Hiking Pedra da Gavea – Brazil

Pedra da Gavea from dos irmaos

A trilha da Pedra da Gávea is a fantastic hike in Rio de Janeiro that starts at sea level and reaches 844 metres (2,769 ft) of elevation. Not only is the view one of the best you’ll find in the Rio area, it also hosts the only paragliding launch ramp of Rio.
It is usually described as a difficult hike requiring a guide, but quite frankly it is very far from being that hard.

Full Disclaimer

Being a pretty advanced hiker, what you are about to read might not be applicable to you. 
Please get to know who I am before adventuring yourself in this article.
We do not all react the same way to the local environment and the weather could turn out to be very different.
Make sure you understand your body and mental fitness before engaging yourself in rough hikes. 

Quick Summary:
– Hike type: 1 out of 2 stars Out-and-back
– Packing: 1 out of 3 stars (1 / 3) Small day pack (~10L) with enough water
– Hike length:  2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) – 5.4km / 3.2miles roundtrip. Doable in less than 4h
Hike elevation: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) 774m / 2,540ft – 14% overall steepness
– Accessibility: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) – Use of bus or taxi recommended
– Overall difficulty: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) – A bit steep and sun exposed, but not that hard

Preparation

Pack some water. You’re going to need it. Weather’s usually very sunny and humid.
A short and a t-shirt (not cotton) will do, but do not go on that hike with just flip-flops, grab a real pair of hiking shoes.
Plan a few snack bars and at least a sandwich for lunch.
Note that the hike is located in a National Park and opens only from 8am to 5pm (roughly).

Doubting about what you should wear? Read this article about Appropriate Hiking Gear.

Getting there

Pedra da Gavea from the bottom
Pedra da Gavea from the bottom

GPS coordinates: -23.002111, -43.295917
The hike starts at the end of a gated road, just outside of the “Praça Prof Velho da Silva” roundabout in the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood.
There are a few ways to reach the start of Pedra da Gavea.
You can drive there yourself if you have a vehicle and park at the start. You’ll have to go through the gated road when getting around the round-about “Praça Prof Velho da Silva”. Tell the guard at the gate you’re going to “a trilha da pedra da gavea” and he should let you pass. Then park at the very end of the road on the left (it gets steep).
If you don’t have a car, you can take public transportations. The options vary depending where you start from. If you’re downtown Rio, the best option might be to take the subway until Jardim Oceânico and walk to the start of the hike.
Otherwise buses #302 and #557 will leave you just a block away.
Otherwise just take a cab there.

Hiking Pedra da Gávea

To start the hike, you will have to register yourself as it is located in a National Park. Consider it also for your security.

Start walking in the tropical forest and you will very quickly comes across and intersection, with the right sign indicating a cachoeira (waterfall).
You now have 2 options to reach the top of Pedra da Gavea:
– Through the normal route (go straight)
– Or through the Céu cave (go right)

The Céu cave route is slightly harder than the normal route and I do not recommend it to anyone that’s afraid of heights or doesn’t trust its shoes: there is a steep section on long flat rocks with almost nothing for your hands to grab onto.
That route will however give you an additional picture opportunity.

The normal route

Keep straight after coming across the intersection.
The route can be a bit muddy or at least slippery. This is normal all year long. Your are walking in the jungle and the humidity retention is high.
Try to look up at the branches to catch a glimpse of local wildlife.
You should see 2 more intersections (going left) very quickly but stay on the main trail (straight) each time.
The hike should now become steeper and slowly get out of the shade to be heavily exposed to the sun.
After roughly 30minutes, you will face the Carrasqueira, a steep rock section that could leave you doubting when looking at it.
Do not worry! Some people will purposely make it look hard on pictures or give you false information about it. The Carrasqueira is actually really easy to climb provided your fit and not afraid of heights, and there is no need to rope yourself. See it as nothing more but a staircase made of rock. 
Go to your right when looking at it to find the easiest way.
(Just don’t wear sandals or high-heels!).
You’re just 10 mins away from the top once you’re done with the Carrasqueira.
After that obstacle, the hike will be flat for a bit and then one last push to reach the top.
The Pedra da Gavea top is divided in 2, with one flat part on the south (towards the ocean) and one rocky part (the highest part) on the north.
To reach the highest part, you must use a chain and staircase to go down 2 meters and then up again.

Congratulations! It truly wasn’t that hard!
To go back down, take the same itinerary. Take your time when going down the Carrasqueira. If you don’t feel comfortable, face the wall and climb it down like a staircase.
(See bottom of the article for pictures)

Pedra da Gavea through Céu’s cave

Take a right at the intersection and follow the hike up. You can’t really loose yourself since there’s no other way.
You will pretty much stay in the shade until the end, so just enjoy listening to the local wildlife and try to spot them.
Remain careful however since the trail can be slippery due to the constant humidity.
Eventually, you will reach a crest, with a questionnable path straight ahead going down the other way and on your left the trail clearly going up towards the top of the Pedra da Gavea.
Follow the questionnable trail going back down in front of you to reach the Céu cave. Don’t push it to far though because it the rock goes vertically down at one point. You can see anchors in the rock meaning rock climbing is possible.
Take all the pictures of the half-cave and its view on the Pepino beach, then turn around.

Once you reach the crest again, make a right and start hiking up towards Pedra da Gavea.
The hike is hard, with some long steep boulder sections where ropes were previously anchored but are now non-existent. 
Trust your feet, lock them in cracks you find, and climb up the boulders using your hands in the cracks as well.
This technical section is only 15m long, then you’ll reach high-grass with still a few trees for shade here and there, and all of the sudden you’ll be on the south top of Pedra da Gavea.
The Pedra da Gavea top is divided in 2, with one flat part on the south (towards the ocean) and one rocky part (the highest part) on the north.
To reach the highest part, you must use a chain and staircase to go down 2 meters and then up again.

Congratulations! It truly wasn’t that hard!
Go back down using the Normal route itinerary. Take your time when going down the Carrasqueira. Since you managed to go up the Céu way, the Carrasqueira shouldn’t be any issue.


2 comments on “Hiking Pedra da Gavea – Brazil

  1. Hey man,
    I’m thinking about going up pedra da gavea with my parents (in their 50s).
    Think they can do it? That Carrasqueira looks steep

    1. Hey Pete,
      Depends on their fitness.
      The Carrasqueira does look steep and is always described as a “must be done with a guide” on every website (with some posting outrageously fake pictures to increase the feel of steepness), but it truly isn’t.
      If you look at my picture you’ll see it can be easily climbed on the side (on the left on the picture, on the right when you face it), just like a set of stairs going up the Eiffel Tower (except sometimes you might use your hands to keep your balance).
      The question is: are you fit enough to climb up 50-75 steps, and are you afraid of heights?

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