Serra Devassa hike (PRC05 SMI) + Extension to Grota do Inferno

The Serra Devassa trail (PRC05 SMI) runs through part of the Sete Cidades protected area in Serra Devassa on the island of São Miguel, Azores. The official route is a small circular trail measuring 4.9 km that takes us to several volcanic cones and small lagoons. The extension to Grota do Inferno is another 2 km (4 return trip).

The walk to the Grota do Inferno lookout (also known as Boca do Inferno) starts at precisely the same point as the official trail but in the opposite direction. So, you can easily visit only the lookout, the Serra Devassa trail, or both. Here we will describe both, as we believe they are really worth it.

In our opinion, this is one of the trails not to be missed in São Miguel and one of the best trails in Portugal as it takes us to unique landscapes in our country, and if you make the extension to Grota do Inferno, you will see what is perhaps the most beautiful viewpoint to the unforgettable Sete Cidades Lagoon.

Like all official routes in São Miguel, the beginning of the route is well-marked and easy to identify. It also has a large parking lot as this is a very popular area, both to the official route and the Grota do Inferno extension.

Serra Devassa trail along the volcanic hills of the moutain
Serra Devassa Trail in São Miguel in the Azores is one of the most beautiful trails in Portugal.

Serra Devassa Hike – general information

  • Name: Serra Devassa Trail (+ trip to Grota do Inferno)
  • Start: Car park on the opposite side of the Mata do Canário dirt road.
  • Finish: Car park on the opposite side of the Mata do Canário dirt road.
  • Distance: 4.5 km (+4 km to go to Miradouro da Grota do Inferno)
  • Time needed: 2h30 (+ 1 hour to Grota do Inferno)
  • Difficulty: Moderate for the Serra Devassa Trail, easy for the Grota do Inferno trail. If you hike everything, moderate to difficult as the distance and ups and downs start to add up.
  • Max/min altitude: 727/848 meters
  • Altitude gain: N/A meters
  • Type: Circular
  • Signage (1-5): 5, excellent
  • Highlights: Several lagoons in Serra Devassa, Grota to Inferno viewpoint, if you decide to go there.
  • You can download the pamphlet here.
serra devassa hike

Our experience on the Serra Devassa trail (plus the detour to Grota do Inferno)

As we said initially, this pedestrian trail is circular and starts next to the car park on the opposite side of Mata do Canário Road. There you will find a panel with all information about the trail. From there, you also go to Lagoa do Canário and Grota do Inferno, but first, we will take the Serra Devassa trail.

It took us around 5 hours to hike the entire route we will describe 2h30 on the Serra Devassa trail, plus half an hour for a detour to Paul Peak. Going to the Grota do Inferno viewpoint took us about an hour. The rest of the time was spent taking photos, having a snack, and resting a little.

Serra Devassa Map and information panel - PRC05 SMI
Official map of the Serra Devassa trail in São Miguel – PRC05 SMI

Serra Devassa Trail

We are in the middle of Serra Devassa, so the route is always at altitude, between 750 and 900 meters. It is advisable to take this route on sunny days with good visibility to take advantage of the region’s fabulous views.

Starting at the information panel the trail goes in the opposite direction to the Canário Lagoon forest and after a few hundred meters it begins to ascend. First, lightly up the slope to a marshy area – be careful if it’s raining – then more seriously into a fork.

It is only from this fork that the trail is indeed circular, which means that we will have to return here later and that we can either go right or left. At the fork, we recommend turning right and climbing more seriously for almost 1 km. We have a short descent between peaks and lakes of volcanic origin.

Climbing the Serra Devassa trail in Sao Miguel
Fork in the Serra Devassa trail

During this climb, we reach two peaks from where you can see several lagoons. The climbs are short but steep. It is safe, and the views are out of this world. Pico das Éguas is the highlight of the route, literally and figuratively. You can see Éguas Lagoon on the left and Rasa Lagoon in front.

From Pico das Éguas (Eguas Peak) we have to go down towards the Éguas lagoon for about 500 meters, which means it is quite steep, but if you wear hiking boots it is safe and does not slip even when it is wet. Once we reach the lower point, we will go around the lagoon to the right. Here, we recommend going to the lagoon shore.

