Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Planning a visit to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore? How about combining a nature exploration, education, and some history of Singapore with a workout session?
We have recommendations for a 10Km Full Circuit Trek and a 7Km Hill Loop Trek in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with all above objectives in mind. These treks are suitable for locals and overseas travellers to get the most fulfillment out of a single visit to the nature reserve.
In this post, we will run through the route for the 10Km Full Circuit Trek. Do check out the 7Km Hill Loop Trek too as some routes may overlap and some are planned in opposite directions for different trekking experience.
The primary objective of the 10Km Full Circuit Trek is to discover more about Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The routes will bring you to places of interest in and around the reserve, explore the rain forests and see wild floras and faunas with as little overlapping on same paths as possible. But, do modify them to suit your strengths.
Find wild animals by Listening to the Rustles in the Leaves.
The secondary objective is to have a little more challenging workout in the nature at a leisure pace. Note that the trek is recommended for fit travellers as there are quite a number of uphill and downhill flights of steps. If you have not been exercising regularly, take it as an opportunity to have some workout. It will be a matter of perseverance and pushing yourself a little. If the going gets too tough, just find the way to the main road.
Read on for more details on the 10Km trek and tune your expectations. Try not to give up when the toughest part is just about to be over.
Points to Note
Before going into the trek details, do note the following points below to make your visit to the nature reserve more enjoyable.
Keep to Designated Paths
1. Do not walk on closed paths with "No Entry" signs. Conservation efforts are going on to grow trees on the paths to prevent soil erosion. But many seedlings were killed by trespassers. Some hillside paths are prone to falling trees due to soil erosion, caused by heavy rains in recent months, and are closed off for safety. As deterrence against unauthorised entry, the fine for first-time offender is S$200, second-time is S$2,000.
More about Hidden Risks behind No-Entry Signs.
2. Do stay on designated paths as there are snakes (some venomous) and big ants (that can bite) in the bushes. For pregnant women and people with medical conditions, do stay on the main road (accessible by ambulance) and avoid going on the hillside paths. Due to the large number of steps, a medical team may take longer to carry sufferer to the ambulance and then to a hospital, thus, delaying treatments.
Plan Your Visit
3. For travellers, keep your itinerary to Singapore loose and visit the nature reserve on a day with nice weather. Do check the weather forecast again on the very day. Other than heavy rains, sunny and light afternoon drizzles are considered "nice" weather — you would rather walk under a hot sun than in a heavy downpour.
4. Try to start early, between 7:00 to 8:30 am, as the afternoon sun can be burning hot outside of the monsoon seasons. Do take precautions against heat stroke and drink lots of water.
5. For long distance trek, you might want to standby some snack bars as you won't be able to get any of them in the nature reserve. There are drinks and snack vending machines in the Visitor Centre.
6. Do wear appropriate walking shoes. High heels, platform shoes and slippers are not recommended even for just a short walk up to the summit on the main road (the steepest section is around 40°-inclined).
7. The distance of 10Km is an approximation on Google Map. Do get your steps and flights-climbed tracker app ready, or use iOS Health app, to measure your pace at your own time. You can also use iPackTravel (iOS only) to map your trail and extract step counts, flights climbed and walking distance from the Health app.
8. Do check out additional articles mentioned in this post. They are related to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Check out the NParks official website too.
10Km Full Circuit Trek
The proposed 10Km Full Circuit Trek for Bukit Timah Nature Reserve includes Dairy Farm Nature Park, Hindhede Nature Park and Bukit Timah Hill.
1. Get to The Rail Mall. Hillview MRT Station is the nearest stop along the Downtown Line. There are some eating places in The Rail Mall where you can have breakfast before starting the hike.
If you have not tried Indian food before, visit Springleaf Prata Place (go pass Coffee Bean, cross the carpark and its in another block of The Rail Mall) to try their crispy roti prata and varieties. There are other eating places as well, such as Subway, EAT for noodles and Toast Box for a variety of local fares and traditional coffee. Have a good breakfast, you have a long walk ahead.
