One of Brazil's first national parks, Aparados da Serra was created to protect Itaimbezinho, one of the most impressive canyons dissecting the plateau in the north of Rio Grande do Sul State. In 1992 the Parque Nacional da Serra Geral was established to protect the other great canyons farther north, the Malacara, Churriado, and Fortaleza. Winter (June–August) is the best time to take in the spectacular canyon views, as there's less chance of fog. The main entrance to
the park, the Portaria Gralha Azul, is 20 km (13 miles) southeast of Cambará do Sul, the small town that serves as the park's hub. A visitor center provides information on regional flora and fauna, as well as the region's geology and history. Beyond the entrance you come to grassy meadows that belie the gargantuan depression ahead. A short path (a 45-minute walk, no guide necessary) takes you to the awesome Itaimbezinho Canyon rim, cut deep into the basalt bedrock to create the valley 2,379 feet below. The longest path requires a hired guide and trekking gear to traverse the strenuous descent into the canyon's interior. The local tourist office can also make arrangements for other trekking tours in the region.
The best way to visit the park is to join an organized tour in Porto Alegre that includes an overnight stay in one of the region's pousadas. Those visiting Gramado can join a day tour to visit the canyons.
18 km (11 miles) on RS 429 (unpaved road), southeast of Cambará do Sul, Parque Nacional dos Aparados da Serra, 95480-000, Brazil
051-3251–1262; 051-3251–1277-for tour guides (Cambará Ecotourism Guides Association); 051-3251–1277; 051-3251–1320-for tour guides (Cambará Ecotourism Guides Association)