One minute you’re swaying in and out of people as cars and buses zoom by, the next minute you’re surrounded by lush rainforest with nothing but the sounds of wildlife echoing around you! Rio de Janeiro has the most spectacular hikes right within its city limits (and beyond). The views at the top are outmatched by none. When visiting Rio de Janeiro don’t leave you hiking boots at home!
These Top 5 hikes vary in ‘how much’ you will sweat, so be sure to know what you’re getting yourself into before you set out to conquer them.
Top 5 Hikes
Pico da Tijuca Hike
Physical Rate: Moderate to Difficult
Hike Time Up: 2h min
Door to Door: 6 hours min
Style: Moderate trail to inclined at top
Access: Drive to Tijuca National Park. Walk to trailhead. (Optional stop at waterfall!)
Located in the Floresta da Tijuca National Forest, a fantastic Atlantic rainforest park, this hikes’ peak is the highest point in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro! It has a well maintained trail and an absolutely breathtaking view. Although it is not on the water like some of the other hikes, its dominating height and view of the mountain range to the north makes it’s extremely worthwhile.
Also as a plus, you get to stroll through the national park and a look at some of the biggest waterfalls in the city, as well enjoy some really great picnic areas. It is at least 2 hours up and takes a certain disposition to get to the top. If you are looking for a good sweat, yet not a back breaker, then this day hike is perfect for you.
Pedra da Gávea Hike
Physical Rate: Difficult
Hike Time Up: 2 h – 2 ½ h
Door to Door: 6 hours min
Style: Quite inclined with small climbing wall at top!
Access: Drive to Trailhead. Optional walk down to bus stop.
Pedra da Gávea is the most challenging hike in the immediate surroundings of Rio de Janeiro, and undoubtedly the most rewarding (my favorite of the top 5 hikes). The trail is located in the Tijuca National Forest, with its mountainous rock face rising directly from the sea. The hike is 2 – 2 ½ hours up, surrounded by all the beautiful vegetation and forestry Rio has to offer, including banana, papaya, and orange trees, offering a quick natural snack on the way up.
The difficulty of the hike comes from the duration and the steepness of it, as you are bringing most of your weight up with each step you take. Furthermore, it ends with ten minutes of rock climbing. Some people recommend bringing rope and hiking equipment, but if you take your time and are in decent shape there is not much to worry about. Once at the top, you are met by the most beautiful view of the city. I repeat, the most beautiful view. Everything from the Christ, to Pão de Açúcar, to the Lagoon, and Copacabana are completely visible. It’s absolutely breathtaking. If you consider yourself a hiker, or enjoy a great workout, this hike should be a priority for you. Make sure to bring enough water, and be sure to do the hike on a clear day, as you would not want to do that final rock climb if it’s slippery.
Dois Irmãos Hike
Physical Rate: Moderate
Hike Time Up: 45min – 1h
Door to Door: 3 hours
Access: Drive to Vidigal. Moto taxi or Kombi Van up to trail. Optional walk down.
The Dois Irmãos trail, which traverses the unmistakable rock faces seen from Ipanema and Leblon beach, is one of the must do hikes of the city. The trail itself is located at the top of Vidigal, a pacified community that is well worth exploring in its own right. To get to the trail you can either take a van (kombi) up at the base of the favela, or if you’re more of a thrill seeker, one of the motor-taxis. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on your way up, glimpsing the intricacies of the favela, with its concrete and brick infrastructure, impressive urban art, and displays of the locals daily life adds to the fun of it. The hike itself is relatively short, taking approximately 45 minutes up, involving considerable elevation. There are several stopping points on the way to the top that offer remarkable views of Rio, including an eagle’s eye view of Rocinha, Brazil’s most congregated slum, standing in stark contrast to some of Rio’s richest real estate next door, such as the American school, high rise condominiums, and lush golf course . It’s a small but shocking visual representation of the wealth distribution in Brazil. Once at the top, there will be no doubting as to why the labored breathing and profuse sweating was worth it. The panoramic view of the city is astonishing; from the mountain tops, to the beaches below, from the famous white high-risers of Copacabana, to the Lagoon, and the famous Christ the Redeemer itself, you can see it all, leaving even the most hard to impress people mouthing, “Wow!”. Upon descending and conclusion of the hike, we highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat or a beer at one of the Hostels/restaurants near the base of the trail such as Lage or Arvrão, As most favelas in the city are located on hills, the top of them have extremely picturesque views of the city. If you were to do only one hike, this one should be it, trust us, it will be one of the more memorable experiences of your journey.
