When people think about hiking to a lake in the Huascaran National Park, they often think about Laguna 69. This is for a good reason too as it is easily one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. What if I told you there was a larger lake, with just as blue water, and far cheaper to get to? Laguna Paron is that lake and is closest to the town of Caraz, only 2 hours north of Huaraz.
It is popular to take a day tour from Huaraz to Laguna Paron but this becomes a very long day. As you will find out in this blog, it is better to stay in Caraz and do it yourself. If you start early enough and are fast, you can get to the lake before the tours start to show up.
I am always one to do things solo & without a guide. I highly suggest adding this lake to your Peru itinerary. This blog post will be all about how to do that so you can make the most of your trip to the amazing lake.
Where is Laguna Paron Located?
45 minutes from the town of Caraz lies the largest lake located in the Cordillera Blanca. Laguna Paron doesn’t sit as high as Laguna Ahuac (4550m) but still sits at 4200 meters. It is breathtaking when you first arrive at its shores.
In the backdrop of the lake, you will get to see some of the highest mountains located in all of Peru. This is the Cordillera Blanca which is inside the famous Huascaran National Park.
How to Get to the Laguna Paron Trailhead
There are 2 main towns that you will be staying in if you’re planning on visiting Laguna Paron. Caraz is a smaller town 2 hours north of the larger Huaraz. Most of the tours will come from Huaraz but Caraz is the closest town to the actual lake. Below I will go over how to get to the trailhead solo from each town.
Huaraz to Laguna Paron Trailhead
The cheapest alternative to get anywhere in Peru is taking a collectivo. These are shared buses that make multiple stops along your journey but it’s extremely cost-effective. I love these because they are extremely reliable as long as you’re not in a rush.
I highly suggest downloading Mapsme to use their offline maps. Here you will find all the trails as well as the bus stops.
Go to the spot on the map that says collectivo a Caraz. This should only cost 10 Soles ($2.50) and will take around 2 hours.
Once in Caraz, you will want to head to the Mercado. Look on mapsme again to see the area that says Paron.
Caraz to Laguna Paron Trailhead
Basically, you will want to follow the last step of the Huaraz to Laguna Paron above. This collectivo is supposed to only take you to Pueblo Paron which is a 15-minute walk from the gate.
In our case, he drove us straight to the gate but when you are heading back down, you will want to get to Paron on Mapsme.
The cost to enter the park is only 5 Soles which is a lot cheaper than in other areas.
How to Get to Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz is one of the most popular places in Peru and is often referred to as the hiking capital of the country because of the many amazing hikes.
This means there are multiple bus options for you. Buses in Peru, from my experience, are really good and cheap. Below I will go over how to get there from a couple of popular areas in the country.
Getting a bus to Caraz is the same process and will stop in Huaraz on the way.
Lima to Huaraz
There are many different bus companies in Lima that will take you to Huaraz. Also, there isn’t a central bus station. Most buses have their own bus terminal. The most cost-effective way to use these buses is to buy a night bus. Below are some tips for getting to Huaraz from Lima.
- If you don’t want to go to the bus terminal, you can order your ticket on Redbus. This is the go-to for online bus tickets in Peru.
- Julio Ceasar is one of the highest-rated bus companies but they are all pretty good.
- Terminal Plaza Norte and La Victoria are two good stations
- The bus ride is around 8 hours. If you buy early you can get tickets as cheap as $15 to $20.
Cajamarca to Huaraz
Traveling from Cajamarca to Huaraz is slightly more difficult but still very easy. It is only more difficult because you have to switch buses and isn’t a straight shot. You will be going from Cajamarca to Trujillo to Huaraz. This is the route we took and is very easy.
- Go to the bus station Terminal Terrestre Cajamarca ATC & find any bus going to Trujillo. We paid 30 soles for ours
- Once in Trujillo, you can go to the Terrapuerto Trujillo bus terminal or you can buy your ticket in advance
- We paid 70 soles for the 1st class seats which are amazing for night buses. You get better seats that help you sleep at night.
Caraz or Huaraz: Where Should You Base Yourself for Laguna Paron?
Huaraz is the most popular town to stay in and for good reason. There are many hikes that are easy to get to from here as well as having the most tour companies.
