Your 4 Hiking Options at Machu Picchu

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Lace up your hiking boots and compliment your guided tour of Machu Picchu with an epic hiking adventure.

There are four options to chose between: Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain, the Sun Gate, and the Inca Bridge. These hikes summit towering peaks, gift new perspectives of the region’s subtropical beauty, and introduce you to lesser-known Inca temples and structures.

Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are hikes that require a special entry ticket (purchased with your general admission ticket in advance).  Availability for these hikes is limited and demand is high. Peak season at Machu Picchu is from April to October when it’s less likely to rain, and since these tickets sell out sometimes 4 months in advance, it’s important to start planning with your travel advisor as early as possible.

Alternatively, the Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge are hikes that do not require an entry ticket. These options give you the flexibility to decide if you want to do them the day you visit Machu Picchu.

Here’s a quick comparison.

Hike Special
Entry Ticket

Level

Huayna Picchu Required Moderate-Challenging. This trail is shorter than
Machu Picchu Mountain, but the upper sections
of the trail have steep stone staircases.
Machu Picchu Mountain Required Challenging. The steep switchbacks of this
trail require a high level of fitness.
Sun Gate Not Required Easy-Moderate. The incline of this trail up
to the Sun Gate is gradual.
Inca Bridge Not Required Easy. This trail is not steep and it’s the shortest
hiking option.

Continue reading to discover which trail matches your outdoor style best.

Huayna Picchu Hike

Huayna Picchu is the dome-shaped peak that forms the iconic background seen ubiquitously in Machu Picchu photographs, and the Inca footpath winding up to its summit is the most sought after hike within the citadel. For many travelers, the adventure is the cherry on top of their trip to Peru.

A large granite monolith called the Sacred Rock, or Wank’a in Quechua, is positioned just before the checkpoint for Huayna Picchu. Here hikers must present their entry ticket and sign in before beginning their upward journey and sign out when coming off the trail.

Shortly after the start of the trailhead, the trail forks and a sign indicates the way to the Temple of the Moon. This trail descends 340 meters (1,120 feet) and goes around to the opposite side of the mountain. The Incas constructed the temple beneath a shallow cave created by a rock overhang. The presence of unusually tall, double-jamb doorways indicate that the complex may have been a place of worship, perhaps for Huayna Picchu itself. This detour adds about 2 hours to the Huayna Picchu hike.

The path narrows towards the upper-section of the trail and goes up steep staircases and past stone ruins clinging to cliff precipices. There are handrails and ropes to grab onto for extra support, but it’s a frightening experience for anyone with a fear of heights. A good alternative hike with less steep sides is Machu Picchu Mountain.

At the very top of Huayna Picchu there is a rock shaped like a seat, called the “Throne of the Inca,” where you can admire the view over Machu Picchu. It generally takes hikers from 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit. Athletic types reach the top in 25 minutes.

Huayna Picchu Ticket Information

  • Purchase: Tickets for the hike up Huayna Picchu must be purchased jointly with the general admission ticket to Machu Picchu in advance.
  • Availability: Only 400 tickets to hike Huayna Picchu are available each day.
  • Entry Times: At the time of purchase, you have to decide which time slot you want to begin the hike. The first group (200 people) is 7-8am. The second group (200 people) is 10-11am.

Machu Picchu Mountain Hike


The Machu Picchu citadel rests high on a saddleback ridge bookended between two peaks: Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu. When it comes to hiking options within the famous Inca archaeological site, Machu Picchu Mountain typically plays second fiddle to Huayna Picchu, but this towering peak offers some perks that should not be overlooked.

“At the top of Machu Picchu Mountain you look down on Huayna Picchu and when it’s clear you can even see snow-capped mountains in the distance,” our expert guide Fabricio Ortiz said during an interview for an article featured in Peru this Week. “There’s a much better panoramic view at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain and it takes just a little difference in time.”


Large granite steps comprise most of its trail and wind all the way to the top. The steep climb is a challenging but rewarding hike and the 360-degree views at the top are a gorgeous reward.

Signs for the checkpoint of Machu Picchu Mountain are about 500 feet (150 meters) past the Guardhouse.

Machu Picchu Ticket Information

  • Purchase: Tickets for the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain (Machu Picchu Montana) must be purchased jointly with the general admission ticket to Machu Picchu in advance.
  • Availability: Only 800 tickets to hike Machu Picchu Mountain are available each day.
  • Entry Times: Similar to Huayna Picchu, you must decide from one of two time slots to start the hike at the time of purchase. The first group (400 people) is 7-8am. The second group (400 people) is 9-10am.

Sun Gate (Inti Punku) Hike

Once upon a time, imperial guards of the Inca Empire likely controlled passage into Machu Picchu at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku). Today trekkers doing the iconic Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu through this iconic stone gate on the last day of their adventure. Another way to visit the Sun Gate is to enter Machu Picchu with your general admission ticket and then hike up. No special entry ticket is required.

Beginning near the Caretaker’s Hut (or Guardhouse), wooden signs for “Inti Punku” point you in the direction of the hike’s cobbled trail with a few sections of stairs that inclines gradually up the mountain away from the main citadel. 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.

Inca Bridge Hike

The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain in the opposite direction of the Inca citadel. 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.

The walk follows a fairly even path to the bridge. Most people reach the Inca Bridge in about 20 minutes. It’s not a strenuous hike, but some of the drop-offs along the edges of the trail may be scary for anyone who suffers from vertigo.

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, 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.
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So, which hike at Machu Picchu plucks at your hike-loving heartstrings? Share your thoughts or questions with us in the comment section below, or discover additional Machu Picchu articles below.

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About Author

Britt is addicted to the spontaneous nature of travel and personal growth it inspires. She bought a one-way ticket to South America in 2012, starting her journey in Argentina and slowly traveled north through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Unable to shake her addiction of Latin America, she now happily calls Peru home.

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