Stunning streaking mountainsides, red valleys, snow-covered summits, and lots of Alpacas: The Rainbow Mountain hike is like no other in Perú and the world. Now Perhaps you are just about to set off on your new adventure, and what better plan if it is to Perú. Whenever you visit Peru, here we introduce you to a description focused on the Rainbow Mountain trail so you can know it forehand.

There are three established routes to begin with; Cusipata, Pitumarca, and Ausangate routes. The Pitumarca and Ausangate routes approach from the east of the mountain, whereas the Cusipata route approaches from the west side.

Read the following paragraphs to get to know the Rainbow Mountain trail features.

Rainbow Mountain trail by Cusipata

Tourist vans usually reach the trailhead within 3 hours after leaving Cusco very early in the morning, and in a few moments, the groups get ready to start the hike. Some seem discouraged by seeing the uphill trail for the first ten minutes hike, However, is a good warm-up for the next hour and a half hike (3.5 Km). After ten minutes of tough hiking, the trail turns flat, stretching along the mountainside, and carved out on the hardpacked soil, a natural gravel trail in parts. Then as the ascend goes on, relatively becomes steeper when nearing the mountain pass.

To get to the mountain pass, you walk again on a carved trail, on a series of stairs lined with posts and handrails to support the ascend at that high. Once at the mountain pass, everyone recovers strength, others drink some hot tea or just water or chocolate to get started again the ultimate hike towards the Rainbow Mountain lookout. 

Imagine a two-humped camel, and let’s say, the mountain pass is right in the middle of the humps, so you climb to one hump (side) and look back; there is when the Rainbow Mountain draws itself on the other hump (side) looking amazingly as the ascent continues to the main lookout at 16 500 ft / 5035m.

Because it is an unpaved lane, it gets muddy therefore slippery in the rainy months. The hardest part is the stairs section just before the mountain pass, together with the short final trail to the summit lookout. In spite, being hard-packed soil.

Rainbow Mountain by horse

From the beginning, if you prefer reaching the Rainbow Mountain on horseback, you have the choice of renting a horse. For about 60 soles, you can ride the way up until the last stretch, where you should dismount and complete the hike by yourself. It is a great help, but the horse takes you to a great challenge too, because you dismount at the hard part, in anyways you will be very close 300 m up to hitting the summit.

There is a specific trail created for the horseriding tourists guided by men and women dressed in their traditional clothing and another hikers’ trail leading parallelly. By the way, there are restroom locations, first at the parking lot and two more spots along the way where each usage costs 01 soles. 

  • Hiking difficulty.- The high altitude makes it a challenging hike.

rainbow mountain trail

The Trail by Pitumarca Route

Although this trail was the formerly used official route, in the last couple of years, it became less trodden due to the new road opened through Cusipata. In the beginning, the hike was about 7 Km only one way, and that is why on some old travel blogs, the Rainbow Mountain is referred to as quite a near-death experience. However, nowadays trailhead lies, much closer to Rainbow Mountain´s lookout, but fewer people are taking it. Before choosing this route, you must know these facts: 

  • The drive takes longer than the Cusipata route.
  • The full-distance coverage is only 2.5 m / 4 km and less crowded.

There are no narrow ledges nor falls, nothing of that sort on the three routes mentioned. It is a trail that goes up and flat then up again to get to the Rainbow Mountain´s lookout. Although it is a shorter hike, also there are horse rentals, and again as in the Cusipata route, you have to make your way for the last 200 m up by yourself. Of course, it gets muddy and slippery on rainy days, so it is essential to carry a pair of hiking poles in these situations.

  • Hiking difficulty.- It is a Moderate hike
  • The trails are of the same topography as described above for every tour length.
  • Kids and women offer their artwork and crafts made of alpaca fleece in all the routes, even in the Rainbow Mountain.
  • A photoshoot with alpaca is very common in the Rainbow Mountain. In exchange, you can tip the boys a few coins.

The trail by Ausangate route

Taking the Ausangate route is to walk uncrowded trails and reach the Rainbow Mountain on the fourth or sixth day, depending on the tour length. The trailhead starts somewhere around 13 500 ft / 4100m at a community known as Upis, then the trail follows through golden pastures and meadows to the foot of 20 900 ft / 6373 Ausangate mountain (Cusco´s highest peak). In the following days, hikers reach three mountain passes ranging from 15 900 ft / 4850m to 16 400 ft / 5000m.

The campsites are situated at a safe place and not so close to the snowy mountains, and there have never happened accidents related to avalanches if you were wondering about that. When the wet seasons arrive and heavy snowfalls accumulate in the mountains, the trail gets muddy and slippery, that you can hardly see the track, then you should have hiking poles to keep your balance in that condition. The valleys and pastures are abundant with domestic camelids like Alpacas and llamas roaming all around, and at high mountain passes, you find pale dusty ground with very little vegetation. At last, here is where you might even glimpse troops of Vicuña out in the mountain roaming or trotting in groups and making noise.

The Rainbow Mountain trail, together with the Ausangate trek, is the highest footpaths in Peru. At AB expeditions, we offer day tours as well as 2,4,5 and 6-day tours. The full-distance coverage is about 43m / 70 Km for the 6-day hike and 11m / 18 Km for the 2-day hike.

  • Hiking difficulty.- The high altitude makes it a challenging hike.


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