Pico das Éguas viewpoint
Pico das Éguas viewpoint overlooking the Éguas Lagoon on the Serra da Devassa trail

Eventually another fork will appear indicating empanadas lagoons. The official trail continues here, and we enter a beautiful forest. It’s always downhill to reach the twin lakes, but it’s an easy and very pleasant road. Down below, we reach the banks of the lagoons and can walk around them and have a picnic. Don’t forget we still have a long way to go.

After resting and enjoying the stunning Empanadas Lagoons and the surrounding forest, we have to return the same minor way we came to the fork. Almost at the top is a sign for a detour to Paul Peak.

Rasa Lagoon shore on the Serra Devassa trail
Rasa lagoon on the Serra Devassa trail

Detour to the Pico do Paul Viewpoint

This detour is about 500 meters uphill and is not part of the official route. If you want to go there, consider your time and physical capacity, as although it is not exceptionally hard, the gradient and hours of walking start to add up.

We went up there and recommended it, as it is a beautiful viewpoint, similar to Pico do Carvão, from where you can see almost the entire north coast of the island. In total, it took us about 30 minutes.

Back to the car park

After Paul Peak, we have to return exactly the way back to the beginning of this detour. We go to the main path from these two detours, an then continue the official hike around Pico das Éguas (it is on our left). Initially, it’s always uphill to the initial fork and then down the original path back to the car park.

The stunning view from Pico do Paul lookout. You can see most part of the northern coast of Sao Miguel
View of the north coast of São Miguel from the Pico do Paul viewpoint.

Grota do Inferno / Boca do Inferno

If you want to go to Grota do Inforto (Hell’s Grotto) you can do so easily from the car park. You simply cross the road, enter Mata do Canário, and follow the dirt road. But first, you will see Lagoa do Canário (Canary Lagoon) on the left. Take the opportunity to go there. It’s worth it, it’s a very beautiful lagoon.

Overflooded Canary lagoon in winter
Canário Lagoon on the trail to Gruta do Inferno in São Miguel. This was in winter, so it was flooded.

The path to Hell’s Cave is very easy. Just follow the road, which is in good condition and flat. Literally, anyone can do this part. It is about 1700-1800 meters that can be quickly walked in the middle of the forest. Eventually we reach a climb and things get a little tough for those with mobility problems.

If you manage to climb the first few meters, it is still possible to have a beautiful view, but you aren’t at Hell’s mouth yet. From there, it is a very short but steep climb. It’s only about 100 meters, but it will be tough for the elderly and people with limited mobility.

At the end of the climb we continue along a tiny trail on the mountain’s edge to the famous grota do Inferno viewpoint. This is perhaps the most beautiful viewpoint in São Miguel, which is not an easy title to earn!

From this viewpoint, we have a privileged view over the parish of Sete Cidades and Serra Devassa, including the famous Lagoa das Sete Cidades (especially the blue lake), Lagoa Rasa, Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa do Canário.

To return, you just have to follow precisely the same path. Pay attention when descending.

Boca do Inferno viewpoint
Grota do Inferno Viewpoint overlooking Lagoa das Sete Cidades (especially the blue lake)

Best time of year to do the trail

This trail can be walked all year round, but it is undoubtedly better on sunny days without fog to take advantage of the landscape’s beauty, especially the many lakes and viewpoints.

Like the entire island, the ideal time will be in spring when we get the sweet spot between good weather, fewer tourists, and nature in all its splendor due to the many flowers in the area.

However, it is perfectly possible to walk the Serra Devassa trail in winter (that’s what we did). It is more likely to have rapid weather changes, and it is more challenging to catch clear days. The ground is also wetter, but the route is not very slippery.

When planning to do this route, pay special attention to the weather forecast and note that it changes very quickly – both due to the mountain and the island climate.

Regarding the part of the Hell’s Grotto, it is essential to note that it is only worth visiting with good visibility. You won’t see anything with fog, and the place loses some of its magic in rainy weather due to the lack of color.

Landscape along the Serra Devassa Hike in Sao Miguel
Serra Devassa trail in January when we did the trail

Who can do the Serra Devassa trail?

