Less crowded trails for hiking in Singapore
Hiking has fast become a favourite pastime for many Singaporeans, yours truly included. But with more people taking up hiking as a hobby, this means our usual haunts like Coney Island and MacRitchie Reservoir are practically becoming flooded with scores of people – not great news if you’re introverted like me.
With Singapore being hot all year round – and getting even hotter as the years fly by – heat injuries are on the rise. You’ll thus need to take the necessary precautions, and an easy way is to tap on one of Singapore’s rich reserve of nature reserves and trails that are less frequented.
Here are a few of the less crowded hiking trails where you can siam the crowds for your next hiking expedition.
Table of Contents
- Less crowded trails for hiking in Singapore
- 1. “Avatar Trees” – Hidden trek near MacRitchie
- 2. Sengkang Riverside Park – Well-lit night trail & sunset spot
- 3. Clementi Forest – Relatively empty throughout the day
- 4. Pasir Ris Park Mangrove Boardwalk – Naturally-shaded boardwalk
- 5. Ulu Sembawang – Mystical sunrise for the early birds
- 6. Lorong Halus Wetland – Scenic views amidst a quaint waterscape
- 7. Windsor Nature Park – Marshland park located near MacRitchie
- How to prepare yourself for outdoor activities in the heat
1. “Avatar Trees” – Hidden trek near MacRitchie
MacRitchie Reservoir and MacRitchie Treetop Walk may have become mainstream, but there’s a gem hidden nearby: Singapore’s very own “Avatar Trees.” Densely covered with creepers, these beautiful trees tower over a green landscape teeming with life – the only caveat is that this trail passes through Bukit Brown Cemetery and may be spooky.
If you are there when the sun rises or sets. The sun’s flares will illuminate the trees, creating the perfect backdrop to really make you feel like you’ve entered the forests of Pandora.
Tip: Avoid this trail after a downpour, as the path will become slippery and muddy.
- By car: Park your vehicle on the road along landed properties located on University Road.
- By MRT: Take the Circle or Thomson-East Coast Line to Caldecott Station. Walk for 1 minute to the gates of Bukit Brown Cemetery.
- By bus: Take buses 52, 855, or 93 and alight at Lornie Highway – Aft Kheam Hock Rd (41161). Walk for 4 minutes to reach the gates of Bukit Brown Cemetery.
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Opening hours: 24/7, but Bukit Brown Cemetery’s main gate is locked at 5:30 pm daily and is closed on Sundays and public holidays.
2. Sengkang Riverside Park – Well-lit night trail & sunset spot
Cute fruit-shaped shelters along the trail.
“There’s nothing to do in Sengkang!” … is what any Sengkang resident is quick to tell you. But Sengkang Riverside Park and Sengkang’s many other green spaces beg to differ. Collectively, they form the North Eastern Riverine Loop, providing you with plenty of opportunities for a leisurely hike or stroll.
Image credit: @sgeateatwalkwalk via Instagram
Although Sengkang Riverside Park is picture-perfect during the day, swing by in the evening to catch a beautiful sunset where the sky is lit ablaze by the dying embers of the day – bonus points if there are dramatic cloud formations in the sky.
Image adapted from: @river_the_traveller via Instagram
As night descends, the crowd will disperse, making the trail relatively empty. As the above photo shows, the trail is well-lit at night, meaning that it’s a-okay for you to go for a quiet, solitary walk to decompress from the day.
- By car: Park your vehicle at Sengkang Riverside Park’s free carpark.
- By MRT: Take the Sengkang LRT West Loop to Farmway Station and walk 7 minutes to Sengkang North Bridge.
- By bus: Take bus 374 to Blk 338A (67691) and cross the road to reach the park.
Opening hours: 24/7
3. Clementi Forest – Relatively empty throughout the day
Taking the path less travelled is rewarding, and Clementi Forest is proof of this adage. Part of the well-known Rail Corridor, Clementi Forest is famous for its mystical forestscape that provides reprieve from the hot concrete jungles of Singapore.
The best time to visit is between 7am and 8am, when it’s not too dark and there’s just enough light – perfect for you to view the early-morning mist that embraces the trees and undergrowth of the forest. Even as the day advances, the trail remains shaded and cool overall, thanks to the many trees that make up the forestscape.
If you find yourself getting tired of being at one with Mother Nature, you can also seek shelter within the tunnel along the nearby Green Corridor to siam the scorching rays of the sun.
- By car: Park your vehicle at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and walk to the forest.
- By MRT: Take the Downtown Line to King Albert Park Station. Walk 15 min or take buses 74, 151, or 154 to reach Clementi Forest.
- By bus: Take buses 52, 61, 74, 75, 151, 154, or 184 and alight Opp Ngee Ann Poly (12109).
Opening hours: 24/7
4. Pasir Ris Park Mangrove Boardwalk – Naturally-shaded boardwalk
Image credit: NParks via Facebook
This one’s for the Easties: Pasir Ris Park is a charming seaside oasis that provides you respite from the stresses of city life. A 6-hectare boardwalk cuts through the park’s mangrove swamp, with rich vegetation hemming in on all sides to shield you from the sun. If you’re lucky, you may even spot giant mudskippers and otters making their rounds through the waters.
Image credit: @jacqueline_chua_ via Instagram
Be sure to plan your walks either in the morning or the evening when temperatures are cooler. The mangrove is very well shaded even in the day time but it can get pretty dark at night. Instead, head over to the beach in the evening as its the best time and spot to catch the sunset, when the caramel-golden hues of the sun blend with the sealine to create gorgeous vistas.
That’s not all Pasir Ris Park has to offer, as it’s also a hotspot for local and migratory exotic birds. While you can keep a lookout for birds like the spotted wood owl and black bazas while strolling through the boardwalk, you can also head to the nearby bird watching tower to catch them flying above the mangrove canopy.
