15 Stunning Trails You Must Explore While Hiking In Penang

15 Stunning Trails You Must Explore While Hiking In Penang

Here's Your Chance To Skip The Beach And Explore Hiking In Penang

Ask any local about what’s worth checking out in Penang and they’ll answer with one of these three things. Food, beaches, and Penang's cultural heritage.

But did you know that Penang is also home to several hiking trails that reward you with panoramic views, fresh air, respite in nature, and ultimately stories of an epic adventure in nature?

These trails are littered all over Penang, with some regarding them as one of the best in Peninsular Malaysia of Southeast Asia. Contrary to popular belief it’s not limited to Penang island, but the mainland as well.

So instead of the usual food trip and beach visits, get your hiking boots on and pack your hiking essentials because here’s your chance to trade hours in the concrete jungle for refreshing hours in nature during your next trip to Penang island and the Penang mainland. Happy hiking!

15 Stunning Trails You Must Explore While Hiking in Penang (Includes Penang Hill Hiking Trails)

Heritage Trail hiking trail on Penang Hill, one of Penang's popular trails. Photo by Christy Meow Meow.

1. Heritage Trail @ Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)

Penang Hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, is definitely the most popular hill in Penang due to its presence in mainstream media and almost every tour schedule. Contrary to its name, Penang Hill is not a sole peak, but a collective of hills close to the center of Penang Island.

Penang Hill offers panoramic views of the city from the top with temperatures that are up to 5°C cooler than the lowlands, making it a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals alike. It’s also home to a number of hiking trails, the only funicular in Malaysia, the iconic Curtis Crest Tree Top walk, and the now completely private Jeep Track Trail.

This particular trail, the Heritage Trail, is one of the easier hiking trails in Penang island as it’s made up of proper stairs leading to a well-trodden jungle trail, then completed with a tarmac trail. 

Those with healthy knees who are looking to get into hiking will enjoy this particular trail and the moderate challenge it poses. The trail takes you through gardens with beautiful flowers, grounded views of the funicular train railway track that you can only experience by hiking the Heritage Trail, a variety of bird species, wild monkeys, and wild mushrooms, making it a truly scenic trail.

Because the trail takes up to 4 hours to complete with the amount of stairs you have to climb, I’d recommend bringing ample water, perhaps up to 1L of water if this is one of your first few hiking attempts. One of the best ways to stay energised for the trail is to have your favourite cold thirst quencher with you, where the Montigo Ace Bottle Mega does a fantastic job at keeping it cold up to 24 hours no matter the environment!

The plus side to this particular trail is that you can opt to take the funicular train down to the lower station upon reaching the highest point for a comfortable ride down Bukit Bendera from the upper station.

Hiking Time: Up to 4 hours to complete to-and-fro if you skip the funicular train.

Trail Distance: Approximately 5.1km

Elevation Gain: 689m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

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

Bukit Gantung is one of the starting points to hike up Penang Hill on Penang Island. Photo by Malcolm Appelbe.

2. Bukit Gantung Trail @ Penang Hill

This trail is for the fearless adventurers among us as your starting point begins just after the crematorium located within the Bukit Gantung Cemetery. That said, there is an alternative trailhead that begins at the Rifle Range Flats which is known as the Rifle Range Trail which leads to a trail connected to Bukit Cendana.

The Bukit Gantung hiking trail is a moderately challenging one that gradually slopes as you venture deeper within its dense foliage on the path to Penang Hill’s summit.

Along the way you will encounter wild dogs, monkeys, butterflies, and heaps of greenery with the occasional sightings of shanty homes as you ascend further. Talk about the ideal melancholic forest setting!

You’ll know that you’re nearing the summit once you exit the jungle pathways and find yourself walking on the concrete trail.

Hiking Time: Up to 1 hour to complete.

Trail Distance: Approximately 1.4km

Elevation Gain: 70m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

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

Moniot hiking trail entrance at Penang Hill. Photo by Jiang Tao.

3. Moniot Trail @ Penang Hill

Moniot Trail is known as one of Penang’s oldest trails at 200 years old and counting, so if you’re looking to walk on historical grounds - this is it.

