Kinabalu National Park Trails

Mount Kinabalu is a very famous mountain a few hours East of Kota Kinabalu in Northern Sabah. It is possible to climb to the 4095 m summit, but you have to: (1) book several weeks in advance to get a permit; (2) pay around 150USD to stay a night in a dorm halfway up.

Neither my lungs nor wallet are up to climbing to the summit, but there are several km of trails below the checkouts, sorry, checkpoint that you can yomp around for a day or two.

You pay-in to the National Park for 15MYR (foreigner price) and can then collect a free map/description of the trails from the Park Information Office. What they give you is a blurry 3rd generation photocopy that is quite difficult to read, so I’ve reproduced a crispy, fresh version of it here for your delectation.


There are nine network trails around park headquarters; and many are interconnected. Exploring this network of trails before the climb to summit will allow visitors a chance to exercise those seldom used muscles and adjust to the altitude. As there are more trails to choose, and greater variability in starting times, it is not uncommon to find oneself a solitary hiker on the trail. This offers a much greater chance of seeing birds and other small wildlife. None of the trails around park headquarters are particularly difficult, although some are easier and shorter than others; all have something special with which to reward the hiker. The following general descriptions and approximate hiking times will help visitors decide which trails are right for them.

Bundu Tuhan View Trail; (465 metres, 30 minutes) this trail is short and close to the Park Reception office, making it one of the more accessible trails. It is a good opportunity for visitors with little time to experience the tropical rainforest. On a clear day, it offers a view of the nearby Kadazan dusun village, Bundu Tuhan. Hikers have option of joining the Ligawu Trail or returning to the reception office.

Kiau View Trail. (2344 metres, 60-80 minutes) this trail is of moderate length, and with the exception of the trail entrances, the route is fairly level. Several viewpoints along the trail provide vistas of the hilly range and nearby Kadazan dusun village of Kiau. The original trail to the summit; used by last century is climbers, began in Kiau.

Pandanus Trail; (598 metres, 45 minutes) this is a short, but quite steep trail that joins the Kiau View Trail. The junction is a quarter way point of the Kiau View Trail, making it convenient way shorten the hike in event of rain. Hikers cannot fail to notice the many lianas in the forest along the trail.

Bukit Ular Trail; (997 metres, 60 minutes) this trail is seldom used either safe to walk. Hikers either will start from the end of the power station road, walk along the house fence to get into the forest. Hikers can break the journey by joining the power station road down below about kilometre before the power station as it exits near the Kiau gap shelter or extend it by joining the Mempening Trail to reach the park headquarters. This trail is good point to see some secretive and rare birds such as Everetts’s Thrush and Blue banded Pitta both are endemic to Borneo.

Bukit Tupai and Bukit Burung Trails; (1425 metres, 90 minutes combined) both of these trails are quite short, and are best done in combination. Bukit means “hill” in Malay, and the highest of both these trails is the short climb up to the top of the hill for bird watching. Hikers have the option of joining the Mempening Trail or Silau Silau trail.

Mempening Trail; (3396 metres, 120 minutes) This is relatively easy trail, and there is little climbing unless hikers option to take detour to visit Bukit Tupai or Bukit Burung. Mempening means “oak” in Malay, a tree that is found in great abundance at this altitude. Hikers can break the journey by joining the Silau Silau Trail as it exits near the Visitors Centre or Extend it by joining the Liwagu Trail / Bundu Tuhan View Trail.

Liwagu Trail (5620 meters; 120-150 minutes) this is the longest trail around park headquarters. Liwagu is the name of the river in Dusun, and this trail follows the small river that runs through the park. The trail crosses several small mountain streams running into the river. Hiker are at times on a narrow ridge looking down at the river, and at times find themselves close to the riverbed; that is to say; there are several minor ascents and descents along the trail

Silau Silau Trail (3057 metres, 60-80 minutes) This trail is one of the easier trails in the park, and it also one of the most frequented by visitors. There are several entrances/exits to this trail, which gives hikers flexibility in choosing trail length and the time spent hiking. The trail follows a stream running through the park, and the moist and protected environment along the trail encourages luxuriant growth of mosses, ferns and orchids. By starting at the trailhead on the lower road, hikers have the option of joining the Kiau View Trail head (1.5km mark on Power Station Road) to complete a small circuit.

Mountain View Trail; (150 metres, 15 minutes) A little breathing to be released along this trail to reach the view shelter on the ridge top. Good weather condition will provide you a magnificent view of the mountain and the surrounding forest as well as the Kandamaian Waterfall. Singing birds of a distance golden-napped Barbet and the Crimson headed Partridge are natural sounds of the forest that could be heard breaking the silence in this area.

Here’s the map as a large jpg, and the text as a MS Word document (.doc). You should be able to print both out to fit your local printer paper.

Kinabalu NP Trails Descriptions

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

I walked all the Trails except Bukit Ular Trail. When I was there (June) the weather was clear in the mornings and cloud came in from the North West around 1pm.

The only beasties I saw were this bug and a (unpatterned silver-grey) snake sunning himself in the middle of the track on the Liwagu Trail.



Here’s a couple of snaps from the trails.



Timpohon Gate (at the top of the map) is where people who have paid to go to the summit get their tickets checked.

The Park puts on buses from the power station back down to the Reception office. These seem to be free of charge. They probably run the other way, too.

The entrance fee to the National Park is 15MYR for foreigners. The pay-booth is at the little roundabout to the left of the Reception Office.  The Kiau View Trail starts outside the National Park demarcation.

I’m told that there are quite often cancellations for summit-climb bookings, so they might be last-minute opportunities for those interested.

I also saw this map of the Summit trail.  (Edit: here’s a colour version of it).


Cheap sleeps

Get off the big bus at the entrance to the park.  If you are on the main road looking at the park entrance (which is where buses will drop you), walk towards your left (towards KK). Both these places are about 500m from the park entrance.

J Residence 012 869 6969
I didn’t stay there, from the road it looked a little expensive and so does the website, but….

. another 100m on:
is Bayu Kinabalu Lodge. 088-889693/ 013-8532145 / 014-8608688
20MYR dorms; 40MYR single; 80MYR double
It has the world’s most miserable reception staff, but it’s cheap

There are two reasonably priced restaurants within walking distance.



Foot note:
The eagle-eyed might note that on the two pages of the map/text, there are two different versions of the length of the Mempening Trail. That’s how it is on the original. I’d guess that the “2516m” version is the accurate one.

I have left the quirky grammar as it was on the original – I don’t know what “this trail is seldom used either safe to walk” means!

If you see any errors on the map, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll keep the editable version and update it.

Written July 2012     Last Updated July 2012


8 responses to “Kinabalu National Park Trails

  1. Both your Sabah entries are terrific! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks much, on behalf of those not particularly compelled to conquer a mountain but who enjoy the surroundings it mothers. Very helpful for planning!

  3. Good stuff. Planning a visit some day – this has inspired me.

  4. This is so helpful! Best information I could find. Thank you!

  5. Can you hire a tour guide when hiking these trails?

  6. This is ace! Thanks for sharing – best info I found

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