To reach the iconic Cristo Redentor statue at the summit of Corcovado, there are several transport options. You can take the train, take a tour bus, or take a cab. However, if you’ve got a little time and energy to burn, you can also hike the footpath through the jungle. If you don’t mind arriving a little sweaty, I’d definitely recommend it. Getting up takes the better part of an hour, and you’d probably want at least an easy hike or two under your belt before undertaking this sweaty jungle voyage. While the climb is not technically difficult, it does involve a couple of steep sections which require using tree roots or rocks as hand and foot holds. There are a couple additional sections with steep or near vertical gradients which have permanent aides installed to assist you in the form of chains and metal rungs.
The trailhead is located on the grounds of the Parque Lage Visual Art School towards the back of the beautiful gardens which make up the property. It’s about a 10 minute cab ride from Copacabana Beach, just be sure to clarify which of the city’s gardens you would like to go to, as my cab driver was a little confused at first. The gardens themselves definitely merit a visit, and I’d highly recommend allowing some extra time to walk around the property. Be sure to make note of the school’s opening hours, as the grounds are fenced off and not possible to access outside of the normal hours. There is a guard at the gate, but if you arrive before the specified opening time, you’ll be forced to just wait, even if you try to explain you’ll just be hiking the trial.
Once you reach the trailhead, there is another guard or two who will ask you to sign in on their record sheet, I assume to make note of who attempted the trail in case they aren’t seen again. My biggest concern about the hike was actually the potential for robbery or mugging on the trail, but I encountered almost no one on the way up, and it actually feels a little isolated and remote despite being in the middle of such a large city. In any case, the rangers at the trailhead do require you to provide your name, passport number, and contact information, so be sure to have that handy, as you may or may not have your actual passport on hand.
Be advised, the trail does cross the train/tram tracks, and though they’d be impossible to miss, be aware of your surroundings as there are no gates or safety implements to prevent you from being taken out by the tram. The trail ends when it meets the paved access road a couple hundred meters before the entrance to the statue itself. Despite exerting the effort to hike your way up rather than taking a bus or tram, you still must pay admission, and if you’ve had enough sweaty jungle for the day, pay for a tram ticket back down the mountain.
The statue itself is going to be extremely busy with tourist traffic regardless of your time of arrival, but if you get an early start it does seem to help at least a little. And, fortunately for those who sweat their way up, cold beverages and ice cream are available for purchase. Even if you dislike all things tourism related, I’d still recommend seeing Cristo Redentor, it’s a pretty incredible spot and the views are spectacular. As far as religious icons go, Redentor may not be as laid back and fun loving as Buddy Christ, but he more than makes up for it with his place of residence atop Corcovado.