Singapore often evokes a visceral reaction from travelers. It’s the dazzling spectacle of the Supertrees, the sweet and savory chili crab, the multitude of shopping malls and an airport so impressive it’s a destination in its own right. Trekking, however, seldom rates a mention.
While hiking in Singapore may not be top of mind, it’s fast becoming one of the city-state’s favorite pastimes. Nicknamed the Little Red Dot for its 729 sq km (281 sq mi) size, this small but mighty nation plans to increase its network of walking trails to 360km (224 miles) by 2030, putting its natural beauty and wildlife front and center.
Singapore’s mostly flat, purpose-built trails can lean more towards scenic walkways, but don’t underestimate the challenge of hiking in year-round 90°F (32°C) heat and 80% humidity. Heavy monsoon rainfall can see trails closed, carrying food attracts monkeys and going off-trail can result in heavy fines, so always follow guidelines set out by the National Parks Board (NParks). Still game? Here are the best walking trails in Singapore.
The Southern Ridges
Best hike for city views
6.2 miles (10km), 3-5 hours, moderate to challenging
In a city renowned for ground-breaking design, even walking trails are given the architectural touch. At 36m (118ft) above ground, Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge, Henderson Waves, connects Telok Blangah Hill Park with Mt Faber, the first two parks on the Southern Ridges trails. The striking 274m (899ft) bridge undulates, snake-like, through the canopy, with panoramic views of the city and Sentosa Island.
The trail then forks: Route A takes you to the themed gardens of HortPark and on to historic Kent Ridge Park, where one of the last battles for Singapore was fought during WWII, while Route B loops through Labrador Nature Reserve’s mangroves, past a fort and other war relics to a rocky coastal shore.
Best hike for an overview of Singapore
22.3 miles (36km), 12 hours, difficult
Singapore’s mainland spans 50km (31 miles) from west to east, and while this trail doesn’t start or end on a literal coastline, it’s as close as it gets to walking from one side of the island to the other. Starting in the west at Jurong Lake Gardens and finishing at Coney Island Park in the northeast, the trail hits 18 parks and reserves, including the Singapore Botanic Gardens, where you could lose a couple of hours in the National Orchid Garden alone.
Traipse through suburban neighborhoods, past temples and along busy highways – mostly on concrete footpaths – as you visit each of the 10 checkpoints, while a free companion app points out places of interest. Trying to finish the trek in one day takes the fun out of it; instead, break it into more palatable sections over two or three days.
Best trails with a view
1.8 to 6.8 miles (3 to 11km), 1 to 5 hours, easy to difficult
Water sports, old-growth forest and rare flora and fauna in the heart of Singapore? Yes indeed. A 20-minute taxi ride from the center of town, Central Catchment Nature Reserve covers more than 2000 hectares (4942 acres) of land.
Keep an eye out for owls, pangolins and langurs on the MacRitchie Trails, a 20km (12.5 miles) network of dirt trails and boardwalks winding through the forest around MacRitchie Reservoir. Four of the six routes are moderate to difficult and take about four hours. The remaining two are easy hikes of two hours or less.
On Routes 3 and 6, wander high among the forest canopy on a 250m-long (820ft) suspension bridge on the TreeTop Walk, and take Route 4 to the seven-deck Jelutong Tower, where birdlife and spectacular views abound.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Singapore’s steepest hike
0.7 miles (1.2km), 45 minutes to 1 hour, easy to difficult
Mountain climbers can leave the heavy duty equipment at home for Singapore’s highest hill – the summit of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is easily accessible at 163m (535ft), or about three-quarters the height of Marina Bay Sands. The trail is paved, although there’s an option to take a staircase through slightly denser forest for the last section.
While the summit is the trophy for most hikers, there are four main walking routes through the 163-hectare (403-acre) reserve, which is one of Singapore’s largest surviving primary rainforests. Where tigers once roamed, today you’re more likely to see squirrels, colugos and crabs, plus a colorful array of native birds. There’s also the Kampong Trail, which takes you to the ruins of former villages.
The Rail Corridor
Most Instagrammable hike
2.4 miles (4km), 1-2 hour, moderate
When a railway line connecting Malaysia and Singapore stopped operating in 2011, it left behind a 24km (15-mile) green passageway, running from north to south and punctuated with disused tracks, old railway stations and truss bridges. Within a few years, it had been adopted by hikers and runners, who called it the Green Corridor. After a two-year restoration project, a 4km section has recently emerged as the Rail Corridor.
While all the rustic and Instagrammable elements remain, more than 1500 native plants were added, along with safety features such as a pedestrian underpass and dedicated access points, including two pram- and wheelchair-friendly ones at Hindhede Drive and Mayfair Estate. The trail’s popularity is only expected to grow as another section is restored and further upgrades are revealed. Visit early on weekdays to avoid the masses.
Chek Jawa Wetlands
Best easy hike (once you get there)
0.6 miles (1km), 30 minutes, easy
The outlying island of Pulau Ubin is home to one of Singapore’s last remaining kampongs (traditional villages) and recalls a simpler way of life. One of its main attractions is the 100-hectare (247-acre) Chek Jawa Wetlands. A boardwalk links coastal forest and mangroves, then juts out over sand and rocky beaches, seagrass lagoons and reefs of coral rubble.
It isn’t a challenging walk, but it does take effort to get to. From the center of town, it’s 30 minutes by taxi to Changi Point Ferry Terminal, followed by a 15-minute bumboat ride (plus wait time), then a 40-minute walk (although most people rent bicycles). Is it worth it? For nature enthusiasts and those curious to see a different side of Singapore, yes. You can also camp on the island.
Best hike for those seeking solitude
0.9 to 1.3 miles (1.5 to 2.1km), 30-40 minutes, easy
A wild and leafy 81-hectare (200-acre) pocket of Singapore, Chestnut Park has escaped the attention of many, except the local mountain biking community, who come to ride the dedicated 8.2km (5-mile) bike track. This leaves the unpaved walking trails all but empty, save for the occasional wild boar, mouse-deer or endangered songbird.
To the north of Chestnut Avenue, there’s the 1.5km (0.9-mile) Nature Trail and 2km (1.25-mile) Northern Trail, which is a point-to-point track and not a loop as some of the signage suggests. It ends at an observation tower. However, the most varied landscapes can be found on the boulder-strewn 2.1km (1.3-mile) Southern Trail, where a break in the forest can lead to a stream or a field of gently swaying tall grass.
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