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, including 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. 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. A more challenging walk within the park is to follow
the Rio do Boi, the river that cuts through the base of Itaimbezinho canyon. You'll need to hire a guide and set aside a whole day to do the 12-km (7-mile) hike, weaving in and out of jungle and along the riverbed. 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.