Home » What it’s like hiking the Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu, in 32 photos

What it’s like hiking the Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu, in 32 photos

written by Bex Shapiro June 12, 2018
Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Did you know that 500 people per day hike the Inca Trail? 

That’s quite a lot of people.

Now, we’re not judging but we DO want to let you know about an alternative hike Intrepid offers called the Quarry Trail. A trail where you won’t bump into a single other tourist. A trail that’s one day shorter than the Inca Trail (so you spend the night in a hotel, not a tent, before arriving at Machu Picchu). And a trail that boasts both a higher altitude and even more spectacular mountain scenery than the classic route. Oh, and did we mention it doesn’t require a pesky permit either?

It was exactly these reasons that led me to picking the Quarry Trail over the Inca one on a recent Intrepid trip to Peru.  And although I love words so much I literally write for a living, I’ve got to tell you something: words. just. don’t. do. it. justice.

So, here’s what the 3-day hike was like, in (unedited!) picture form:

Quarry Trail day 1

A day of getting acclimatised to the altitude and getting to grips with the near-constant, picture-perfect mountain views. Highlights include hiking right by a waterfall and dazzling valley views from a reconstructed Incan ruin.

Quarry Trail Peru

Ollantaytambo, the start point for the hike

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Lush greenery, as the trail begins

Quarry Trail Peru

Moments of peace and beauty

Quarry Trail Peru

Stopping by a rural school to learn about Peru’s school system

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

The trail gets a touch more challenging…

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

A beautiful bonus: visiting a waterfall

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

There’s always time for a team photo

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Incan ruins from afar

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Hike break at the ruins

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Taking in the views and getting closer to camp

READ MORE: YOUR ULTIMATE PACKING GUIDE FOR HIKING TO MACHU PICCHU

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Time for a siesta!

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

The majestic dining tent

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Getting comfortable, and never tiring of the views

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Group photo with Intrepid’s amazing guides, chefs and horsemen

READ MORE: 6 REASONS TO TAKE THE QUARRY TRAIL OVER THE INCA TRAIL

Quarry Trail day 2

The longest day and one with PLENTY of uphill portions, this is equal parts challenging and utterly incredible. Not only will you pass altitudes higher than ones on the Inca Trail, you’ll also be trekking through ever-changing landscapes and passing jaw-dropping mountain vistas.

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Early wake-up call but a tasty breakfast

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Captivating early morning light

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Chilly morning, before the sun comes out

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Hiking day two in full swing

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

The ascent continues, but seeing the lunch dining tent helps!

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Coca tea is a constant companion on the trail

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Trek guide Edwind busy being the best trek guide ever

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

It’s hard to take a bad photo with landscapes like these

READ MORE: 10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW ABOUT PERU

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek, at 4450 meters

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

The descent begins

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

The Peruvian Andes never lose their magic

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

A beautifully deserted road leading to camp

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Night two of camping is faultless

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

A hearty, home-cooked chicken dinner

READ MORE: WHAT I WISH I KNEW BEFORE MY INTREPID TRIP TO PERU

Quarry Trail day 3

Though it’s day that’s devoted to downhill, there’s still plenty of surprises in store before the two-hour post-hike train ride to Machu Picchu. Learn why the trail gets its name at Kachiqata Quarry (a rock quarry that the Incas never completed during the Spanish conquest), and enjoy the gorgeous descent back into Ollantaytambo.

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

After breakfast it’s time to say goodbyes to the talented chefs

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Prepping for a half-day of downhill

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

There’s plenty of time to explore Kachiqata quarry

READ MORE: WHY TO VISIT NORTHERN PERU, HOME TO THE ‘NEW MACHU PICCHU’

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Intrepid leader Edwind telling the group about the ancient quarry

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Finally getting closer to hike end point, Ollantaytambo

Quarry Trail Peru hiking

Made it back to Ollantaytambo! Now time for the train to Machu Picchu

Useful additional reading:
-Everything you need to pack for the hike to Machu Picchu
-What it’s like taking the train to Machu Picchu
-How to make the most of under 1 day at Machu Picchu
-A Lima city guide
-A Cusco city guide

Ready to embark on this magical hike to Machu Picchu? Check out Intrepid’s wide range of trips to Peru.

(All images taken by Rebecca Shapiro on Intrepid’s Quarry Trail hike.)

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6 comments

Greg Harrod June 26, 2018 - 11:57 pm

Just returned from this trip. It’s was amazing. What a great experience.

Reply
Rebecca Shapiro June 29, 2018 - 12:41 pm

So glad to hear it. I loved it too! Thank you!

Reply
lynda August 19, 2018 - 11:20 pm

I loved your pictures and commentary. For someone who has done minimal hiking but is in good shape, is quarry trail ok for me. I am going alone with Intrepid. Also, when was your trip?? I am going in under two weeks and am curious about my clothing because it will be cold. Most pictures and accounts I have come across reflect their summer season. Just a little curious as to what you know about your experience with gear. Any clarity would be appreciated. Thank you!

Reply
Rebecca Shapiro August 20, 2018 - 11:43 am

Hey Lynda! That’s great news. My trip was in April and overall the daytime temperature was nice (we sometimes hiked just in t-shirts) but even then it did get really quite cold at nights. I’d definitely advise to pack LOTS of light-ish layers. You’ll have an amazing time – enjoy!

Reply
Rebecca Shapiro August 20, 2018 - 11:43 am

Also, you’ll be fine with the hiking. There’s some steep upills and downhills but overall it’s only 2.5 days, you can go at your own pace, the guides are really supportive and the food is GREAT.

Jim June 23, 2018 - 8:22 am

Sounds great but I can’t imagine not walking over the crest and seeing MP in front of you. Course I did it in 1990 when it was deserted 500 fellow hikers sounds miserable. But that moment coming over the crest and MP laid out in front of you is amenity I’ll tsur to the grave.

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