The Pico do Alto ridge hike is one of the most incredible adventures on the north coast of Madeira Island. The ridge will test the vertigo of hikers while providing incredible views of Sao Jorge on one side of the ridge and Boaventura on the other side. The ocean and mountains combine to make this one of the most scenic trails on the island.
PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of my hike was 10.65 kilometers for the loop trail.
Hike Duration: The hike duration was 7 hours but only 3.5 hours of moving time. We had to clear many sections of the path so it was very slow-going. If it’s clear, you could expect five hours I think.
Hike Difficulty: This hike is one I would list as moderately difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly the incline is 769 meters, which is a pretty steep journey. Secondly, the terrain is a mixture of rocky stairs, muddy tracks and slippery descents. You have to be prepared for it all. There are a few moments of exposure and lots of scrambling.
Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 769 meters.
My Strava Map Upload: Pico do Alto Ridge Hike
HOW TO GET TO THE PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE
The Pico do Alto hike has many alternate options for routes to the summit but we began at the Boaventura side of the tunnel that links Sao Jorge and Boaventura. There is a small space here to park the car. I’ve added the pin location for the parking and tunnel on the map below.
MY EXPERIENC ON THE PICO DO ALTO RIDGE HIKE
Boaventura is a bit of an underrated region on Madeira when it comes to hiking. I’ve done a couple of hikes now in Boaventura and both have blown me away. The first hike I did here was the Levada dos Tornos and it was an incredible forest levada walk. This time, we were going off-the-beaten-track with the guys from Madeira Lés a Lés, which is a hiking group that does off-the-beaten-path adventures every Saturday. They offer specialized tours through their small business Madeira Wonder Hikes where they take people on alternative hiking adventures.
The hike began at the tunnel, which links Boaventura to Sao Jorge. We hiked up through the houses in the foothills on the Boaventura side. It was a very steep ascent through thick trees on what was, at times, quite an undefined trail. Even in the early sections of the trail, we had great views of Boaventura.
The hike follows the Caminho do Cabeço out from Boaventura until we emerge at the ridge-line in between Boaventura and Sao Jorge. This stunning ridge offers some of the best views I’ve seen on Madeira. On one side you have the beauty of Boaventura town, the valley, and the incredible backdrop of mountains. In front of you is the coastline with glimpses of Porto Moniz in the distance. To the right is the rugged coast in front of Sao Jorge, a stunning coastal town. I really didn’t know where to look! This is Pico do Alto, the focal point of the hike.
The hike now heads inland along the ridge. It’s a very rugged trail and our guides had to clear a lot of branches and bushes that had overgrown the route. It had a few moments of exposure and slippery sections of trail but overall wasn’t too dangerous. We were quite lucky with the weather as we enjoyed brilliant sunshine at the coast but then as we moved inland, moody clouds began to form behind the mountains creating a wonderful atmosphere near Pico do Arco.
The trail now dips down into the forest and the views die off for a while on our journey to the next point of interest on the hike. We wind our way through some more dense paths until we reach the unbelievably manicured site of Miradouro das Voltas. This viewpoint offers panoramic views over Boaventura.
The incline is done for the day and we now follow Vereda das Voltas back down through the forest until we reach the lush surroundings at the Levada das Faias. From there we take the Caminho do Cabeço back to our starting point near the tunnel. This steep descent was very scenic with the late afternoon sun painting the lush surroundings in golden light.
I hope you enjoyed this guide about the Pico do Alto hike on Madeira Island. Happy hiking and stay safe out there!
MY AWESOME GUIDES FOR THIS HIKE
This isn’t your regular hiking route so although I’ve given you a lot of directions and advice, it’s best to link up with a local if you want to do this route. I wouldn’t do this one alone and nor should you. Find a local or book a guide for this one. I did this hike with the Madeira Lés a Lés, which is a hiking group that does off-the-beaten-path adventures every Saturday. They offer specialized tours through their small business Madeira Wonder Hikes, where they can tour you on a trail that suits you and your group. Anyway, I just joined the group as a friend but thought you might find that information of value if you want to do some serious adventure on Madeira but aren’t sure who to get in contact with. If you meet any of the Madeira Lés a Lés crew, you will see what I’m talking about.