Huascaran National Park is located in the Andes mountains of Peru just north of the center point of the country. The park covers an area of 1,300 square miles (3,367 sq km) making it the 7th largest national park in the country.
The heart of the national park lies in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range which is the central part of the larger Andes. The range is the world’s highest tropical mountain range. Some of the leading peaks include the park’s namesake Huascaran, Huandoy, Copa, and Huantsan.
Along with the spectacular mountain range and picturesque mountainous landscapes, the park features 300 glacial lakes, tremendous U-shaped valleys, and at least 660 tropical glaciers. This makes the national park the largest tropical glaciated area in the world.
The vegetation habitats include subalpine, alpine, and tundra. Additionally, the habitats include high Andean forests and montane grasslands. One of the floral highlights is the Queen of the Andes, locally known as the puya de Raimondi. It reaches heights as tall as 50 feet (15 m) and provides a striking column or stalk that reaches toward the sky.
The varied ecosystem provides habitats to support the diverse wildlife of the area. Some of the favorite species include jaguar, cougar, llama, guanaco, white-tailed deer, marsh deer, spectacled bear, tapir, crocodile, vicuna, Andean deer, and the Andean fox.
There are over 120 species of birds that add to the diverse wildlife experience for animal lovers. Two of the favorites are the giant hummingbird and the Andean condor which is the world’s largest flying bird.
There are a good handful of mountains reaching summits over 19,685 feet (6,000 m). The mountains of Cordillera Blanca are the primary appeal of the national park and at the focal point of the range is Mount Huascaran.
Mount Huascaran reaches a summit of 22,205 feet (6,768 m) making it the tallest point in Peru, the highest snow-covered mountain in the world’s tropics, and the fourth highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. It is also the 4th tallest mountain in South America with the tallest being Aconcagua.
The mountain features two summits. The southern peak counts as the tallest with the northern summit coming in at 21,831 feet (6,654 m). The mountain is comprised of granite. Because of the equator, the summit represents one of the furthest points from the center of the earth. The peak delivers the least amount of gravitational pull.
Mount Huandoy is a striking mountain with a sharp peak. Aesthetically, it is one of the most popular mountains in the park and a target attraction for many climbers. It reaches a summit of 20,870 feet (6,360 m).
Mount Huandoy is the second tallest mountain in Peru and the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The Llanganuco glacial valley rests between Mount Huandoy and its neighbor, Mount Huascaran.
The mountain features four different peaks with Huandoy being the tallest, Huandoy-West at 21,181 feet (6,456 m), Huandoy-South at 20.210 feet (6,160 m), and Huandoy-East at 19,685 feet (6,000 m).
The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world based on weight and wingspan. It features a maximum wingspan of 10 feet 10 inches (3.3 m). It is a massive black vulture with white feathers that circle around the neck.
The Andean Condor will next at elevations up to 16,000 feet (5,000 m), and with a lifespan that can exceed 70 years, it is one of the world’s longest-living birds.
Trails of Huascaran National Park
Hiking and climbing are two of the most popular activities leveraged for engaging the pristine wilderness of Huascaran National Park. There are several trails that make exploring the park easier, but the altitude and elevation gains in many cases make trekking more challenging.
Laguna Paron Outlook Trail: This is a short 1.1-mile ( km) with an elevation gain of 505 feet ( m). The trek out delivers a tremendous panoramic view of the lake. The trail is rated easy and family-friendly. Seeing wildflowers is one of the potential highlights of the journey along with the views.
Laguna 69 Trail: This trail is rated moderate. It ascends 2,762 feet ( m) while traveling out 8.6 miles ( km). Scenic views of the mountain occur along the way with a panoramic view of a lake as the highlight at the end of the trail. It takes about 6 hours to complete.
Huascaran Sur Trail: This is a challenging and difficult trek with an elevation gain of 12,349 feet ( m) over a distance of 16.5 miles ( km). Along with accomplishing the challenge of reaching the end, the journey offers a variety of scenic mountainous views.
Llanganuco Lakes Trail: This is a 6-hour journey that traverses along lakes, at the feet of some black-walled cliffs, and into the cloud forest. You will also cross over a pre-Inca stone bridge which along with a powerful waterfall will be some of the highlights of the trek.
Huascaran National Park was created to protect the striking and picturesque mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. The park protects the tallest mountain in Peru and the 4th tallest mountain in South America.
The park also protects the world’s largest tropical glaciated area as well as the world’s highest tropical based mountain range. This is a unique collection of natural wonders and it is imperative that we do all that we can to protect this remarkable pristine wilderness.
- Mount Huascaran
- Mount Huandoy
- Andean Condor
- All Trails, Best Trails In Huascaran National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/peru/ancash/huascaran-national-park, retrieved September 2020.
- Atlas Obscura, Huascaran National Park, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/huascaran-national-park, retrieved September 2020.
- Britannica, Cordillera Blanca, https://www.britannica.com/place/Cordillera-Blanca, retrieved September 2020.
- Britannica, Mount Huascaran, https://www.britannica.com/place/Mount-Huascaran, retrieved September 2020.
- Go 2 Peru, Huascaran National Park, https://www.go2peru.com/peru_guide/huaraz/huascaran_park.htm, retrieved September 2020.
- Peru Travel, Huascaran National Park, https://www.peru.travel/en/attractions/huascaran-national-park, retrieved September 2020.
- UNESCO, Huascaran National Park, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/333/, retrieved September 2020.