QUEBRADA DO NEGRO – CRAZY COASTAL CLIFF HIKE ON MADEIRA

The Quebrada do Negro hike is a coastal trail on the western side of Madeira Island that is sure to get your heart racing. After passing through the small coastal village of Achadas da Cruz, a narrow trail winds it’s way up the side of the coastal cliffs. At times you have huge drop-offs down to the crashing waves below while you carefully traverse the narrow track on the cliff-edge. This trail is not for the faint-hearted and I suggest going with a local who knows the way or an official guide.

QUEBRADA DO NEGRO COASTAL HIKE DETAILS

Hike Distance: The total distance of my hike was 10 kilometers. However, there are definitely shorter and longer ways to do this route depending on if you have multiple cars.

Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 4 hours because the wild terrain can at times make it slow-going.

Hike Difficulty: This trail is difficult and not for inexperienced hikers. There are a lot of dangerous moments and parts of the trail with exposure. It’s prone to landslide and there was a landslide in 2020 that has worn away some of the trails. It was still possible but things get a little dicey near the edge. The narrow track means you can’t be afraid of heights. Overall, there was nothing that required any special physical abilities but you do need to be vigilant on this hike to keep safe. It’s also important to note I did this hike 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 and can take you on this route. Other than with my GPS tracks, you will struggle to find the way with many turns without signs.

Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 800 meters

My Strava Map Upload: Quebrada do Negro

QUEBRADA DO NEGRO HIKE TRAILHEAD

The trailhead for the Quebrada do Negro hike is at the Ponta da Ladeira viewpoint, which is actually one of my favorite sunset spots on Madeira Island. There are a few parking spots here and the trail begins on the eastern side of the parking lot where there is a small wooden sign leading down cement stairs that says ‘Vereda da Ladeira’. If you want to complete this hike as a loop and return to your car it is possible but you will have an extra 500m of incline and four kilometers on top of my route as you will come back up Vereda da Ladeira after coming down the Achadas da Cruz track. We finished at the snack bar and picked up our plant cars as we had organized before.

MY EXPERIENCE ON THE QUEBRADA DO NEGRO COASTAL HIKE

I’d heard about a hike on the west coast of Madeira with dramatic cliff-side trails but I’d been told not to go after bad weather. It’s prone to landslide locals would say. It’s a bit too dangerous others would mention. However, after having this hike on my mind for a couple of months we finally headed off to tackle the infamous Quebrada do Negro 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 and can take you on this route as it’s not advised to go without a local.

The hike begins at the Ponta da Ladeira viewpoint, which is actually my favorite sunset spot on the island. This is what it looks like at sunset.

The trail descends down the Vereda da Ladeira, which begins with cement stairs and leads you through a series of agricultural terraces. On the descent, you will pass by many ancient homes, which are built with the traditional stone walls.

As we toured our way through the farming fields, we began to have a glimpse of the azure blues of the ocean. We would first have to traverse across a bridge and along the edge of the canyon to reach the rocky shore. This was a beautiful section of the trail with lush green foliage contrasting brilliantly against the vibrant blues of the water. The crashing waves added some energy to the scene and it was quite spectacular to hike above such a powerful swell.

The trail briefly leads you across the rocky coastline before quickly heading back up the hill to cruise along the coast until you reach the unique coastal town of Achadas da Cruz, which is a unique spot on Madeira. The traditional village of Fajá da Quebrada Nova is nestled away on the north-western coast of Madeira. This small parish was once home to hundreds who tended to their livestock and agriculture.

Today, many of the small, traditional homes have been unoccupied for years making it an incredibly unique and unusual place to explore. The traditional stonework was incredible to see throughout the paths but the vineyards and agriculture seemed to be quite dilapidated and in need of some love. Exploring this village really gave you a sense of authentic Madeira rather than many of the touristy towns you come across. A number of healthy-looking cats roamed the streets as we slowly wandered through the narrow paths that wound their way throughout the village. Below are some images I captured on a visit to Achadas da Cruz during sunset on an earlier trip.

After wandering through the maze, which is Achadas da Cruz you will come to the second village of this coastal region and find a small bay. This is where the sketchy coastal track begins. I’ve swam here on a calm day and it is truly beautiful and clear water but can also be dangerous to swim in.

The track is very narrow and worn away in some parts. Over the years landslides have damaged many sections of the trail. It was safe enough for us but it’s not a trail to be messed with. I did this hike with experienced locals who are mountaineering guides on Madeira Island. I’ll leave their details at the bottom of the post so you can contact them for guiding services on this route.

The track ascends up the cliff face as the ocean waves crash below with a thunderous roar. My eyes are fixed on the narrow path in front of me, trying my best not to be distracted by the scene below. While some parts of the trail have a high level of exposure, most parts have a wide track with coverage.

The trail meets the corner of the cliff, which is where my favorite segment of the hike is found. The track narrows and the trail seems to have been dug out of the cliff a little, forming an orange, rocky cave overhead. Just before this section you will pass a waterfall, which is classic for Madeira. A dramatic coastal trail isn’t enough, so a waterfall will top it off.

The trail now heads up the grassy hill and the moments of exposure are basically over. This part of the trail was quite dense and overgrown. The leaders of our group needed to do some trimming with machetes to redefine the ancient trail and find a safe route for us. There is some considerable incline in this section in full exposure to the sun so we sweated our way through the cactus-laden hills.

We made it back to civilization and ended our hike at the Teleférico das Achadas da Cruz, which is the cable car station. We had a second car here to drive back around to Ponta da Ladeira to pick up the original car. However, you could hike down the Achadas da Cruz track and back up Vereda da Ladeira to add another 500m of incline and 5-kilometers onto your route to complete a circular loop.

We instead enjoyed a beer, a meal and a rainbow at the Calhau Snack Bar, which is the restaurant at the cable car.

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.

I hope you enjoyed this guide about the Quebrado do Negro hike on Madeira Island. Happy hiking and stay safe out there.

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