9 Best Trails To Explore Hiking At Penang Hill

9 Best Trails To Explore Hiking At Penang Hill

Explore A Different Side Of Penang Island By Hiking At Penang Hill!

Every Malaysian knows Penang is a melting pot of delicious food, rich cultural heritage, and pristine beaches. Sometimes, Malaysians even debate whether Penang or Kuala Lumpur's Hokkien mee and char kway teow is better! Thankfully, we will not be diving into this topic because we'll never be able to get started on what we're actually here for. Instead, we'll leave it to the foodies to explain their side of things.

So food debates aside, let's we're going to explore a different side of Malaysia's famous island-tied state of Penang! This incredible state is home to many stunning hiking trails, specifically at Penang Hill, also affectionately known as Bukit Bendera.

Not only is Penang Hill teeming with various flora and fauna species, Penang Hill also has various difficulty levels that cater to several fitness levels. Outdoor adventurers and nature lovers will certainly be thrilled to explore Penang Hill's abundant hiking trails since each path offers its very own unique attraction.

So, aside from relaxing on one of Batu Ferringhi's beaches, let's get ready for a true blue adventurous trip by grabbing your favourite hiking stick, lacing up your hiking boots, and getting your hiking buddies on board, because you will definitely want to explore least one of the exciting trails at Penang Hill once we're done!

9 Idyllic Penang Hill Hiking Trails To Explore And Conquer

Moniot Road paved path. Photo by Lilla Krs
Photo by Lilla Krs.

1. Moniot Trail

As one of the oldest trails at Penang Hill, the Moniot Trail was named after the surveyor general of the Straits Settlements, Jules M. Moniot. Moniot Road serves as one of the earliest bridle paths, being one of the places where early botanists in Penang collected many of the famous hill's floral specimens that provided the base for various ecosystem studies today.

To get to the the Moniot trailhead, you will need to ride the funicular train up to the upper station of Penang Hill. The trail starts at the Summit Road signpost, which runs from the Halfway House, where you will pass by some old bungalows that line the hill.

Not only will you be surrounded by lush greenery, but you may also occasionally come across the semi-endangered Dusky Leaf monkeys, local black squirrels, and the odd tortoise. Look out for the Maingaya malayana tree, a witch hazel species once believed to have been extinct for over 200 years.

You'll enjoy the walk along the Moniot Trail it's a well-shaded and incredibly cooling path with dense foliage throughout the unpaved and paved tracks. However, we recommend completing your hike before 9:00 am as the queue for the funicular train tends to slowly get crowded by that time.

Hiking Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Trail Distance: 5.8km

Elevation Gain: 274m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 11500 Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia

Moongate Trail starting point. Photo by Daphne Soon.
Photo by Daphne Soon.

2. Moongate Trail

The Moongate Trail is one of the most popular trails in Penang. Its name stems from the unique moon-shaped entrance that marks its trailhead, which also serves as a respectful nod to the oriental-designed gates of bygone years. It is considered one of the more challenging routes at Penang Hill due to its steep steps and slopes.

The trailhead is found near the entrance to the Penang Botanic Gardens. You will enjoy the scenic views of the rainforest and the city from the various viewpoints along the way to the summit of Bukit Cendana. You will even see the iconic rainbow steps at one of the checkpoints.

Amazing views at the Rainbow Rock marker on Moongate Trail. Photo by Shan Yaw Yeoh.
Photo by Shan Yaw Yeoh.

Once at the peak, you can catch your breath here and enjoy the scenery before descending the hill to check out Rainbow Rock for more photo opportunities of the surrounding views. While the route to the Rainbow Rock is steep, you can use the ropes provided along the way for a safer descent. 

It's best to start hiking the Moongate Trail as early as possible to avoid the midday heat. You may want to bring a hat and sunscreen as some areas are not shaded. To combat the mosquitoes regularly found throughout the trek, remember to bring your mosquito repellent to avoid getting bitten.

As the hike takes approximately 3 hours, we recommend bringing up to 2L of water in your trusty Ace Bottle and some granola bars to replenish your energy.

Montigo Ace Bottle

Hiking Time: 2 hours 46 minutes

Trail Distance: 5.5km

Elevation Gain: 515m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Moon Gate Trail, 673A, Jalan Kebun Bunga, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

One of the hiking trails that lead to Penang Hill via the Penang Botanic Gardens. Photo by WS Chong.
Photo by WS Chong.

3. Botanical Gardens Trail

If you're a seasoned hiker, I strongly recommend taking on the challenge that is the Botanical Gardens Trail. It is considered one of the more challenging hiking trails to attempt en-route to Penang Hill due to various steep sections and the length of time taken to complete it. That said, conquering this trail naturally affords you bragging rights once you add it to your hiking belt of achievements.

