Every so often, we start to crave a little adventure away from city life, and if you’re longing to get immersed in Mother Nature, hiking is a great way to do just that. Not only are some hiking spots the ultimate travel destinations to beat the touristy crowds, they are also a good way to bring you back to nature.. Home to not only shopping malls and food, Johor Bahru is also where you’ll find mountainous regions with gorgeous scenic hikes—it’s the place to hit especially if you’ve conquered most of Singapore’s hiking trails. We’ve gathered some of the most captivating spots featuring beautiful landscapes that are worth some sweaty explorations. Next time you’re up for a Malaysia hiking adventure, grab your passports and head across the borders!
1. Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest (difficulty level: beginner)
Standing at 654m above sea level and just about 90km away from Singapore is Gunang Pulai—one of the most accessible hiking spots located in Johor. Best of all, this trek is considered relatively easy for regular hikers.
Each way (up and down) spans 5km. In total, it will take about 4 hours to complete the entire hike. You’ll have the chance to pass by several waterfalls along the way, which are great for a quick pit stop as you hydrate, have a picnic, or even take a refreshing dip for the journey ahead.
Pick from two trails — a 5km tarred road for an easier trek up, or a 3.14km jungle trail that’s shorter but steeper with uphill sections. At the summit of Gunung Pulai, you’ll be greeted with a panoramic view of the mountains. The peak is noticeably cooler as well, with beautiful streaks of light streaming through the leaves of surrounding trees. Have your cameras and drones ready to capture the moment and probably the most beautiful scenery in the world after all that hard work to the top!
Address: Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest, Kulai 81000 Malaysia
How to get there: The drive from Johor Bahru checkpoint to Gunung Pulai takes slightly more than an hour. If you’re taking public transport, board buses BET1, 777B or 7B from JB Sentral towards Kulai Terminal. From there, you can either take a Grab or a regular taxi into Gunung Pulai. Admission is free, and it is recommended to visit during daylight hours. If you’re planning to drive, parking is charged at RM3 (~S$0.95) for cars, and RM0.50 (~S$0.20) for motorcycles.
2. Endau-Rompin National Park (difficulty level: beginner)
Covering an area of almost 900sq km, Endau-Rompin is a vast national park that offers beautiful landscapes filled with forests and waterfalls. Located in the northeast region of Johor, it is one of the world’s oldest rainforests with more than 130 million years of history.
Beyond that, it is also home to some of Malaysia’s most endangered animals such as wild boars, deer and the almost extinct Sumatran Rhinoceros. Though these creatures are said to be rather elusive, it is best to maintain your distance if you encounter any. One of the park’s main draws is definitely the waterfalls; one of which is the Takah Pandan Waterfall. In order to reach this spot, all it takes is an hour of trekking from Selai Base Camp. Another popular area is the Takah Tinggi Waterfall, which requires a tougher trek from Lubuk Tapah, taking around two to three hours in total.
Tasik Air Biru—which means blue water lake—is an enchanting lake that is worth exploring while you're there too. This lake boasts of superbly clear waters that beckons tired trekkers to take a long dip after a hike.
Address: 1, Jalan Bawal 1, Taman Kahang Baru, 86700 Kahang, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia
How to get there: There are three entry points to Endau-Rompin: Peta, Selai and Kuala Rompin, with the two most popular entry points being Peta and Selai. Hire a four-wheel transportation service that will pick you up at Kahang town if you’re getting to the park via Peta. The alternative pick-up point is at Bekok town if you’re getting to the park via Selai. You can also opt for a day tour with a planned itinerary. Depending on your comfort level, there are several accommodations to choose from—camping sites, the National Park chalets, or National Park dorms. The admission fee to the park is RM10 (~S$3.30), with an additional RM10 (~S$3.30) for a trekking permit and insurance.
3. Gunung Muntahak (difficulty level: moderate)
You’ve probably heard of Kota Tinggi—it is one of the most common spots for Singaporean students when it comes to overseas camping trips. With an elevation of 634m, Gunung Muntahak is precisely the main water source for the ever-famous Kota Tinggi Waterfall. In fact, you’ll be moving toward the cascading sounds of water that gradually grow louder with each step.
One great thing about Gunung Muntahak is that it remains largely unexplored. With much of its primary rainforest untouched, this destination is best for those who prefer a chill hike without hordes of hikers at every turn. This hiking trail is divided into seven sections, with a mix of gentle slopes (up till section four) and slightly steeper steps as you move up. The final summit then brings you to an elevated view of lush vegetation on a piece of vast land.
