Feb 22, 2021

15 Off-the-beaten Trails in Singapore with Varying Difficulty Levels for Families (UPDATED)

UPDATE (29 Mar 2021): I've added five more trails to the list. Although some of these are not exactly in the off-the-beaten-track category, I feel they offer a different option for families especially if you are going on a trail for the first time with the kids because these are extremely easy! 😊


It all started innocently, and on a whim. Right after Phase 2 happened in late June last year,  the wifey and I decided to bring the kids to a nature park every weekend. But as we continued with our weekly nature visits to various parks around Singapore, they got too boring for the kids.

So I decided to suss out ulu (or remote) places to hike. And so began our exploration to forgotten and abandoned places in Singapore and we have been loving it ever since - especially we even did some jungle bashing to locate some of the places!

And if you are also on the lookout for off-the-beaten hiking trails to bring the family, I have compiled the 10 15 trails that we have gone on so far... complete with difficulty level ratings so that you know which is best suited for your kids! But do remember, always respect nature and let's all do our part to preserve it even when trekking through it. Have fun!

1. Keppel Reservoir & Japanese Tomb

Nestled at the slopes of Mount Faber, Keppel Hill Reservoir (othewise known as the 'abandoned reservoir' or 'forgotten reservoir') was believed to have started operating as early as 1905 and served the water needs of the Tanjong Pagar Docks nearby. Subsequently, it became a place for swimming and even was a private swimming pool at one point. But by the 1950s, it vanished from the maps and its location was not officially marked for 60 years.

Now, it is regarded as one of the best kept secrets in Singapore as the area is totally unspoilt and getting there takes a bit of trekking through vegetation (and muddy tracks), in order to get to this piece of hidden sanctuary.

To get to Keppel Hill Reservoir, there are 2 routes to take - one is straightforward and more suited for families with kids while the other is a much more challenging one with a very steep slope to climb. If you take the more challenging route, you will pass by the Seah Im Bunker as well.

Walk a bit further uphill and you will find the solitary Japanese Tomb too!

Difficulty Level: 2.5/5 (straightfoward route) and 4/5 (challenging route)

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

2. Kay Siang Bunkers

Situated along Kay Siang Road in Queenstown are the remnants of three storage bunkers in the forested area. They were presumably built in the 1940's and were used for goods and ammunition storage by the British Military, and are located alongside the now-demolished Buller Camp that housed Australian and Indian POWs during the Japanese Occupation.

Collectively known as the Kay Siang Bunkers, the first bunker can be accessed via Kay Siang Road and it's only a one-min walk into the jungle. Although a short walk, the terrain can be slippery and muddy. The first one is probably the most impressive of the lot because although only the facade is left standing, a huge chunk of it has been taken over by vines and roots - a mighty show of force by Nature!

The second bunker is just a few steps away from the first one and it's a fully intact but empty one.

And if you search online, there is almost no mention of a third bunker. But if you follow the well-trodden trail on the right of the second bunker, you will find the third one. It is actually situated nearer to Margaret Drive, opposite MINDS. The third one looks more like a house than a bunker as the area it occupies is much larger. Perhaps this was where the officers lived. Even though the roofs are all gone, the remnants of the building walls still stand.

The total hike didn't take too long, about 30min tops but some parts of the terrain can be quite challenging due to slopes and muddy paths.

Difficulty Level: 3.5/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

3. Bt Batok Hillside Park

In addition to the two large parks of Bt Batok Nature Park and Bt Batok Town Park (or Little Guilin) at Bt Batok, there used to be another nature park along Bt Batok West Ave 2. But the peculiar thing about Bt Batok Hillside Park is nobody seems to know why was the park eventually abandoned. Even stranger that there is hardly any information about the history of the park online as well.

Also formerly known as Greenwood Park, Bukit Batok Hillside Park is bounded by Bukit Batok West Ave 2 and Bukit Batok West Ave 5. The most direct way to access the abandoned park is along Bukit Batok West Ave 2 - map provided in my post HERE.

