Backpack the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Urubamba, Peru



26.5 miles

Elevation Gain

6279 ft

Route Type



Added by Katie Y

The classic Inca Trail is Peru's number one trek, and it's easy to see why. Offering 4 days of trekking along original paved Inca pathways, a variety of fascinating Inca sites, and the incredible view of Machu Picchu from Sun Gate, the Inca Trail is one of those things that everyone should do once in their life.

Day 1: Cusco to Ayapata (10 miles)

The trail starts at 8,923 ft at the main gate operating the permit and passport check-ins at KM 82, Piscachucho. You'll cross the Urubamba River on a suspension bridge and proceed towards Ayapata at 10,829 ft. It's an easy day on the first day and should take about 7 hrs total with average speed and break for lunch. You will briefly hike beside the rushing Urumbay River, while the Peru Rail train rides beside it with travelers taking the easy way up to MP. You'll spend most of this day gradually ascending with views of the trail wrapping around the mountain to see fellow hikers below. You'll also get to see the beautiful snow-capped mountain of Veronica. Camping at Ayapata, you'll likely encounter a lot of groups camping scattered at Wayllabamba and at Ayapata. Some people would rather hike further up to Ayapata to make day 2 a little less shorter and elevation to climb. Both have toilets. 

Day 2: Ayapata to Chaquicocha (7.5miles)

You will hike about 8 hours this day and will be your hardest as you will cross two high passes that includes the amazing viewpoint and ever-impressive name, Dead Woman's Pass. Be prepared for extremely cold winds and rain at this point. The high elevation causes the weather and views to change continually and quickly with clouds. Today will be the day you reach the highest point on the Inca Trail at 13,780 ft. You'll ascend about 4,373 ft and descend 3,402 ft. You'll finish your day at the campgrounds located at 11,800 ft in Chaquicocha. This day ranges from thousands of steps to climb in some of the beautiful jungle trees with the impressive ruins, Runcuraccay and Sayacmarca. You will also see a variety of plant life in the Polylepsis forests that cover this area. The descending steps can be very slippery with rain and mud, when you descend the high passes, so be careful. Camping this night is your coldest night at lowest temp around 30 degrees F. 

Day 3: Chaquicocha to Wiñay Huayna (5.5 miles)

Today you'll have a relatively short distance across the Incan Flats at about 7 hrs. It is the most visually beautiful with some amazing ruins you'll pass for a total of 5.5 miles. You'll spend this day descending 3,008 ft to end at 8,792 ft. You'll hike through the Cloud Forest, jungle trees, a cave-like tunnel, ruins (Phuyupatamarca and Winay Wayna), and many Incan steps with gorgeous views of the Andes mountains. Your campgrounds have a toilet (hole in the ground) that is by far the nicest toilet you'll see on the trail. This day you'll vary from cold and usually misty morning to humid and hot climb down to the campgrounds.

Day 4: Wiñay Huayna to Machu Picchu (3.5 miles)

You will make your way VERY early to the gates located next to the campground for the checkpoint. Here you will wait till they open at 5am and start your trek up to Sun Gate and eventually down into Machu Picchu. It is 3.5 miles and relatively easy, except for the strenuous climb up the never-ending steps called the "Gringo Killer." Sun Gate is located at the top of the steps and offers the grand bird's eye view of Machu Picchu. You'll descend for about a total of 919 ft that may take you around 2 hrs, depending on how long you'll want to take pictures at Sun Gate. Leaving Sun Gate you'll reach MP within 20 minutes at most. Once you reach Machu Picchu, you'll have to go to the official entrance where the bus and train riders go to check your backpack and trekking poles. Then you may continue on exploring the Incan city ruins. You will end your day by taking a bus, train, and cab back to Cusco if that is your final destination. 

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