Unlike the first two trails, Moniot’s trailhead begins only after you ride the funicular train up Penang Hill. The path begins at the Summit Road signpost, which leads you to a loop that takes up to 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

It’s a beautiful one that is populated with rare vegetation, giant black squirrels, monkeys, the occasional rare tortoise sightings, and sometimes even snakes. You’ll also find yourself walking past the Monkey Cup Cafe where you can enjoy a quick coffee stop before continuing if you haven’t had your daily dose of caffeine yet.

The trek is a very cooling one with ample shade, coupled with a mixture of paved and unpaved paths. I’d recommend beginning your hike early and timing it as such that you complete it before 9am as that’s when the queue to take the funicular train begins to grow.

Hiking Time: Up to 2 hours and 30 minutes

Trail Distance: Approximately 5.8km

Elevation Gain: 274m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Penang Hill, 11500, Air Itam, Penang

The iconic Rainbow Steps of the Moon Gate Hiking Trail en-route to Penang Hill. Photo by Kallon Weingarten.

4. Moongate Trail @ Penang Hill

One of the more well-known trails in Penang, the Moon Gate Trail is named after its moon-shaped entrance that pays homage to the traditional oriental designs of gateways in ages past. It is also home to the iconic rainbow steps that are found deep within one of its checkpoints.

It's one of the more popular yet challenging Penang Hill hiking trails that begins at the Penang Botanical Gardens and leads right up to Penang Hill. It will take you up to 4 hours to complete depending on your fitness levels, as it contains a number of steep steps to climb. Not forgetting some steep slopes that require rope climbs. But if you take into account its elevation gain of 812m, the steep ascend won’t be too surprising.

Because of how challenging and extensive the trail can be, I’d recommend bringing up to 2L of water and a couple of snacks like granola bars or onigiris from your favourite convenience stores to keep energy levels up. Some parts are shaded and some are bare, which can make the hiking experience rather taxing and hot at times.

Hiking Time: Up to 4 hours to complete, depending on fitness levels.

Trail Distance: Up to 6km

Elevation Gain: 812m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

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

328 Rainbow Stairway hiking trail. Photo by sinloong kong.

5. 328 Rainbow Stairway @ Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai

Did you know that Bukit Mertajam is one of Penang’s most popular destinations for outdoor enthusiasts? It’s a recreational forest boasting up to 37 hectares of dense vegetation that is home to various flora and fauna.

You’ll find this recreational forest at Seberang Perai on the Penang mainland (yes, you’ll want to skip Penang island for this one!), just south of Butterworth. It’s also worth noting that there’s something about rainbow stairways when it comes to the hiking scene in Penang.

The famous 328 Rainbow Stairway is an easy, family-friendly trail that is exactly what its name states it to be. It features 328 steps in the colours of the rainbow, so you can expect most, if not the entire hike to be a trek up concrete ground.

Those who aren’t used to climbing will rejoice at the fact that there are multiple rest stops along the way in the form of benches where you can sit to catch your breath along with a cold sip of water before continuing on.

328 Rainbow Stairway’s trailhead begins at the parking area located by a durian orchard at Jalan Kampung Besar. So if you’re a durian lover, I’d recommend trekking this hill during the months of June and July to fully appreciate what the trail has to offer (durians!).

Hiking Time: 2 hours to complete and back

Trail Distance: 3.2km

Elevation Gain: 260m

Opening Hours: 11am - 7pm, daily

Address: 2696, Lor Aston Indah 2, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Penang

Kerachut Beach. Photo by Phil Spratt.

6. Kerachut Beach @ Penang National Park

Ever wanted to see Malaysia’s famed turtles? Then you’ll want to explore the trail leading to Kerachut Beach which begins at the Penang National Park entrance. Sure you can get a quick boat ride to Kerachut Beach, but a fair warning that the cost to do so can be rather hefty.

Kerachut Beach is also known as Turtle Beach to tourists, and the access point at the Penang National Park comes with an entry fee of RM10 for local MyKad holders, and a whooping RM50 for international tourists.

