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Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain: The Complete Details (2023 Update)

Written by: Kevin Groh

Machu Picchu on a cloudy day with Machu Picchu Mountain in red text followed by The Complete Details

What is Machu Picchu Mountain?

Machu Picchu Mountain is the mountain located in the southwest corner sandwiching Machu Picchu citadel with Huayna Picchu opposite. Many people desire to climb Huayna Picchu, but don’t underestimate Machu Picchu Mountain. Despite the higher demand for Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain may provide a better experience. It is a bit harder hike than Huayna Picchu. However, many say that the panoramic view of Machu Picchu, once you’ve reached the top, is much better than the view from Huayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu Mountain does not have a set of Incan peaks to explore at its summit. At the summit, Incan priests would perform rituals and liturgical greetings to the Salkantay Apu. Although, if you were set on climbing Huayna Picchu, the lower demand of Machu Picchu Mountain, will give you just as good if not a better experience than climbing Huayna Picchu. It will be an experience with great views of the surrounding mountain that you will no doubt enjoy.

How do I Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?

Before you can start the Machu Picchu Mountain trek, you must first have tickets for your trip to Machu Picchu, and anyone under the age of 12 is not allowed to climb. There is some risk associated with this hike as it is steep and the trail is not well maintained. The trailhead is inside the citadel through the entrance of Machu Picchu. You must have a combination ticket of both Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. It is recommended to obtain your Machu Picchu tickets months in advance if you are going during the high season.

Similar to Huayna Picchu hike, if you are arriving via the Inca Trail, you will still have to buy another Machu Picchu plus Machu Picchu Mountain ticket, even though the Inca Trail secures your entrance to Machu Picchu. In 2018, tickets cost $62 for the combination entrance ticket. You can learn how to secure your permits here. Because there are only 400 people permitted to hike per day, it is best to obtain your tickets weeks ahead of time if it is the high season.

You will need your passport with you as it’s checked against your Machu Picchu Mountain ticket at the gate. Because more people are allowed to climb Machu Picchu Mountain compared to Huayna Picchu, in addition to less demand, it will be much easier to obtain permits for Machu Picchu Mountain than Huayna Picchu.

What Time of Day Should I Hike Machu Picchu Mountain?

Before 2011, if you had a hiking ticket, you were allowed to enter the trail for Machu Picchu Mountain at any time of the day. However, in 2019, the National Institute of Culture of Peru (INC) in South America instituted regulation dividing the 400 tickets into a 7:00-8:00 am entrance and 9:00-10:00 am entrance group. If you miss your entrance time, you will not be permitted to hike.

Prepare for the early morning if you are one of the 400 people that are allowed to climb Machu Picchu Mountain when you visit. Two-hundred are for a 7:00 am ascent, and the other two-hundred for the 9:00 am time slot. These times are essential depending on how you get to Machu Picchu.

As of July 1, 2017, you are required to hike the trail with an officially certified tour guide.

 Pro Tip: The Government of Peru is very strict. Make sure you are at the entrance to Machu Picchu Mountain during your time slot or you will not be allowed to enter.



Machu Picchu citadel ruins on a cloudy day

Early Morning vs Afternoon

Just like Huayna Picchu the advantage of the 7:00 am hike is it will be cooler and more comfortable to hike the steep trail. The 9:00 am hikers will deal with much higher temperatures. They will need to take more breaks and need more water to make it to the top of the mountain.

The disadvantage of going in the earlier group is that will likely be more fog in the morning. This will make it more difficult to get a good view of Machu Picchu. Also, the 7:00 am group does not have to hike with as many people as the 9:00 am group. The later you wait to start the hike, the more people that will be at the top.

If you plan to take the train from the Sacred Valley or enter through the Sun Gate from the Inca Trail, you must book the 9:00 am morning session for Machu Picchu Mountain. We recommend starting with Macchu Picchu guided tour early in the morning and then hike Machu Picchu Mountain at the 9:00 am slot. It will be hotter at this time of the day, but it allows you to enjoy the main Machu Picchu grounds with fewer people and allows you to avoid the risk of climbing Machu Picchu Mountain and not being able to get a good picture of Machu Picchu from above as the fog might not have cleared off. If you are able, a second day at Machu Picchu can allow you to see Machu Picchu on the first day, and hike the Machu Picchu Mountain trail on the second day, helping to avoid crowds both days.

How do I get to the Machu Picchu Mountain Trail?

Getting to the Trailhead

You will start your day after waking up in Aguas Calientes which is at the base of Machu Picchu. Once you take the bus or the path up to Machu Picchu entrance, you will enter the main Machu Picchu gated entrance and then follow the way to the guardhouse. There will be signs pointing you in the right direction. This is also the path that leads you to the Sun Gate, which is the same entrance to Machu Picchu for those who came in via the Inca Trail.

