Follow me now as I check out one of Kula Lumpur’s most popular hiking spots. A swathe of dense jungle in the heart of the city.
Bukit Kiara is a maze of small paths, a favourite of hikers and mountain bikers alike. A favourite of anyone in Kuala Lumpur looking to escape the urban jungle and get out onto the trail.
Along the way, you can admire a mini Angor Wat rock, relax under the Serenity Tree, see the giant mossy rock and explore a bamboo tunnel. All of this is only 20 minutes from downtown.
Oh, I almost forgot. There’s monkeys too! Yay, monkeys!
There are a bunch of trails in Bukit Kiara. If you have the time and inclination you can go hiking around to your heart’s content. This is presumably why it’s got a lot of local fans who will come back time and time again.
The regulars, maybe the good people of the friends of Bukit Kiara, have given names to a lot of points of interest along the way, such as the Serenity Tree and Angkor Wat Rock. These act as good wayfinding points.
To see a good selection of possible routes go here and check out the ones in the Bukit Kiara area.
There are all sorts of lengths from shorter ones that will take less than an hour to longer ones that’ll have you roaming the map and take up to 3hrs to complete.
For my Bukit Kiara trail, I chose the most popular one at the time of writing the River Loop. I had considered the “Twin peaks quill killer rock garden lower carnival” (super catchy name right?) but I read that the Angkor Wat section was closed due to a “landscape shift”, whatever that means.
So I opted for the River Loop which had over 1,000 reviews, so looked legit. Or so I thought.
Getting there and away
Using Grab in Kula Lumpur works great. I got from downtown to the Bukit Kiara Trail entrance in 20 mins for 30ish Rinngit and the journey was most pleasant.
After my Bukit Kiara Trail hike, I caught the KGL back downtown from the Taman Tun Dr Ismail station. It’s just a 10 min walk from here to the trailhead.
A lot of locals will come by private car and there’s parking at the Bukit Kiara Trail entrance at the south end of the trail. There’s also parking to the north near the Kiaramas Ayuria condominium on Jalan Kiara 7.
Get ready to get your jungle on!
Getting to the Beginning
I haven’t even taken a step and already I’m sweatier than a chubby mouse at a hungry cat convention.
Can you guess where I am? Yep. Still in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, and maybe the sweatiest town in all the land.
After loving my Taman Tugu hike adventure so much I decided to stick around and explore the other hikes Kuala Lumpur had to offer.
A little local research led me to today’s adventure, the Bukit Kiara Trail. A hilly jungly area of green goodness between the concretey mall-filled neighbourhoods of Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Bukit Damansara and Mont Kiara.
After fuelling up on very tasty nasi lemak (ricey goodness) I set off to get my hike on.
Getting to Bukit Kiara was easy enough. I grabbed a Grab to the entrance. A nifty 20 minutes from downtown for about 30-40 ringgits (£5-7 for you Brits).
For train fans, catch the KGL to Taman Tun Dr Ismail and then it’s a 10 min walk to the trailhead. I did this in reverse on my way home and it was super straightforward.
Car people you can park at the southern trailhead, or I read there’s an unofficial parking site near the Kiaramas Ayuria Condo on the north side of Bukit Kiara hill. I also read car people parking here should beware of the ticket police as they are quite liberal with their tickets.
Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! It’s a freaking monkey!
“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” – Noel Coward
I’m assuming most of you hiker heroes reading this aren’t numpties and will time your trip go early in the morning or late in the day. Good idea! Before 9 am and after 5 pm would be sensible.
Don’t do what I did and hit the hill around midday. This is absolute amateur behaviour and I deservedly got toasted up real good.
At the entrance to the hike, I saw a group of playful monkeys hanging out. Frolicking in the trees. You know, like monkeys like to do.
Now, this is something that I’m sure locals couldn’t care less about. But coming from England where the most exciting wildlife on most hikes is a squirrel, seeing a pack of monkeys is genuinely amazing.
I stood there for a full five minutes watching the furry action, while others wandered past without batting an eyelid. This monkey gang was pretty chilled, unlike some others in KL.
I did this trial early on a Monday afternoon and it was relatively quiet. I met a few locals coming the other way but it was not crowded in any way. Well, you know what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen of course.
Nice jungle gym there, now which way to the real jungle?
Waving the monkeys goodbye, to which they rudely didn’t wave back. Pfft! I begin my jungle hike. At least I thought I did.
I headed off up a concrete path and then down the concrete path and then around the concrete path…it was all a lot more concrety than I had expected.
Pretty quickly I realised I may have screwed up a little when choosing the River Loop as my route. It became apparent it was just a concrete path for the entire hike.