Physical Rate: Moderate – Difficult
Hike Time Up: 45 min – 1h
Door to Door: 8 hours
Style: Moderate incline. Walk down to beaches below (45 mins). Walk back from beaches casual (45 mins)
Access: Drive to Guaratiba, West Zone, and park by main beach.
The Telégrafo hike will bring you to Rio de Janeiro’s western city limit, a neighborhood called Guaratiba. It is a small fishing community located about 1 – 1 : 30 h from Zona Sul. The neighborhood has very little resemblance to the rest of the city and it produces most of the fish and shellfish served in restaurants and supermarkets. On the way out there you will drive by the most beautiful beaches of the city, each one begging you for a stop and dip. After parking your car by the main beach in Guaratiba you will walk through some of the neighborhood, hit the trail, and it won’t take you more than 45 mins to make it to the top. At the top there is an endless view of the reserve looking west, and a fantastic view of the Recreio, Barra da Tijuca, and Zona Sul off in the distance looking east. There is also a rock where people wait hours on the weekend to snap the second most famous posed photograph of Rio de Janeiro (second to the Christ the Redeemer of course) where you hang from the rock ledge (with ground underneath you yet it doesn’t come out in the photo… pretty cool I must say). After the photo op you can head down on a different trail to the isolated beaches below. There are three beaches, each more stunning then the last. You can even rappel off the Tartaruga Rock (Turtle Rock) in between the first two beaches. A day out here in the West Zone is truly hard to beat. Get up early, enjoy your day, and leave before the traffic.
Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer) Hike
Physical Rate: Difficult
Hike Time Up: 1 ½ h – 2 ½ h
Door to Door: 4 hours
Style: Steep incline. Optional entrance to Christ the Redeemer.
Access: Drive to Parque Lage. Calm walk to trailhead. Optional van or trolley down.
The Corcovado trail is located in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood, and is accessed through the well known, beautiful park, Parque Lage. Corcovado has become one of the more popular hikes in Rio, because the trail leads you all the way up to Christ the Redeemer, almost. It lands in the middle range as far as difficulty is concerned, depending on your fitness, and gets harder and steeper as it progresses. Slightly over half way up you have to pull yourself up a rock incline, but it seems more daunting than it actually is. The trail is well maintained and is marked by yellow arrows indicating the way ahead. The hike takes between an hour and a half to two hours up, so bring water accordingly. As nearly all hikes in Rio, the natural beauty is spectacular, filled with lush greenery. Keep your eye out for the monkeys and Mikos (harmless creatures native to Brazil, resembling half squirrel, half monkeys), for a quick laugh and smile. The trail ends when you come out onto a road and see a set of train tracks. Follow the train tracks up, alongside (not on!), for a short while and you will reach the entrance to the Christ the Redeemer. Be careful of the cars zooming by, it’s a heavily travelled street. All in all, the Corcovado hike is a great hike, great exercise, and as an added perk, doing it saves you the hefty transportation fare you will have to pay to go see Rio de Janeiro’s most famous landmark, the Cristo!
Bonus: 4 More Hikes!
Vista Chinesa Hike
Physical Rate: Moderate
Hike Time Up: 45 min – 1h
Door to Door: 3 hours
Style: Moderate incline. Walk down road to waterfall.
Access: Drive to trailhead. Optional walk down on road.
Vista Chinesa is also located in the Tijuca Forest, in the neighborhood of Alto da Boa Vista, close in proximity to Jardim Botânico. It can be accessed by hiking or by car. The hike is a moderate hike, and not so long, lasting approximately 1 hour up. The trail is a thin one, and the good views won’t really show until the very end, but it’s a good quick workout, and hiking it will leave you shocked with how quickly you can go from a busy street in Rio de Janeiro, to being completely submerged by forestry and the sounds of nature. The drive up can also be fun, as the road is quite steep, and windy, and has tall trees on all sides (it’s considered a top destination for the cycling events for the Olympics of 2016). At the end of the trail, or drive, you will arrive at a Chinese style Gazebo, hence the name Vista Chinesa, and be exposed to a fantastic panoramic view of the city, where you can get a great feel for its layout. It’s a perfect place to go in the late afternoon after a walk around the magical botanical gardens!