But if you’re planning on doing the Laguna Paron hike independently, then I would suggest staying in Caraz. You can experience both towns quite easily since the cost of travel in Peru is affordable.
Huaraz is around 90 minutes away from Caraz but if you take public transport, this can easily turn into 2+ hours. Plus the time it takes to get a separate transport to the entrance.
We stayed at the Hotel Cordillera Blanca which I highly recommend as it is right next to the market and colectivo for Laguna Paron!
Tips for Acclimatization for Laguna Paron
A common fear of most people when traveling to these parts of Peru is the chance of getting altitude sickness. This isn’t fun and can ruin a trip.
The #1 tip by far when arriving at a high-altitude location is to not do much besides walk around town for a couple of days.
This will help give your body enough time to create more red blood cells, which will increase oxygen flow throughout the body. Once this occurs, you can begin to move to higher levels of elevation.
Here are some of the best tips to lower the chances of this happening to you while traveling to Peru:
- Drink a lot of water (I like to aim for a gallon a day)
- Rest, Rest, Rest. Sleep is everything with recovery and health.
- If you’re visiting Huaraz first, start with smaller hikes like Laguna Wilcacocha or Mirador de Rataquenua
- Coca is very popular in Peru and having some of the candy on hand can be smart
- Stop and rest wherever you are
- Take ibuprofen
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
Laguna Paron Hike Details
- Distance: This hike is a 10.6-mile out & back trail. This trail can be longer if you take more roads.
- Duration: On average it will take people 5 hours to finish. This depends on fitness level and time at the laguna.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this hike as moderate to difficult because of the altitude and elevation gain.
- Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 2900 feet or 900 meters.
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public.
Why Choose Laguna Paron?
Laguna Paron is overshadowed for a lot of reasons. For one it is in the farthest town from Huaraz in this region. A lot of people opt to do this from a tour in Huaraz but I would advise against this.
Every hike in this area is amazing but this is easily one of the bluest lakes in the region. The entrance fee is 25% of what it costs to get into the other parks. This makes it great for that budget traveler or anyone who is wanting to save money.
Entrance Fee for Laguna Paron
Another reason to visit Laguna Paron is due to its cheap cost of entry compared to hikes around Huaraz. The cost to enter Laguna Paron is only five Soles.
Other hikes in the Huascaran National Park cost 30 Soles to enter the park. The entrance fee here for Laguna Paron goes to the local communities.
Our colectivo took us right to the gate where we signed a paper and began our hike.
If you took a tour, then there is a chance that it will already include the payment for the entrance fee. Make sure to double check as this could be another reason to go independently!
Other Hikes in Peru You’d Love:
Laguna Paron: Tour vs Independently
Personally, I love taking the road less traveled. Often times that is taking public transportation and figuring out everything on my own. I especially dislike hiking in large groups.
My goal for most of the popular hikes in Peru is to arrive before the tours do.
If you are basing yourself in Huaraz, then taking the Laguna Paron Tour might be the better option. This is due to the long travel time it takes to get from Huaraz to Caraz and then to the park.
When suggesting this hike to others, I always recommend staying in Caraz for a couple of nights and going independently. The only issue is getting a colectivo on the way down.
If you get a late start or are a slow hiker, then there’s a chance you might not have a ride.
Everyone gives different information on when the last colectivo is but we were at the stop around 3 – 4 PM and were fine.
Best Places to Stay in Huaraz, Peru
- Alpes Huaraz: This is where I stayed during my time in Huaraz and it was amazing. The area is set up like a mini-hotel and the kitchen is huge. Dorms are very cheap at $7-$9.
- Krusty Hostel: With great prices for private rooms and growing in popularity, there isn’t much to hate about this hostel. Centrally located just a few blocks from the main square.
- Vacahouse Huaraz B&B: This is a great hostel if you’re traveling as a couple. The private rooms are very nice and for a good price.
My Experience Hiking to Laguna Paron in Caraz
The morning started at 5:45 AM. This was our first hike in this area and at this altitude. We wanted to make sure we had enough time in case we were having trouble with the altitude. We headed to the area for the collectivo and started our adventure in the car around 6:45 AM.
Collectivo to the Entrance
The collectivo to the Laguna Paron trailhead was a little different than most that you see in Huaraz. It was an actual smaller car instead of a bus. This was my first collectivo, so I wasn’t sure what to think. In the end, it was great.
