Machu Picchu Hike: Everything You Need to Know // REI Co-op Journal

Everything you need to know about where to go, when to visit and what to bring to this historic site.

Along the train tracks next to the Urubamba River, a steady stream of poncho-clad backpackers walked toward Machu Picchu. The rain clouds lifted enough to get a glimpse of the famous Inca citadel and UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was built into the hillside between two peaks.

Two days earlier, standing on top of Salkantay Pass, a loud rumble caught my attention. Rocks and ice tumbled down the mountainside. The 20,574-foot Salkantay is the tallest mountain in the Vilcabamba mountain range in the Cusco region of the Peruvian Andes and the thin air surrounding it felt full of energy. We’d been walking since sunrise, watching the early morning sun cast a warm glow on the glacier-capped mountain and after a few hours, we finally reached the trail’s 15,255-foot high point. The low-hanging clouds in the valley below moved in and were soon hovering over the mountain’s summit.

Four of us were hiking the three-day trek along the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu with Refugios Salkantay. We were picked up in Cusco, driven in private transport to Mollepata, where we ate breakfast and learned the details of the trek before being dropped off at the trailhead. After a short hike to our first night’s lodge at Soraypampa, we sipped on a cup of cocoa tea, ate a hot lunch and hiked to Laguna Humantay for an acclimatization test. The trail was steep and unrelenting, and when our group reached the 14,100-foot glacier lake it was just starting to rain. We’d made it, which meant we were allowed to hike to higher elevations the next day.

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