Inca Trail Altitude, Difficulty and Weather

The Classic Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world. It is also one of the most difficult and challeging hikes in Peru, with an average elevation gain of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) and a maximum elevation of 4,215 meters (13,828 feet). Hikers should book their tours far in advance and start a trainning plan to complete this hike. 

The Inca Trail Altitude

Hikers often face difficulty hiking the Inca Trail altitude. At 4,215 meters (13,828 feet), its highest point can prove quite challenging - almost twice Cusco's elevation! At such height, air density drops dramatically and some may experience shortness of breath, fatigue headaches or nausea from being at such altitude.

Acclimatizing to high altitudes before embarking on the Inca Trail is key if you are unfamiliar with its height. There are various strategies you can employ in doing this, such as spending a couple days in Cusco (3,400 meters/11,200 feet), before setting out. Otherwise, take it slow on day or two of tour until your body adjusts; take breaks often during travel to help with body acclimatization and seek medical advice immediately if any symptoms of altitude sickness arise; most individuals generally experience mild side effects that disappear as time progresses whereas rare complications could arise in extreme cases.

Campsites in the Inca Trail and altitude:

  • Km 82, the beginning of the Inca Trail at 2718 m/8924 ft
  • Wayllambamba, the first campsite located at 3000 m / 9842 ft
  • Ayapata preferred campsite on day 1, located at 3300 m/ 10826 ft
  • Lluluchapampa, the first rest stop on day 2, located at 3800 m/10829 ft
  • Pacaymayo Alto, Second campsite located at 3600 m/11811 ft
  • Chaquicocha, Preferred campsite on day 2, located at 3600 m/ 11811 ft
  • Phuyupatamarca, the 3rd campsite, located at 3650 m/11975 ft
  • Wiñaywayna, the preferred campsite on day 3, located at 2600 m/8530 ft
  • Puente Ruinas, the last campsite in 5-day tours, located at 2000 m/6561 ft

Mountains in the Inca Trail:

  • Dead Women's Pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail at 4215 m/13828 ft.
  • Runkurakay Pass, the second highest mountain of the Inca Trail at 4000 m/13123ft
  • Veronica Mountain is the highest mountain in the Vilcanota Mountain range, at 5,893 m/19,334 ft.
  • Salkantay Mountain is the highest mountain in the Vilcabamba mountain range at 6,271 m /20,574 ft.
  • Pumasillo Mountain, visible from Machu Picchu, at 5,991 m /19,656 ft.
  • Machu Picchu Mountain, the area's highest mountain in Machu Picchu, at 3082 m/10111 ft. 
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain, the most beautiful mountain, at 2693 m/8835 ft.

Archaeological sites in the Inca Trail

  • Salapunku, located at 2720 mt/8923 ft
  • Kanabamba, located at 2625 m/8615 ft
  • Wilkarakay, located at 2650 m/8694 ft
  • Patallacta, located at 2614 m/8576 ft
  • Wayllabamba, located at 3000 m / 9842 ft
  • Runkuracay, located at 3950 m/12959 ft
  • Sayacmarca, located at 3600 m/ 11811 ft
  • Concharmarca, located at 3550 m/ 11646 ft
  • Phuyupatamarca, located at 3650 m/11975 ft
  • Intipata, located 2840 m/9317ft
  • Wiñaywayna, located at 2600 m/8530 ft
  • Sungate, located at 2700 m/ 8858 ft
  • Machu Picchu, located at 2430 m/7972 ft
Inca Trail Altitude, Difficulty, and Weather

Inca Trail Difficulty

The Inca Trail is one of the toughest hikes worldwide. Stretching 26 miles (42 km), this four-day trek in Peru's Andes Mountains covers 26 miles (42 km). Reaching altitudes up to 13,828 feet (4 215m), numerous factors make its difficulty apparent.

  • Altitude in the Inca Trail: Hikers can expect an average altitude on the Inca Trail of around 3000 meters/98421 feet.
  • The Inca Trail can be quite steep, reaching 30% or steeper grades at times.
  • Weather on the Inca Trail can be unpredictable; temperatures can range from freezing at really hot during the day.

So if you are planning to trek the Inca Trail, it is essential that you come prepared. Here are some helpful hints and strategies on how to do just that:

  • Acclimatizing in Cusco (3,399 meters/11,152 feet) prior to beginning your hike
  • Once on the trail, emember to pace yourself and stop often to rest if needed.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and snacking on light meals.
  • Be sure to pack appropriate clothing and gear.

