel like I might cry. THIS is a guided trek. I give Akilpo all the stars.
Our journey back to the van along the lake is flat and passes quickly. Before we even know it, dad and I are back in Huaraz and all the packing that we still haven’t done for our 10-day Huayhaush Circuit is finally upon us. Undeniably, though, Laguna Parón was worth every minute.
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