Hiking Rio de Janeiro

Views from Pedra Bonita

Pedra Bonita is probably the most underrated hiking trail in Rio de Janeiro, but it has one of the most astonishing views over the city and Pedra da Gávea.

When looking at trekking maps and adventure trails in Rio de Janeiro, Pedra da Gávea immediately jumps out as THE ONE place to get a full 360º birds eye view of the amazing city. It’s around 840 metres in height, and the trail that’s laid out with the Carrasqueira wall to climb is a heck of an adventure that can take you a full day. Yeah, sure, Pedra da Gávea is cool, but its difficulty level is not for everyone. I myself didn’t do the climb.

But just on the side of Pedra da Gávea lies the Pedra Bonita, which has an even more stunning view (from what I’m told), because not only can you a similar view from Gávea, but you can also see the Gávea rock itself in all it’s glory and mythical formation. And believe me, it’s much more incredible when you’re standing in front of the rock, then looking at it in pictures.

What made the idea of visiting Pedra Bonita even more appealing was the fact that the trail seemed relatively easy to do, and you wouldn’t find crowds along the way because it’s quite off the beaten path.

The way up

Pedra Bonita is a 690 metre high mountain located within the Tijuca National Park, and it can easily be accessed by following the 4Km long Estrada das Canoas road that starts in São Conrado and goes almost directly to the edge of the mountain.
If you’re adventurous like us, and if you’re up to an additional hike, then take the road on foot as you’ll be amazed by the amount of additional scenery that you’ll find on the way. I must warn you though, it can be a tiring 2 hour walk because it’s uphill, it’s steep, and very repetitive.

Starting at São Contado, you’ll pass through a small town called Vila Canoas where you can purchase snacks and Hand Gliding adventures if you’re up for it. And three quarters through, you’ll pass by “Casa de Canoas”, a residence built by Oscar Niemeyer in the 50’s to serve as one of his homes, and which is open to the public for visitation. It’s a gorgeous house surrounded by nature, and a must see for anyone who has the time, and the likes for his futuristic architecture embedded in nature.
Keep going, and you’ll pass by the “Mirante das Canoas”, which is an incredible viewing point where you can rest and take in another breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro and the Pedra da Gávea, from within the lush Tijuca Forest.
Close to that, you’ll come past a small temple called the “Céu do Mar”, which translates as Heaven of the Sea. It’s not open to visitors, but if you’re lucky to pass through on a day of celebration, you’ll be able to hear their beautiful chanting and clapping from the road. It’s quite a beautiful and hypnotic sound when you’re surrounded by dense forest and the sounds of crickets and birds.

 

The entry point to the trail

You’ll know that you’re at the entry spot to the official trail when you arrive at a sign that says “Rampa de Voo Livre da Pedra Bonita”, which is the ramp where Hand Gliders take off. You can just walk through the gate and make your way up the even steeper driveway, until you reach a small wooden house with a ranger where you will be required to register your name and contact number on a document, so that they can contact you it they need to, and count entries and exits to the park. This is a procedure that you’ll see in all of Rio’s national parks, so don’t be freaked out.

 

The access point to Pedra Bonita

 

The trekking path that leads you at the top of the mountain is much less dense and is very easy to manage, and is pretty straight forward for anyone to follow without the risk of getting lost or stranded.
It’s actually considered a hike for beginners due to the fact that it’s only 1,5Km long and the terrain is slightly inclined and very easy to climb. So it can take somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes to complete, depending on your level of fitness.

Rogermac overlooking Barra da Tijuca from Pedra Bonita

The view to the right side of Pedra Bonita. Below is Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood. The west side of Rio is a sprawling suburb of upmarket condos and shopping centers anchored by the long sandy Barra Beach.

The view from the top

Once you get to the top, the views are absolutely breathtaking, where on the left side you’ll see the “Morro dos Dois Irmãos”; the famous twin peaks you see as the backdrop for Ipanema, and in front you’ll see the majestic Pedra da Gávea head and it’s main climbing points. On the Pedra da Gávea, you’ll even see the people struggling to climb up the “Carrasqueira”, which is considered the dangerous part, and people climbing the summit of the rock with ropes.
To the right, you’ll be able to see all of Barra da Tijuca; the newest part of the city which extends way beyond the horizon.
The views are in fact so incredible that you can easily spend 30 minutes or more on each side just taking in such beauty, and looking at the incredible things that other people are inspired to do up there, like dancing, meditating, and jumping off the edge with parachutes. And if not that, just looking at the cloud formations at the top of Pedra Bonita.

The summit of Pedra Bonita faces “Pedra da Gávea”, which resembles a head carved in Rock. This is known as the Head of the Emperor, looking at Pedra Bonita. According to folklore, the sculpture is a tribute to the Phoenician emperor who tried to colonize Rio de Janeiro.

Safety at Pedra Bonita

The Pedra Bonita trail can come as an even bigger surprise to you if you stay to see the sunset or if you go there to see a sunrise. It’s definitely a place that I’d recommend for that, and that has easy and safe access.
Many people speak about the dangers of getting mugged or killed in such trails in Rio de Janeiro, but from my experience here at Pedra Bonita, there wasn’t any danger present because there’s always people close by anywhere you go. So you’re never in complete isolation for most of the time. The only dangers that may actually exist on the trail, are the dangers of falling off the edges of the cliff due to lack of precaution or senseless actions, so caution and attention are required at all times whilst up here.

 

Parachuting from Pedra Bonita with Pedra da Gavea as Backdrop

 

Other than that, if you’re looking for a breathtaking view without the crowds, and one that’s easy, then you should definitely consider checking out the view from Pedra Bonita, because it’s one of the best that Rio de Janeiro has to offer.

Brief Summary

The Pedra Bonita trail is one that’s easy and very enjoyable, and has one of the best views of Rio de Janeiro. The highlight of the trail is the view of Pedra da Gávea, which was believed to be a giant Phoenician sculpture of a head, and where two eyes and a nose can clearly be noticed.
As a recommendation, always check the weather conditions before you make it to the top, and make sure it’s going to be a clear day. Due to it’s high altitude you will experience a drop in temperature, and wind directions can change causing gusts and clouded weather.
Pedra Bonita is not only a beautiful place to go to with friends, when looking for a mild adventure, and where you can take some really great photos if the weather conditions are good.

Adventure
60%
Culture
15%
Difficulty
25%
Cost
5%

Take Note

– Take water
– Take snacks
– Wear comfortable hiking shoes
– Take warm outer layer just in case
– Check weather conditions

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So, are you thinking of going to Pedra Bonita? Or have you ever been there before? Share your comments below, as I’d love to hear them!

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