Rio de Janeiro is more than beaches and samba.
The city is surrounded by, and quite literally in the middle of, the Floresta da Tijuca (The Tijuca Forest). Plenty of amazing hikes and spectacular vistas await your exploration so get out of your catatonic, cachaça induced state and explore what else the Cidade Maravilhosa has to offer.
PEDRA DA GÁVEA
Of the hikes listed here, this one is by far my favorite (also the most challenging). Around seven hours roundtrip, the trek includes over 2,700 feet (~842 meters) of vertical gain and some of the best views the city has to offer. About an hour from the top there is a section where you need to scale a small rock face (this may be difficult for some hikers), but if you make it that far it would be a shame to turn around. Getting to the trailhead can be tricky so thankfully we have some additional information available for you: Pedra da Gávea.
Total hiking time: ~5 hours (roundtrip)
MORRO DA URCA
Morro da Urca is the smaller
mountain hill located to the iconic Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). You can take a cable car to the top (and then up to the top of Pão de Açúcar), or you can hike up (it is actually more of a pleasurable uphill stroll). The top of Pão de Açúcar can be reached via a reduced price cable car from the top of Morro da Urca, so combining the activities may be a wise investment of your time.
You can find the trailhead by following a path between Praia Vermelha and Sugarloaf until you see the trail entrance plunging into the forest on your left.
Total hiking time: ~30 minutes (one-way)
Interested in hang-gliding? Then Pedra Bonita is the place for you. Everyday (weather permitting) dozens of adventure seekers in Rio de Janeiro launch themselves off the mountain with hopes of somehow safely drifting to the beach below. And you can hike up to where it all goes down.
The trailhead is a bit tricky to get to (a car is ideal), but you can reach it without problem by following Estrada da Canoa up to the “Trilha da Pedra Bonita” sign.
Total hiking time: ~40 minutes (one-way)
MORRO DOIS IRMÃOS
Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) are the two iconic hills at the western end of the Ipanema/Leblon beaches. You can reach multiple vistas offering views of Leblon and Ipanema. Along the way you will also encounter two monuments (one generic monument and one remembering the victims of an Air France flight that crashed in 2009). Just follow Rua Aperana in Leblon to the park.
Total hiking time: ~50 minutes (one-way)
But wait, that wasn’t really a hike. I know it wasn’t. If you want to hike to the summit of Dois Irmãos, you will have to find the trailhead at the top of Vidigal (the favela just after Leblon (facing the ocean). You can walk to trailhead or take a moto-taxi (R$2 and a lot of fun). Many people in Rio would likely recommend against doing this hike without a guide, but I see nothing wrong with doing it on your own.
Total hiking time: ~2 hours (one-way)
Don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of taking the tram (or sketchy van) up to the top of Corcovado to see the Giant Stone Jesus? Me neither. Hiking up Corcovado is the way to go if you want to make a proper pilgrimage to Cristo. The hike up Corcovado starts in the beautiful Parque Lage (near the pond in the back/middle of the park). One small sign reading “Corcovado” is affixed to a tree at the beginning of the trailhead.
However, unless you have bought a ticket to enter the monument and then made your way all the way back to the trailhead and hiked up, getting into the monument will be challenging. You could try hopping the wall near the bathrooms, or you could pay for a van to take you to the bottom where you can then buy a ticket and pay to go back up…I know, the inefficiency is ridiculous. Regardless, the hike is amazing, and I am sure you will figure you a way to get in or down once you make it up. Just another reason why I never plan ahead of time.
Total hiking time: ~1.5 hours (one-way)