Morro da Urca is located in the neighborhood of Urca on the eastern edge of Rio de Janeiro’s Zone Sul, and is home to the first stage of the famous cable car that shuttles tourists to the summit of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain).
Be sure not to confuse this hill with its big brother – Pão de Açúcar is the name of the higher peak, Morro da Urca is the smaller one (and the one we’ll be discussing here).
You used to be able to hike up Morro da Urca and then take the cable car down for free, but the powers that be have gotten wise to this game and it will now cost you R$20 to descend (R$40 for a round-trip ticket to Pão de Açúcar).
- Location: Urca, Rio de Janeiro
- Summit elevation: 722 ft / 220 m
- Elevation change: 715 ft / 218 m
- Round-trip distance from trailhead: 2 mi / 3.2 km
- Round-trip time from trailhead*: 1 hour
- Difficulty: Easy
*NOTE: The round-trip time listed above is based on my own experience. Please remember that your time may vary greatly.
GETTING TO MORRO DA URCA
- Accessible via public transportation: Yes
- Trailhead parking: Yes
- Trailhead coordinates: -22.953928, -43.164521
- Summit coordinates: -22.951207, -43.164098
Since Pão de Açúcar and its cable cars are a big tourist attraction, getting to Morro da Urca is simple.
The park entrance (where you can find the trailhead) is at the north end of Praia Vermelha, just east of where the cable car begins.
It’s possible to walk there from elsewhere in Zona Sul, but the trailhead can be easily accessed via bus, car, or taxi as well. The closest metro stop to Morro da Urca is Botafogo (1.3 mi / 2.1 km away).
When you reach the park entrance, follow the path for a couple hundred meters and you will see the entrance to the Morro da Urca trail on your left.
A small gazebo and numerous signs mark the very obvious trailhead and you will be able to see steps leading up the hill and into the monkey-filled forest.
Morro da Urca’s trail is short and well traveled.
There is a small amount of elevation to be gained (you are climbing a hill after all), but much of it is done via nicely laid out stairs cut into the hillside.
The trail runs almost entirely through the trees and so you can count on being well shaded for most of your hike.
The path is easy to follow and most of it allows plenty of space for passing (because chances are you will not be alone out here).
I saw plenty of small children and elderly folks on this trail, so if you’re worried about this hike being too tough for you, then you may want to give yourself a bit more credit (you can do it!).
Informational signs teaching Leave No Trace principles line the trail, and if you’re lucky then you might find yourself some monkey friends on the way up (please, don’t feed the monkeys).
After the first climb, the trail levels out and comes to a junction.
To the right is a spur trail that runs all of twenty meters down to a viewing platform overlooking Urca and Guanabara Bay. The the left/ahead of you is the last bit of climbing up to the top.
You’ll know you’ve reached the top when the trail turns into a brick pathway and you see the cable car above you.
At the top there’s a gate with a sign again informing you of the cable car prices should you not be up for hiking back down the way you came.
I did some poking around on some side trails near the summit and was able to find a nice flat area along the northern face of Morro da Urca.
Above me I could see the viewing platform, and hanging down from the top were two ropes. I don’t know if these are always there or if they were being used by some climbers, but if it wasn’t for that fact that I did this hike in sandals, I probably would have climbed up.
Even if you don’t scale the side, you get a good look at Botafogo and the bay.
I’ll be straight with you: Morro da Urca is not an exciting hike.
If you are interested in something more challenging, less crowded (because there will be plenty of people at Urca), and more rewarding, take a look some other hikes in Rio de Janeiro.
However, if you’re looking for an easy bit of exercise (or trying to save some money on the cable car ride up to Pão de Açúcar), then knock yourself out.
Have any questions about hiking Morro da Urca? Want another post about another one of Brazil’s hikes? Have a suggestion to improve this information?
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