Kinabalu Park Headquarters Trails

The forest around the Kinabalu Park Headquarters is always beautiful, whether it is lit by the first rays of the sun over the eastern ridge, shadowed by passing clouds at midday or veiled in drifting mists at evening. Squirrels and tree shrews scramble in the thickets and birds call in the canopy overhead. Cicadas zither and hum off and on throughout the day, while the primeval looking trilobite beetles sway through miniature forests of moss growing on rotting logs. The wind murmuring in the tree tops brings the cool air of the higher mountain to refresh the weary visitor from the enervating heat of the lowlands.

Yes, there is always something of interest along these paths and a number of walking trails have been developed around the Park HQ ranging in length from 20 minutes to two or three hours. These trails are marked on the trail maps available at Park HQ. Remember that times given are approximate and vary greatly depending on how fit you are and how often you stop.

The trails around headquarters can be divided into two basic groups - ridgetop trails and streamside trails.

Ridgetop Trails

Kiau View Trail (c.90 minutes one way)

This starts by the entrance arch into the Kinabalu Park and comes out just after the 1.5 kilometre (1 mile) mark on the Power Station road opposite the entrance to the Silau-Silau Trail. A wide undulating ridge trail with several shelters and good views looking down to the west coast, it is excellent for familiarising yourself with the most typical trees of Kinabalu's mountain forest.

Pandanus Trail (c. 20 minutes to Kiau View trail)
This trail was completed only recently as part of the route for the World Mountain Running Trophy Race that took place at the Kinabalu Park in September 1999. As a result the trail is broad and well graded. It starts just opposite the entrance to the car park at the Administration Building, zigzagging up the side of the ridge to reach the Kiau View Trail at the ridge crest.

Bukit Ular Hillside Trail (c. 30 minutes)

A fairly steep trail that contours around the side of Bukit Ular near the top end of the Power Station road. It starts about two-thirds of the way up the Power Station road coming out just behind the Power Station itself. A steep 30 minute detour just below the Power Station leads to the top of Bukit Ular with excellent waterfall and mountain views.

Bundu Tuhan View Trail (7 minutes to the ridgetop shelter; 25 minutes to Liwagu Trail)

Starts from the loop road below the staff quarters near the Conservation Centre. The trail leads up to a shelter on top of the ridge above the main highway to Ranau which gives good views of Bundu Tuhan village and a panorama of the southern mountains, including Trus Madi (2642m), the second highest peak in Sabah. Then continue down the side of the ridge to the Liwagu Trail.

Bukit Tupai Trail (25 minutes)

A short trail that starts near the Multipurpose Hall, crosses the Silau-Silau stream and trail and goes straight up to the ridge crest and the BukitTupai shelter. Excellent views of the HQ complex, the tree canopy and in clear weather outstanding views of Mt. Kinabalu. At the ridge crest it joins the Mempening and Bukit Burong trails.

Bukit Burong Trail (10 minutes to Silau-Silau, 25 mins to Bukit Burong)

Starts from the road, first crossing the Silau-silau stream and trail, then going gradually up the ridge side to the Bukit Burong shelter at the top. The trail connects to the Mempening Trail via the Bukit Tupai shelter. They are favourites with visitors because of the variety and convenience, combining hill forest, cool stream valley and dry ridge tops. Bukit Burong shelter gives fine panoramas of Kinabalu, the lower Liwagu valley and the HQ area.

MempeningTrail (30 minutes from road to Silau-Silau)

Another ridgetop trail starting about halfway up the Power Station road and leading down the ridge through dense oak-chestnut forest to Bukit Tupai and the Silau-Silau stream. Good views of the Park HQ complex and the Liwagu valley.

Streamside Trails

Silau-Silau Trail (c.50 minutes from Power Station road to Liwagu River)

This follows the cool and mossy Silau-Silau stream for nearly all its course from its source below the Kiau Gap right down to the junction with the Liwagu river near the overhanging rock of the Liwagu Cave. Many visitors enjoy walking this trail in conjunction with another one such as Bukit Burong or Kiau View. A detour joining the Bukit Tupai Trail is made in one area to avoid the Mountain Garden. Short cuts back to the road can be taken near the twin-bed cabins and where the path joins the Bukit Tupai and Bukit Burong trails.

Liwagu River Trail (3 hours from Power Station down to Silau-Silau junction)

The Liwagu Trail starts near the Kinabalu Balsam restaurant at Park HQ and leads down to the Silau-Silau stream but does not cross it until the junction with the Liwagu river. From here the trail follows the Liwagu river upwards, sometimes almost along the river bank, at other times on a high bluff, until it joins the Power Station road near the Timpohon Gate. This is a varied trail with ridge forest, cool stream valley, feathery rattan palms and the deep green gorge of the Liwagu itself. The trail is steep and narrow in places but there are several plants not found on other trails.

The best way to walk it is to get a lift to the Power Station and then follow the Liwagu Trail down. Because of its length the trail it is not much used and visitors should check to see if there have been any tree falls or landslides recently.

Nature spotting

The ridgetop shelters of Bukit Burong and Bukit Tupai are a good place to look for birds in the early morning or evening. The little Jentinck's Squirrel (Sundasciurus jentincki), one of the commonest species around Park HQ, with its conspicuous white eye ring and white ear edging, is often seen at these times.

Despite the cold, a few snakes do occur at Park HQ and above - the Speckle-bellied Keelback (Rhabdorphis chrysarga) may be curled up for warmth in a sunny patch at the trail edge, or a green Pit viper (Trimeresurus sp) might be coiled round a slender twig, but such occasions are rare.

Some of the finest views of the higher mountain forest are from these ridgetops, looking down into the valley and up to the spurs and ridges of the middle mountain all clothed in a mantle of tree tops in a harmony of greens, greys and browns, Bright pink leaf flushes of tree bilberries (Vaccinium spp) here and there glow in the early sun, and glimpses of silver or scurfy gold from other trees with young leaf flushes add splashes of colour.

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