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Singaporean’s Guide To Going On A Weekend Hike In Malaysia, Including How To Sign Up For A Budget Tour

Guide to weekend hikes in Malaysia

With gorgeous rolling hills and panoramic landscapes as far as the eye can see, it’s no surprise that many Singaporeans have fallen in love with hiking overseas. But thrilling hikes don’t have to be relegated to an annual affair. Not when Malaysia has weekend hikes you can explore year-round. 

Here’s an all-in guide to weekend hikes across the border, grouped by proximity to popular destinations – JB, Malacca, and KL. We’ve also included tips on how you can do it without a car, and ways you can sign up for affordable guided tours. Pack your rucksack and put on your Merrell boots, it’s time for an adventure now

– Popular hikes near Malacca –

Malacca is a 4-hour car ride, or $28 coach ride from Singapore. It’s entirely possible to do a day trip if you pick an off-peak day, though staying overnight at one of the many affordable hotels in Malacca would be a more comfortable option if you’re planning to go hiking. 

1. Bukit Beruang – Short hike accessible without a car

hiking in malaysia - Bukit Beruang
Image credit: @edvin_yang via Instagram 

Not all of us have a nifty green card from the Singapore Police Force – a driver’s licence, in case you haven’t guessed. Good thing Bukit Beruang is accessible to non-drivers too. Once you’ve arrived in Malacca by coach, this trail is located just a 20-minute Grab ride from popular tourist site A’Famosa. 

This hill near AEON Melaka Shopping Centre is challenging but doable for anyone with a decent level of fitness. There’s also a clear colour-coded map at the trailhead – be sure to snap a picture of it for reference later on! After traversing dirt paths and passing by bamboo groves, you’ll be rewarded with a view that stretches to the coastline of Malacca.

hiking in malaysia - Bukit Beruang
Optional rope work at the peak.
Image credit: @takenothingbutmemories_ via Instagram 

Though only 116m tall, this trail is nothing short of exciting with sections that incorporate rope climbing so be sure to come in proper hiking shoes.

Permit: N/A
Height: 116.3m
Time needed: ~2 hours

2. Gunung Datuk – Rocky peaks with panoramic views

hiking in malaysia - Gunung Datuk
Image credit: Petitgo

If you’ve driven up or rented a car locally, don’t let the adventure end at Beruang. Gunung Datuk should be next on your list. This popular mountain is 1 hour from Malacca and 4 hours from Singapore by car. If you’ve hiked in South Korea, Bukhansan may come to mind with its rocky peak. 

hiking in malaysia - Gunung Datuk
Image credit: Michael Chong via Google Maps

The adrenaline rush will be real with sections of steep metal stairs and ladder climbing. Needless to say, your 10k step count will be clocked and you will come out hungry. The good news is that ravenous climbers can look forward to food stalls near the entrance of the hill on weekends. 

If you prefer to do a sunrise hike, it’ll be a good idea to spend the night at the nearby town of Tampin, which is 10km from the trail head. There’s also a carpark near the foot of the mountain. 

Permit: RM5 (~S$1.45)
Height: 884m
Time needed/ difficulty: 3 hours

3. Bukit Senaling – Sunrise hike that overlooks a sea of clouds

bukit senaling
Image credit: @insectlogger via Instagram

A personal favourite of mine is Bukit Senaling, which looks absolutely otherworldly during sunrise. The 394m-high hill rewards early birds with a “sea of clouds” during dawn. Along the way, soak in the serene views of lush hills as far as the eyes can see. There are also plenty of marked arrows to help you find your bearings.

hiking in malaysia - senaling sunrise
Bukit Senaling is a 3.5-hour drive from Singapore and 1.5-hour drive from Malacca.
Image credit: @insectlogger via Instagram

Since sunrise hikes require starting in the dark, it’s best to sign up for a guided 1-day tour from Singapore to avoid getting lost. Also bring along a headlamp to navigate the pitch-black trail.

Permit: RM15 (~S$4.35)
Height: 394m
Time needed: 2.5 hours

– Popular hikes near KL – 

Compared to Malacca, you’ll find more beginner and kid-friendly trails in KL. Those who choose to venture to the outskirts will also be rewarded with splendid views without a hint of  skyscrapers in sight. To get there, book a coach from Singapore, or take a short flight up if you prefer not to embark on the long 4-5-hour drive.

4. Taman Eko-Rimba Kuala Lumpur – Kid-friendly canopy walk 

 Taman Eko-Rimba Kuala Lumpur
Image credit: @nicole_kaka via Instagram 

You’ve conquered the MacRitchie Treetop Walk. Now meet its “sibling” in Malaysia: the Taman Eko-Rimba Kuala Lumpur (TERKL), also known as KL Forest Eco Park in English. While not officially related, both trails offer suspended trails that have all of the views and none of the ruggedness. If you have kids in tow, this is a great family-friendly outdoor activity.

TERKL lies right on the outskirts of KL city and has 3 nature trails topped with a 200m-long canopy walk. Once you’re done, complete your weekend getaway at nearby attractions like the Upside Down House and Blue Coral Aquarium. 

Permit: N/A
Height: N/A
Time needed: ~2 hours

Getting there: 3km from the city centre. Easily accessible by Grab.

