The Trilha Cartão Postal, aka the Postcard Trail, in Brazil’s Serra dos Órgãos National Park is exactly what it claims to be – a trail that delivers hikers to an incredible postcard-worthy landscape featuring the iconic mountains Escalavrado, Dedo de Deus (the Finger of God) and Cabeça de Peixe (Fish Head).
Download map GPX file
Postcard Trail trailhead. From the entrance to Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos, head southwest about a mile (1.75 kilometers) on Estrada da Barragem (Dam Road) until you pass a shelter/utility building on the left. Look for signs pointing to the trailhead. If you are taking an Uber to the trailhead, provide “Barragem Parque Nacional Serra dos Órgãos” as your destination, but be prepared to know how to tell your driver to stop in Portuguese because you will not be going to the end of the road.
5 kilometers/3.1 miles
R$37.00 (About $8.71 USD per person)
Dense forest canopy
Spotted jaguar, pit vipers, human bot fly, mosquitos (Zika virus)
Yes, but challenging in parts
Hiking the Postcard Trail
This route is actually three trails strung together: The Postcard Trail, the Mozart Catão Trail and the 360 Trail that connects them.
Starting out early on the Postcard Trail is your quickest route to the iconic mountain view, and because clouds can quickly develop and obscure it (especially in the summer), you want to go here first.
A quick note about getting to the trailhead: It’s only about a mile from the park entrance, but it’s just a road that is not particularly interesting.
If you take an Uber to the entrance and want to to continue through the gate to the trailhead, you will need to be able to tell your driver in Portuguese to wait while you step out and provide the park ranger on duty your tickets and release form.
You will also need to be able to explain to the ranger that your driver is only dropping you off, and that you will not need to pay for parking. Although some residents in the area know English, be prepared to speak and understand a few words in Portuguese.
The park itself opens at 6 am, and in the rainy summer it is a good idea to get an early jump on the trails. We learned the hard way the previous day on a hike in the upper portion of the park that even a 7:30 am start might be too late depending on when the clouds decide to roll in that day.
Once at the trailhead, which begins just west of a shelter building on the south side of the road, it is a steep but short one kilometer ascent to the Mirante Cartão Postal (Postcard View).
Give yourself plenty of time to take in this majestic view of curiously-shaped mountains that early explorers imagined as pipes in a church organ (hence the name Serra dos Órgãos) .
The famed Dedo de Deus (the Finger of God) is an incredible sight to behold in person, and the science behind this behemoth stone hand pointing to the heavens is fascinating.
Jutting fractured blocks of the Serra dos Órgãos were formed over millions of years by vertical displacements following the split of the present-day continents South America and Africa.
The granite mountain peaks were more resistant to erosion than the gneiss which constitutes the base of the mountains, thereby sculpting the rocks into the unique shapes seen today.
From Mirante Cartão Postal, you will trace your steps half of a kilometer back to the junction with Trilha 360. The ascent is once again challenging in parts, and if you soon find yourself longing for the amazing Postcard View of the mountain range, you will quickly come upon an encore of the view at Mirante Boranda.
One of the first things that comes to mind for many about Brazil is just how lush it is. Serra dos Órgãos is no exception, and although this area is not in the Amazon rainforest, the Atlantic Forest contains some 20,000 plants species.
It is this thriving high biodiversity that is filled with surprises, so be on the alert: Even locals say they see something new every time they visit this area. Much of the plants and animals that call the Atlantic Forest home are found nowhere else in the world.
Trilha 360 traverses the upper rim of Santo Antonio Mirim before making a quick descent to the junction with Trilha Mozart Catão. From here it is less than a quarter of a kilometer to Mirante Mozart Catão’s lovely overlook of Teresopolis.
Although you may take an Uber to the trailhead, there is little cell service in the park, so you will almost certainly need to hike back to the entrance on the brick road.
However, before you leave the park you shouldn’t pass up some of the smaller trails in the lower section, especially the trail leading to the Poço Dois Irmãos waterfall.
After our hike, we decided to enjoy the mild weather and walk back to Hotel Willisau, which is one of the closest hotels in town in relation to the park. Speaking of Hotel Willisau, we were thankful for the wonderful service we had there and were appreciative that the front desk staff were fluent in English. The hotel’s chocolate fondue and fresh-squeezed orange juice felt especially rewarding following a great hike.
Use map for real-time navigation
Load this web page on your phone before heading to the trail. Once there, be sure to put your device in airplane mode in order to save battery life.
Simply tap the map marker icon on the map to show your current location and follow along.
Tap the layers icon to switch between topographic, satellite and other helpful map layers. Be sure to check out the Heatmap overlay to see where others have gone before you!
Tips for traveling/hiking in Brazil
It is a long flight to Brazil from North America. Neither Andrew or myself have ever been very good at sleeping on planes, so this time we came prepared with inflatable Sky Pillow travel pillows. They really work! We both slept much better on our red-eye flight, and we were bright-eyed and energetic for our first day visiting Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Be aware that Brazil does not use the same electrical outlets as the United States and elsewhere in the world. To be prepared for both Type C and Type N wall sockets, pack a Brazil travel plug adapter and a basic U.S. power strip to ensure you’ll be able to keep all of your devices charged. Being in a strange place with a dead phone is not something you want.
There are opportunities to refill you water supply in mountain streams, but never risk sickness by assuming it is pure. Add ten drops of Purinize water purifying solution to your water bottles and wait one hour before drinking. It will render inert any potential waterborne diseases and other impurities.
Also, although this isn’t considered the jungle, mosquitos are a very real threat here due to the spread of Zika virus. On top of that, Brazil is also home to the human bot fly (think of it as warbles for people). In other words, bring a nice big bottle of insect repellent and apply it liberally and often.
Ticket prices vary based on whether you are visiting the high part or the low part. This particular trail is considered the low part of the park. General entrance from the Teresopolis headquarters must be purchased online at the PARNASO tickets website. Note that the site will not accept credit card payment without a Brazilian ZIP code, so find the ZIP code of the hotel where you’ll be staying and enter that. Not sure where you’re staying yet? Enter any Brazilian ZIP code – the site will accept it. You will know you’re on the right track if each ticket costs R$37. You must have a printout of your ticket(s), which is basically a rather unofficial looking receipt.
You must also provide a release form, which is only available at the park. However, we saved a blank copy, scanned it and have provided it below. Follow the instructions and be sure to sign the back page. Print it as a two-sided document (two sheets will likely be fine, but this might help avoid a confusing conversation in Portuguese).
Lastly, you are required to check out of the park upon leaving, so you must inform the staff at the main entrance that you are exiting the park for the day. This helps the staff have a better idea of who is in the park at any given moment and know if any visitors might potentially be in trouble.
Postcard Trail FAQ
What are the hours for Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos?
The park opens daily at 6am and closes at 10pm.
Is it possible to cross the park from Petropolis?
The famous Petropolis to Teresopolis traverse is an occasionally difficult but beautiful three-day hike through the park. Tours are available.
When is the best time of year to hike Serra dos Órgãos?
Although any time of year will work, the locals recommend visiting during the dryer months between May and October. You will likely have fewer experiences with clouds obscuring the view.
Should I bring a poncho?
Rains come unexpectedly here, especially during the summer months. It is a good idea to pack a poncho and rain protection for any supplies such as camera gear. Having a few plastic grocery bags handy is a quick and cheap hack to keep items dry.
Is a human bot fly going to lay its eggs in me while a mosquito simultaneously gives me Zika and a pit viper chomps down on my ankle?
Probably not. Wear plenty of bug spray, but you can probably leave the snake gaiters at home.