The Levada da Rocha Vermelha waterfall hike is a pretty adventurous journey, which leads you through one of the longest tunnels on Madeira before exploring the Rabacal Valley. Several waterfalls can be found throughout the route, but it is the constant views of the epic ridges within the valley that are the highlight of this hike.
LEVADA DA ROCHA VERMELHA WATERFALL HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 15 kilometers and is an out and back trail.
Hike Duration: The hike can be done in under four hours but will most likely take closer to five. If you are with kids or take a long lunch break you could bargain for 5-6 hours.
Hike Difficulty: The trail is moderate on the difficulty scale. It’s not dangerous by any means but there are a few components that make it a little interesting. First, you have a 1.6km-long tunnel that requires a headlamp and concentration. Then you have uneven surfaces beside the levada with big drop-offs. There is a wide path but you have no railing or safety fence so you need to stay vigilant. Then at the end of the trail, you can choose to trek up the steep stairs of hell, which is an optional add-on I will detail later in the blog post.
Hike Incline: Total incline for the official hike is 280 meters but for me with the stairs and the slightly alternate route was 600 meters.
HOW TO GET TO LEVADA DA ROCHA VERMELHA
The Levada da Rocha Vermelha is on the western side of Madeira Island, just a 15-minute drive from the town of Calheta. If you are coming from Funchal, you expect the drive to take you 45-minutes. The pin was accurately placed on Google Maps so I have shared that with you below to help you plan your route. There was parking at the trailhead but there was no official sign to start this hike. I relied heavily on the official map on the Madeira Hiking App to find the trailhead and the direction in which the route began.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE LEVADA DA ROCHA VERMELHA HIKE
When you think of hiking in Rabacal, most people head out on the famous 25 Fontes trail, which is so popular it’s not even funny. On a busy day, there can be hundreds and hundreds of people doing this trail. However, just below the 25 Fontes trail is another hike called Levada da Rocha Vermelha that has beautiful views of the Rabacal Valley throughout the hike. The best part was that I didn’t see a single other person on the trail. It was an incredibly peaceful hike.
The hike begins in a bit of an odd spot at a soft gravel track, which is basically in the middle of nowhere. With no official sign or trailhead, you are left hoping you are on the right track. For the first kilometer, the trail climbs quite aggressively up the gravel road while in the shade of the towering eucalyptus trees. The levada was full to the brim and flowing magnificently even in the midst of a dry summer. It led me through the forest to the big tunnel.
There are stairs on the left, but you definitely need to head into the darkness of this long tunnel. It’s 1.6km long and you will be inside for about 20-minutes. It’s so long that when you are in the middle, you can hardly see a speck of light at the opening on either end. Make sure you have your headlamp ready for this one as it is pitch-dark inside. The pathway was wide enough to walk upright throughout the pass but you needed to walk with care not to slip into the levada beside the path. Much of the path was a few inches underwater or had large puddles so you can expect to get your shoes a little bit wet on this journey.
When you finally emerge from the tunnel, Rabacal Valley welcomes you into its heart. The walls of the valley transcend above you while your eyes re-adjust to the daylight. From this point on the trail is quite scenic with constant views down the throat of the valley. If it’s been raining, you can spot many waterfalls on the ridges as they pour down into the floor of the gorge.
You will come to a small white bridge, which is how you reach the other side of the valley. I actually took a long route here by heading upwards and looping around with the 25 Fontes trail but I don’t advise this at all. It added on 4-kilometers to my hike and I didn’t see too much extra. Eventually, I joined back up with the Levada da Rocha Vermelha route on the other side of the valley after my detour.
There is a small house just after you cross the valley but it is very overgrown and I couldn’t figure out its purpose. Around this area, you can find several viewpoints to look down on the entire valley.
The path now winds in and out along the ridges of the valley giving you view after view down towards the western end of Rabacal Valley. The Laurisilva Forest is in full-force with dense, lush greens enveloping the trail around every turn.
The trail takes a small detour to a stunning area where the jungle takes over as it surrounds a beautiful little waterfall that pours down into a natural swimming pool. During the rainy season there are multiple falls in this area but as I visited in the middle of summer, there was just the one watefall to admire.
After the waterfall, the trail becomes more exposed as you march west through the valley. I really enjoyed this section of the hike because the valley views are more frequent and they continue to get better as you explore further into the route.
Once you pass the waterfall that pours down just behind the trail, you are almost near the end of the official route. During the summer this waterfall doesn’t pour directly onto the trail but when it has been raining a lot you can expect to get a little wet as you pass by.
The end of the official trail was actually a little bit strange. According to the map it simply finished at a random point where the trail continued. There was no view, no waterfall, and no reason why the trail should stop there. It’s happened to me a few times on Madeira so I’m wondering what the map-makers were thinking. I wasn’t satisfied and continued along the trail hoping for a viewpoint to place an exclamation mark on my adventure.
Unfortunately, the trail wanted to hurt me. Immediately after the official route stopped, there was a set of stairs that were so steep they really had me considering if it was worth the extra exploration. Naturally, my curiosity won the battle and I found myself crawling up the stairway to hell in search of some clear views of the valley.
I made it halfway up the stairs and found a clearing where I could watch the fog rolling through the ridges. According to the map, there is a memorial a little further up and even a designated viewpoint a further one kilometer up the stairs. I decided to beat the darkness back and turned on back to retrace my steps to the starting point.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about the Levada da Rocha Vermelha waterfall hike on Madeira Island.