Alternatively, you can start from Beauty World MRT Station and end the 10Km trek back at that station. But, since we suggested the 7Km trek to start from Beauty World Station, we set Hillview Station as the starting point for this trek for different experience.
2. If you are eating at Springleaf Prata Place, you will see a railway bridge across Upper Bukit Timah Road, just outside the shop. That will be your starting point. The railway bridge is a memento of the historical Singapore-Malaysia railway line that used to start from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (closed for redevelopment until 2025) to Kuala Lumpur. The old-days train line, with the metal rails removed, is now the green corridor that connects several parks in Singapore.
3. Do not cross the bridge. Follow the green corridor towards Bukit Timah Hill. It should be around 2Km to the next point. Enjoy the scenery and look for wild floras and faunas along the way. It is a good warm-up walk to prepare the legs for the uphill trek later. And look out for bikers.
4. When you see another segment of a railway track before you, that is where you will exit the corridor for Bukit Timah Hill. Follow a path on your left down to the road below and head straight along the road, without turning. Ask around if in doubt.
5. You will come to the car park for Bukit Timah Hill. The Visitor Centre for Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is just behind the car park. Instead of heading straight towards the Visitor Center, turn left and walk towards Hindhede Nature Park. Enter the park, keep left and you will reach Hindhede Quarry.
6. At the look-out hut, check out the scenery, the fishes, the terrapins and the birds too. See more photos.
7. Leaving Hindhede Quarry, turn left again at every junction or follow the signposts to the Visitor Centre. You will notice that Hindhede Nature Park is a big playground for kids. Hindhede Nature Park is a buffer zone between the nature reserve and the residential area at the foot of Bukit Timah Hill.
8. At the Visitor Centre, check out the exhibits and get a rough idea of what to expect in the nature reserve (except tigers, they are history). Read about plants and animals that are truly native to Singapore and hopefully you can spot them while trekking.
The uphill trek to Bukit Timah Summit will start on the main road (tarmac path) beside the Visitor Centre. And do go to the washroom here and refill water too, the next rest point will be couple of hours away. Get some snacks if you like.
9. Instead of following the main road up the hill, turn right at the first junction to South View Path. There are lesser things to see on the main road and the hillside paths are much more challenging — going up and down the hillsides. 10 metres into the trail, turn left. If you want a longer walking trail, go straight into Taban Path, it is a loop and you will be back to South View Path some 300 metres later. Going into Taban Path from this direction will lead you through an additional long flight of uphill steps. Think about it as you will have a long way ahead.
10. On South View Path (skipping Taban Path), you will come to a big tree (common name: kayu pontianak). From this point onward, follow the trail and keep walking straight without turning left or right. Check out interesting floras as you walk and also listen for animals that may be loitering nearby. Between the big tree and next junction to Kruing Path, look up the tall trees and search for Malayan colugos. These "flying lemurs" can be anywhere but the tall trees and sparser tree branches around South View Path make it easier to spot them.
More about Flying Lemurs in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
11. After the junction to Kruing Path (which leads to the main road), continue on South View Path and on to Cave Path. As the name implies, expect to see a couple of caves along Cave Path. The caves are sealed up for safety, but they are not of any interests. Cave Path will have more uphills than downhills since it should be leading you up Bukit Timah Hill eventually.
12. Continue the walk until reaching Catchment Path and turn left up the hill to the main path. (At the time of writing this post, Rock Path has been closed to public for safety reason. Continuous heavy rains after the year-end monsoon season have weaken the hillside soil considerably and caused trees to fall. So, do not go down that path for your own safety.)
13. On the main road, continue walking uphill. When you reach Simpang Hut, keep right, head straight and up the flight of steps. You will be reaching the summit soon. The main road will also lead you to the summit, but it is too easy. For the 10Km trek, this will be the last long uphill flight of steps. So, conquer it. This is also the only flight of steps that has smaller steps on the left side (when going up), use it to make the climb easier.
