At 32 sq. km, Rio proudly boasts the world’s largest urban forest. An impressive boost for the cities eco-credentials it might seem. However, when you actually see the park, you will quickly realise that the towering peaks, tough granite and dense forest present a distinctly unappealing prospect for urban developers. Add in the risk of landslides and flash floods, and it suddenly seems very sensible to have left the forest as it is, and carry on squeezing Rio into the flat bits round the edge. The advantage of this policy is, of course, that Rio is provided with a world-class backdrop, as well as ample opportunities for urban hiking.
I had always heard about the numerous trails that led off into to park, but when searching for information, I often found over-priced tours or intimidating reports of unprepared hikers getting into trouble. (Perhaps the guides leave reports to ensure a steady supply of customers – or am I just being paranoid?) Then, one Saturday, as we were heading to Parque Lage for lunch I saw a stray box of maps near the barrier to the car park, featuring all the trails in the park (see below). At last we had some reliable information. Studying the map, we also noticed a little trail running up from Parque Lage to Corcovado which seemed steep, but easily walkable in an afternoon. The next weekend, we decided to give it a go.
As predicted, the trail was well-trodden, steep in places, with a few scrambles, but easily manageable by anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness. We read a report that stated the trail would take around 2hr 30min, but after 1hr 15, we had reached the train tracks close to the summit. We followed the tracks until we could cross over onto the road. Another 10 minutes and we were at the Christo Redentor. We attempted to buy a ticket to enter the overlook directly beneath the statue, but we found that they do not sell the tickets at the entrance. Having already paid to see the Christ statue once af ew months previously, we satisfied ourselves with the 180 degree view from behind the Christ statue. We then started our decent back down to Parque Lage. On the way, we jumped up on the the roof of a small utility building next to the train track. The view down to lagoa was spectacular, and all the sweeter considering most people were paying an inflated tourist price for the same pleasure. An hour later we were back in Parque Lage.
We are still planning to hike some of the more distant trails. The Va de onibus website is very useful for working out bus routes. I don’t make any claims about the accessibility of the other trails, and if you have a low level of experience or common sense, a guide might still be advisable. If you do want to get the full view from Christo on the Corcovado trail, it is probably a good idea to head down the tracks in the direction of the ticket office (half-way down), then ride up on the bus as normal, rather than following the tracks to the top.