The earliest collectivo leaves at 6:30 am to the small Pueblo Paron, which is 15 minutes below the gate entrance. We were lucky as the driver took us all the way to the entrance.
From here we signed the papers, paid 5 soles each, and were on our way.
The schedule can be a little bit weird with these collectivos but the last one will be around 5 or 6 PM.
Trail Through the Valley
This is a unique trail for many reasons. If you truly wanted to, you could follow the road all the way to the Laguna Paron. This wouldn’t be as fun though, right?
The trail cuts between the winding road and is well marked on mapsme as well as with signs (sometimes) on the road. There are some pretty steep parts but there’s a good break between each section.
The trail opens up into an insane valley that feels like a Peruvian Yosemite.
After a couple of miles along the trail, we had to walk on the road for a bit. After this section, the trail starts again and will go until you reach the lake.
Arrive at Laguna Paron
Be careful, because once you arrive at Laguna Paron your breath will be taken away. The color of the lake and the surrounding area seemed fake. I couldn’t believe how beautiful this area was.
When arriving you will see a Refugio on your left. This is where you’re able to stay the night and where many people set off for further hikes. The cost is 10 Soles I believe.
The tour groups start to arrive around 12:30 – 1:00 PM so it is best to get there before then. When we were there it was around 40 people who all came at once from Huaraz.
Activities to Do at Laguna Paron
There aren’t a lot of things to do when arriving at Laguna Paron, besides gazing at one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
But for those that are more adventurous, below are some extra activities you can add on if you have time.
Mirador Laguna Paron
When you arrive at the lake there will be a sign stating “Mirador”. This is an extra 200 meters of elevation gain that will get you to the best view of the lake.
Once you make your way to the top you will then have to climb over a bunch of medium to big boulders until you get to the end.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make the extra trek up to the Mirador but it is totally worth it. You’ll want to start this before the tour groups come because then it’ll be difficult to get the picture that you want.
I personally did not do this activity but it may be fun for some! If you’re not keen on hiking up to the mirador then this might be your next best option if you’re looking for more adventure.
There are single kayaks, double kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for rent. One issue is the lake can be very windy, which will make these activities one hell of a workout!
If you’re still interested in doing these then check out the prices below:
- Single Kayak: 20 soles per hour
- Double Kayak: 30 soles per hour
- Canoe: 40 soles per hour
- Paddleboard: 30 soles per hour
If you want to get as much time as possible alone at Laguna Paron, then I’d suggest either camping or spending the night in the refugio.
The cost to camp is technically free but bringing your own equipment can be pricey, especially if you have to rent it.
You can also pay 10 soles per night to sleep in the refugio by the lake. I’d suggest bringing your own sleeping bag/blanket if possible because it can get cold.
At the Laguna Paron refugio, they do offer snacks and drinks like coca tea!
Walk Along the Edge
It’s possible to walk along the left side of Laguna Paron to get different views of the lake. This trail is flat and a great option for those not looking to reach the higher altitude at the mirador.
For those looking for even more adventure, then you can keep hiking to reach Laguna Artesoncocha and Laguna Congelada.
Going this far is only suggested for those with experience and who aren’t on a tour. You don’t have time to reach these other lakes if you’re on a tour.
It is highly recommended to spend the night at the refugio if it is your mission to reach these alternative lakes. You can check one of the routes to Laguna Artesoncocha on Alltrails.
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Other Activities to Do in Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz is a dream location for anyone who loves hiking or climbing. There are so many amazing hikes around this area. Some of these are not crowded at all, even in high season. I love to have a good mixture of non-popular activities and popular ones. There’s a reason everyone goes to these such as Laguna 69 and Santa Cruz Trek. Check out some great activities to do around Huaraz below for a trip to this wonderful region of Peru.
Final Thoughts on the Laguna Paron Hike
Even though it is around 10 miles and gets up to 4200+ meters, I believe Laguna Paron is a great hike to get acclimatized. The valley was one of my favorite parts. It was so peaceful in the early morning, I will definitely be doing this again. With that being said, I highly suggest doing this hike instead of the tour. You will get to see the small town of Caraz and also will help to avoid the crowds.
Thank you for reading my guide on Laguna Paron in Peru! I hope this guide helps you get away from the tours and try out some solo adventures.