Metrô bus Barra/Jardim Oceânico
One of Tijuca's more fascinating peaks, the furrowed granite 'brow' of Pedra da Gávea is, standing at 842m above sea level, the largest coastal monolith anywhere in the world. Climbing it is as essential a Rio experience as ascending Sugarloaf on a cable car for those with a sense of adventure and a head for heights, and a perfect mid-level challenge for those with a little climbing experience and in decent physical shape.
To reach the starting point of the 2-3 hour hike (for it only becomes a 'climb' in the final stages), get a bus to Jardim Oceânico at the start of Barra, and from there cross the Ponte Velho bridge into Barrinha. Take a right onto Estrada da Barra da Tijuca, and first left onto Avenida Vitor Konder. Follow this to the end and turn left onto Avenida Fleming which then meets Estrada Sorimá at a small roundabout. At the end of Sorimá is a car park, and the trail begins at a green door with the number 936 on it. There is now no turning back.
A steep, albeit concrete, start soon makes way to a dirt trail, and a waterfall on the right hand side is well worth remembering for a visit on the trip back down. A couple of clambers are required (one with the help of a steel rope) after around 45-60 minutes and soon afterwards Praça da Bandeira comes into view, where the trails from São Conrado and Pedra Bonita join.
Turning right from here the tree cover is gone, and after a few minutes the glorious sight of the Dois Irmãos ('Two Brothers') mountain is met head on, along with the rest of the neighbouring peaks and zona sul far below, with Sugarloaf way off in the distance. The final obstacle between here and the top, Carrasqueira, is the most intimidating and potentially dangerous. It may be a short 30m free climb (although ropes are also a good idea) but a slight slip could be fatal, and following the central ridge makes for the easiest ascent. This is one of the most climbed peaks in Brazil, but it also has the highest number of accidents per year.
Once Carrasqueira is conquered, a quick trip back into the forest and a short abseil (steel rope again provided) brings the plateau into view, with plenty of room to spread out, lie down and catch breathe with the stunning 360-degree view as reward. Its another short free climb (though ropes are adviseable once more) to the top of the 'head', from where all the myths and history of this great chunk of granite are best pondered.