The official map details ten hiking routes across the park, ranging from short hops of an hour or two to end-to-end treks of two or three days. You can supplement this map with 1:50,000 IGM maps covering the area (Cuenca, Chaucha, San Felipe de Molleturo and Chiquintad), but the black-and-white copies can be hard to read.

The most popular day-hike (a combination of route 2 and part of route 1; 5–6hr) starts at the Information Centre, taking you northeast past Laguna Toreadora, through a quinua forest and down southeast past Laguna Totoras and Laguna Patoquinuas. The hike ends back at the highway, some 8km east of the Information Centre, at the Quinuas checkpoint, where you can catch the bus back to Cuenca; ask the warden to show you the path, which is straightforward to follow and quite easy-going.

Alternatively, there’s a good hike (also 5–6hr), which starts 4km further west along the highway from the Information Centre, at the Tres Cruces hill on the left-hand (south) side of the road. At 4160m, the hill straddles the continental divide between waters draining west into the Pacific and east into the Amazon basin – you can scramble up it in about fifteen minutes, for great views over the park. The trail (route 5 on the map) takes you down past a string of three lakes – Negra, Larga and Tagllacocha – bringing you to the Ingañán (paved Inca road) by Laguna Luspa, before heading right (west) back towards the highway.

There are numerous possibilities for multi-day hikes too – consult the park map and IGM maps and ask the warden for guidance. It’s essential to come well prepared: with the possibility of thick fog obscuring visibility, and a tendency for paths to peter out into nowhere, you should bring emergency food and ideally a survival blanket even on short day-hikes, in case you get lost. Although it’s often hot enough to hike in a t-shirt when the sun’s out (usually in the morning), the temperature can quickly drop below freezing in bad weather, and is perishing at night, so take plenty of layers and warm gear, including a hat and gloves. You’ll also need waterproof clothing and sturdy, waterproof boots, preferably with gaiters; if you’re camping make sure your tent is well sealed or you’ll have a wet and miserable time. It’s driest between June and August, but it might rain, hail or snow at any time of the year.

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