The trail begins at the Penang Botanical Gardens, where you'll pass by attractions such as the Parliament House, Waterfall Garden, and Lily Pond before arriving at the end of the trail, where the Upper Station is.

The well-maintained trail has plenty of facilities and signage. The terrain throughout the trail mostly comprises a dirt path, where some steps are made of roots and rocks. Some sections are rather steep and slippery. Hence, a hiking stick will help keep the pressure off your knees while ascending the steeper areas. 

Keep in mind that plenty of monkeys have been sighted on this route. So, hold onto your possessions and never, I repeat, never ever feed any wildlife!

As there are no shops along the way, I'd advise bringing up to 2L of water and some snacks to keep your energy levels up throughout this challenging hike.

Entry Fee: RM5

Hiking Time: 4 hours 32 minutes

Trail Distance: 10.1km

Elevation Gain: 782m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 11500 Bukit Bendera, Penang, Malaysia

The underside of the Penang Hill/Bukit Bendera funicular via Heritage Trail. Photo by Boon Teo.
Photo by Boon Teo.

4. Heritage Trail

The Heritage Trail is another moderately challenging but exciting route that is perfect for experienced hikers. The trail mostly comprises steep steps that are built along the funicular train railway from the Lower Station to the Upper Station before hiking a short distance throughout the forest and a paved road toward the end.

Even if it's your first time hiking at Penang Hill, rest assured that this route is one of the most direct paths to the summit. You can enjoy the scenic views of Penang Island at the multiple rest stops that line the route. You will even spot the funicular train making its way up the hill as you walk past the other stations, such as the Middle Station and Viaduct Station. 

Steep steps on the way to Penang Hill - get ready to feel your thighs burn! Photo by Photo by Boon Teo.
Photo by Boon Teo.

Halfway through the route, you will see a few dogs guarding a farm. As long as you stick to hiking the trails, the dogs typically ignore passerbys.

One awesome part about hiking this trail to the top of Penang Hill is how you can choose to board the funicular train for a comfortable ride down the hill to the bottom station, or opt to get more steps in by trekking back down the way you came.

As the trail can be rather slippery, we recommend wearing proper hiking shoes or hiking sandals for better stability as you climb the steep stairs.

Hiking Time: 3 hours 19 minutes

Trail Distance: 5.1km

Elevation Gain: 689m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 478, Jalan Pokok Ceri, 11500, Ayer Itam, Penang Island, Malaysia

The Jeep Track Trail. One of the Penang Hill Hiking Trails. Photo by Ashley Baliong.
Photo by Ashley Baliong.

5. Jeep Trail

The Jeep Track Trail is perfect for those seasoned hikers who want to challenge themselves. It is a steep tarmac road that starts at the Botanical Gardens and ends at the funicular train station. The trail leads you right to the peak of Penang Hill.

Due to the steeper slopes at the beginning, the trail becomes more challenging. But it does get easier once you've gotten past the first kilometre. Along the way, you will pass by the Point 84 Rest Station. You could even hire a jeep service to take you down the hill, which may be arranged via the Penang Botanical Gardens.

Hiking Time: 2 to 3 hours

Trail Distance: 5km

Address: 11500 Bukit Bendera, Penang, Malaysia

Enjoy the various Penang Hill flora specimens via the Bukit Gantung hiking trail. Photo by Malcolm Appelbe.
Photo by Malcolm Appelbe.

6. Bukit Gantung Trail

The Bukit Gantung hiking trail is certainly not for the faint of heart as the trailhead lies at the Bukit Gantung Cemetery. It is a moderately challenging route which is mostly made up of dirt trails that takes you through the dense forest on the way to the peak of Penang Hill.

That said, you'll come across a few shanty homes located within the lush greenery of the forest along the way, making it a pleasant walk to the top. You'll also encounter a few wild dogs and some monkeys throughout the trek too (remember not to feed them!).

Once you come across the concrete part of the trail, that's how you know you're almost at the peak of Bukit Bendera!

Hiking Time: Up to 1 hour to complete.

Trail Distance: 1.4km

Elevation Gain: 70m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 45, Bukit Gantung Trail, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Iconic Golden Stupa along the Bat's Cave Temple Trail on the way to the peak of Penang Hill. Photo by Lucas C
Photo by Lucas C.

7. Bat’s Cave Temple Trail

Bat's Cave Temple Trail is one of the most popular Penang Hill hiking trails among locals and tourists alike. It's a perfect hiking trail for beginners who wish to build their stamina for future challenging hiking endeavours.