You can clearly tell it was once a park - there are remnants of stone steps, a well, fake rocks (probably for aesthetic purposes), decaying boardwalk, stone table and even the skeleton of a sheltered walkway! 

The stone steps and abandoned well are located fairly close to the main road. However, if you wish to locate the boardwalk, shelter and stone table, they are located slightly further up on the hill.

All in all, the trek should not take more than 30 minutes if you enter from the main entrance at Bukit Batok West Ave 2. Although the well is extremely easy to get to, the boadwalk takes more effort to reach so it may not be suitable for young kids.

Difficulty Level: 2/5 (stone steps & well) | 3.5/5 (boarkwalk, sheltered walkway & stone table)

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

4. 'Avatar' Trees at Bukit Brown Cemetery

Don't worry, there's nothing spooky about the trail - if you go during the daytime 😅 - but rather, a stunning landscape of greenery and super tall trees will make your hike worthwhile.

There really are no other words to describe these massive towering trees that reside in the heart of Bukit Brown Cemetery. 

And quite frankly, this is one of my current fave hiking trails so far, thanks to these huge 'Avatar' trees. I love how tranquil the entire area is and that sound of nature that travels through the forest? Just wow.

The total trail distance is about 2.2km so it is not particularly long. The initial part of the trail before reaching the trees consists of a well-trodden earth trail that may get muddier if there were rainfall prior to your visit. Other than that, it is relatively straightforward. 

Once you go past the massive trees, you will hit Bukit Brown Cemetery. From there, you can choose to continue on the Bukit Brown Heritage Trail - you can download the self-guided walking tour HERE - or head back to the starting point.

Difficulty Level: 3/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

5. Sembawang WWII Bunkers

Home to the former British naval base, history-rich Sembawang is filled with WWII structures and secrets!

During the pre-WWII period, plenty of structures including underground bunkers, air-raid shelters and storehouses were built to support the naval base in Sembawang. There is speculation that theese bunkers and air-raid shelters are probably part of a complex and yet-to-be-discovered underground network in Sembawang.

You can start off the trail by visiting the old gateway off Jalan Selimang, which was most likely the entrance to the seaside bungalow of the late Cycle & Carriage boss Chua Boon Peng. Only the gateway remains standing today, while the bungalow is gone now. 

Then head towards Sembawang Park, where you can find an old bunker hidden along Gibraltar Crescent which has been completely ‘eaten’ by banyan roots. The entrance to the bunker has already been locked though.

But the evidence of underground bunkers can be seen throughout Sembawang, as can be seen from the numerous ‘hills’ scattered around. Like the ones at Durban Road and off King's Ave, which have ventilation vents sticking out. They have already been sealed so what lies underneath is anyone’s guess.

A more interesting find is the two partially-exposed pillboxes in Bermuda Road, which had slots for machine guns. These pillboxes are built on a hill, and have slots for machine guns presumably for defence against the enemy who were coming from the sea.

Who knew Sembawang had so much history relating to WWII??? So it’s definitely a great walk around the area if your kids are military buffs! The terrain is super easy but because the bunkers are spread out pretty far from one another, getting from one place to the other requires a fair amount of walking.

Difficulty Level: 1.5/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

6. Maju Tunnel & Jungle Trek through Clementi Forest

Much has already been written about Clementi Forest and the famed Maju Tunnel (which is located near the bus stop opposite Maju Camp). It is truly a wonderous place of nature so it is a must-go if you love trekking through lush greenery (and gooey mud).

From the Maju Tunnel, we hiked through thick vegetation by following the old rail track towards the direction of the old Bt Timah Railway Station along the Rail Corridor.

The terrain can get a tad challenging because there are slopes as well as water bodies to pass through (depth of water depends on rainfall), in addition to the muddy ground. So while younger kids may relish it, I would suggest primary-school going kids may be a more appropriate age group.