Address: Gunung Panti Recreational Forest, 81900, Johor, Malaysia
How to get there: Take the SBS bus 170 from Singapore to Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru. From Larkin, hop on a bus to the Kota Tinggi bus interchange. Next, take a taxi to the Wet World Resort entrance (starting point of the trek). This ride would take approximately 90 min, while public transport would require a trip of just under 3hr.. If you set off early in the morning, this can easily be a weekend-day backpacking getaway with no overnight stays.
4. Gunung Lambak (difficulty level: moderate)
In terms of difficulty level, Gunung Lambak falls right in the middle for those who are not seasoned hikers, but would like just a bit of a challenge. No permits are necessary for this day trek. Instead, it is well-catered for families looking for a fun, outdoor weekend activity together. The trail starts off fairly easy with paved concrete roads before transitioning to the start of a jungle trek, where you’ll find a clear pathway of steps and railings that take you to the middle section of the journey.
It becomes slightly more challenging towards the end, where paths are steeper with soil and tree roots. But it should not be too difficult — just watch your step as always. The whole process (including ascending and descending) takes approximately four to five hours, with the lowest peak at 470m and the highest at 510m. Apart from flora and fauna, you’ll encounter waterfalls much like many of the other trails on the list. At the summit, you’ll be offered an unobstructed view of Kluang Town!
Address: Gunung Lambak Recreational Forest, 86000 Kluang, Johor, Malaysia
How to get there: Hop on a 2hr 30mins bus ride from Golden Mile Tower to Kluang. From there, take a taxi for a short 6mins ride and arrive at Gunung Lambak. A day trip is usually more than enough for a trip to Gunung Lambak, with some opting for simple day tours for easy planning. If you prefer a longer stay, opt for nearby accommodations like Merdeka Hotel and Rail Hotel in Kluang town. No admission fee is required for the climb.
5. Mount Ophir (difficulty level: hard)
Known locally as Gunung Ledang, Mount Ophir is a famed mountain rooted in ancient Malay folklore. Legend has it that this particular mountain was the site of rich gold deposits; a hot spot that lured traders from as far as Greece and China in the past. Folklore aside, it is also the highest mountain in Southern Peninsular Malaysia (1,276m to be exact). In fact, it is one of the more challenging day treks, often making it to the bucket list of backpackers and thrill-seekers. Just be sure to pack your towels and water bottles with you as you conquer this mountain.
Put it this way: Expect steep rock faces, gnarled tree roots and some gruelling stretches all the way to the top - packing the necessary first aid and medical supplies in your backpacks is always a good idea. The hike starts off with a long (and steep) flight of concrete steps. Over time, this transits to mountainous terrain right up towards the summit with a total of seven checkpoints. Because of the steepness, climbing down is every bit as challenging as the climb up. In total, it will take about nine to 11hrs to complete the hike.
Mount Ophir is also a rather popular tourist destination, so it is best to make a reservation in advance as there are limited climb permits handed out each day. It is recommended to start your journey from as early as 7:00am to get ample time to climb within the day, and to secure the permits especially if you're going with a large group. Reserve your permit advance via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: Mount Ophir, 84900, Johor, Malaysia
How to get there: If opting for public transport, take bus 170 from Singapore to Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru. Next, take an express bus from Larkin to Segamat (~3hrs 15mins journey). From Segamat Interchange, grab a taxi for about RM80 (~S$25) to arrive at Asahan.
Alternatively, go on a short road trip from Singapore—it will be a 4hr drive and you’ll find a car park at the foot of the climb for parking. There are plenty of overnight stays available nearby, from Mount Ophir National Park Chalet, to camping sports and Ophir Hotel which is located in Tangkak town. For a more fuss-free plan, opt for day tours that include transportation and accommodation. Entrance fees to Mount Ophir cost RM3 (~S$0.95) for registration and RM23 (~S$7) for foreigners.
What better way to immerse yourself in nature than a fabulously scenic hike up some of the world’s most beautiful places while on an overseas holiday, especially since they often make for a cheap holiday abroad? Though it might sound intimidating, there are multiple destinations that suit different fitness levels just across the borders. Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of natural landscapes and lush national parks, and it is clear that you do not have to travel too far from Singapore as travelling within Asia will offer you the opportunity to be a part of a stunning outdoor escape.
Things to note when travelling to Malaysia
- Currently, masks are mandatory indoors and optional outdoors. Everyone is expected to abide by the safe distancing measures.
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Best time to visit
It’s generally recommended to visit between February and September, just between Malaysia’s monsoon seasons. The months of July, August and September can be rather hot and humid.
The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM).
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