In our opinion, anyone who is used to hiking can take the Serra Devassa trail. This one is not particularly hard or technical, and it is easy to follow as it is well-marked. However, it is more challenging than it seems at first. The cumulative altitude gain is not that high, but we are virtually always ascending or descending, with some very steep parts (but short and non-technical).

If you are considering doing the extensions to Grota do Inferno Lookout and Pico do Paul lookout, the difficulty level rises as the distance and accumulated elevation increase. Expect about 4 to 5 hours to trek everything: 2 and a half hours for the main trail, half an hour to go to Pico do Paul, and an hour to go and return to Grota do Inferno Viewpoint.

If you are just thinking about only going to Grota do Inferno then the route is very easy as it is always flat until the last 200 to 300 meters where it climbs a bit. Only people with reduced mobility will have problems reaching the final viewpoint.

Grota do Inferno Trail and lookout
The last section of the Trek to the Grota do Inferno viewpoint in São Miguel.

What to take?

If you are thinking of doing the complete route suggested here, count on at least 4 hours of walking, plus an hour to take photos, rest and have a snack. Since there is no place to buy anything, you must take everything you need with you. On the other hand, the trail is not technical, so you don’t need to bring anything special.

So we suggest you take:

  • Water (About 1l per person, but perhaps more if it is very hot and humid);
  • Snacks to eat;
  • Comfortable walking shoes, but hiking boots are ideal. Boots are especially useful in winter. Do not wear everyday shoes as they will probably get dirty;
  • Comfortable clothes;
  • Rain coat – in winter it is very essencial, but even in summer the weather can change quickly. In winter, also take warm clothes as it is colder and windier at altitude than at the sea;
  • Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
  • Camera and cell phone, as there are many opportunities to take beautiful photos. Cell phone can also be used as a GPS, but the trail is excellently marked;
  • Small backpack to carry all this;

As always, please don’t litter. This route passes through Protected Landscapes areas. Contribute to its protection and ensure its biodiversity by conserving this natural habitat. Bring with you all the trash you produce (and if you can, any you find along the way).

Serra Devassa trail
View of the Éguas Lagoon in winter on the Serra Devassa trail

How to get to the trail?

As we initially mentioned, the trail begins and ends next to the Car Park opposite the Mata do Canário Road and is well-signposted with an information panel and map. The car park is right next to Road EN 9-1A.

It is only about 17 km from Ponta Delgada, which takes about half an hour. The route is quite simple, you should follow the EN1-1A heading west, that is, Ferraria/Mosteiros/Sete Cidades. A few km later, you must turn right towards the island’s center and follow the same road to the car park. Along the way, you will pass the Pico do Carvão viewpoint, which is also quite beautiful.

The start of this trail is also very close to Sete Cidades. From there, it is about 10 km, which can be completed in 15 minutes. It goes up a lot, but the road is good and offers fantastic views of the various lakes in the region.

Sete Cidades and Canário Lagoons seen from Grota to Inferno lookout
Sete Cidades and Santiago Lagoon from the Grota do Inferno viewpoint.

Where to stay when doing the Serra Devassa hiking trail

Despite being the largest island in the Azores, São Miguel is relatively small, and the roads are good. You can reach the trailhead from almost anywhere on the island in less than an hour. Therefore, we suggest you always stay in Ponta Delgada and make a day trip to the area.

Ponta Delgada is the largest city in São Miguel and where you will find the most hotels, bars, restaurants, and everything you need for a good stay. In Ponta da Delgada, our recommendation is these accommodations:

  • Hotel Alcides – is located in the heart of the historic center of Ponta Delgada. Ideal for those who want to explore the city at the end of the day. It has a great breakfast. The hotel’s restaurant is one of the most famous and popular on the island, mainly due to its steak. Book here.
  • Herdade do Ananás – A little outside the city center, but it is a hotel that is worth it due to the jacuzzi inside the Ananás plantation. It is undoubtedly an experience. See prices and availability here.
  • Azores Dream Hostel – is probably the best option in Ponta Delgada for those looking for cheap accommodation without compromising comfort. Book here.

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