Lonely Planet has recently published Epic Hikes Of The World, featuring some of “the planet’s most thrilling treks and trails”. The book features 50 hiking routes in 30 countries across five continents, as well as other trail suggestions.
Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu in Sabah makes it into the list as one of these epic hikes. But besides the tallest mountain in Malaysia (which is 4,095m above sea level), there are many other remarkable hikes that you can try out there.
What constitutes an epic hike? It is said that such hikes take about five hours or more, yield unique sights not easily found elsewhere, and require some degree of physical fitness and preparation. Many of them also require a guide and permit to climb.
Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir), Johor
Gunung Ledang is a legendary mountain located in Gunung Ledang National Park. Legend has it that a mythical princess, Puteri Gunung Ledang, once lived at the top of this mountain.
If you do go hiking here, you might not see a princess or find any gold, but you will likely see jungle flora (wild orchids and pitcher plants) and fauna (monitor lizards, wild boars, the elusive tapir) while ascending the 1,276m mountain.
The climb takes five to six hours one way for a fairly fit person, and there are steep parts where you need a rope. You also need to engage a guide from the ranger’s office to climb, so it is advisable to contact them beforehand to make a booking. There are admission charges to the park as well as climbing fees.
More information: johornationalparks.gov.my
Gunung Stong, Kelantan
Located in the Gunung Stong State Park – formerly known as Jelawang Jungle – near Dabong in Kota Baru, Gunung Stong is one of the peaks you can attempt to hike up. The rest are Gunung Ayam, Gunung Saji, Gunung Tera, Gunung Kob, Gunung Baha, Gunung Beirut, and Gunung Che Tahir.
The park is home to the seven-tiered Jelawang Waterfall, said to be one of the highest in Southeast Asia. There is also the Boto Rock Shelter, a cave-like formation where you can rest along the way when climbing Gunung Stong.
It takes about four hours to summit the 1,442m mountain. Besides its rugged landscape, the area is rich in flora (the rafflesia, bamboo, palm) and fauna (the Asian elephant, Malaysian tiger, seladang, , hornbill), making it a good spot for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, as well as adventure lovers.
More information: gunungstong.com
Gunung Tahan, Pahang
Located in Taman Negara, Gunung Tahan is the highest mountain in Peninsula Malaysia at 2,187m. Considered one of the most challenging treks in the Peninsula, hikers need to be both physically fit and mentally prepared.
Besides ascending and descending the mountain, you need to cross rivers, trek for long distances, and camp for several days. It also gets very cold, especially at night.
There are three trails to reach the peak, and they range from three to four to five to seven days. There are entrance fees to the park and it is recommended to have a guide for this climb.
More information: tamannegara.asia
Gunung Api (Pinnacles Trail Climb), Sarawak
Gunung Api is a limestone mountain located in the Mulu National Park. This trail, often referred to as the Pinnacles Trail, is another extremely challenging one. Although it is only 2.4km long, it rises 1,200m to the viewing point.
For the first part of your adventure, you need to hike 9km to Camp 5 where you will stay overnight. The actual climb starts early the next morning before sunrise. The gradient is extremely steep and full of sharp, slippery rocks.
For the last part of the trail, you need to climb with the aid of ropes and ladders as it is almost vertical. Descending is more difficult than ascending. It also takes longer, around five hours, and you might have to descend in the dark. Park fees apply and a guide is required.
More information: mulupark.com
Gunung Gading, Sarawak
Gunung Gading is in Gunung Gading National Park, and though not very high at 906m, this is one hike that might yield a rare find – the rafflesia, the largest flower in the world. This flower, which takes nine months to grow, blooms for only three to five days a year. Its peak flowering period is from Nov to Jan.
Hiking to the Gunung Gading summit takes around three to four hours one way, and you need to be fairly fit. Hikers need to start early and return the same day as overnight forest stays are not allowed. But there are also easier trails like the Waterfall Trail and Batu Bakubu Trail.
Park fees apply and a guide is recommended. Before your trip, you might want to check with the park HQ to find out when the rafflesia flower will bloom.
More information: sarawaktourism.com
Gunung Irau, Pahang
Gunung Irau, also known as the “mossy forest”, might make you feel like you’re in New Zealand or Lord Of The Rings because of its rather cool climate and unusual vegetation. You might also see wild orchids, unusual shrubs, mushrooms and pitcher plants along the way.
At 2,110m, it is the highest mountain in Cameron Highlands and is right next to Gunung Brinchang. The moss grows as a parasitic plant on high altitude trees. Coupled with the cold and damp weather, mists and low level clouds, it thrives creating this “mossy forest”.
It is best to hire a guide to get the best views of the forest and a permit is also required for hiking here. The terrain can be rather muddy, especially during the wetter months. It can also get a bit cold at 20ºC.
While the Mossy Forest is still open to the public, the hiking trail at the end of the boardwalk leading to the peak of Gunung Irau might be closed for renovations. Check with your guide for the latest updates.
More information: endemicguides.com