Travelers can explore 4 hiking trails at Machu Picchu. Two trails lead to the Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge, while the most popular options are the climbs up Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. Read more about each trail to determine the best option for your trip to Machu Picchu. The good news is that each trail offers breathtaking views!
Machu Picchu trails at a glance
Machu Picchu visitors can ask for a map when they arrive. It’s a helpful reference to the site’s numerous attractions and trails.
Follow the stars to the 4 trails in Machu Picchu.
Photo from australiatoperu.com
The black circle on the map above indicates the entrance/exit area of Machu Picchu. A footpath leads to the lower agricultural terraces: here visitors can make a left up the hill or continue straight. Turning left is the most direct route to the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu Mountain, and Inca Bridge trails. Continuing straight along the footpath leads to Huayna Picchu.
Machu Picchu is located at 7,710 feet (2,450 meters) above sea level. The lack of oxygen can make even the most physically fit person short of breath. Therefore, the difficulty of each trail is not only dictated by the number of steep steps, but by a person’s own fitness level and how acclimatized they are when they arrive to these world-famous Inca ruins.
Click here to learn how to avoid altitude sickness.
1. Trail to the Sun Gate
Travelers that do the Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, or Inti Punca, and watch the sunrise. For those that don’t do this multi-day trek, it’s still possible to enjoy the impressive views from the Sun Gate without the cost of an additional ticket.
The trail is a gradual uphill climb with a few sections of stairs, which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a fear of heights. It takes most people walking at a steady pace between 40-60 minutes to reach the top, figuring in time to rest and take photos. The surrounding mountains and beautiful valleys should be all the encouragement you need to reach the summit.
2. Trail to the Inca Bridge
The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of a mountain in the opposite direction of the Machu Picchu ruins. A special ticket is not needed to walk the path, although daily traffic to the Inca Bridge is documented. Each visitor must log their name in a book at the entrance and then sign out. It’s about a 20-minute hike along a fairly narrow path towards the bridge. While the climb isn’t steep, some of the drop-offs along the edges may make some people uneasy.
The Inca Bridge – constructed of a few narrow logs perched above a sheer vertical drop – is believed to have served as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. Crossing the bridge itself is strictly forbidden today for safety reasons, but you can take as many photos as you want.
On the return hike, you’re likely to ponder whether or not you would have the “courage” to cross the bridge if you lived during the time of the Incas.
3. Huayna Picchu Hike
Machu Picchu visitors looking to exercise their lungs clamor for Huayna Picchu. To climb this steep trail, you need to purchase a special ticket often weeks in advance; particularly during the dry season between May and September. A total of 400 visitor are allowed to hike Huayna Picchu every day and you’ll have to chose between one of two time slots (7 a.m. or 10 a.m.) to begin your uphill ascent.
Huayna Picchu is the famous mountain featured in almost every photo of Machu Picchu. The narrow trail leading to its summit passes through a remarkable set of ruins and offers stunning views of the surrounding jungle. It generally takes about 1 hour to complete the steep climb up Huayna Picchu.
Click here for more detailed information about the trail up Huayna Picchu.
4. Machu Picchu Mountain Hike
When tickets for Huayna Picchu are sold out, the next best option is Machu Picchu Mountain. The tickets are actually cheaper and some people claim that the views are better than those from Huayna Picchu. Signs for Machu Picchu Mountain are about 500 feet (150 meters) past the Guardhouse (reference the map). You won’t be able to enter the trail without a ticket, so make sure to purchase one before your Machu Picchu visit. Several series of stone steps make up the steep climb, but the breathtaking 360-degree view at the top is unbeatable!
Click here for first-hand tips and advice for hiking Machu Picchu Mountain.