Unlock the Secrets of the Inca Trail Elevation

by | Mar 31, 2023 | Inca Trail | 0 comments

Inca Trail Elevation

Embarking on the Inca Trail route through the majestic Peruvian Andean mountains is an experience that should not be missed in one’s lifetime. As you hike this iconic trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, be prepared to reach great heights. The Inca Trail elevation constantly fluctuates, taking you on a journey through breathtaking passes and verdant valleys.

Take a look at the daily elevation increases to better prepare for your unforgettable trek. The altitudes on the trail are significantly higher than what most travelers are accustomed to.

Discover comprehensive insights on the altitude changes during the Machu Picchu hike in this article.

Along The 4 Days Inca Trail to Machu Pichu there are certain places with a higher elevation than the rest of the days such as the Dead Woman Pass 4,200m (13,780ft) above sea level. It is because of the unbalanced surface of the mountain. 

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The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular hiking trails in South America. It leads through the Andes Mountains to the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru. The trail is about 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and takes four to five days to complete.

The Elevation of the Machu Picchu hike elevation gain ranges from about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) to 13,800 feet (4,200 meters). The highest peak is at Dead Woman’s Pass, which is about halfway through the hike. The trail is steep and challenging in places, but the views of the mountains and valleys are stunning.

Hikers need to be in good physical condition to attempt the Inca Trail. It is recommended that hikers acclimate to the altitude by spending a few days in Cusco doing Day Tours before going on the hike.

Hikers should also be prepared for weather changes, as the trail goes through a range of different climate zones.

RELATED: How hard is the Inca trail to Machu Picchu?

Inca Trail Elevation
Our Intrepid Hikers Surviving the Inca Trail Elevation

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). Numerous factors make its difficulty apparent when reaching altitudes up to 13,828 feet (4 215m).

  • 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 to really hot during the day.

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

  • Acclimatizing in Cusco (3,399 meters/11,152 feet) before beginning your hike
  • Once on the trail, remember 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 for hiking the inca trail.
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Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

This guide provides detailed information about the distance covered on each day of the Inca Trail.

We will discuss the hiking routes for people who want to explore the Inca trek elevation. It is important to go through the authentic details of the route before going for the hike.

It will keep you safe during the entire Hike because you will be aware of the highest Inca trail places of the mountain going to come up on the way.

Maximum Height of The Inca Trail – Elevation 13,776 ft.

The highest elevation of the Inca trail is 13,776 ft. If you are taking the popular 4-day Inka Trail hike, it will only mean covering a 25-mile distance, approximately 40 km.

The distance between the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu is not much, but it depends on the number of days you want to cover the trek.

You will come across different packages which provide you with the freedom to choose according to your stamina levels.

Start of Inca Trail Elevation- Elevation 9000 ft/2750m – Day 01

The trek starts at Km 82 from an elevation of 9000 ft/2750m. Keep in mind that this mountain is at an altitude, which means it is not safe for people suffering from altitude sickness.

There are some reports according to which a few people died because of heart attacks and lung failure caused by altitude sickness. You need to check your medical conditions properly before going for the height. On the way, you will face the Great Inca Trail Altitude.

Llaqtapata First Big Inca Ruins Along The Inca Trail- Elevation 8366 ft/2250m.

The next Inca trek elevation point is at the height of 8366 ft/2250m. It is at a lower location from the starting place because the whole trek consists of ups and downs because of the structure of the mountain.

Patallacta Inca Site (also known as “Farming The Terraces”), there were once many such farms that made up part or perhaps even most important for travelers along Inca roads like Machu Picchu.

People needed to grow their food to ensure they had sustenance for their journeys. It wasn’t just about getting enough calories each day, but also obtaining essential nutrients like protein and iron to maintain their health while traveling across vast, challenging terrain. Additionally, having the ability to grow their food provided both entertainment and intellectual stimulation.

Short Explanation About The Inca Structure

The Patallacta complex was built in two distinct phases, the first being during Wari pre-inca Culture (600-950 CE) and the second during Inca (1450-1534 CE).

The site is located approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco on an alluvial terrace at an elevation of 3,700 meters. It consists of a series of large rectangular enclosures, each with an average size of 400 square meters, which were probably used for storing food such as maize, quinoa, and potatoes. There is also a Kallanka (large communal hall) at the site that could have been used for social or religious gatherings.

First Inca Trail Areological site along the Inca Trail – Llactapata or Patallacta

Huayllabamba First Day Campsite – Elevation 9678ft/2950m.