It’s a moderate to challenging hike that takes you through plenty of uphill stairs at the start and towards the end of the hike. There’s a relatively flat jungle trail midway through the rainforest, but do watch out for the plentiful tree roots that blanket the area as they could post a tripping hazard.

As a rainforest, you can expect the trail to be populated with lizards, centipedes, caterpillars, butterflies, and the occasional scorpion and snake sightings. So if you’re not too fond of these sightings, you can rest assured that the boat ride to Kerachut Beach is still an option.

I’d recommend to avoid hiking during or close to the monsoon period and going during the dry season instead as the trail can get slippery and incredibly muddy. That said, it’s ultimately a rewarding trail as you get to visit the turtle nursery to see turtle hatchlings and turtle sightings at the beach.

Hiking Time: Up to 3 hours

Trail Distance: 7.6km

Elevation Gain: 319m

Opening Hours: 8am - 5pm, daily

Address: Pejabat Taman Negara Pulau Pinang Jalan Hassan Abbas, 11050, George Town, Penang

Bukit Jambul trail. Photo by Water Chew.

7. Bukit Jambul @ Bayan Lepas

Bukit Jambul is popular amongst the residents of Penang island as a recreational hiking trail to maintain their fitness levels. The hill’s trailhead, which begins at the arch that reads “Kawasan Mendaki Bukit Jambul” is also the start of Bukit Kukus and Bukit Rimba’s trail too, which makes it a highly popular trailhead.

Even though it’s a recommended trail for all fitness levels, beginners may struggle on their first few attempts thanks to the trail’s balance of wide pathways, stone and cement stairs, and the occasional steep inclines as you venture deeper and ascend higher. Having said that, veteran hikers will no doubt find this trail to be a piece of cake.

Upon reaching the peak, hikers are rewarded with magnificent views of Penang island as a whole, and the two iconic bridges that connect Penang island to the mainland.

Hiking Time: Up to 1 hour

Trail Distance: 1.4km

Elevation Gain: 165m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Lintang Bukit Jambul 1, Bukit Jambul Cove, 11900, Bayan Lepas, Penang

Bukit Kukus trail. Photo by Tony Chuah.

8. Bukit Kukus @ Bayan Lepas

Bukit Kukus shares the same trailhead as Bukit Jambul, where you’ll want to take the left trail with the red arrow pointing towards it to start your ascent.

Bukit Kukus’ trail takes you through a much denser forest as opposed to Bukit Jambul, which makes it a trail for hikers to challenge themselves. It’s worth noting that what awaits hikers at the peak is not a viewpoint, but a flat platform surrounded by trees.

It’s considered widely as a challenging trail as it takes you through steep inclines and rough, unpaved terrain through thick vegetation. While signages are present to keep you on the right track without getting lost, you’ll most certainly have to keep an eye out for them as they are very simple signs placed by veteran hikers who frequent the trail.

Hiking Time: Up to 2 hours

Trail Distance: 3.7km

Elevation Gain: 354m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Lintang Bukit Jambul 1, Bukit Jambul Cove, 11900, Bayan Lepas, Penang

The infamous Zi Zai Hill abandoned bungalow en-route to Penang Hill, accessible via the Penang Botanical Garden. Photo by WS Chong.

9. Zi Zai Hill

Those up for an adventure will enjoy Zi Zai Hill as it is home to the infamous abandoned bungalow at its peak that is said to be haunted.

Zi Zai Hill has two entrances, with the easier one of the two being the Penang Botanical Garden trailhead. It’s overall a challenging trail as it focuses on gaining elevation quickly, which means steep inclines throughout the trail. That’s why it’s strongly recommended that you bring a hiking pole for extra support, which makes a world of difference when you descend.

Upon reaching the peak where the abandoned bungalow is located, you’ll have a choice to continue onward to Batu Ferringhi or to scale Penang Hill. I’d advise doing either one only if you are a regular veteran hiker who is familiar with the area, or if you have someone highly familiar with the routes with you while also having enough food and water packed, because the trek is looooong.

