One of the advantages of the Agulhas Negras region for those who cycle is the possibility of starting from there to make roundtrip tours in incredible destinations in the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo. One of these destinations will be the theme of this itinerary: the Criminoso and Usina waterfalls, which are located in the municipality of Arapeí - SP. If you already know the path and destination in question, I invite you to read it until the end, as it’s very likely that you will discover something you didn’t know, but if you’ve never been there pedaling, get ready to discover one of the most amazing pedals of your life! Come with us!
Our meeting point this time is "Rotatória do Alphaville", in Resende. If you need directions to get there, click here. From the roundabout you will go to the left of those who are facing the condominium entrance, that is, opposite the direction of those who want to go to the city center. You will pass in front of a series of buildings and make a natural left turn, still on the asphalt, which ends in a very steep climb, your first challenge. Right after winning this climb, which many "speeders" of the city use as training, you will start the part of the route that goes on Estrada da Limeira (Limeira road), a very well maintained dirt road, with few holes, but with many challenging climbs.
Of the 20 kilometers that you will travel on this road, only the last 4 belong to the state of São Paulo, so when cycling through it you will have a good idea of the real territorial extension of the rural area of the municipality of Resende. Take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful landscape and don't forget to lock the suspension on the most difficult climbs, as there will be few, this is not a pedal for beginners.
After traveling 8km down the road, you will see a large stone apparently creating a fork, but don't worry, it is fake, in fact the road is not dividing, both sides give the same place. This is a good reference point for you to know if you are still on the right track.
Shortly after that point you will see on your left a gate written "Sítio das Pedras" and soon after, on your right you will be able to access a water spout, take the opportunity to replenish your stock, you will need it.
After walking for another 2.5 km you will pass the first point that requires attention so as not to miss the path. You will see a bus stop on the left and a few meters further on, a fork in which you will need to keep to the left. If you stay on the right you could choose to head towards the municipality of São José do Barreiro or the Restaurante Tia Ilda, destinations that we will address in future itineraries.
Just over two kilometers after the fork you will see on your left a sign indicating a sharp turn, almost a return point, which you will not make, instead you will remain on the right. One of the arrows on this sign points to the place known as "Boca do Leão", a route that will also have its chance here on the site very soon. Continue on the road towards Arapeí.
Less than a kilometer later you will see some houses surrounded by trees, a very beautiful scenery, maybe it is a good point to stop for a while, drink some water and wait for the stragglers.
From there you will follow the main road, going through two turns to the left that you will not do, it is easy not to make a mistake, just follow your instinct not to go down the steepest path. Until at some point the road will make a natural curve to go around a very beautiful lake, a place that yields beautiful photos.
This stretch around the lake, of about two kilometers, is perhaps the most beautiful part of this road, take the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and relax before reaching the inevitable and most dull asphalt. It is also in the middle of the lake that you leave the state of RJ behind and enter SP, there is no sign indicating the exact location, unfortunately. Click on the side of the photo below to see the others:
About a kilometer and a half after the lake, now in Arapeí territory, you will keep to the right just after a stretch with many large gravel stones and will make your last 250 meters on the dirt road, finally reaching the Rodovia dos Tropeiros (Tropeiros road), which connects Bananal to Cachoeira Paulista.
Once on the asphalt, you will travel five and a half kilometers to the beautiful portal that welcomes you to Arapeí, irresistible for those who, like me, enjoy taking a good photo.
Just a kilometer after the portal you will reach the city itself. Staying on the highway while it crosses the city, you will soon see on your left the establishment called Bar da Maria, which sells excellent snacks and all kinds of drinks, it is worth taking a break and restoring your energy, believe me, you will need them!
Once on a full stomach, continue on the road for another 500 meters until an exit on the right, following signs that indicate Estrada Municipal José Antônio de Paula. Just before turning you will pass through a square that has a very interesting monument, which shows the natural attractions of the city, it is worth taking a break and see how much more there is to explore in future expeditions.
Immediately after leaving the highway you will see a blue gate that is always open and will start another stretch on a dirt road, a very beautiful route, with the Serra de Bocaina mountains in the background, continue enjoying the view until you reach a fork in the road where you will keep to the right. The moment you see this fork you can also see the upper part of the Criminoso Waterfall in the distance. This upper part is not accessible via the trail unfortunately, but you will be able to see it a little more closely later.
Just under a kilometer and a half after the fork, after cycling for another beautiful stretch of dirt road you will see on your right a blue sign that says "Welcome to Cachoeira do Criminoso. Private property. Entrance R$5.00 per person". There is an opening in the fence that you can use to get through, but your bike can not, so you will have to cross the bike suspending it to the other side. Let's use the arm muscles a little for a change.
Right after the fence you will see an improvised and very narrow bridge, which you will have to use to get to the other side of the river if you don't want to get wet. Remember to ask someone to film the crossing of the crowd, so that in case there is a fall you can watch later and have a laugh. We do not recommend trying to cross by pedaling, neither by the bridge nor by the river. An alternative would be to carry the bike on your shoulders and walk along the riverbed, wetting your legs.
Once the challenge is over, continue pedaling until you pass through a bamboo grove, which can yield good photos. At the end of it there is an open gate that leads to a very short stretch of cow trail. Go bypassing the mountains of excrement until you reach another gate, this time closed.