This isn’t bad if you’re on a road bike or pushing a pram or something but I hadn’t come for concrete. I was here for mud beneath my feet. I was here for some scrambling and rock hopping. I was here to hike dammit!
So halfway through I decided to abandon the River Loop and took a turn left and veered off into the jungle. I picked a small path at random and went rogue.
This I understand is the joy of Bukit Kiara, despite it being a relatively small area with a pretty low summit (just 258m) there is a maze of paths at your disposal so you can wander to your heart’s content.
Finally, the real jungle.
I’ve never been to Angkor Wat, so I was excited when I read Bukit Kiara has its very own Angkor Wat in miniature, a rock split by a giant banyan tree whose roots droop and wind in a magical fashion.
P.s., if you like Banyan Trees read this great little article on them. Fascinating.
So my heart sank a little when I discovered the Angkor Wat section of this hike is currently closed off to allow the tree a little respite and recover from too many feet.
The sign said the section was reopening at the end of March (2023), so maybe by the time you read this, all will be good again.
Well, just a reason to come back. Get well soon tree!
Angkor Wat Closed for a bit of rest and relaxation.
I have to admit my route ended up being a little all over the place. I took the left path, I took the right path, I went up, I went down. It was all very free-wheeling and felt quite liberating.
Some paths were well trodden, others barely touched. You could tell the latter by how many giant spider webs were visible across the trail.
The trails were easy enough but I imagine after a bit of rain it could get very slippery. And in Kuala Lumpur a downpour is always around the corner, so go careful.
I was already as sweaty as a man can be, and after reaching peak sweat I’ve found you just stop worrying about it. Keep drinking and just let the sweat flow. So at each fork in the path, I just took the one that looked most fun.
The local hikers I came across in the jungle section looked markedly different to those I’d passed on the concrete path. These guys were rocking hiking sticks and bandanas.
I found myself gazing longingly at these bandanas through my salty eyes. The sweat was running off my head in such rivers it was messing with my phone screen. Does anyone else get this sweaty?! Just me?
The Bamboo Tunnel. A bad photo but actually a very cool spot.
I probably missed a few of Bukit Kiara’s “famous attractions” such as the big mossy rock, Kiara Waterfall, Serenity Tree or Starbucks Corner (a few wooden benches set up by locals as rest-and-have-a-drink spot) as a result. But I did happen upon the Bamboo Tunnel.
This is a magic spot where bamboo stems lean over the path and create a natural sculpture. If you get a good squint at it almost looks like a pair of cat or dragon’s eyes. Or not. Either way, it was pretty cool.
I also found a few rocks to leap between. So my internal child was happy about that.
Nice sign, shame about the view.
I can’t walk a hill hike and not get to the top, I just can’t. So I bumbled around the track until I found the top. Which to be honest was a little disappointing. I was hoping for a glorious lookout point but it was mainly just trees.
Nice jungle trees but not the towering vista I had envisioned. Again my first Taman Tugu hike in KL wins on views. Its combination of shiny city buildings glimpsed between jungle canopy was much nicer.
After hitting the peak and after around 90 minutes or so of walking, I found myself almost without thinking heading back out of the main entrance to do my exiting.
I was impressed that all the way around the Bukit Kiara Trail there was barely any trash whatsoever. Well done hikers, you are good kind people.
I’d heard this was one of Kuala Lumpur’s more popular walks but probably due to my ridiculous decision to arrive at midday, it was basically empty.
The few locals I did meet emerging from behind bushes on the jungle trails were all very smiley and friendly. Maybe they were just amused by how sweaty my face was.
I’d heard you should be wary of mountain bikes on the trail but I didn’t see a single one. But I imagine it’s a fun place for riders to let off a little steam.
Me and some giant leaves! Gotta love them jungle leaves.
Dear readers, my thoughts are mixed on this one. You’re about to see a man sit on a fence.
The River Loop was a bit lame as a hike. Sure you kinda get close to nature but you don’t get into it. It’s nature adjacent at best. It’s a walk, not a hike.
If you are looking to push a pram around or maybe bash out a 5km personal best then this is the choice for you.
If however, you are looking for a genuine hiking experience, the type I thought I was signing up for when I set off to take on the Bukit Kiara Trail then maybe choose this route and go all in.
I enjoyed my time on the hill, but I didn’t love it. Probably because of the time of day and because it was my first visit I don’t think I maximised the real potential Bukit Kiara had to offer. I think/I know there are different routes there that might have.
But for the uninitiated or those with a limited time to do just one Kuala Lumpur hike, I’d opt for Tuman Tugu. It’s more jungly and the views are better.
Until next, time see you on the trails you brave Hiker Heroes. Be sure to look out for me, I’ll be the sweaty man admiring the monkeys.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the Hike Hero difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.