Amidst Singapore’s towering skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls and bustling hawker centres lie pockets of untamed nature that show off the city state’s wilder side. If you need a break from the urban sprawl, these rugged hiking trails in Singapore will be a breath of fresh air. And with a variety of lengths and difficulty levels, there’s something for everyone.
1. Rifle Range Nature Park
Located just a short distance from Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Rifle Range Nature Park is one of Singapore’s newest green spaces. The 66-hectare park opened in November 2022 and offers several short trails that are perfect for occasional hikers. The Gliders Boardwalk (411m) is a barrier-free elevated boardwalk that traces a path through the Quarry Wetland, a freshwater ecosystem formed within a man-made quarry. The trail also has unique features like a rope bridge and poles to allow the resident colugos and macaques to cross Rifle Range Road safely. There are also slightly longer trails like the Banyan (647m) and Gaharu Trails (842m) that offer a more rustic hiking experience.
2. MacRitchie Reservoir
MacRitchie Reservoir is a popular hiking trail among nature lovers in Singapore looking to escape the bustle of city living. This 11km-long nature trail located within the tropical rainforest of Central Catchment Nature Reserve will take you through a variety of scenic landscapes, and you might even encounter wildlife such as long-tailed macaque monkeys, monitor lizards, colugos (flying lemurs) and owls. Its highlight is a gorgeous emerald lake surrounded by tall and lush trees. Another draw is the MacRitchie Treetop Walk that offers a magnificent bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy.
3. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established in 1883 and is one of the first forest reserves created in Singapore. This trail boasts one of the richest ecological systems within the country and is home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife. Hiking along the trails, you might encounter towering dipterocarps (a species of lowland rainforest tree), reminders of World War II history and thorny rattan trees. It is also where you can find Singapore’s highest geographical point, Bukit Timah Hill, which stands at 163 metres. With numerous different routes to choose from, you can decide for yourself what kind of scenery you want to view on the way to the peak.
4. Pulau Ubin
If you’re in search for adventure off the mainland, Pulau Ubin is just the destination for you. The thickly forested island is home to one of Singapore’s last few kampungs (villages) and is minimally developed. To get there, head to Changi Point Ferry Terminal where you can hop on a bumboat and take a short 15-minute ride to the island’s village. Once you’re there, follow the paved road to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, another example of Singapore’s remarkably biodiverse ecosystems. The route, about 3km from the public jetty at Pulau Ubin, passes the former Headman’s House and the Ubin Fruit Orchard where you might spot monkeys swinging in the trees. There’s very little shade accompanying the trail but the breathtaking view of the sea and salty breeze is worth it. When the low tide comes, hikers can get a glimpse of the marine life in the intertidal pools. Over at Chek Jawa Wetlands, explore the area via the 1km long boardwalk and climb up the 20m Jejawi Tower for a better view.
5. Dairy Farm Nature Park
Near the Dairy Farm MRT station (Downtown Line) is the 75-hectare Dairy Farm Nature Park which features many hiking routes of varying difficulty levels. Visit the permanent exhibition along the rustic trail called the Wallace Education Centre, named after English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, to learn about his contributions to natural science and the biogeography and biodiversity in the region. The nature park offers a relatively easy 2.2km trail besides the occasional steep ascends.
6. Sungei Buluh Wetland Reserve
If you have a passion for wildlife, and birdwatching in particular, Sungei Buluh Wetland Reserve should be the top of your list for hiking trails in Singapore. There are several trails that circumnavigate the park, each dotted with strategically placed observation hides (pack your binoculars!) where you can observe over 220 species of native and migratory birds like the Eurasian Whimbrel and Mongolian Plover. Closer to the ground, you’ll also spot other critters like monitor lizards, saltwater crocodiles and mudskippers. Sungei Buluh is rather remote, so driving or taking a taxi is recommended.
7. Southern Ridges
This hiking trail boasts a scenic route that bridges modern architecture and Mother Nature. Travelling along the Southern Ridges will take you to Henderson Waves, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore which connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park. It’s one to marvel at, thanks to its artistic, distinctive wave-like structure consisting of a series of undulating curved “ribs”. Other highlights of this hiking trail include the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk where visitors can view the tree tops.
8. Punggol Promenade Nature Park
Fancy a slow trek by the sea? Punggol Promenade Nature Park is the place to be for quiet strolls and scenic sights. This 2.4km-long walking trail is popular among anglers and marine enthusiasts because of its multiple fishing platforms. On the other end of the park is Pulau Serangoon, better known as Coney Island. Trekkers can access the island by reaching the end of the trail and crossing over to the road connecting the Nature Park to Coney Island’s West entrance.
9. Labrador Nature Reserve
Labrador Nature Reserve is a section within the Southern Ridges that overlooks the South China Sea and Southern Islands. There are two routes you can take for the Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk, both of which are moderately challenging and can take around three hours. Your walk will take you through a wide variety of habitats from mudflats and mangroves to coastal forests and rocky shores. Along the way, you’ll get to admire the reserve’s rich biodiversity and take in scenic views of Keppel Harbour, the lush greenery of Bukit Chermin hill, and the distant rocky cliffs of Sentosa. History buffs can also discover relics left behind from World War II at the nature reserve, such as tunnels, a fort and a pill box.
10. Rail Corridor
After the closure of the Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway in 2011, the Nature Society and Urban Redevelopment Authority embarked on a project to convert the train route into a linear park that has become a popular long distance hiking trail in Singapore. The first phase of the project was completed in 2019 and future stretches are expected to be opened between 2022 and 2024. Currently, the Rail Corridor runs 24km long, connecting Spooner Road to the Villa Verde Park Connector. While its full distance might seem imposing, there are plenty of entry and exit points so you can easily retreat to more urban settings for coffee or a meal. What’s unique about this park is that it’s also a continuous green passage that allows native fauna to move between forested areas. Keep your voice down and your eyes open and you might spot rare wildlife like the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine and updated on 23 March 2021.