Inca Trail weather

The Inca Trail runs along the Andes Mountains, known for its temperate climate. However, weather can change rapidly along this high altitude trail and hiking the Inca Trail requires being prepared for all possible weather scenarios.

Sunscreen and a hat are essential during the daytime sun, while in the evening the temperature can quickly drop so it is wise to bring along a jacket for added warmth.

Nights may become cold, so it is advised to bring a good sleeping bag. Rain is likely so pack rain gear. Additionally, waterproof boots should be brought along because trails can become muddy on occasion and snowfall may occasionally occur.

Inca Trail during the Rainy Season

Cusco experiences rainy season from December to March; The Inca Trail will close during February due to maintenance and heavy rainfall. Hiking the Inca Trail during this period has both advantages and disadvantages.

  • On the plus side, hiking the trail during rainfall will likely leave you mostly alone; few other people are adventurous enough to brave it!
  • On the downside side, though, trails may become slippery and you are likely to get wet and cold quickly.

If you plan to hike the Inca trail during rainy weather, make sure that you bring appropriate attire - raincoats, pants and waterproof boots are essential!

Inca Trail during the Dry season

The dry season in the Inca Trailk is from May to September. While weather can usually remain more pleasant during this period, showers could still happen at any point, so ensure you pack rain gear.

The dry season is the peak season for Inca Trail hiking, booking well in advance is crucial to get the permits. Each day there are only limited spaces on the trail.

Prepare yourself for some crowds when hiking the Inca Trail - it is one of the world's most beloved trails, but during dry season can become extremely congested. If you prefer an intimate experience, choose from one of Peru's less traveled routes instead.

  • Pros include reduced chances of rain and clear night skies;
  • Cons include bustling Machu Picchu and Inca sites with long queues for buses and trains awaiting transport; nights may become freezing cold.

Inca Trail during the shoulder seasons.

Shoulder season is the optimal time for hiking the Inca Trail; April-May and September-October are considered shoulder seasons on this route. Weather tends to be milder during these months, making for more comfortable hikes. Though raindrops still fall, it should not be as heavy as during December-March (wet season).

What to expect when hiking the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is known for being an epic and challeging hike, featuring steep inclines and sudden changes in altitude. Trekkers should come prepared. Deespite its dificulty, the Inca Trail can be enjoyed by most moderate and experienced hikers. Before beginning this trek, however, it's essential that all necessary preparations be made before embarking upon it;

What to do before the IncaTrail Hike?

  • Prepare your body: The Inca Trail is no joke: 26 miles in length with more than 4000 steps! Hiking it over four days requires you to be in peak physical condition.
  • Be Sure to Plan in Advance: For an enjoyable hiking experience, make sure you purchase comfortable hiking shoes, rain gear, a daypack, and other essentials as soon as possible to give yourself enough time for break-in before beginning.
  • Book Your Spot: As one of the world's premier treks, the Inca Trail quickly fills up. If you wish to hike this magnificent trail, book early as spots often sell out quickly.
  • Be Sure to Acquire Permits Early: In order to hike the Inca Trail, permits are a necessary component. Start this process early to avoid disappointment!
  • Learning some basic Spanish: When traveling the Inca Trail, you may encounter people who only speak Spanish - making your trip more enjoyable if you know some basic phrases to communicate with them and help your journey go more smoothly.

What to do during the Inca Trail?

  • Follow your tour guide's instructions at all times.
  • Pack light but bring all essentials such as sunscreen, hats, water and snacks.
  • Hike at your own pace while enjoying the scenery
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Visit restrooms before beginning to hike
  • Avoid venturing off-route

At Machu Picchu, you can relax and enjoy your time at one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world.

What to do after the IncaTrail Hike?

After trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it's essential to take some time off for rest and recovery. Here are a few suggestions of things you should do:

  • Rest at least 1 day after the Inca Trail.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. 
  • Eat healthy food which will aid recovery from hike.
  • Stretch and perform light exercises to assist your muscles in recovering from your hike.
  • If any soreness or pain arises from it, seek medical assistance as necessary.

After 1 or 2 days, you can explore other places like the Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley Tour.

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