The marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro is known worldwide for samba, beaches and Carnival – I know, the typical boring stereotypes. After having lived there for over a year, I can assure you that there are many other things besides those over-exploited clichés.
One of the things that strikes me most is the number of trails you can find inside the city. For those who don’t know much about Rio, this beautiful city is completely surrounded by jungle and mountains. Tijuca Park is the largest national park located within a city. In fact, it looks more like a city within a jungle, and not the other way around.
The result is incredible scenery with dozens of trails for all levels, from 20-minute walks to several-hour routes, all offering amazing views of the city. As a hiker, I’ve spent my time in Rio hiking around those trails to find the best routes.
My favorites are Dois Irmãos, Pedra da Gavea and Morro da Urca. However, any hike in Rio is worth a try. I hope you enjoy them:
THE 10 BEST HIKES IN RIO DE JANEIRO
1 – DOIS IRMÃOS
It’s no coincidence that this is the first hike on the list. The “two brothers” mount is beautiful from both below and above. If you visit Ipanema Beach, you’ll see that there are two great hills to the right; that’s Dois Irmãos. On the hillside overlooking the sea, you’ll find favela Vidigal, one of the largest slums in Rio.
The views from the top are breathtaking: Ipanema Beach, the Lagoa, the Christ, the Sugar Loaf, Niteroi … You can see practically the entire city except the northern zone.
Hiking time: 45 min + 25 min return
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Height: 533 m
How to get there: First you need to get to Vidigal. You can take a bus from Ipanema or Copacabana, or take the metro to Antero de Quental, in Leblon. If you take the bus, you’ll have to ask the driver to stop when you reach Vidigal. If you take the metro, you’ll have to walk 20 minutes from Leblon to Vidigal.
When you get to Vidigal, you can take a mototaxi or a van (you’ll find them in the main square) and go up to Alto Vidigal. The price is about 3.50 reais, but if they see that you’re a gringo, they’ll try to charge you 5 or 10 reais. You can always say that you’re a resident and then you should pay the right price.
There are several ways to start the hike – one from the soccer field (keep in mind that the entrance is closed on Mondays) and another from the highest part of the favela. The easiest way is to get to Alto Vidigal in a van or mototaxi and then ask the people around for the “trilha dos Dois Irmãos.” Everyone knows the way. Once you start the trail, it’s impossible to get lost.
2 – MORRO DA BABILÔNIA
The hike to Morro da Babilônia offers the best views of the Sugar Loaf, Praia Vermelha and Botafogo. This short hike is well located and accessible. You can make the most of the day visiting the communities of Babilônia and Chapeú Mangueira, although I recommend that you ask about the current situation first. Although these favelas were the safest in Rio, the situation from 2016-2017 has once again become a bit complicated. There may be shootings from time to time. Do you want to know about my experience living in Chapeú Mangueira?
Hiking time: 25 min + 15 min return
Height: 200 m
How to get there: The fastest way is to travel by metro to Cardeal Arcoverde station or take a bus to Avenida Princesa or Leme. From there, walk on Gustavo Sampaio Street, then take Anchieta Street to the left and ask for Ladeira Ary Barroso. Start walking up the hill to Babilônia Square and ask someone how to get to the starting point of the trail. I’d love to explain the path in more detail, but favelas are real labyrinths. Ask around and the local people will put you in the right direction. Don’t worry, the residents of the favelas are nice people. Once on the trail, the hike is easy and short, taking about 20 minutes.
3 – MORRO DA URCA – SUGAR LOAF
Taking the cable car up to the Pão de Açucar is one of the most famous activities for visitors. The cable car goes from Praia Vermelha to Morro da Urca, then continues all the way up to the Sugar Loaf. What many people don’t know is that there is a trail where you can get up to Morro da Urca on your own, for free, without taking the cable car. I recommend that you visit this place at dusk, when the sun is setting behind the mountains, near the Christ.
Hiking time: 20 min + 10 min return
Height: 220 m
How to get there: You’ll have to get to the Urca neighborhood first, then walk to Praia Vermelha. You can take a bus in the direction of UFRJ University or take the metro to Botafogo and walk about 20 minutes. Once in Praia Vermelha, take the path on your left as you are looking towards the sea. The beginning of the trail is well marked and the trail was totally revamped for the Olympics, with wooden stairs, protection, etc. It’s a short and simple route for all levels.
4 – CHRIST THE REDEEMER – CORCOVADO
Undoubtedly the highlight of any visit to Rio, the Corcovado hill has unbeatable views of Botafogo Bay, Tijuca Park and practically the whole city. What makes this visit expensive is the transport, i.e., the train or van that goes up there. However, you can hike the mountain on your own and pay only 14 reales for entrance to the Christ statue. The trek isn’t complicated, but it has steep parts and takes a few hours, so you should be in good shape.
Hiking time: 2 hours + 1 hour return
Height: 710 m
How to get there: The trail begins in Parque Lage, near the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden). Access to the path is behind one of the buildings located in the middle of the park. After that point, it’s well marked.