Bonus: If you’re stout of heart, come by at night to investigate Pasir Ris Park’s infamous reputation as one of the most haunted parks in Singapore. Before you start your quest, check out this first-hand account of a ghost-hunting experience at Pasir Ris Park.
- By car: Park your vehicle at one of six carparks located next to the park.
- By MRT: Take the East-West Line to Pasir Ris Station and walk 10 minutes or take bus 403 to reach Pasir Ris Park.
- By bus: Take buses 3, 15, 21, 58, 88, 109, or 403 and alight at Pasir Ris Bus Interchange.
Opening hours: 24/7
5. Ulu Sembawang – Mystical sunrise for the early birds
The name says it all: Ulu Sembawang is as ulu as they come, nestled between the Woodlands and Mandai Park Connectors. But this is precisely what gives Ulu Sembawang its appeal, its isolated nature giving way to a lush and vibrant landscape that is largely untouched by urbanisation.
Image credit: @vicole.looi via Instagram
Famed for its IG-worthy sunrises, Ulu Sembawang is an ideal hiking spot if you’re an early bird. Similar to Clementi Forest, be sure to stop by when it rains the night before, as a wispy mist will set upon the landscape that is reminiscent of the hills of Genting Highlands.
There’s just one catch though: the best sunrise spots are located far from the main road, making them tricky to access. But brave through the trek and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the sunrise.
- By car: Park your vehicle at the end of Lor Lada Hitam, a small lane that is connected to Mandai Road.
- By MRT: Take the Thomson-East Coast Line to Woodlands South Station.
- By bus: Take buses 138 or 171 and alight at Mandai Rd – Upp Seletar Resvr (48049).
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Opening hours: 24/7
6. Lorong Halus Wetland – Scenic views amidst a quaint waterscape
Image credit: @i.shamnoor via Instagram
Cycling back to the northeast in Punggol, head over to Lorong Halus Wetland for a tranquil hike through the beautiful vicinity of the Punggol Serangoon Reservoir. Wedged between Pasir Ris and Punggol, Lorong Halus is home to quaint little ponds lined with cattail reeds and white rocky fields.
The evening is the best time to visit Lorong Halus, as the wetland’s many ponds help to cool the air and even stir up a gentle breeze. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can search for the area’s hidden dirt track to venture into the nearby lalang field and snap those faux #wanderlust shots.
Image credit: @kmchia83 via Instagram
If you’re coming from the nearby Punggol Container Park, you’ll find the famed Lorong Halus Red Bridge stretching across the Punggol Serangoon Reservoir. This bridge’s loud red colour and snazzy zigzag design are hard to miss, giving you plenty of photo opportunities. It’s also pretty well-lit at night, so consider escaping the sun and going for a post-dinner walk instead.
When you’re done with your hike, you can return to Punggol Container Park to refuel and chill after a long day out.
- By car: Park at Punggol East Container Park and walk to Lorong Halus Bridge.
- By MRT: Take the LRT to Riviera Station and walk to Lorong Halus Bridge.
- By bus: Take buses 3, 83 or 85 and alight at Riviera Station Exit A (65239).
Opening hours: 24/7
7. Windsor Nature Park – Marshland park located near MacRitchie
As one of the relatively newer parks opened to the public, Windsor Nature Park is far less congested than your usual hiking haunts. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a good cardio workout, this park offers something to match your skill level.
The three named trails – Hanguana, Squirrel, and Drongo – are the simplest routes you can take through Windsor, each one coming with well-maintained paths and/or boardwalks to make your life easy.
For a slightly more difficult challenge, you can also check out the Venus Loop and the Venus Walk, both of which are defined by dirt tracks that are relatively more uneven than the three trails.
To maximise your experience at Windsor while staying reasonably cool, come by in the morning or the evening. As NParks strictly prohibits entering or staying in the park beyond 7pm, make sure to do time checks as you explore the vicinity.
- By car: Park your vehicle at Windsor’s designated carpark.
- By MRT: Take the Thomson-East Coast Line to Upper Thomson Station and walk 8 minutes to the park.
- By bus: Take buses 132, 163, 165, 167, or 855 and alight Opp Flame Tree Park (53071) and walk 4 minutes to the park.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Opening hours: 7 am to 7 pm daily
How to prepare yourself for outdoor activities in the heat
With more Singaporeans taking time out of their weekends to go on hikes, it’s important to find the right spots to avoid jostling with crowds. Even as you explore the paths less travelled, the usual rules of hiking apply: apply sunscreen every 2 hours, slather on insect repellent, and wear long pants and a sturdy pair of hiking shoes.
But most important of all, bring along sufficient water with you and stay amply hydrated throughout your hike. As you may have noticed, temperatures globally have been rising thanks to the effects of climate change.
So, just before you head out for a hike or any other prolonged outdoor activity, do a quick check on the Heat Stress Advisory via NEA’s nifty myENV app. It shows you the latest updates on heat stress levels at a single glance on your phone.
In case you haven’t heard of the term before, heat stress occurs during hot and humid weather when the body can’t cool itself down sufficiently and excess heat builds up. This could lead to cramps, exhaustion, or in extreme cases, heat stroke. If the app is showing red – as in high heat stress levels – it is advisable to minimise outdoor activities and wear lightweight clothing with absorbent material.
Other ways to cool down your body temperature include sponging with a wet towel or pouring water over arms and legs.
Image credit: Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS)
If you don’t want to download the app, you can always head over to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS)’s website to check the prevailing heat stress levels before heading out.
With NEA’s heat stress monitoring tools by your side, you can safely explore these hiking trails on our list without running the risk of heat stress.
This post was brought to you by the National Environment Agency.
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