Rio de Janeiro may be famous for it’s beaches, but it’s so much more than that- the city is also home to the Tijuca National Forest, the world’s largest urban forest full of hiking trails, breathtaking views and endless rainforest terrain to keep you busy off the beach. If you’re coming to Rio, you won’t want to miss hiking at least one of these trails so you can see the other half of Rio de Janeiro’s beauty. There’s something for everyone here, so whether you’re a dedicated mountain climber or just a curious traveler ready to wander off the beach for the day, you won’t be disappointed. Here are what we found to be the best hikes in Rio de Janeiro, each with stunning views and great terrain along the way, and all the information you need to get there (including our favorite photos to really motivate you).

 

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1. Dois Irmaos (“Two Brothers”)

 

The ”Two Brothers” hike is one of our favorite hikes in Rio, and if you’re only going to do one hike while you’re here, this should be it. The Dois Irmaos are the two mountains you see towering over the end of Ipanema beach, the classic postcard view. You can hike to the top of the taller one in under an hour (but you need another hour to get to the start of the hike) and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the entire city including the Christ statue, Lagoon and Sugarloaf Mountain, and everything on the other side of the mountain towards Rocinha, Sao Conrado and Barra de Tijuca. You’ll pass through the Vidigal favela that begins at the base of the mountain, so you get several different types of experiences all at once.

It’s the best hike to give you your first glimpse of the Marvelous City from above. The great thing about this hike is that it’s short and anyone could do it. You’ll be in direct sunlight for half the hike, so plan accordingly. You definitely don’t need a guide, but make sure to ask locals on your way through the favela for the correct spot to start the hike- this is where most travelers get confused. On your way down, grab some cheap acai in Vidigal. (If you’re hesitant about the favela, read our Favela Guide here.)

Location: Vidigal (Near Ipanema/Leblon)

Time: 2 Hours

Difficulty: Beginner

Elevation: 533 Meters

How to Get to the Dois Irmaos Hike: First get to the base of Vidigal favela, you can take any bus from Ipanema or Leblon saying “Vidigal” on it. You can ask the driver to tell you when you’re there, but you’ll know. The bus stops directly in front. From here, there are two ways: the short and the long. For the shortcut (closed Mondays), take the white vans going up the hill (costs R2.50) and get off at Campo do Football (a football field). You’ll see a door right where the van drops you, enter and cross the football field and when you exit the door across the field, you’ll be on the trail. However, the field is locked on Mondays and you can’t go around. So…For the long way to get there, take a motortaxi and tell them “Alto Vidigal”. This is the name of the hostel at the top. They will drop you off at the top of the main road and point you to the right for Alto Vidigal. Instead, continue upwards on the wide road, and ask people you see for “Trilha Dois Irmaos”. Everyone should gladly show you how to get there, and don’t be alarmed when they point you to a narrow pathway between several homes- that’s right! Follow it until the homes end and you’re on the trail.

 

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2. Sugarloaf & Morro do Urca

 

As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll likely be coming to Sugarloaf one way or another, so why not do it a little differently and hike up? You’ll save money, walk up through the rainforest-covered hillside, get a different set of views and see a ton of tiny monkeys. When you look at the Sugarloaf Mountain, you’ll see that to the right of it is a smaller, flatter mountain, and the cable car strings over both of them. The smaller one is Urca Mountain (Morro do Urca), and of course the bigger is the infamous Sugarloaf. Morro do Urca can be walked over; Sugarloaf must be rockclimbed. For those not feeling too crazy but wanting a little more than just hopping in the cable car, you can walk up the backside of Morro do Urca and either take the cable car back down for free, or pay a half-price ticket and take it the rest of the way up to Sugarloaf (but if doing this, you need to buy your ticket at the bottom first). The hike is a little steep but very short and covered with shade. You don’t need a guide for Morro o Urca, but you do for Sugarloaf.

 

Read more: The Best Secret Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

 

Location: Urca (Botafogo)

Time: 30 min (Only Urca) /3 Hours (All the way to Sugarloaf)

Difficulty: Beginner

Elevation: 396 meters

How to Get to the Sugarloaf Hike: From Botafogo metro stop, you can take a cab to Urca, just tell the driver “Pao de Acucar” (It’s only 5 minutes in taxi but due to overpasses is very difficult to walk). You’ll be dropped off at the base of the mountain, right where the cable car station is. If you’ll only be hiking Morro do Urca, then buy a ticket from Urca to Sugarloaf. Tell them you’ll be walking. (If you don’t want to go to Sugarloaf, you can ride the cable car back down for free without paying anything!) After getting tickets, turn around and head towards the mountain. Between the mountain and the end of the beach is a cement path, follow that. After a few minutes, you’ll clearly see a dirt trail leading up on the left. Walk up and when the path branches once it’s flat, go right for rock climbing Sugarloaf and follow the left trail for the first cable car station atop Morro do Urca.

 

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3. Pedra da Gavea (”Gavea Rock”)

 

This is the ultimate hike to do in Rio de Janeiro- It’s perhaps the most intense you’ll find here, yet equally rewarding. Many will argue this is the best hike in Rio, but it requires significantly more effort than the others (which isn’t for everyone). This hike is behind the Dois Irmaos, and takes you to a giant plateau overlooking the entire city and rainforest called the Pedra da Gavea. The Pedra da Gavea is the world’s largest monolith, surrounded by local myths of aliens and UFOs, and some even claim the top has an entrance to another dimension… You’ll have to see for yourself! Aliens or not, you’ll get absolutely incredible views and some of the best photos you can in Rio.  (Tip: If you’re in Rio for a while, consider holding out for the next full moon- each month, groups of young hikers go up in the afternoon, watch sunset, spend the night on the top, then climb back down after sunset in the morning. That’s definitely your once in a lifetime Rio de Janeiro experience. For the serious daredevils: You’ll see signs advertising hanggliding from the top as well).