After the second campsite, the Inca trek elevation Starts increasing. The altitude of the mountain keeps on increasing continuously.

The second point means you have to travel against gravity, and you will need a lot of stamina. Most people come across this concern on their second day of climbing. The height of the first Town along the Inca Trail is, known as Huayllabamba, which Has a height of 9678ft/2950m.

Day 1 Hike Summary

  • The pick-up time from your hotel is 5 am
  • Starting Hike: 9:30 am – 10 am
  • Starting Point: Km 82 (2,680 meters / 8,792 feet)
  • Highest Point: Huayllabamba (3,000 meters / 9,840 feet)
  • Highlights: Crossing the Urubamba River, exploring Inca ruins like Llactapata, and experiencing the beautiful Andean landscapes.

Llulluchapampa alternative Campsite – Elevation 2598ft/3840m.

It is another campsite of elevation within the complete Inca trail elevation. The height of 12598ft/3840m. It makes it at the greatest height from sea level. It is also considered one of the steep spots of the whole trek.

Second Day – Dead Woman Pass – Highest Point Of The Inca Trail – Elevation 13780ft/4200m

It is the most heightened pass of the Inca trek elevation. It is considered the maximum height of the Inca trail Making it of great importance for Tourists and hikers.

You can come across a lot of beautiful scenic views on this occasion. The surrounding mountains can also be seen clearly from the dead women’s pass.

However, people with acrophobia must be careful because it is one of the highest elevations with low oxygen levels. People suffering from respiratory diseases can face problems at this Elevation. It is at a height of 13780ft/4200m

Inca Trail Hike
Dead woman Pass Elevation

Pacasmayo Second Campsite along the Inca Trail – Elevation 10991ft/3350m

After the dead woman passes, you have to hike toward gravity. The height of the mountain starts decreasing for a certain distance after crossing the dead woman’s pass.

Most of the people cross this location on the third day of the trek. However, it depends upon the speed of the height you want to maintain. The height of the next Inca trail elevation is 10991ft/3350m.

Day 2 Hike Summary

  • Wake up time 5 am
  • Starting Hike: 6:30 am
  • Starting Point: Huayllabamba (3,000 meters / 9,840 feet)
  • Highest Point: Dead Woman’s Pass (4,215 meters / 13,828 feet)
  • Campsite: Pacaymayo (3,600 meters / 11,811 feet)
  • Highlights: The challenging ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass, enjoying stunning mountain views, and descending to the Pacaymayo campsite.

Third-Day Hike Runkurasay Pass – Elevation 13035ft/3975m

To reach this point, you have to travel upwards from the point Pacasmayo. Runkurasay Pass is at a height of 13035ft/3975m, Which makes it quiet at an altitude compared to the Pacasmayo.

The majestic site of Runkurakay is known for its position atop 3,760 meters above sea level and is surrounded by thick vegetation.

This complex sits prominently within the mountains that serve as the perfect backdrop providing fantastic views across to other high-altitude locations such as Warmi Wañusca Pass which offers hikers an opportunity to reach the iconic landmark Machu Picchu via Inca Trail hike at 5800m

Circular Ica Building Runkuracay Complex – Inca Trail

Sayacmarca Inca Ruins – Elevation 11811ft/3600m.

Once again, you have to go downwards to reach this point. This point of the Inca trek elevation is at an altitude of 11811ft/3600m.

Sayacmarca Inca Fortress, the top of a mountain 3 600 meters high and home to ancient ruins that provide beautiful views. Say AHO! The visit will grant you access to this site’s architecture which consists mostly of maze-like paths with tightly organized enclosures built on precipices for ceremony or astrological use during Incan times.

It was undoubtedly an important place in their empire because we can see how they used these sites strategically by building them at just enough height so as not to be decoded easily but still have great visibility from anywhere nearby expertly planned structures all around

Third Pass – Phuyupatamarca – Elevation 11975ft/3650m

The next elevation point is located at 11975ft/3650m above sea level. It usually takes three days of hiking to reach this point for the majority of people.

However, if you are hiking the popular slow mode Tour 5 days Inca Trail, you may reach it on the fourth day.

Phuyupatamarca is a fascinating ruin that sits high up in the Andes, with views over both Intipata and Wiñaywayna. The site’s construction represents an excellent example of balance between humans and nature as it contains various terraces carved into mountainsides.

