Mount Kinabalu National Park – Not Just for Mountain Climbers
Hiking Kinabalu's Nature Trails
Mountain trekkers and climbers around the world look fondly on Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Surrounded by Kinabalu National Park, A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the State of Sabah of Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m) is easy to get to and a fairly easy climb. It also features a via ferrata ("iron road", a set of cables and ladders bolted to the mountain) that is the world's highest and the only one to be found in Asia. However not all of us are ready or even have the desire to reach the peaks. Overshadowed by the awe of the peaks is a much lessor known set of nature trails that are great for the average hiker.
My friend, Caren, and I decided to start the New Year off right so we took a trip to Malaysia that included a few days at the park. While I do enjoy walking, being 58 and a bit over weight, I knew that the summit was beyond my abilities at this time. Caren is in her mid 20's and general good fitness was also not that interested in going to the summit, in her case the zero degree weather at the top may have been a factor. Still we wanted to experience the park. Doing some research we found that there are a number of nature trails.
Enjoy the Hikes
There are ten trails around the Kinabalu park headquarters totaling over 17 kilometers ranging from 150 meters to 5620 meters in length. The trails also cross others in places so even longer hikes are possible. Also there is a over 4 kilometer long access road going to where the summit climbs start. While these trails are walks in the park, the phrase "a walk in the park" ( a phrase that means something is easy) definitely does not apply. The trails range in difficulty but are not particularly difficult. They do require you to expend some extra calories. The Mountain trail which is the shortest at 150 meters is a steep climb to a shelter giving excellent views of the area. The map available from where you pay the park's entrance fee suggest that the trail is 15 minutes long. The Silau-Silau trail, one of the easiest, at 3057 meters long and the Bukit Ular trail at 997 meters long both have an estimated completion time of 80 minutes. You can imagine the difference in difficulty between these two trails.The variety of trails and the large number of possible combination of trails means there is something suited to everyone.
Getting to Mount Kinabalu
We flew into Kota Kinabalu (KK) at the start of our trip and stayed overnight. There are a number of ways to get to the park from KK but for us the best way was by a shared taxi. It is a van service and the station is located at Merdeka Field. Departures depend on when the van is full. Luck was with us and we had only a ten minute wait. A ride between Kota Kinabalu and the park cost us RM15 ( about 5USD) each and took around three hours. The views were tremendous and I often wondered how much higher the steep steep road went. We stayed at a wonderful little lodge named Kinabalu Mountain Lodge that is just two kilometers from the park entrance. It was very affordable and we found it very comfortable. Meals were vegetarian and well prepared with produce from a stand at the highway.
The afternoon that we arrived we walked the two kilometers to the park from our lodge and just did some general exploring before walking back. Over the time we were there, we walked a number of the trails and visited the botanical gardens. There were trails on which we saw no other hikers and only heard the sounds of the streams and the birds. The other hikers seem to be true outdoors-men as i saw no litter on any of the trails. A days hiking left us tire and refreshed at the same time. For someone who enjoys the outdoors but is not an adrenalin junkie the park with its nature trails is a perfect destination.