 

Read more: Getting Perspective: The Best Views of Rio de Janeiro

 

Tips: This is an advanced hike. You don’t have to be a pro to make it up, but you need to be prepared. It’s very steep and you’ll have to do a bit of actual climbing at points. The infamous “Carrasqueira” is a 30 meters (100 feet) high wall of rocks nearing the top, and it’s recommended to only climb this part with proper climbing equipment, ropes, helmets, and the supervision of a guide. We know a lot of travelers who just go up on their own, and the saying is that you need courage more than equipment… So you can make the judgment call on how comfortable you are, or book a guide to be safe. Make sure to bring plenty of water and some food.

Location: Sao Conrado

Time: 6 Hours

Difficulty: Advanced

Elevation: 842 Meters

How to Get to Pedro da Gavea: You can take a bus, cab or drive. If you take a bus, take one heading to Jardim Oceanico at the start of Barra da Tijuca. Get off here and walk across the Ponte Velho bridge into Barrinha. Take a right onto Estrada da Barra da Tijuca, take the first left onto Avenida Vitor Kondor. Follow this to the end, turn left on Ave. Fleming, and take Estrada Sorima at the roundabout. At the end of Sorima is a parking lot, and you’ll see where the trail begins. You’ll be asked to sign in when you enter the forest, and you’re off! Cars- If you’re coming from Copacabana/Ipanema/Leblon, take the tunnel for São Conrado. Out of the tunnel, take the first street to the right. You’ll come to Praça Desembargador Araujo Jorge. Follow Estrada do Joá for one block, and then turn left to Ave. Fleming. After three blocks take Estrada do Sorimã, which takes you to the parking lot where the trail begins. Come early if bringing your own car because space runs out! If you get there by taxi, ask for the “Trilha Pedro da Gavea”, but be prepared to have to guide the driver with the instructions above.

 

5. Christo / Corcovado Hike

Like Sugarloaf, this hike is a great way to get a different perspective on a popular attraction, as well as save some money on overpriced tourist transport. You’ll get to hike up through the beautiful Parque Lage (yes, from the Pharrell and Snoop Dogg video), and climb through the rainforest to the lookout at the top. Steep, but shaded, this hike isn’t difficult but you need a bit of endurance.

Location: Tijuca (Entrance in Jardim Botanico)

Time: 3 Hours

Difficulty: Intermediate

Elevation: 710 meters

How to Get to the Corcovado Hike to the Christo: By bus, the 110, 570, and 574 from Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon and stop here. Get off at Parque Lage, next to the Jardim Botanico. Enter Parque Lage (free), and walk towards the one building in the middle (check it out if you have time!). Go around the building to the right, and you’ll see clearly marked signs pointing you to the trail. Signs will continue along the way, and you can buy your entrance ticket when you reach the top (not sold online or elsewhere).

 

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5. Pico da Tijuca (“Tijuca Peak”)

This hike begins in a beautiful hilltop neighborhood in Rio’s North Zone. Going through the forest you’ll pass waterfalls, many other shorter trails, and dense foliage, ending with a climb up a stone staircase carved into the mountain and 360 degree views of Rio. Coming from the North Zone, you’ll see a different view than these other hikes, including views over Niteroi, the Guanabara Bay and Bridge, Maracana stadium, and over the forest towards Pedra de Gavea. The highest peak in Rio, this hike is a popular one. Bring lunch to eat on the large plateau on top!

Location: Tijuca

Time: 2 Hours

Difficulty: Medium

Elevation: 1022 meters

 

How to Get to Pico da Tijuca:

For this trail you will need to enter the forest from the neighborhood of “Alta da Boa Vista”, in Rio’s North Zone. The easiest way to access is a combo of metro and bus. You can take the metro to the “Uruguai” stop (end of orange line) in the Tijuca neighborhood. When you exit you’ll be on Rua Conde de Bonfim, take bus 301 or 345 (tell driver “Parque Nacional de Tijuca”/”Alta de Boa Vista”). Estrada da Cascatinha is the road that enters the park. Get off at the top, and there will only be one way to go, which is on this road. You’ll see signs, and be asked to sign in before entering.

 

6. Pedra Bonita

 

Just next to Pedra da Gavea, this one is great because you get similar (if slightly lower) views to Pedra da Gavea, without nearly as much physical commitment. Locals named this “Beautiful Rock” because of the views, and it’s no surprise why. The Pedra Bonita hike can be done by anyone, and is actually only about 30 minutes of hiking once you’ve reached the start of the trail. Enjoy hiking in the shade under trees amongst the wildlife- you’ll definitely see birds, butterflies, and maybe even some monkeys!

Location: Sao Conrado

Time: 40-60 minutes total

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation: 696 Meters

How to Get to Pedra Bonita: The easiest way is by car or taxi. If you are coming from Copacabana/Ipanema/Leblon, take the tunnel Sao Conrado from Gavea. When you exit the tunnel, continue for about 1 km until you see the Gavea Golf & County Club on your right side. After the golf club, take the third street to the right (Estrada das Canoas). Follow the road for 10 minutes until it tells you to turn left for Pedra Bonita! You’ll find the start of the trail here.

Enjoy!

 

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ANNOUNCEMENT!

We are currently living in Rio for the Carioca summer and just started a new project call: Free Trilhas Rio which means free hiking to the most beautiful peaks in the city.

If you are coming to Rio, dont forget to hit us on facebook or instagram for more information.

Facebook: @FreeTrilhasRio

Instagram:@FreeTrilhasRio

 

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