It’s no secret that Singapore is a garden city. With the re-opening of the Green Corridor in 2021, outdoor activities have seen a second wind, rising rapidly in popularity. Hiking trails are now more accessible than ever, yet there are still some that few people know about. One such trail is found in Clementi Forest.
Though many Singaporeans know about Clementi Forest, few know how to get in. Despite being just a stone’s throw away from King Albert Park MRT station, the trail remains relatively empty throughout the day. Along the route, you’ll find plenty of hidden landmarks, like abandoned railway tracks and underground tunnels.
Here’s all you need to know about getting into Clementi Forest.
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It was a little after 6am when I met my colleague Alvin to get a headstart on our adventure. I wanted nothing more than to be back in bed – instead, I was here, at a random bus stop, looking into the entrance of Clementi Forest.
The first and most important thing you should know about the Clementi Forest hiking “trail” is that it doesn’t technically exist.
The route is something that has been carved out over time, by people pushing through the thick forest and clearing a path in the process. Because of this, there are several entrances to the forest; we found that the best one is located right by the bus stop opposite Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The first part of the trail is pretty straightforward, follow the narrow, winding path and be mindful of your footing – the ground is pretty slippery and there isn’t much to hold on to, so hiking sticks are recommended. You’ll soon reach a point when the path clears a bit, where the view is like something out of a movie.
The first landmark to look out for is a set of red metal beams. However, you’ll need to cross a small stream of water before you get here.
It was here that things went wrong – in an attempt to keep my shoes clean, I decided to jump from the lowest end of the stream to the other side. Big mistake.
I slipped and fell, and the “ground” that I expected to be solid was actually mud; I ended up with mud up to my shins, and all over my hands, butt and backpack. I didn’t realise that it had rained the night before, so learn from my mistake and make sure to check the weather before coming to avoid a similar fate.
After I cleaned myself off, it was around a 2-minute walk before we got to the end of this part of the trail. Here’s where the forest opens up to the familiar park connector pavement; there are plenty of runners, cyclists and even dogs getting their morning exercise in. It was a nice, temporary reunion with civilisation before we reentered the forest.
Once you’ve walked through the red beams, it’s time to climb up a steep muddy hill. Expect to get on your hands and knees – there are deep indents in the ground to mark the steps you should take.
Once you’ve made it up, keep walking and you’ll soon see some old railway tracks. These are remains of the Old Jurong Railway, which transported raw materials between Jurong Industrial Estate and Malaysia in the 60s. The more you know.
Follow the tracks until you see a huge fallen tree, where you’ll need to climb up a small but steep hill. Use the tree trunk as a railing, once you’re up, the path once again becomes very narrow and uneven. Use your hiking sticks to keep your balance – it’s better to have to stand hunched over than to not be able to stand at all.
If you keep to the path you should find yourself at the entrance of a tunnel. If you’ve had your fill and decide to call it a day, leave by the staircase here that leads right to a bus stop. Otherwise, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the end of the trail.
The tunnel is pretty long and gets very dark in the middle so watch your step. Once you’ve left the tunnel, you’ve only got a little bit left to go. At this point, it was around 9 in the morning – we’d been walking for a little over 2 hours.
Before you know it, you’ll be at the end of the trail. Beyond the thick forested area lies civilisation.
Your journey doesn’t have to end here, though. Once you’re out of the forest, cross the street and walk through the HDB blocks to get to Sunset Way, where you can get in some well-deserved grub after your hike.
When we arrived at Sunset Way a little after 9am, there wasn’t too much open yet. Still, there was a food court, 2 bakeries and a 7-11 open – perfect for refuelling after the tiring journey.
The food court has all your typical offerings, but the neighbourhood bakeries are pretty special. For some traditional bakes, head to Balmoral Bakery and give their cream cones and butterfly cupcakes a try. If you want something more modern and fancy, try out some of the fresh tarts, pies and cakes at Fredo’s Baker.
To minimise your exposure to the sun, come early in the morning. I’m talking really early, like before sunrise. If you can get up in time, you’ll save yourself quite a bit of sweat and enjoy a beautiful view when the sun finally comes up.
I’d also suggest wearing long sleeves and pants. While it may seem counterintuitive, doing so does a great job of keeping the dirt, bugs and water off your skin because much of the route goes through tall, wet grass.
Lastly, make sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty; the trail can get very wet and muddy so wear a pair of hiking boots or older running shoes if you can.
So, would I do it again? Probably not. I like to think of myself as an active person – just indoors and out of the Singapore heat. If you love the great outdoors and don’t mind getting dirty, however, I highly recommend it. The views are incredible, and it is something worth trying at least once.
Nearest bus stop: Opp Ngee Ann Poly
Nearest MRT station: King Albert Park
If, like me, hikes aren’t your thing, try:
Photography by Alvin Wong.
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