Physical Rate: Casual
Hike Time Up: 30 min
Door to Door: 2 hours including enjoying the view at the top.
Style: Relaxed hike. Smooth Trail. Little incline at top.
Access: Drive to trailhead in Parque Nacional da Tijuca.
This hike is a perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon where you want to be active yet don’t want an intense workout. The trailhead starts by the Hang Gliding Ramp in the Tijuca park. It is a casual hike of about 25-30 mins, where the top gets a little steep. Although this may be an easy hike compared to the others, the view is definitely one of the best. You enjoy a perfect view of Pedra da Gávea, Rocinha and São Conrado, and the entire West Zone. After the hike you can check out Vista Chinesa or even take a lap in the Floresta da Tijuca, where you can hop in a waterfall or enjoy a nice picnic.
Morro da Urca Hike
Physical Rate: Casual
Hike Time Up: 30 min – 45 min
Door to Door: 3 hours including a casual walk-around.
Style: Relaxed hike. Nice Boardwalk and short trail.
Access: Drive to Praia Vermelha. Walk to trailhead.
Morro da Urca, or Sugarloaf’s little brother, is the easiest of hikes on this list. It is located to the right of Praia Vermelha, in the neighborhood of Urca, and the beginning of the trail can be found at the start of the Pista Claudia Coutinho pathway. It takes slightly over 30 minutes to get to the top, in which the famous Brazilian Micos will be on full display. You can also access the top via cable-car, in which there is a secondary cable car connection to the Sugarloaf (or back down to the ground obviously). The view at the top, although not as high as Surgarloaf’s, is still stunning, and as an upside, is more spacious than its bigger, more popular brother. For those who don’t mind a little sweat, we recommend this short hike, which will also save you the money you would spend on the cable car. The neighborhood is extremely safe, and well visited, as it is occupied by Military buildings/academies. Especially nice as the sun descends!
**The Travessia (Petrópolis-Teresópolis) Hike
The Travessia hike between the two cities of Petrópolis and Teresópolis is the most well known hike in Brazil, and certainly within the state of Rio de Janeiro (for good reason). It’s located in the Sierra das Órgãos National Park, in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest, about 2 hours inland from the city of Rio de Janeiro. The majority of the hike extends between Morro do Açu and Pedra do Sino (24km). In total, it’s roughly a 35km hike, and it’s recommended to do in 3 days/stages, camping atop Morro Açu the first night, and Pedra do Sino the second night; vice versa depending on which city is your starting point. Be warned that there are no other camping grounds than those two, so plan appropriately. The second day will be the most rewarding and visually unforgettable as you will traverse the ridges of the mountains, what is known as the Travessia itself. The hike is a difficult and tedious one, with many steep inclines and some rock climbing involved, so should not be taken lightly. You will need hiking gear (rope recommended), food, water, camping equipment, and warm clothes, as the top of the mountains can be quite cold and windy, all of which will have to be carried on your back, so take that into consideration (you can refill your water at the camping spots). It is also highly recommended to do the hike outside of the rainy season from March through October, because if the rocks become slippery you will not be able to continue. With that said, do not be dissuaded! Being in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest, exposed to some of Brazil richest nature and highest peaks, some reaching well over 2,000m, leaves you with one of the most exhilarating, free, and fulfilling feelings a human can have (not to mention the reward of the physical exertion itself). The views are absolutely unbelievable, surreal, especially when the sun is going down. Words do not do it justice. Some of those highlights, (including those that can be found at the camping spots) are: Castelo do Açu, O Garrafão (The Huge Bottle), Pico Dedo de Deus (The Finger of God!), Escalavrado, and Pedra do Sino (Bell Rock). You can even see all the way to Rio the city from certain high points! If you consider yourself a hiker/nature man or woman, this adventure will be one of the best experiences of your life, don’t let the chance slip you by!