Elevation Gains on the Inca Trail Trek

The elevation gains on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu will depend on what route you choose to take. There are many ways to hike on the Inca Trail, including the Traditional 4 day Inca trail, the Classic 5 day, or the 6 day Salkantay trek. Our favorite and preferred Inca Trail trek is the Classic 5 Day Inca Trail itinerary. For that reason we will focus on that itinerary for the elevation gains.

Elevation Gains on the Classic Inca Trail Trek

After helping over 1,000 people trek this famous trail to Machu Picchu, we want to share as much information as possible with you. This information is to help you understand what will be expected of you when you are hiking each day, and therefore, be able to formulate an appropriate training plan.

When you are finished on this page, then come back up and click this link for all you need to know about trekking the Inca Trail.  For more information on our treks, GET IN TOUCH today!

Elevation gains on the Inca Trail

Days 1 and 2). Cusco – Sacred Valley

If you are on an Ian Taylor Trekking trip, we include two nights in Cusco at a 4 star hotel. When you are flying into Cusco, which sits at 3,400m/ 11,152 feet, it is extremely important to take it easy on arrival in Cusco.  We encourage to arrive early and join one of our day tours for added acclimatization. The more time you can spend at this altitude IN Cusco before starting the trek, the better!

On the second day of the trip, our team will take you on a full sacred valley tour that finishes in Ollantaytambo. The high point of the day will be 3,764m/ 12,350 feet.  At this elevation there is 30% less oxygen than at sea level. You can always come in early, recover from jet lag, time zone changes and gain extra acclimatization for the climb. We have people joining our treks from around the world so it is important so make sure you are rested and well hydrated.

Elevation gains on the Inca Trail


Day 3). Wayllabamba

Today, the journey to Machu Picchu starts! The day will begin with a pick up from the hotel after breakfast.   After 30 minutes we will arrive at Kilometer 82, or Piscacucho, at 2,700m/ 9,000 feet.  Once you have passed the control, where you will have to show your passport and permit for the trail, our journey will begin!

The walk today will take approximately 6 hours through beautiful landscapes.  On route to our campsite, we will have lunch at the charming spot of Mesccay 2,800m/ 9,184 feet.  After Lunch we will hike up a steep hill for a great view over Llactapata Inca site. After a downhill stretch we will turn into another valley. To visit the Inca site near Tarayoc. Another 2 hours of uphill hike leads us to our campsite at the lower end of Wayllabamba at 3,000m/ 9,842 feet.  Total distance walked today is 10.6k/ 6.6 miles. Today’s elevation gain is 400m/ 1,312 feet. The total descent is 100m/ 328 feet. 

Elevation gains on the Inca Trail Trek

Day 4). Pacumayu

After our first night spent in tents, under the starry sky, we will wake early for breakfast. Our goal is to get hiking by 7am.  The journey uphill begins as we make the 1,215m/ 4,000 feet steep ascent up to the dead women’s pass at 4,215m/ 13,828 feet. You will travel through some of the most beautiful and dense forest terrain on the trek.

We will have lunch at Llulluchapampa 3,800m/ 12,467 feet. After some rest we will continue up steep stairs and trail to the pass. Enjoy the achievement, take a look back on what you have achieved and then contemplate the steep 715m/ 2,346 feet descent down to Pacumayu campground.   The total trekking time today will be approximately eight hours and we will cover a distance of 12 km/ 7.46 miles.  Today’s elevation gain is 1,215m/ 4,000 feet and steep descent of 715m/ 2,356 feet. 

Some of the Steep Steps on the Inca Trail

Day 5). Phuyupatamarca

From Pacaymayu at 3,500m/ 11,482 feet. We start another steep ascent up to the second pass 3,970m/ 13,022 feet. The peak is called  Runkurakay. The second pass is called Runkurkay pass.  Half way up, we visit the archaeological complex with the same name. After going over the pass, we descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lagoon) and enter the cloud forest to finally arrive at Sayacmarca, at 3,624m/ 11,887 feet. It usually takes 1 hour from the second pass to Sayacmarca and another 45 minutes to Chaquicocha.

We will have lunch at Chaquicocha.   After lunch, there is approximately another two hours before we arrive at the third pass, the Abra Phuyupatamarca, at 3,700m/ 12,136 feet. We set our camp in Phuyupatamarca, which is the more beautiful camp spots on the Inca trail.  We will have the most astonishing sun-set, and enjoy our final evening of camping here.  Today is a tough day and the total distance will be 10.5 km/ 6.5 miles.  It should take us approximately 8 hours of hiking today.  The total elevation gain today is 650m/ 2,132 feet. The total descent is 470m/ 1,542 feet. 


Steep Stairs on the Inca Trail

Day 6). Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes

After our final delicious breakfast at our campsite, we will begin the final day of trekking into Machu Picchu!   The start of the day will be a steep descent, down stairs for approximately 3 hours.  Here, we will stop to take in the amazing views of the Urubamba valley.  This place is called Intipata. After a nice rest we will continue the descent for half an hour we will visit one of the most impressive places in all our route of the Inca Trail the place called Wiñayhuayna.

After lunch, we follow a narrow trail that walked us around Machu Picchu mountain. Eventually, we will reach the Sun Gate (Intipunku).  Here, finally our dream becomes reality as the impressive view of the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu will be in full display. After enjoying the Inca Citadel we will descend for about an hour we arrive at the place called the Guardian’s House. Our goal is to arrive here at 4:30pm.

This is where we will have the opportunity to contemplate Machu Picchu in all its splendor. We will take photographs and soak in the beauty of Machu Picchu for a while. Then, we will take bus from the Inca city of Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes.  Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, you will be rewarded with a warm shower, a bed to sleep in and a fun night out on the town! We take you out for dinner at Indio Feliz. The total descent today is 1,270m/ 4,167 feet. 

Elevation gains on the Inca Trail Trek

Day 7). Machu Picchu – Cusco

After a wonderful night sleep in the hotel, then we will wake up early and board the bus. This will take us back up to Machu Picchu. Here, we will begin a complete guided tour of the Inca Citadel that will take approximately two hours. We will use Circuit number 3 or 4.

If you have signed up to climb Huayna Picchu Mountain, you will start early. The climb to reach the peak of Huayna Picchu is demanding, but it’s totally worth the effort. Once you enter the gate at Huayna Picchu it takes one hour to reach the top. Huayna Picchu offers some breath taking views of Machu Picchu and on a clear day you can see for miles.

After the steep descent you will return to Aguas Calientes where we take you for lunch. We normally take the 2:30pm train back to Ollantaytambo.  From there, we will have a private bus back to Cusco, where we include one final night in the hotel.

The Inca Trial to Machu Picchu

Day 8). Onward Journey Home

Your classic 5 day Inca Trail Trek is over. You will be picked you up from your hotel in Cusco, depending on your flight time.  We will drive you to the airport in order to take your flight for your onward journey. There are options to join tours to the Amazon, lake Titicaca and other treasures Peru has on offer.

Machu Picchu 2022

Trek the Inca Trail With us

Why not join one of our Inca Trail treks. We will help you get the right training information so that you can come fully prepared for your trek. This is not an easy hike and should not be underestimated.  Therefore, you need to come with the right strength and conditioning to be safe all the way through this Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Read some REVIEWS from our trips and then CONTACT US.

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