It is at this point that you will be welcomed by those responsible for the property, who will welcome you, receive payment and take you to the house that serves as a point of support for everyone who wants to know the waterfalls. The symbolic fee that is charged serves to carry out the maintenance of the trails, among other things. The signs at this gate inform that it is forbidden to enter with alcoholic beverages (as they sell inside), speakers, weapons or minors without supervision. It is also worth remembering that this tour needs to be scheduled, so that you don't run the risk of getting there and not finding anyone in the house to receive you. Scheduling can be done by contacting Anna Catarina at +55 12 99720-4111. I don't know if she speeks english, if you don't have anyone to guide you, please contact me instead and I can help you (+55 24 98839-0746).
In the house you will have bathrooms and plugs available. There they sell drinks and depending on the size of the group, combining in advance, they can prepare a very tasty lunch. On the lawn next to the house you will find some fruit trees, a hammock and a water spout that you can use to fill your bottle before going up the trail to the main waterfall.
Once set, your first destination will be the Criminoso Waterfall, which is only a few meters away from the house, ask the caretaker and he will point you in the direction. There are natural pools for those who want to take a dip, as well as places where you can sit and let the water hit your back, a real natural hydromassage. The waterfall itself is very beautiful and the nature around it is equally enchanting. Click on the side of the image below to see the next ones:
Curiosity: the information we have been able to ascertain so far on the origin of the name of this waterfall shows that during the Revolution of 1932 a group of the army of SP (the revolutionaries) went to this place, which served as a base for enemy troops, in order to surrender, this was after the conflict was officially declared closed, however they were shot and killed, which was later seen as a war crime, so the name "Cachoeira do Criminoso (Criminal's Waterfall)" is a reference to the official of the armies of MG and RJ that would have ordered the attack.
Back on the track, your next destination will be the main attraction of this tour, the "Cachoeira da Usina". The trail to it starts right next to the access to Cachoeira do Criminoso, you will notice a very steep path in the middle of the pasture, quite difficult to be done by cycling, this climb lasts about a kilometer. The following stretch can be done on the bike perfectly and it is very pleasant, but not everyone likes the idea of pushing the bike 1km uphill, so there is also the option of leaving the bike safely in the house and following the route, is up to you. Whoever chooses not to separate from the bike can reach the base of the waterfall with it.
From the middle of this climb you can see in the distance a very large waterfall that cannot be accessed via the trail unfortunately, this is the same watercourse that further forms the Criminoso Waterfall you just visited. This is also the waterfall you saw in the distance on the dirt road.
At the end of this climb you will see a fork in which you should keep to the left, going down, instead of continuing up a road. This road would connect this point of the road to the center of Arapeí, which would allow you to reach the base of the Cachoeira da Usina by car, for example, however the path was closed by the owner of one of the farms he crosses.
The next section is a path along a narrow road through the forest and the sound of the river passing on your left, a moment to enjoy the contact with the nature. If you find any fence blocking the way, don't worry, it is possible to open and pass. There is a moment along this stretch where you pass through a field and you can catch a glimpse away from the waterfall that awaits you, increasing your anxiety even more. You will follow this path for less than two kilometers until you see a bridge.
Upon reaching the bridge you will have the incredible view of the Usina Waterfall over its entire length, more than 80 meters! The end of the fall is marked by the presence of a small beach at the foot of the bridge, this is the easiest place for those who want to dive in these waters.
On the left side of the waterfall, after crossing the bridge, there is a staircase that starts a trail that you can take if you want to get closer to the waterfall itself. Reaching the end of this trail, anyone who wants to reach the pools that form at the top of the waterfall can do so by taking great care and not taking chances when they are unsure about the next step. Definitely don't try to go where you're not sure how you're going to go back. Anyway, even if you are not going to follow the rocks, it is worth doing the trail to get a closer look at this wonder. Click on the side of the photo below to see the next ones:
Curiosity: the official name of this waterfall is Cachoeira da Gruta, due to the presence of a cave a few meters before reaching it, but it became known as Cachoeira da Usina because part of its waters used to be diverted by pipes to a plant that generated electricity for Arapeí and Bananal. This plant is now abandoned and its ruins can be seen just to the left of the waterfall.
In closing, we will give you some tips on the way back. First prepare your psychological for the long and steep climb that you will have to make while still on the asphalt. You will return the same way you came from, but this may seem confusing at some points, due to the change in perspective. In this sense, the first point of attention is the exit of the asphalt from Rodovia dos Tropeiros back to Estrada da Limeira. To make no mistake, just pay attention to a yellow Transpetro sign that says "PE - Resende - 3.9km", as you can see below:
Once back on the dirt road, your next moment of attention will be a fork where you will have to keep to the left to access that section with thicker gravel, remember? There is also a yellow sign on that corner with an arrow indicating the direction you should take, towards Resende.
After you have come back all the way from the lake, a few more kilometers ahead you will see a confused fork in which you must keep to the right, contrary to what your instinct to stay in the best preserved part of the road tells you , if you make a mistake here you can go to the district of Formoso, moving away from Resende. Check it out below:
This fork marks the beginning of a long and more technical descent, where at the end you will turn right once more to access the stretch that will take you back to Alphaville in Resende without error.
So, what did you think of this tour? Have you done it? Intend to do? Do you know of any important details that we did not mention? Tell us in the comments!
Recommended bike type: MTB Dirt road: 50km (round trip) Highway shoulder: 10km Bike trail: 5km (optional) Waterfalls: TWO. Passes through private property: YES (5 reais)
Elevation gain: 378m (one way)
Level: ADVANCED (tiring climbs; technical descents on the gravel and very distant destination)
Attractions: Cachoeira do Criminoso, Cachoeira da Usina
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