Enclosures for animals such as llamas or alpacas (the latter represented by their fiber); ritual baths are still being replenished today thanks to underground water channels. All were created through sophisticated hydraulic systems which are used today too!

Intipata Inca Trail Terraces Elevation – 9000ft/2758m.

This point is located at a distance from the Phuyupatamarca. It is also lower in altitude, which is 9000ft/2758m.

Winayawayna Mos Beautiful Inca Trail Ruins – Elevation 8366ft/2550m.

Inca trail elevation Extent at an altitude of 8366ft/2550m. Winayawayna is one of the places that are loved by most Inca trail hikers because of its beauty and location.

One of the most impressive sites along the Inca Trail, Winay Wayna is located at 3600 meters above sea level and only 6 KM away from Machu Picchu.

The complex was skillfully carved into mountainside with terraces throughout which experts deduce possible uses as a farming/administrative center complemented by high waterfall views over the Urubamba Veronica mountain range.

Day 3 Inca Trail Summary

  • Wake up time 6 am
  • Starting Hike: 7:30 am approx
  • Starting Point: Pacaymayo Elevation (3,600 meters / 11,811 feet)
  • Highest Point: Runkurakay Pass Elevation (3,950 meters / 12,960 feet)
  • Campsite: Wiñay Wayna Elevation (2,650 meters / 8,694 feet)
  • Highlights: Visiting archaeological sites such as Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Phuyupatamarca, trekking through diverse ecosystems, and descending into the cloud forest.
Beautiful Winayhuayna Inca site

The Sun Gate Elevation 8850ft/2700m.

It is also called the Inti Punku. You will come across this location at an altitude of 8850ft/2700m.

The Sun Gate, or Inti Punku in Quechua, is the main entrance to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu From the classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu. It is located on the eastern side of the site and provides a stunning view of the ancient city as well as the surrounding landscape.

The name “Sun Gate” is derived from its strategic position as the first place where the sun’s rays strike in the morning. The gate was likely used as an entrance for religious and ceremonial purposes.

The Sun Gate is a must-see for anyone visiting Machu Picchu. The views from the top are simply breathtaking and it is an experience that you will never forget.

Sun Gate Peru Machu PIcchu
Sun Gate Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail Route – Elevation 7972ft/2400m.

This is the second last location of the Inca trek elevation at the height of 7474ft/2400m.

Related Post: Machu Picchu Travel Guide

Day 4 Inca Trail Summary

  • Wake-up time 3 am
  • Starting Hike: 6:00 am
  • Starting Point: Wiñay Wayna (2,650 meters / 8,694 feet)
  • Arrival Point: Machu Picchu elevation gain hike (2,430 meters / 7,972 feet)
  • Highlights: Witnessing the sunrise over Machu Picchu from Inti Punku (Sun Gate), exploring the ancient city of Machu Picchu, and optionally climbing Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain for panoramic views.

Puente Ruinas – Inca Bridge

The last point of elevation that you will come across on the Inca trail is at the height of 6500ft/2000m. This is the ending point of the elevation, after which you will reach Machu Pichu.

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 a 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 on the Inca Trail lasts from May to September. Although the weather generally stays pleasant during this time, there is still a chance of showers. It is advisable to pack rain gear to be prepared for any unexpected rainfall.

The dry season is the peak season for Inca Trail hiking, so 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 the 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 elevation gain and Inca sites with long queues for buses and trains awaiting transport; nights may become cold.

Inca Trail during the shoulder seasons.

The Inca Trail is best experienced during shoulder season, which includes April-May and September-October. These months offer milder weather, creating ideal conditions for hiking. Although there may still be occasional rain showers, they are typically lighter compared to the heavy rainfall experienced during the December-March Wet Season.

Mountains that surround the Inca Trail and their elevations.

Dead Woman Pass
Highest Elevation Inca trail

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

Conclusion

The complete detail of the Inca trail elevation is discussed in the above-mentioned text. After going through the given article, you will have a complete idea about the Inca trek elevation. You must keep this information in mind if you are planning to go for a hike on the Inca Trail. It is also present at an altitude which is why you have to consider your medical conditions and take precautions before going hiking.

Please Note: that these Machu Picchu Hike elevations gain are approximate and can vary depending on the source. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the effects of high altitude and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trek.

Tour Leaders Peru Adventure arrange a different trek in Peru Consider our advice and embark On Peru Luxury Travel and Glamping along the Inca Trail in Peru

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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!

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