The Most Scenic Nature Trails to Hike and Explore in Singapore
If the novelty of spending your weekends at shopping malls and attractions are starting to wear off on you, why not take some time to appreciate the beauty of nature that Singapore has to offer? In case you haven't noticed, Singapore boasts abundant green spaces that are incredibly accessible—after all, we are known as a Garden City. Even better, the nature trails and parks will give you a meaningful workout in the company of gorgeous flora and fauna.
Ready to venture outdoors? We pick out some of the best nature trails to explore.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Best for: Serious hikers
When it comes to hiking, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve always comes to mind. After all, the nature reserve is also one of the oldest—dating back to 1883—and the home to Bukit Timah Hill, the tallest natural hill in Singapore at 163m tall. The reserve thrives with about 40 per cent of the country’s native flora and fauna, boasting an abundance of wildlife such as the Singapore freshwater crab, long-tailed macaque, Sunda pangolin and the Blue Bronzeback snake.
If you are up for the challenge, the summit trail is a 1.4km hike with a moderately steep incline that will take between 30 to 45 minutes to complete. If you prefer to cycle, however, the reserve also boasts the oldest mountain biking trail in Singapore, which snakes around the old granite quarries and secondary forest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Do note that the 7km track requires intermediate to advanced skills in biking.
MacRitchie Nature Trail & Reservoir Park
Best for: Sports enthusiasts
Completed in 1868, MacRitchie Reservoir is Singapore's oldest reservoir and also a hotspot for cross-country races, nature trails, and leisure activities, such as fishing and kayaking. Hikers of all levels will be able to enjoy the park’s trails of varying distance and difficulties, from the 3km Green trail along Prunus and Petai Boardwalk to the 11-kilometre Yellow trail, which would take you around the entire park. There’s also the seven-kilometre Orange trail, which will take you to the Instagram-famous MacRitchie Treetop Walk, a 250m suspension bridge connecting the two highest points within MacRitchie. Unfortunately, the Treetop Walk is currently closed for maintenance works, which will be complete by May 2021.
Regarded as a gateway to Singapore’s nature reserves, MacRitchie Nature Trail & Reservoir Park’s forests boast rich biodiversity. Interesting species to spot include the Rusty Oil fruit, Cheng Tng tree, Torch Ginger flower, as well as creatures like the Malayan colugo, crimson sunbird, and long-tailed macaque.
Bukit Batok Nature Park
Best for: History buffs
Developed on an abandoned quarry site in 1988, you’ll find hints of Bukit Batok Nature Park’s rich history as you embark on a peaceful stroll on its low-intensity trails. At the entrance of the park, a picturesque pond at the foot of a high cliff wall remains from its mining days, and various look-out points within the park—which would require some exercise to get to—offer stunning views of the quarry. Another relic not to be missed is the Bukit Batok Memorial at the top of the hill, a tribute to the soldiers and victims of World War II. Only two pillars and stairs to the original memorial remain today, with a new memorial plaque erected in 1981 to mark its legacy.
Other interesting things to see at the park include native orchid species as part of Nparks’ orchid conservation programme, and a delightful collection of birds, such as the Grey-headed Fish-eagle and the White-crested laughingthrush.
(Related: Fun and Educational Activities for Children in Singapore This September 2020)
Best for: Adventurous cyclists
A 10 min boat ride away, Pulau Ubin is home to Singapore’s last kampongs as well as the Chek Jawa Wetlands. A throwback to the 1960s, Pulau Ubin oozes with rustic charm, with former farms, rubber plantations, abandoned quarries and even an old Wayang (Chinese opera) stage waiting to be discovered. The 1,020-hectare island can be explored on foot, with trails and tours conducted to visit the kampongs and wetlands. However, bicycles are a popular choice for getting around if you’re exploring on your own.
The island is estimated to host over 786 native plants, 242 birds, 201 butterflies, 89 mammals, reptiles and amphibians, many of which are rare and not found on the mainland. Look out for the Greater Mousedeer, Ashy Roundleaf Bat and Lesser False Vampire, as well as birds such as the Straw-headed Bulbul, Mangrove Pitta, Barred Eagle Owl and Brown Wood-owl.
Best for: Avid birdwatchers
Singapore’s largest freshwater farmland, Kranji Marshes is home to a unique biodiversity that boasts more than 170 species of birds, 54 species of butterflies and 33 species of dragonflies—making it a favourite for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to spot woodpeckers, monitor lizards, or a Changeable Hawk Eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle perched atop the trees. There are also bird hides located around the park where you can observe shy march birds such as the Purple Swamphen and Common Moorhen, if you’re lucky. Visiting species such as the Black Baza and Japanese Sparrowhawk are also often spotted during the migratory season between November and March.
Another highlight of the Kranji Marshes would be the Raptor Tower, which offers panoramic views of the Kranji Marshes and Kranji Reservoir. The beautiful wooden tower can often be spotted in photos on social media, so don’t miss the Instagram-worthy photo op!