Balik Pulau to 5 Way Junction (3-4 hours)
This is one of the more challenging hikes in Penang. It's not that Balik Pulau to 5 Way Junction is a very long hike but it covers some difficult passing through the jungle. The reason I dedicate another page to this particular trail is because the reverse trail is different and difficult to find. For the reverse hike, see this page.
It all starts at the bus station in Balik Pulau. Should you stay in George Town, take either the 401, 401E or the faster 502 bus. Walk from the bus station towards the market and follow the road towards the hills. It's a dead end street but at the end (2 minute walk) there's a short dirt track that connects to the main Balik Pulau - Air Itam road.
Follow this road until you find the yellow board: "Penang Island Catholic Cemetery". It's the second junction after crossing the little bridge, about 5 minutes on the road.
The trail to your left passes the cemetery and swindles first slow and later quite steep up. You're passing several orchards of durian, rambutan, mangosteen, cempedak and other fruits orchards and farms. Once the trail, a proper tar road starts climbing steeply, you will get some fine views of Balik Pulau town center.
You will pass several junctions to your right, none of them lead anywhere than farms although the one after the junction covered by a gate might swindles up to the Ngoh Han Hill temple. I've tried this trail but the trail ended completely overgrown.
So keep on the main road. You will pass the junction which will lead to Sungai Rusa. This junction is a small path to the left and can be found by paying attention to the electric poles. There's also a small water basin at this junction.
10 minutes further there is a gate. The main road continues for another 10 minutes to a small rapid but effectively is a dead end. That said, when I did the trail the first time reverse, I followed the small river rapids downwards. I strongly suggest not to try this stream upwards. If you insist, visit the stream and see for yourself why this is a bad idea.
At the gate, open it and walk towards the house. Just before the house there's a trail to the left which leads up to the forest edge. Follow it until you see an open area with low vegetation. The trail gets a bit difficult to find but will show you when you set foot on it. From the forest track, it turns slowly right and continues upwards towards the forest on the other side (just 2 minutes walk).
At the forest edge, you have to look for the water pipes. At first it looks easy, open forest and a clear path. However. walk slowly and keep at all times in eye contact with the water pipe. This ain' t easy because the pipe is frequently buried.
The overgrown and fallen trees make it even more difficult to find your way through the lush forest. The path is mostly leveling, so don't start climbing. The further on the trail, the thicker the vegetation. If in doubt, go back and keep looking for the water pipes (I had to do this trail 5 times before I could easily find my way).
The path gets sometimes very narrow and there is always a chance to slip so be very careful. At some point after about 25 minutes you should arrive at a slightly more open area of a couple of meters in diameter. There seems to be a path at the left towards the banana trees which you can try. It's not really a path but it does the job sufficiently towards the steps, just a minute or 2 further.
Better and more recommended is to look at the right of the open area for a slight short path that leads along the open area downwards. It seems to lead nowhere and ends at a set of rocks. Climb on top of the rocks (just a meter higher) and turn right. You will see the small house just 50 meter further on.
Walk to the house and take a rest. There's no views though. To your left you will see a set of overgrown steps which lead steeply up to a proper tar road. Turn right and start climbing to the first shelter of a local farmer. If you run out of water, you can refill here. The farmer speaks no English but he might offer you a durian in the season.
Additional Febr. 2015
Recently the path has been cleaned up, a lot of the fallen trees have been cleared up and the waterpipes are now easy to follow. The path is narrow so you have to be careful. Once you arrive at a kind of open area, look for the stones to your right next to a large tree. This looks like a path but contrary to earlier, you can't climb up the wall of stones to your left. So continue another minute and a half through the banana trees until you see the hut (see photo above).
Take a rest and enjoy the scenery, you can look all the way down to Balik Pulau town center but the higher you come, the better the view will be.
The road swindles steep up and might take about 25-30 minutes. The orchard is overgrown but produces still fruits.
Once at the forest edge, there's a small shrine and a good last view to east. With good weather, you might see over the hills and enjoy a view towards the Penang Airport. The last 50 meters climbing bring you to the highest point on the way to 5 Way Junction.
From this point on the road is in good condition though you won't see much traffic. You should arrive at 5 Way Junction within 25 minutes. From here you can continue to Air Itam, Sungai Pinang, Tiger Hill or back to Balik Pulau using the Ngoh Han Hill Trail. Should you want to do the trail reverse, read my report here about the difficulties.
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Special Hiking Tours in Penang
Join us on our special hiking tours in Penang. We will bring you around in the jungle of the Botanical Gardens. Our tours include:
Hiking to Tiger Hill and Penang Hill
This is a reasonable popular hiking trail in the hills. The trek takes about 3-4 hours to Tiger Hill and another to Penang Hill.
Air Itam and the Old Ridge Path
Another trail to Tiger Hill following the Air Itam side of the hills towards the Old Ridge Path from where you can hike further to Tiger Hill, Balik Pulau or back to Air Itam via 5 Way Junction
Trails to Sungai Pinang
There are two excellent trails leading from 5 Way Junction to Sungai Pinang.
5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau
This is, if you can't find the right trail, a very crazy trail. Take the right trail and it takes 3 hours, the wrong trail takes almost double. Here's the story:
Hiking to Ngoh Han Hill and Ngoh Han Hill Temple
This 3-4 hours hike is a great alternative if you don't want to do the Tiger Hill hike but still want your adventure in the hills of Penang and find some awesome jungle waterfalls.
Air Itam Dam to Balik Pulau
This is an interesting option. The trail can easily be cycled and hiked. You'll pass beautiful tropical rainforest and cultivated areas with fruit farms, a wonderful day out in the heart of Penang with an option to visit the Ngoh Han Temple with spectacular views to Balik Pulau.
Kek Lok Si to Old Ridge Path via rain gauges 28 & 29
This is a very challenging trail with a 2 hour climb to rain gauge 29, the highest point in this trail (almost as high as Penang Hill). The trail goes through secondary rainforest on very good paths.