There’s more to Rio de Janeiro than white-sand beaches, deep-blue seas and tropical cocktails. The city is flanked by gorgeous mountains and is home to Tijuca National Forest, the world’s largest urban forest. You’d be surprised to see how many hiking trails offer incredible views over the city.
Whether you’re used to crushing mountains in Alaska or simply want to work for that caipirinha tonight, you’ll definitely find a trail that’s worth it.
So, here’s what I found to be the best hikes in Rio de Janeiro.
Best Hikes in Rio de Janeiro
1. Corcovado & Cristo Redentor (“Christ the Redeemer”)
Hiking to the top of this 710-meter granite peak will reward you with panoramic views of the city and one of Rio’s most popular attractions, Cristo Redentor. The trail starts in the beautiful Parque Lage (free entrance), filled with monkeys, caves and was featured in Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s music video.
During your ascent, you’ll climb mostly shaded rainforest and use a chain rope to get up a short stretch of rock. The last 20 minutes of climbing are a lot steeper. After crossing the train tracks, you’ll arrive at a paved road which will take you to the entrance to Cristo Redentor (R$24, Adult).
From the top, you’ll have the option to hike back down or purchase a ticket for the train or a van.
Time: 3 hours
Location: Parque Lage – Jardim Botânico
2. Dois Irmãos (“Two Brothers”)
Dois Irmãos is the perfect hike to experience a favela and see the city from another perspective. The beautiful pair of mountains tower over the edge of Leblon Beach and breathtaking views include Christ the Redeemer, Lagoon and Sugarloaf Mountain to the east and Rocinha, São Conrado and Barra de Tijuca to the west.
The trail starts behind a football field, Campo do Vidigal. A short, easy-going hike to the top should take less than an hour. More than half of the trail is exposed to sunshine but if you run out of water you can buy some from a cart that sits at the top.
Cheap thrill: Skip a long walk and take a moto-taxi for an exciting ride through the favela to the start of the trailhead (R$10, one way). Helmets are included!
Time: 2 hours
Location: Dois Irmãos – Vidigal
3. Morro da Urca & Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf)
Standing at 396 meters, Sugarloaf Mountain is another popular attraction in Rio de Janeiro. Hiking to the shorter summit is easy and takes 30 minutes. From the summit, you can enjoy views of Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer, Niteroi Bridge and Guanabara Bay.
In order to climb to the top of Pão de Açúcar, you’ll need to hire a guide and put on some climbing shoes. A steep trail to the top takes about 90 minutes with 10 meters of rock climbing.
Another option to reach the summit is by cable car. Passengers can take two cable cars. The first cable car takes you to the shorter summit of Morro da Urca, 220 meters. The second cable car takes you from Morro da Urca to the top of Pão de Açúcar.
By hiking, you can still take a cable car to the top of Pão de Açúcar (tickets must be purchased at the bottom) or enjoy a quick ride down (R$10, Student).
If you go on a clear day, be sure to stay for an incredible sunset!
Time: 1 hour
Location: Sugarloaf Mountain – Urca
4. Pedra Bonita
Pedra Bonita is an incredibly easy hike that offers similar views to the more difficult Pedra da Gávea hike (pictured in background). The trail is mostly sheltered by trees and it’s not uncommon to see wildlife, such as birds, butterflies and monkeys.
After a 30-minute hike to the summit, you can enjoy views of the beaches of São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca and watch hang gliders as they make their way to a beach landing from the only gliding ramp in the city.
One of the easiest ways to get to the trailhead is by Uber (cheaper than a Taxi). You can also take the metro from the city to São Conrado and then take a bus outside of the metro station up to the trailhead.
Time: 1 hour
Location: Pedra Bonita – São Conrado
5. Pedra do Telégrafo
Pedra do Telégrafo is an insta-worthy hike. But it does come with a price. Traveling to the trailhead from the city takes about 2 hours unless you take a car and by the time you get to the infamous rock, you might have to wait in a line for an hour or longer just to take a few photos.
Reaching the rock takes 45 minutes and from there you’ll have a chance to stand on top of or hang from a large, sharp rock, which isn’t actually very far off the ground. With the right camera angle, you can trick all of your friends and make it appear like you’re a crazy person that is about to fall really far down the mountain.
Even if you’re not a finatic about this epic photo opportunity, views from the summit are still worthwhile. Enjoy panoramic vistas of nearby beaches and mountains. Make sure you get there early because the sun will disappear behind the mountains.
Afterwards, you can spend time walking around this unique fisherman village and eat a plate of fresh seafood.
Time: 1.5 hours
Location: Pedra do Telégrafo – Barra de Guaratiba
THEN THERE IS THE ONE MOUNTAIN THAT GOT AWAY…
6. Pedra da Gávea
Pedra da Gávea is claimed to be the ultimate hike to do in Rio de Janeiro. The mountain is the world’s largest monolith, providing breathtaking views of the city and making the perfect place for some badass photos.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience it for myself during my time in Rio. I spent many days trying to figure out if I actually needed a guide or not due to the fact that the advanced hike is very steep and requires a bit of climbing. The infamous “Carrasqueira” is a 30-meter high wall of rocks near the top and it’s recommended to use proper climbing gear.
I heard of hikers that go on their own and the Alaskan in me wanted to do the exact same thing. I procrastinated for too long and ran out of days.
It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay for a guide or go on your own. Either way, my advice is to wear proper hiking shoes and bring food and plenty of water.
Time: 6 hours
Location: Pedra da Gávea – Barra da Tijuca
Rio de Janeiro didn’t disappoint when it came to hiking. It was a lot of fun to see Cristo Redentor from different parts of the city. If you have the time, I highly recommend experiencing a few of these hikes for yourself.
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