Hiking Time: Up to 3 hours

Trail Distance: 3.5km

Elevation Gain: 506m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Zi Zai Hill, Tanjung Bungah, Penang

No hiking boots required for the easy Air Itam Dam loop trail! Photo by Yong Khun Loh.

10. Air Itam Dam @ George Town

Looking for a cool weather alternative to the often crowded Penang Hill? You’ll want to check out Air Itam Dam. This spot is one of Penang’s more relaxing and less crowded hiking trails, while serving as an alternative to the popular Penang Hill. The dam is also known as the very first dam to be built on Penang island between 1958 and 1962.

It’s home to beautifully scenic views of George Town and Penang island as a whole, while treating outdoor enthusiasts to a loop that many regard as an easy trail. The trail is a relatively flat tarmac trail with only gentle inclines, making it perfect for you to have it as your next outdoor family activity spot for jogging and cycling.

Air Itam Dam is also home to several wildlife such as the silver leaf monkey, various birds, centipedes, and even tortoises. So if you’re looking for a relaxing hike with a nice balance of nature, this is it.

Hiking Time: Up to 1 hour and 30 minutes

Trail Distance: 2.9km

Elevation Gain: 113m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Jalan Balik Pulau, George Town, Penang

Bukit Cendana via Youth Park trail. Photo by Stefan Smeds.

11. Bukit Cendana @ Youth Park

Known as one of the “highlands” of Penang island, Bukit Cendana is a popular hiking area with an array of hiking trails that lead to its peak. Two of the most popular hiking trails there are the Moongate trail and the Youth Park trail, but we’ll focus on the Youth Park trailhead found in the Penang Municipal Park as we’ve covered the Moon gate trail earlier.

Along this path, hikers will be treated to sightings of beautiful wildflowers that include ferns, hibiscus, and orchids. You can also spot wild mushrooms, monkeys, and the famous Moongate rainbow stairs.

It’s a relatively challenging trail much like the Moongate trail thanks to the unpaved jungle walkway and overgrown tree roots that blanket the trail.

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

Carla's Peak trail. Photo by carlos steenland.

12. Carla’s Peak @ Batu Ferringhi

If beaches aren’t your thing but nature is, then skip the Batu Ferringhi beaches on Penang island and explore the trail leading up to Carla’s Peak instead.

It’s one of Batu Ferringhi’s more challenging hiking trails that’s the preferred choice for hiking veterans seeking a challenging hike in a dense jungle. The alternative would be Batu Ferringhi's Western Hill, which is an easier and shorter trek.

The trailhead is a secluded entrance near the Leader Garden Condominium which takes you through unpaved pathways in dense vegetation with the occasional fallen trees and overgrown roots. Couple that with steep inclines and potentially slippery and muddy terrain from loose soil and you’ll have a true challenge on hand.

That said, hikers who choose to pursue this challenge will be treated to beautiful sightings of wildflowers, fresh air, and maybe even the much sought-after scent of petrichor along the trail.

Hiking Time: Up to 2 hours

Trail Distance: 2.9km

Elevation Gain: 273m

Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily

Address: Leader Garden Condominium, Taman Leader, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang

Bukit Juru trail. Photo by Sunny Goh.

13. Bukit Juru

In the quiet town of Juru lies the Bukit Juru Forest Reserve, home to one of Penang’s easier scenic hiking trails. This particular trail treats hikers to a stunning view of the sea and the Penang bridge or the Bukit Mertajam town at its peak.

The trailhead begins at Kampung Sungai Semilang near the Masjid Bagan Nyuir in Juru, with a signpost that reads “646 Steps”, which was built in an effort to attract more hikers.

While known as an easy trail, I’d say it’s an easy to moderately challenging trail that’s only recommended to beginners if they want to take their experience with hiking trails to the next level. That’s because the trail includes abundant stairs that line the way and the occasional steep inclines with ropes to support the ascend.

Hiking Time: Up to 2 hours

Trail Distance: 3.2km

Elevation Gain: 343m

Opening Hours: 8am onwards, Sunday only

Address: 385, Mk 12, Bagan Nyiur Juru, Bukit Mertajam, 14100, Simpang Ampat, Penang