5 – PEDRA DA GAVEA
Pedra da Gavea, with its square table shape at the top, is one of the most challenging climbs on the list. Generally, it takes about three hours to get up and two hours to get down. To that you must add the time you are going to spend on top, plus the transport. In the end, this activity will take you the whole day. However, the views from the top are worth the effort. It has, by far, the best views of Dois Irmãos, Pedra Bonita, São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca. It’s only 842 meters high, but with its location right in front of the sea, you’ll feel like you’re much higher. Keep in mind that to get to the top you must use ropes to climb a 20-meter wall. That part isn’t difficult, but it’s almost totally vertical, so those with vertigo should watch out.
Hiking time: 3 hours + 2 hours return
Difficulty: Moderate – Challenging
Height: 842 m
How to get there: The trail begins in Barra da Tijuca. You must go to Estrada do Sorima, in the Barrinha neighborhood. At the end of that street is a square where cars are parked. The walk begins at the end of the street, to the right of a gate with the number 936 on it.
6 – PEDRA BONITA
Although this place is frequented more often by paragliding enthusiasts than by mountaineers, the trek to Pedra Bonita is a highly recommended activity. It’s located very close to Pedra da Gavea, which means you can enjoy similar incredible views but with less effort. It’s a great option for those who prefer a less challenging trail.
Hiking time: 40 min + 25 min return
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Height: 693 m
How to get there: The biggest problem with this trek is the transport. The ideal would be to travel by car or taxi. By car, you can take the Lagoa – Barra road and exit at Estrada das Canoas. Then you’ll leave at the intersection for Estrada da Pedra Bonita. You can park there and find the path easily.
If you want to go by public transport, there are other options. You can take a bus to São Conrado. From there, you’ll take the line 448 Macarí – São Conrado. (Be careful because in Rio the bus lines change often.) This line will take you to the entrance of the parking lot of the paragliding track, where you’ll start the hike.
7 – PEDRA DO TELÉGRAFO
This place is a bit farther from the city, but it has become very popular because of the optical effect it offers. The trail itself is quite simple and makes for a quick climb. The main attraction involves taking a photo of yourself hanging from a big stone. If you go during the weekend, be prepared to find a long line of people waiting for the picture. The stone is situated in such a way that it looks like you’re hanging from a great cliff when, in fact, you’re one meter off the ground.
Hiking time: 35 min + 15 min return
Height: 354 m
How to get there: To get to Pedra do Telégrafo, you need to take a bus going to Guaratiba. Then you’ll continue along Estrada da Barra da Guaratiba until you reach the beach, where the trail begins.
8 – VISTA CHINESA
A perfect trail for those who want views as good as what you’ll find from the Christ but who also want to hike an easy path. Although most tourists visit this place by car or taxi, the trail to this beautiful viewpoint takes only 40 minutes. You can also take the opportunity to stroll through Parque da Cidade or visit neighboring Rocinha, the largest favela in Latin America.
Hiking time: 45 min + 20 min return
Height: 380 m
How to get there: You’ll have to take a bus to the Gavea neighborhood and ask for Parque da Cidade, which is a beautiful park with gardens, rivers, a museum and many walks. It’s a perfect place for a picnic or to spend an afternoon having tea with friends. Inside the park, going up the right side is a sign indicating the path to Horto. You’ll take that trail. Then you’ll reach a point where it says: “Attention, dangerous dogs.” There you’ll take the path on the right, but not the one that goes down; take the one that goes up. After that point, you can’t get lost.
9 – MORRO DO LEME
If you’re looking for a super-easy, fast, centrally located trail with good views, Morro do Leme is for you. This little mount is at the end of the district of Leme. The entrance is through the military compound, so you can be sure that no one will rob you. It’s open every day of the year, but access is allowed only until 16:30 hours. Unfortunately, you can’t enjoy the sunset from the top, but the views are also amazing during the day.
Hiking time: 20 min + 10 min return
Difficulty: Very easy
Height: 128 m
How to get there: You’ll take the metro to Cardeal Arcoverde or a bus to Av. Princesa or Leme. Head to the beach and walk to the left, facing the sea. At the end, you’ll see the military post with a large entrance gate.
10 – PICO DA TIJUCA
Located in the heart of Tijuca Park, this is the highest peak in the city, with 1,022 meters of height. The climb isn’t difficult, but it takes several hours to reach the top. The trail is well marked and it’s possible to see several birds, butterflies and perhaps some monkeys. The view from the top offers a complete 360-degree panoramic view of the city.
Hiking time: 2.5 hours + 1 hour return
Height: 1,022 m
How to get there: The access entrance is in the Alto da Boa Vista neighborhood. To get there, you can take a bus from Rua Conde do Bonfim (Uruguaina metro station) to Praça Alfonso Viseu. There you’ll find the Estrada dos Picos road, where the walk to the entrance begins. This means adding an extra hour to the trek.
How did you like it? What will your next hike in Rio de Janeiro be? I hope you enjoy this magnificent city from above!