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Gareth Leonard

Five Great Hikes in Rio de Janeiro

The dramatic landscape surrounding Rio de Janeiro makes for an incredible combination of urban living and outdoor adventure.

While the city’s famous beaches remain the center of attention, the thick forests and mountainous terrain definitely deserve some exploration.

Thanks to many public initiatives, there are a number of great hiking trails around town for locals and tourists alike.

Over the past eight months of living in Rio, I’ve had the opportunity to trek many of these trails and have been rewarded with some of the most incredible views of Rio.

Here are five of my favorite hikes in Rio de Janeiro, along with some visual proof of their awesomeness.

Morro de Urca / Urca Hill

I started off with an easy one, which didn’t take much time to summit (30min) – I thought of it as a beginners hike to get ready for more rigorous expeditions to come.

The famous Sugarloaf Mountain is a quintessential experience in Rio. The normal tourist experience consists of actually summiting two peaks via tram, first, Urca Hill and then the taller Sugarloaf Mountain.

This is the easiest and fastest way up, but it definitely isn’t the cheapest or most adventurous.

Instead of following the herd, a few friends and I started in my favorite neighborhood of Urca and hiked up to the first peak on our own. It’s free and makes the view at the first checkpoint so much more rewarding.

For the extra adventurous, I was told that there’s a way to climb up Sugarloaf Mountain as well, but it requires a bit more climbing expertise and gear.

If you’re not up for the extra work, as my friends weren’t, you can either pay to take the tram up to Sugarloaf from Urca Hill or you can stay at the first viewpoint and take the tram back down (for free) like we did.

Either way, both summits provide an amazing vantage point of Rio neighborhood’s like Botafogo, Flamengo, Urca and beyond.

Pedra de Gavea / Gavea’s Rock

From easiest to most challenging, Padra de Gavea is a long, beautiful and difficult hike starting in Barra de Tujica. At 844 meters up (2,769 feet), it is the largest rock close to the sea in the world.

I did the grueling hike in just over two hours with frequent water and photo breaks.

While you need to be in pretty good shape to complete the trek, the views from the summit are second to none. It gives you an incredible view all the way down Barra de Tujica, the Dois Irmaos Mountain and the Tujica Forest.

I recommend pulling that StairMaster out of the closet before you come visit!

Pedra Bonita / Beautiful Rock

RioHikes-PedraBonita

Known for being the takeoff spot for hang-gliders, Pedra Bonita is the little sister of Pedra de Gavea.

I actually ended up climbing Pedra Bonita one day because it was too cloudy to summit Pedra de Gavea.

The hike turned out to be a perfect 45-minute, low-intensity walk up through the forest. Once at the top, I was rewarded with a similar view as Pedra de Gavea but without the extra work.

The spacious and smooth rock surface on Pedra Bonita made it the perfect place for a lunch picnic and early afternoon nap – my favorite combination.

Dois Irmaos / Two Brothers

RioHikes-DoisIrmaos

The climb and summit of Dois Irmoas is one of the most unique in the city.

A few friends and I decided to go watch the sunrise over Rio after a late night out, so we all jumped in a cab and headed towards the famous twin peaks.

From the cab, we switched over to a local shuttle van that took us up the steep, winding streets to the trailhead.

We turned our phones into flashlights and began the climb through the dark forest up the rugged mountain.

Once above the tree line, dark purple sky gave way to the day’s first light and it was absolutely breathtaking

With the beaches of Barra de Tijuca on one side and the entire city view on the other, it was a surreal moment.

Neither photographs nor paintings could illustrate the energy and overwhelming beauty of that view.

Corcovado / Christ the Redeemer

The mountain of Corcovado is home to the most well known symbol in Brazil, and receives over 300,000 visitors a year because of it.

People come from all over the world to see Christ the Redeemer in all of its gigantic glory, but most don’t take the path less traveled.

Starting in Parque Lage, I climbed the steep, rocky path past waterfalls and over tree branches as monkeys looked down with amusement.

As I made my way up through one of the largest urban forests in the world in The Tijuca Forest, I’m glad no one was with me to see me sweat so bad.

This was the first hike in Rio that I did on my own and it was tiring as it was rewarding.

When I finally reached the clouded over Christ statute, my shirt was dirty and wet and all the other tourists looked at me like I was crazy.

While they whispered and laughed to each other, I knew the big guy respected it.

Whenever I can add some physical and mental challenges to my sightseeing regiment, it’s always a bonus.

I highly recommend the next time you’re in Rio to skip the typical trams, vans and tour groups and get out there and explore the outdoors.



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