14. At the summit, take a break. You will only be 163.63 metres above sea level, so it's not something to wow about. Most visitors will say "That's it! This is the summit?". Yup, that's it. You will not regret going up that last flight of steps.
15. Leaving the summit, take the main road. Skip Rengas Path on the first junction and continue walking to the next one to Jungle Fall Path. Rengas Path is just a flight of steps that go down to Diary Farm Loop, so you will not miss much. Jungle Fall Path is a detour that will bring you back to Diary Farm Loop eventually.
16. Along Jungle Fall Path, you will come to one of the meanest flight of steps in Bukit Timah Hill — some steps are foot-high. But you will be walking downhill instead. There is also a small "waterfall" under a stone bridge. Do not drink the water. This is not spring water from melting ice but from rain water that passed through pollution in the sky and decaying woods upriver.
17. At the end of Jungle Fall Path, you will hit Diary Farm Loop, turn right. At the next junction, the uphill steps is Rengas Path, ignore that path, turn left and continue on Diary Farm Loop. Look for more wild floras and faunas along the way. See if you can spot some monkeys, squirrels, wild boars, birds and unique floras too.
18. At Diary Farm Hut, turn right to Diary Farm Nature Park. The trek will be easier from here onward. A short distance later, you will reach another tarmac road, turn right again to Wallace Education Centre. There are more exhibits in there about the nature reserve since its discovery in the 19th century and some floras and faunas discovered in time chronological order. There is also a restroom and water cooler for refill.
If you are into birds photography, the area around Wallace Education Centre is a natural habitat for many species of birds. It's a hot spot for many bird watchers.
19. If you are interested to explore Wallace Trail opposite Wallace Education Centre, you may do so. There are more floras here to discover. However, do apply insect repellent, you are going into the woods. Find out more about Alfred Wallace, a Welsh naturalist and biologist, and his relationship with the nature reserve, especially his love for durians. Try to identify the durian trees (hint: its leave has two colours).
20. Once you are done, follow the tarmac road all the way to a car park and another rest point. Continue on the road until you see a trail to the left. Take it. Do not turn into any mountain biking trails for your own safety until you reach another car park.
21. The car park is very near to Hillview MRT Station. But the 10Km trek is not done yet, so don't give up here. Continue on the road, you will pass by MOE Diary Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre and all the way to the end of the road. There is another quarry.
22. At Singapore Quarry, check out the scenery, fishes, terrapins and birds again. Smell the pandan leaves behind the hut. If you want to take photo of the beautiful scenery, do note that the sun will be glaring at you from above the hill in the morning. The best time will be in the afternoon when the sun is above or behind you.
If you are lucky, you will see some white-bellied sea eagles (up to 5 at one count) flying in the sky or perching on tree branches, searching for fishes. There are other birds like collared kingfishers, sunbirds, greater racket-tailed drongos and munias, around the quarry at times.
23. Departing from the quarry, go back the same way you came until you see a signpost on your left. Exit the road, cross a small field and a playground and you are back at The Rail Mall. And this will end your 10Km trek. Have some drinks and lunch at the eateries in the mall.
24. (Optional) If you have some time and would like to visit an exhibition gallery in Former Ford Factory, called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies, take a walk there. It is about 700m along Upper Bukit Timah Road from The Rail Mall.
The gallery is opened from 9am to 5:30pm (Mon to Sat) and from 12 noon to 5:30pm (Sundays), including public holidays, except first day of Chinese New Year.
Congratulation to you first. Do feel proud of your achievement after the long trek. You should have clocked around 17,000 steps and close to 35 floors climbed.
Using iPackTravel, you will be able to map your trail and show step counts, flights climbed and walking distance (for the trail only) on the same map. 15,629 steps! With my long legs, my steps count is always lesser than estimated. You can even share your trail map like I do above.
Again, if the recommended route does not suit your preference, do modify it so you can have lesser uphill climbs or simply go in opposition directions from the recommendation. Enjoy the trek!