Ready to summit Singapore’s highest “peak”? Make a beeline for Bukit Timah (you can even bring a stroller)!
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is not only one of Singapore’s oldest parks (it dates all the way back to 1883!), but it’s also home to the highest point in Singapore (the admittedly modest Bukit Timah Hill, which stands at 163 metres high).
Spanning 163 hectares – much of it primary rainforest that looks no different than when Stamford Raffles arrived 200 years ago – Bukit Timah emerged from two years of preservation work in 2016 with updated hiking and biking trails that make for a fabulous outdoor adventure.
The sprawling nature reserve actually encompasses a number of smaller parks – Hindhede Nature Park, Dairy Farm Nature Park, and the Singapore Quarry – and if you’re really up for a hike you can connect to other parks like MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Park, Chestnut Nature Park, and Zhenghua Nature Park. But each of those parks can be a day out unto itself, so we shall focus on Bukit Timah, Hindhede Nature Park, and the Hindhede Quarry, each of which are easily reachable from the main entrance and carpark at Hindhede Drive.
How to get to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Hiking Trails
Mountain Biking at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Hindhede Playground at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Where to Eat at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Opening Hours & Facilities
Just 12km from the CBD, Bukit Timah is conveniently located off the PIE near the terminus of Bukit Timah/Dunearn Road. The closest MRT Stop is Beauty World on the Downtown Line; Exit A is about a 10-minute walk from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. Multiple bus lines also stop nearby along Upper Bukit Timah Road and Jalan Anak Bukit; Stops 42109 and 42119 are the closest (each about a 10-minute walk to the visitor centre). Accessible bus lines are the 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852 and 961.
On site you will also find a large carpark (watch for monkeys all along the road!).
Bukit Timah is filled with meandering trails rated Easy, Moderate, and Difficult. Maddeningly, there are no distances listed anywhere online or on any of the maps at the park, but according to the ranger we spoke with at the visitor centre:
- The easy Red trail to the summit is 1.3km
- The moderate Green South View / Cave trail is 1.8km
- The difficult Yellow Dairy Farm loop trail is 2km (from the summit)
With the most direct route, it is 1.3km and 30-45 minutes on foot from the visitor centre to the nearby summit of Bukit Timah Hill; you can actually take the paved main road (perfect for strollers) all the way there, or make a steeper ascent up steps for the final .2km. Along the way you’ll pass under the shady canopy of dipterocarp forest that’s not found anywhere else on the island. The first 1/3 of the walk – until you reach the Kruing Hut – is the steepest. Definitely expect to be breathless!
Near the start of the trail off to the right you’ll see a sign for the South View (Green) Path and Taban Loop. This trail includes some steps and some tree roots – the Taban Loop is about 900m long and features a steep descent and ascent that then meets back up with the Main Road (via the short Kruing Path) or connects to the longer South View/Cave Path.
Other than the personal satisfaction of summiting Singapore’s highest point, you won’t find much reward in the way of views at the top of Bukit Timah Hill. There is a rock marking Singapore’s highest elevation, however, along with a shelter and some benches. There’s also a little offshoot from the Main Road to a lookout point with the Hindhede Quarry and the city far below, though even this is somewhat obscured by trees.
If you’re after a photo op, your best bet is to walk through kid-friendly Hindhede Nature Reserve (more on this below), where you’ll find a stunning view across the Hindhede Quarry.
For a longer hike, the Catchment Path and Rifle Range Trail (which shoots off to the right before you come to the carpark) will both take you eventually to MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Park and the Central Catchment Reserve. This route is about 8km each way, with about 2km going along Rifle Range Road (which has minimal traffic). Alternatively, you can meet up with the Rail Corridor, which connects to both Hillview and King Albert MRT Stations, and stretches all the way into the CBD.
Bukit Timah has a fabulous 7km mountain biking trail that snakes through the secondary forest, past the Singapore Quarry, and through Dairy Farm Nature Park. Note that the terrain is relatively rough and not recommended for beginners (there are well-marked offshoots for advanced riders as well). It’s also worth noting that the mountain bike trail is ONLY for mountain bikes – hikers will be fined $200 if caught on the trail!
If you’ve got little ones in tow (or don’t feel like battling crowds on the way to the summit), the playground within Hindhede Nature Park (right at the bottom of the hill, next to the visitor centre), offers plenty of climbing structures and a super long zipline/flying fox. There are also 3-4 picnic tables and a grassy clearing that’s perfect for getting the wiggles out.
The short, paved boardwalk trail – accessible from the visitor centre – loops around the compact park and takes you through the rainforest, offering spectacular views of Hindhede Quarry from “Look Out Point” (pictured at the top of the article). You can do all of this with a stroller.
You can also access Hindhede Nature Park from the bottom left of the carpark; this path is not paved, and offers kiddos a little taste of nature with roots and some steps, though it’s fairly flat. It takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the play area forest clearing, which then connects to the paved path. If you are running or walking briskly, you can circumnavigate the entire park within 10 minutes, though there’s plenty more for kiddos to explore at a more leisurely pace.
There are no restaurants within Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, though there are plenty located nearby at Beauty World, the Rail Mall, and Hillview. One of our favorite family brunch restaurants, Spruce, is also about 15 minutes away on foot/5 minutes by car on Upper Bukit Timah Road.
There’s a nice array of vending machines at the visitor centre; in addition to drinks and snacks, you’ll also find face masks and bug spray. And of course there are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic, just beware the monkeys!
The nature reserve (and carpark) are open daily from 7am to 7pm. Be sure to check safedistparks.nparks.gov.sg to avoid crowds (and ensure that the carpark is open with available spaces). When we visited on a recent weekeday morning at around 7:45am, already the carpark was about ¾ full, so expect crowds on weekends!
The visitor centre is situated in a lovely old black and white house; children may enjoy perusing the display on local flora and fauna, which includes lots of info on the various trees in the park, as well as two taxidermied tigers! By the way, there are NO PETS allowed in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Hindhede Nature Park. While there are nice restroom facilities at the visitor centre with a water fountain and handicapped bathrooms, note that there are NO changing tables.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Hindhede Nature Park, 177 Hindhede Drive, Singapore 589333, www.nparks.gov.sg
Lead image, image #1, and playground images by Blub Creative; all other images by Kate McFarlane