Address: Kuala Lumpur, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Opening hours: Sat-Thu 8am-4.30pm (Closed on Fridays)
Contact: Taman Eko-Rimba Kuala Lumpur website 

5. Bukit Broga – Easy hike with 3 peaks

hiking in malaysia - Bukit Broga
Bukit Broga is a 4 hour drive from Singapore.
Image credit: scianray via TripAdvisor 

Earmark Bukit Broga for an easy yet scenic hike that’ll help you burn off all the calories from indulging in KL street food. An hour’s drive from most hotels in KL, this beginner-friendly has 3 peaks, you can conquer within a 1.5-hour return hike. 

Bukit Broga
Image credit: @jazzypoxy via Instagram 

Leave your vehicle at the parking lot near the trailhead before embarking on your NZ-like adventure past grassy hills and picturesque vantage points. Come with a fully charged phone since you can refer to Google Maps for a great outline of the route. 

Permits: N/A
Height: 400m
Time needed: 2 hours

– Popular hikes near Johor – 

This list wouldn’t be complete without including the neighbouring state of Johor, with more hiking trails than most of us realise. Just a short drive from Woodlands Causeway, these hikes can easily be completed in a day so there is no need to worry about booking a hotel.

6. Gunung Pulai – Nearest to Singapore

Located just a 1-hour drive away from JB CIA is Gunung Pulai. Non-drivers can rejoice since this is accessible by Grab or taxi. Just be sure to arrange a return trip with your driver since getting out of the area would be difficult. 

hiking in malaysia - mount pulai
Image credit: @nurfarahfatina via Instagram 

Despite being just on the outskirts of the city, hikers will feel like they’re in the deepest depths of a tropical rainforest thanks to the park’s lush greenery and gushing waterfalls.  

Take one of 2 trails to the summit. The first is more straightforward and takes you along the main road, rendering it impossible to get lost. The other is a jungle trail, which offers panoramic views of nearby hills and ridges as you ascend the 654m mountain. 

Since the hike only takes half a day, you’ll still have time to check out the karaoke studios in JB, refuel at a buffet restaurant, or even try an outdoor activity if you have the energy to spare.  

Permits: RM30 (~S$8.70) for non-Malaysians for the Jungle Trail.
Height: 654m
Time needed: 3-4 hours

7. Gunung Panti – 453m peak with guided tours from SG

hiking in malaysia - Gunung Panti - rocks
Image credit: @brandonyuan via Instagram 

Slightly further up north is Gunung Panti, 1.5 hours by car from the JB checkpoint. Granted, the travel time is longer and the hike is more arduous than Pulai, but the peak located in Gunung Panti Forest Reserve will be well worth the effort. After 2-3 hours of trudging uphill through the rainforest, there’s a beautiful vantage point at the top with views for days.

hiking in malaysia - Gunung Panti
Image credit: @linashrdn via Instagram

Beginner hikers can consider signing up for one of the cross-border tours that depart from Singapore. These come with a guide, so you don’t have to worry about navigation and can focus on pushing forward. Some tour itineraries also come with visits to the nearby Kota Tinggi, where you can ride a firefly cruise. 

Gunung Panti, Johor
Google Reviews
Gunung Panti, Johor, Gunung Panti Recreational Forest, 81900, Johor, Malaysia

Permit: RM30 for non-Malaysians (~S$8.70)
Height: 453m
Time needed: 4-5 hours

Read our article on hiking trails in Johor for more ideas. 

How to sign up for a cross-border tour from Singapore

hiking in malaysia - senaling
Bukit Senaling.
Image credit: Kezia Tan

Not all of us have a deep love for intensive research and planning. No worries if that applies to you as a trip up north doesn’t need to involve hours of Googling. You can still sign up for a hiking tour to explore some of the best hikes in Malaysia.

There are several platforms that organise regular cross-border trips from Singapore via private coach, with rates ranging from $100-$200. It’s pretty worth it considering you just need to turn up with your passport and hiking essentials. These tours typically cover everything from transport to entrance permits. Sometimes, meals are provided. 

Overnight coach ride across the border.
Image credit: Kezia Tan

Marsiling MRT is often the go-to pickup point. You’ll depart on a Friday night if the destination is farther, or on a Saturday morning, if it’s a day trip. These tours typically cover hikes in the Johor area, but you’ll also easily find occasional trips up to the KL and Ipoh region.

While most organisers have hundreds of trips under their belt, you can also ensure they’re licensed and legit by searching for the company on Singapore Tourism Board’s website. Below are some tour agents you can find on Meetup – a website for folks of similar interests to organise get-togethers:

hiking in malaysia - mount ophir
Mount Ophir – guides are recommended for this trail.
Image credit: @longbro.bro1 via Instagram 

At the time of writing, we’ve spotted upcoming hikes to Gunung Belumut, Mount Datuk, Mount Ophir, and Bukit Senaling. The available options change over time, with tours being listed weeks to months before the trip date. 

Once you’ve signed up and have made the payment via PayNow, you’ll be added into a WhatsApp group where a coordinator shares the nitty-gritty details.

Apart from taking away the headache of planning, these also offer a great opportunity to make new friends. If you’re a solo traveller, you’ll also now have some folks you can ask to help you take a photo at the peak.

How to do a weekend hike in Malaysia

There are many ways to enjoy a hike across the border. Some prefer to do it free and easy while others prefer to go hands-off and enjoy the ride. Drive if you prefer more freedom. Else, if you’re like me, and will incessantly worry about the 101 things that could go wrong, the latter will certainly may offer a better sense of security.

For more Malaysia vacation ideas:

Cover image adapted from: Petitgo, @insectlogger via Instagram
Originally published on 14th June 2023.