To get to Bat's Cave Temple Trail, simply keep an eye out on the left-hand side of Jalan Pokok Ceri for the Bat's Cave Temple, which serves as the trailhead.

The first section of the route involves walking on the paved road before hiking through the jungle. Later, you will pass by the Middle Station and Claremont Station rest stations as you make your way up the flight of stairs to the peak of Penang Hill.

If you plan to take on this trail, don't forget to check out the Golden Stupa! Many hikers love stopping here to take photos before they continue their journey to the peak. You can even stop and take in the amazing views at one of the many viewpoints as well throughout the route. 

As some sections of the route are not shaded, it's best to start hiking this trail as early as possible to avoid the midday heat or bring along a cap or hat to guard yourself against the sun glares. Once at the peak, you can enjoy the panoramic views before descending the hill. If you want a relaxing ride down on the funicular train, don't forget to buy your tickets before you start hiking!

Hiking Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Trail Distance: 4.5km

Elevation Gain: 732m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 11500, Ayer Itam, Penang Island, Malaysia

Be greeted by the dense foliage of the Rifle Range hiking trail entrance before you begin your jungle trek on the way to Penang Hill's peak. Photo by Seong Lim.
Photo by Seong Lim.

8. Rifle Range Trail

The Rifle Range Trail begins near Air Itam Dam at the Rifle Range Road. You can access the trail via the Batu Gantung cemetery. Due to its steepness and foraging through the bamboo thickets and dense jungle, hikers usually find this route to be quite a challenge. 

The route leads the way to the top of Bukit Cendana, where you can admire the stunning views of Penang Island. Along the way, you will come across the vibrant Rainbow Staircase, which is a popular spot for hikers to stop by and take photos.  

Hiking Time: 2 hours 44 minutes

Trail Distance: 4.8km

Elevation Gain: 534m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: 11500, Ayer Itam, Penang Island, Malaysia

Bukit Cendana Trail marker. Photo via AllTrails.

9. Bukit Cendana Trail

Located near the Youth Park at the Penang Municipal Park, Bukit Cendana's trailhead begins at Bukit Cendana Road which leads you to the peak of Bukit Cendana. 

As you trek throughout the jungle, you will see lovely orchids and hibiscus blooming along the path. You will also come across the striking Moongate trail rainbow stairs that are perfect for taking photos for your next Instagram post.

The trees offer plenty of shade throughout the trail, so you won't get much of the midday heat even if you start hiking late in the morning. Once at the peak, you will be treated to the most stunning views of Penang Island and the surrounding sea.

Hiking Time: Up to 4 hours

Trail Distance: 5.5km

Elevation Gain: 601m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Penang Municipal Park, Persiaran Kuari, 10450, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Additional FAQs On Penang Hill's Hiking Trails

1. How Long Is The Hike Up Penang Hill?

The duration needed to hike up Penang Hill varies across different trails, ranging from 45 minutes to almost 5 hours. Many hikers prefer to buy tickets to descend Penang Hill via the funicular train after they've arrived at the peak for a more relaxed and scenic journey back to the base.

2. Is Penang Hill Hike Worth It?

Yes, hiking Penang Hill is absolutely worth it! Aside from pampering your lungs by breathing in fresh air amidst lush greenery, you'll also get to build your stamina by hiking to the highest point of the hill while having the opportunity to explore exciting attractions such as the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk, The Habitat Penang Hill, and even have a good cup of coffee at the iconic Kopi Hutan.

Aside from Penang Hill and the sibling Western Hill, Penang also has an abundance of hiking trails scattered across the state, such as Tiger Hill, Carla’s Peak, and Bukit Juru. 

3. How Long Is The Penang Hill Ride?

The Penang Hill ride takes about 5 to 10 minutes via the funicular train to arrive at the Upper Station. The train runs every 30 minutes during non-peak hours and every 15 minutes during peak hours.

4. What Is The Longest Hiking Trail In Penang?

One of the longest standalone hiking trails on Penang Island is Gertak Sanggul Trail. This 9.8 km-long trail takes about 3 hours to complete. There are several viewpoints available for you to take a breather and simply enjoy the scenery of the Penang Sea and nearby villages. 

If you are an experienced hiker who is on the lookout for the next big challenge, you may want to check out the longest interconnected trail on Penang Island, which is the Bukit Batu Ferringhi - Bukit Carla trail. It is a 21.4km trail that requires up to 11 hours to complete. While it is a challenging trek, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Penang as well as spotting the local flora and fauna. As it is quite a steep trail, a hiking stick would be your perfect hiking companion to provide more support for your knees.