Difficulty Level: 3.5/5

Tunnel Start Point: Map HERE

7. Ulu Pandan Forest

Ulu Pandan Forest is actually part of the bigger area of Clementi Forest and it's worth a hike through if you are at the Bukit Timah portion of the Rail Corridor.

One can enter from the Bukit Timah Diversion Canal @ Rail Corridor, and down to the Clementi Forest valley.

From there, head straight until you climb up a slight slope and go into the forested area. The trail will bring you behind Sky Park Arena @ Holland and towards Ulu Pandan Road.

Difficulty Level: 3/5

Location Map

8. Dover Forest

Home to at least 158 species of animals - including critically endangered ones - and 120 plant species, Dover Forest is part of the Ulu Pandan estate that has been zoned for residential development. The land used to be part of a rubber plantation and was abandoned during World War 2.

Its future is currently still up in the air but the forest is worth a visit if you love hiking along relatively unmarked trails.

So if you are not a seasoned hiker, it is not advisable to head there on your own because the routes can get confusing. That said, it is quite difficult to get lost within the forest as it is linear and narrow with Commonwealth Ave West on one side and the Ulu Pandan Park Connector on the other.

Difficulty Level: 4/5

Location Map

9. Mandai T15 Trail

While the Madai T15 Trail isn't an off-the-beaten-track kind of trail and is in fact listed on NParks' website, I have included it into this list because it is a trail that not a lot of families may know or even attempt since it is lesser known if you are not an avid mountain biker.

The trail stretches from Mandai to Chestnut Nature Park and is a good 7km long. Commonly also known as the Gangsa Trail, the easiest way to start on Mandai T15 is at the Central Catchment Park Connector entrance, near the T-junction of Mandai Road and Mandai Lake Road.

As I mentioned earlier, the trail is hugely popular with mountain bikers and there are NO separate trails for hikers and bikers. The single trail is shared and is a two-way traffic, which means that if you are bringing along kids, do remind them to keep towards the side of the trail and not stray to the centre of the trail without looking both ways.

Mandai T15 is a relatively straightforward route that is marked by easy terrain. Nothing too daunting even for young kids, as long as they can last the distance.

Difficulty Level: 2.5/5 (for distance)

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

10. Seng Chew Quarry

(Cordoned off due to a recent landslide)

Almost everyone in Singapore would have heard of Little Guilin, which was once a quarry where granite was used to be mined at. But there is also a lesser known quarry which was part of the mining area back in the 1970s and early eighties that is Seng Chew Quarry. Located near Bukit Gombak MRT, it is simply an abandoned granite quarry now.

Compared to the nearby Singapore Quarry, Diary Farm Quarry and Hindhede Quarry which are more accessible and part of NParks' nature trails, Seng Chew Quarry is not part of any trail and is unmarked... which makes the journey to the ulu (remote) quarry all the more exciting!

All you have to do is to locate Block 383 at Bt Batok West Ave 5, and walk up the steep green slope. Look out for the longkang (drain) which carries water from the quarry lake. (It's believed the water has magical properties 🤷‍♂️)  

Then just follow along the drain which will take you deeper into the forested area. After about 50m - yes, the trek is extremely short! - you will see a fence and beyond it lies the tranquil body of water.

It was like stepping into another world, surreal even. Not a soul, away from civilisation, and only the sounds of birds and insects all around. Granted that the entire area may be smaller than that of other quarries or even that of Keppel Hill Reservoir but it is still a piece of uninterrupted nature.

If you are looking to bring the kids for their first outdoor unmarked trail adventure, hiking to Seng Chew Quarry will be a good start. The trail is fairly simple and short but yet, there is the added excitement of  ascending the slope, trudging by the drain and a short trek through the forest.

Difficulty Level: 2/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

11. Pipeline Trail

The Pipeline Trail is named as such as the trail traces the water pipelines that stretch from Bt Timah all the way to Woodlands, and to JB. The total route is about 22km and while the water pipes are mostly underground, there are 5 exposed sections along the trail where you can literally walk on them.

