Air Itam - Kek Lok Si to the Old Ridge Path
via Rain Gauges 28 and 29 (yellow trail)
There is a great and challenging alternative to climb the Old Ridge Path
(see the map at the end of the page: yellow trail). Again it starts at the
Kek Lok Si in Air Itam. Take the usual way up starting at Kwarn Inn Sahn Pow
Yin Sian Psi (P) gate. Climb up to the rock with directions to Air Itam Dam
(left) and turn right. After 6 minutes on this road, there is a forest trail
to you left which climbs steep up the hill.
Left: the first potential entry point to the forest Right: the second potential entry point, a few minutes further on the road
Should you miss this junction, a few minutes further on there's a second junction.
Regardless which of the two you take, they join after several minutes climbing. Warning:
in the rainy season, especially the first part of this trail can be very slippery so
wear proper shoes.
The whole climb to both rain gauges are essentially on a ridge. Now you are on the trail that leads in 20-25 minutes to rain gauge 28. 5 minutes
further there's a metal sign plate with the direction to penang Hill. Another few
minutes further, you're now in full burned forest area (update March 2015: the forest has replenished itself and is green again), there is a marker stone
and a junction to the left. This is the trail described as
"off the grid" on this page.
After the junction it takes another few minutes to reach the forest
proper again. The trail keeps climbing. Once it leads down you will hear running water to
the right. There are several trails(??) to the right that seem to lead to the
water. I checked one of those trails that lead down in a few minutes to a small
and very clear stream with drinkable water.
The "path" to stream is not clear defined, so keep a good eye on where
you came from (remember the whole walk from the beginning is on a ridge). I didn't
check the source of the water as the forest (see above) is very thick but it seems
it's an underwater well.
The main continuing trail is clear but there is a junction further on with
paper markers. Ignore it as it ends in burned forest on a cliff. The forest
around is lush and you might see some squirrels and wild boar trails (rare though).
Keep climbing. Further on there's a short descent and often you feel you will
arrive at the top soon. You will pass another piece of burned forest and keep
climbing on the well defined trail. There is a short second descent which leads
to what seems to be a trail to the left leading away. I
checked this trail. It leads back in the burned forest and descents steeply to a
low cliff and doesn't seem to have a continuation.
Several times you will think you are close to the top but looks are deceiving.
The whole forest trail to rain gauge 29 takes easy 1,5 hours. The way to find
out how close you are to rain gauge 29 is to look to your right. The connecting path
(blue trail) comes almost over the
ridge of the hills to your right side.
On arrival at rain gauge 29 you have two choices. The trail to your right can
lead either to Penang Hill or back to Air Itam. Continue straight, it mostly descents
to the connecting trail 5 Way Junction-Tiger Hill.
This trail, the Old Ridge Path, is described the opposite way here.
5 Way Junction is about 40 minutes away with the Air Itam Dam is an additional 45 minutes walk.
Time schedule to expect:
Kek Lok Si - start of the forest trail: 40 minutes
Start of the forest trail - Rain Gauge 28: 35-40 minutes
Rain Gauge 28 - Rain Gauge 29: 70 minutes
Rain Gauge 29 - 5 Way Junction: 40 minutes
5 Way Junction - Air Itam Dam: 45-55 minutes (descending)
This is a slightly difficult to find. The key in this hike is to
follow the main trails and keep going down. It's a scenic trek
through cultivated land and secondary rainforest to durian plantations.
A great trail!
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 Hill Temple
with spectacular views to Balik Pulau.