A few minutes after the guardhouse you will follow a path up agricultural terraces. You will then arrive at the warden’s hut which is where you will sign in, submit your ticket, and check-in with your passport. It is about 30 minutes from the Machu Picchu entrance to the Machu Picchu Mountain trailhead.

The Trail

After checking in at the Wardens hut, you will follow a path that approximates 30 degrees in elevation for about an hour. Fortunately, compared to the Huayna Picchu hike, the Machu Picchu Mountain Hike has a much wider path and is much better maintained. However, as you get closer to the summit, the stairs will become steeper, narrower, and more difficult. As the path continues for another 30 minutes, it will eventually pass through a stone gate and then follow a ridge to the summit.

The route back down is through the same path. The trail up takes approximately 1.5 hours and the hike back down around 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Machu Picchu Mountain has no Inca Ruins at the top. The trail closes at 3:00 pm and everyone needs to be off it by this time.

How Difficult is the Machu Picchu Mountain Trail?

This is a relatively moderate to a challenging trail to hike. It is not recommended to hike if you are afraid of heights. There are very steep sections which with make the path difficult and can make those fearful of heights unable to hike it. Machu Picchu Mountain is less steep than the Huayna Picchu trail. Additionally, the trail is much more difficult during the wet season as it follows a stone path which can become slippery if wet. Navigating the trail is easier than hiking Huayna Picchu as the trail is well marked and wider. You will be navigating more than 200 feet, or 300 meters, of ascent on this trail. The total time takes approximately 3 hours and climbs more than 1600 steps to the top of the mountain.

What is the Elevation of Machu Picchu Mountain?

The summit of Machu Picchu Mountain is 10,111 feet or 3,082 meters above sea level. This will make it the highest point above Machu Picchu, yet still able to obtain a great picture of the Machu Picchu city. As mentioned before, this is a very steep climb. If you have a fear of heights or any condition that causes you to lose balance, like vertigo, do not attempt this climb.

Elevation makes strenuous activity more difficult. The oxygen in the air is thinner, therefore requiring you to breathe heavier. This adds to the difficulty of this hike. As with any trek at a higher altitude, you want to make sure that you are in decent physical shape. This helps keep you appropriately oriented for the hike. Here is a complete breakdown of Machu Picchu Elevation, or there’s a few comparisons below.


Elevation Comparisons

  • Huayna Picchu: 8,924 feet (2720 meters)
  • Machu Picchu Mountain: 10,111 feet (3,082 meters)
  • Machu Picchu: 7,971 feet (2,430 meters)
  • Cusco City: 11,152 feet (3,339 meters)

What is the Difference Between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain?

Huayna Picchu is another hike that you can do if you do not plan to hike Machu Picchu Mountain. Machu Picchu Mountain is a less popular hike and allows the same amount of people per day as Huayna Picchu.  The hike is quieter as fewer people tend to do this hike. This is a slightly easier hike as it is only 2.5 hours round trip if you take the short trail vs. 3.5 hours for Machu Picchu Mountain. Most of the Huayna Picchu path up is stone and much steeper while Huayna Picchu has some dirt paths. Machu Picchu Mountain climbs 2000 feet in elevation gain throughout the trail, while Huayna Picchu only climbs just under 1000 feet.


Machu Picchu Mountain does not have any Incan archaeological sites, whereas Huayna Picchu has various Incan archaeological sites, including the Temple of the Moon. Additionally, some say that the view from Machu Picchu Mountain is much better than Huayna Picchu as it is higher and the ruins more exposed.

Machu Picchu Mountain is where the Incas discovered water; specifically underground springs. This was another paramount decision of constructing the citadel where they did. Huayna Picchu serves as the drone view of the mountain, and Machu Picchu mountain gave life to the complex.


Putucusi Mountain used to be a different hike at Machu Picchu but has since been closed down for safety.

Close up of llama with a black head and white body standing in grass

What to Bring to Machu Picchu Mountain?

  • Passport
  • Sturdy Hiking boots or shoes
  • Toilet Paper
  • Camelback
  • Backpack – no bigger than 40cm x 35 cm x 20 cm (15.7 inches x 13.7 inches x 7.9 inches)
  • A hiking stick or hiking poles
  • Raincoat
  • Light snacks
  • Camera – you will want to capture that picture of Machu Picchu from above


Machu Picchu Mountain is an excellent alternative if you are not able to hike Huayna Picchu. If you have the time and would love to see a unique vantage of Machu Picchu surrounded by the mountains, the Machu Picchu Mountain hike will be an excellent option for you.

Have you hiked Machu Picchu Mountain? We want to hear about it in the comments. Let’s hear your best tips.

Machu Picchu Mountain FAQs

How far is Rainbow Mountain from Machu Picchu?

Rainbow Mountain is approximately 73.7 km or 45.5 miles from Machu Picchu Mountain. However, if you are planning to do both, you will need a full two days as they are in opposite directions of each other from Cusco.

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