So you’re looking for the perfect adventure for your active, energetic family . . . is the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu the right choice? This is an important question because you want to have the best trip possible, but you don’t want to sign your kids up for more than they can reasonably do. We at Detour have been down this path ourselves and can definitely answer all your questions about planning this trip. And, if the Inca Trail’s not right for your family, we have some great alternative treks to consider in Peru as well.
Hiking the Inca Trail is considered a moderate trek when it comes to trekking in Peru, but for most of us hiking at over 10,000 ft (> 3,000 m) up and down ancient Inca staircases for days on end will leave even the fittest feeling it. Undertaking such a journey can conjure up some uneasiness … How difficult is it? Will I be able to do it? These questions are even more difficult to answer when you start thinking about bringing the kids along.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen kids transform into little energizer bunnies. But, I’ve also seen them morph into giant monsters when they’re hungry and tired (like how you feel after hiking for 8 hours).
While there is no official minimum age for hiking the trail, we asked some of our local operators for their thoughts and the consensus was 10 years old was the youngest they would consider for such a trek. This would also have to be private trek with just your group. Group treks require a minimum of 16 years old in order to join.
INCA TRAIL DISTANCES, HIKING TIMES, AND ALTITUDE
Below is a breakdown of hiking distances and average trek times for the Inca Trail portion of the Ulitmate Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. This should help you determine if you and your child are up for the challenge.
Day 4 (first day on the Inca Trail): Easy warm up of 3 miles (~5 km). On this day you begin at Km82, which has an elevation of 9000 ft (2750 m), and camp at about 8690 ft (~2650 m), at Llactapata Campsite. Hiking time: 2.5 – 5 hours.
Day 5: This 7.5 mile hike (~12 km) is where the trail starts to get challenging. After a mellow morning, you trek part way up the first pass, and overnight about a half mile from the top. Camp at 12,590 ft (3850 m), at Llulluchapampa Campsite. Hiking time: 5 – 6 hours.
Day 6: This 9.3 miles (15 km) stretch is the most challenging day on the Inca Trail. You climb two passes: Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman’s Pass) at 13,819 ft (4212 m), drop down to the Pacasmayo Valley at 11,650 ft (3550 m) for lunch, and then tackle Runcuracay Pass at 13,120 ft (4000 m). At the end of the day, you camp at 12,030 ft (3600 m) at Phuyupatamarca (“the place above the clouds”). Hiking Time: 8 hours
Day 7: 6.5 miles (11 km) of mostly downhill or flat trekking on ancient Inca steps. This is an early morning start so you have maximum time at Machu Picchu. You have lunch at Wiñay Wayna Ruins, and a bit of time to explore these amazing ruins. Arrive at the Sun Gate (9025 ft / 2750 m) in the afternoon for your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. You’ve made it! After soaking in the view, you’ll continue down through Machu Picchu Ruins ( 7875 ft / 2400 m) take a bus to nearby Aguas Calientes where you’ll overnight in a local hotel. Hiking time: 5 hours on the trail; more possible at Machu Picchu if you want.
Day 8: Return to Machu Picchu Ruins for a full guided tour. Early bird will get to witness the stunning sunrise at Machu Picchu. There’s time for hiking Huayna Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain, and wandering around the site. Afternoon bus to the Aguas Calientes train station to catch your train back to Cusco.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE INCA TRAIL
OK, so after all that, you may reasonably conclude that the Inca Trail just isn’t quite the trek for your family. Don’t worry, you can still do an amazing trek in the same area and visit Machu Picchu. In fact, if hiking for four days straight isn’t your jam, we have other rad options for you too.
1. Family Adventure Peru
This trip is perfect for the family who likes to do it all — or at least wants to try it all. You get one day of hiking the Inca Trail (the best day of the trek in fact, when you actually walk into Machu Picchu), plus mountain biking in the Sacred Valley, horseback riding outside of Cusco, and whitewater rafting. Frankly, it’s a blast whether you’re traveling with 12 year old or 20 year old kids.
2. Lares Valley Trek to Machu Picchu
The Lares Valley Trek is ideal for those who want to get off the beaten path; meet locals living in small, traditional villages; and have a more flexible hike. The trek can be tailored to be as easy or as challenging as you like, plus you can rent a horse if you think anyone in your group may need a break from hiking.
3. Hike the Inca Highlights
Experience the best Inca sites on day hikes around Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and Machu Picchu, then relax in in comfortable, local boutique hotels at night. You will experience Peru like no other tourists and you will even get to hike the last day of the Inca Trail to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot via the Gate of the Sun, just like the Incas did centuries ago. World-class guides will entertain you and enhance your understanding of what you are seeing, giving you a very complete Inca Peru experience.
Amped to Start Planning Your Family’s Peru Trip? Check out all of Detour’s selected Peru journeys and contact us for expert advice on planning your trip.
A fantastic adventure for families who want to experience a little bit of everything in the Machu Picchu and Cusco region: whitewater rafting, hiking, biking and Inca ruins, including arriving on foot into Machu Picchu on the 1-Day Inca Trail trek. Trip Length: 8 Days Destination: Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, 1-day Inca Trail Lodging: boutique hotels Activities: Moderate hike, kayak, stand up paddle board, bike, Inca ruins, cultural experiences
Experience the best Inca sites on day hikes around Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and Machu Picchu, then relax in in comfortable, local boutique hotels at night. You will experience Peru like no other tourists and you will even get to hike the last day of the Inca Trail to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot via the Gate of the Sun, just like the Incas did centuries ago. World-class guides will entertain you and enhance your understanding of what you are seeing, giving you a very complete Inca Peru experience. Trip Length: 6 Days Destination: Cusco, the Sacred Valley, & Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru Lodging: Charming & Boutique 3-Star Plus Hotels Activities: Day hikes, Inca ruins