We started our hike at Rifle Range Road and made our way north. We didn't complete the entire trail yet though as we stopped at Zhenghua Park due to time constraints. Along the way, we saw 2 sections of waterpipes so I think there are another 3 beyond Zhenghua Park.

The trail is pretty linear with slight elevations but nothing too tough so it is something that is doable even for kids. It's definitely less crowded than the usual nature parks and the scenery was gorgeous!

Our entry point was from Dunearn Road. Walk past Temasek Club and come to the T-junction of Rifle Range Road & Jalan Kampung Chantek. Cross over the metal barrier onto the grass patch and you can see the trail markings. 

Difficulty Level: 3/5 (for distance)

Trail Instructions: Urban Explorers have shared a PDF map of the entire trail which you can download it HERE.

12. Marsiling Tunnels & Bunker

This IS the ultimate trail challenge! How does crawling through WWII tunnels and slushing through mud in underground bunkers sound?

The Marsiling bunkers and tunnels were part of a Royal Air Force fuel reserve depot built in 1942. During WWII, they were occupied and modified by the Japanese. Now, they sit abandoned... and exploring them was such an awesome experience for us!

Be prepared to get your hands and feet dirty, in addition to coming face to face with fat lizards and their numerous eggs when crawling through the tunnels! You have been warned. 😅

Difficulty Level: 5/5

Location: Click HERE

13. Green Corridor (Kranji) to Rainbow Bridge

The stretch of Green Corridor at Kranji is probably the most underrated piece of green space in SG, because it’s utterly gorgeous! 😍

I love how the trail took us through three distinct green surroundings - open air with tall lallang grass and different bird species, trees with canopies that seem to blanket the sky while walking under them and a river portion brimming with aquatic life. Not to mention it’s super scenic for photos too.

And the final prize of all - reaching the Rainbow Bridge at the end of it. Another photo spot!

Difficulty Level: 1.5/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

14.  Green Corridor Central (between Rail Mall and Bt Timah Railway Station)

After closing for refurbishment works, the Green Corridor's (or Rail Corridor) Central portion connecting the Upper Bukit Timah Road Truss Bridge at Rail Mall to the Bukit Timah Road Truss Bridge near Bukit Timah Railway Station has re-opened.

So while this trail isn't off-track - it's along the (train) track if you know what I mean 😂 - I included this into the list because if you wish to go on your first walking trail with the kids and also want something that is super easy, then this is it.

The most straightforward way to get started is either by the Bukit Timah Road Truss Bridge near KAP Mall or if you prefer, at the Upper Bukit Timah Road Truss Bridge in front of Rail Mall.

Along the way, you will go over the Quarry Bridge and walk through dense vegetation on both sides. This portion is named the 'Rainforest' portion as the understorey vegetation has been enhanced on both sides of the trail, bringing visitors closer to nature.

Soon, you will hit the Hindhede Bridge which is where the entrance to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is. Continue onwards, and you will reach the Bukit Timah Road Truss Bridge. Cross over that and Bukit Timah Railway Station will be in your sight.

Difficulty Level: 1/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

15. Rifle Range Link

Although not an off-the-beaten-track trail per se, Rifle Range Link trail makes the list because it is relatively deserted. And even though it is part of the MacRitchie Trail, the terrain is much rockier and uneven compared to the normal trails. And that means more fun!

One can enter the trail at the end of Rifle Range Road, and hike about 1.6km to climb the 6-storey Jelutong Tower for an awesome view of the nature reserve.

Difficulty Level: 1/5

Location Map


Seletar North Link

Head to Seletar North Link Bridge for a dose of beautiful scenery! It's uper ulu, and it’s not even located on the main island of SG. 😆

The bridge links two reclaimed islands of Punggol Barat Island and Punggol Timor Island, and they are mainly used as landing and stockpile sites for granite and sand. So to be honest, there is nothing much here except for this piece of green lung but it is worth a detour if you are near the area of Yishun Dam and Rower’s Bay Park.

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