Walking in the Trees: The Southern Ridges

In Singapore, there’s rarely such a thing as a simple hike; instead, there are hike experiences. It’s hard to argue with the results, at least if you travel down to The Southern Ridges. This 10-km walk, with trails that connect four different parks, is a great way to spend a morning.

The walk starts (or ends, depending on which end you choose as your terminus) at the base of Mt. Faber, near the HarbourFront MRT station. As the stairs suggest, it goes up — and up, and up, and up. Mt. Faber isn’t very tall (it’s all of about 100 meters high), but your legs might tell you otherwise by the time you’ve finished the climb. If you stop to catch your breath (recommended), there are some stunning trees along the way.

Common Pulai, one of Singapore’s 262 Heritage Trees

Once you reach the top of the stairs, there’s a jarring transition from nature to human civilization.

There’s a reason that so many people gather here: there are great views from the top, both east to the port and downtown …

… and south through the trees to the islands below:

That little line of dots is the Singapore Cable Car, which you can ride from the top of Mt. Faber all the way down to the island of Sentosa (home to the self-proclaimed “Southernmost Point of Continental Asia“). I’m not usually in the business of advertising bathrooms, but if you do find yourself at the top of Mt. Faber, I suggest using the washroom at the Mt. Faber Peak cable car entrance. It’s called the Peek-a-Loo, and it has the second-best restroom view I’ve ever seen (the first, half a world a way, is from the top-story women’s room at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning).

You could actually spend a while exploring the nooks and crannies of Mt. Faber, but if you want to continue on your way, from here you should follow signs to “Henderson Waves.” An important side note: one of the more irritating factors of the Southern Ridges walk is that there’s a lot of signage, but very little that actually says “Southern Ridges.” You have to know exactly where you’re headed next — be it a particular bridge, park, or pond — and head that way. So it’s good to have a full map of the Southern Ridges handy in case the signs you see don’t make much sense.

NParks Guide to HortPark & the Southern Ridges

A steep walk on a narrow path along the road down from the top of Mt. Faber leads you to a great view toward Keppel Bay:

From here, you step out onto what’s probably the best-known part of this walk: Henderson Waves. Thirty-six meters up in the air, this undulating platform is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. And it’s beautiful.

The Waves lead you into Telok Blangah Hill Park, which boasts an arboretum, the historic Alkaff Mansion (now a restaurant), and outdoor exercise equipment. But I think it’s most remarkable feature is the Terrace Garden, which looks like nothing else in Singapore:

Other delights of the Telok Blangah Hill part of our walk included this small and delightfully-painted building …

… and a whip snake curled up in the trees:

From Telok Blangah Hill Park, you’ll want to follow signs to the Forest Walk. This is the true gem of the Southern Ridges: over one kilometer of trail platforms that weave in and out of the forest canopy.

It’s amazing to be able to see right up into the treetops and beyond. Keep your eyes out for birds!

The Forest Walk ends at Alexandra Arch, a curving bridge designed to look like an open leaf.

The Southern Ridges next dip into the flower-lined entryway to HortPark, Singapore’s “one-stop gardening resource hub.” Watch out — it’s easy to lose the trail here! You’ll first need to wend your way through the themed gardens (a butterfly garden, a Balinese garden, a golden garden, a silver garden, and so forth).

It’s easy to get distracted here. There plenty of things to keep kids entertained …

… and there are, of course, flowers galore.

Once you reach the end of the themed gardens and hit the greenhouses, keep left. You can look out over the research labs, greenhouses, and rows and rows of plantings — all growing areas for Gardens by the Bay — as you trudge up, up, up the path that leads out of the park.

A short but distinctly uphill climb leads you to The Canopy Walk:

This short stretch of platforms is an echo of the Forest Walk — you’re up in trees again, but only for a few moments (but those moments are very much worth it).

Then you’re up into the paths of lovely Kent Ridge Park.

From here, there’s a great view down to Singapore’s enormous Pasir Panjang port:

Once you’re at Kent Ridge Park, there are about a half a dozen exit options. We chose to follow the signs that said “Pond,” which led us down to tiny Kent Ridge Pond …

… and the even tinier, swampier Dragonfly Pond (if you squint, you can the bright red bodies of two dragonflies here):

At this point, we were grateful for our GPS, because condo construction has closed off one of the exit gates near the ponds. But we made our way out and look forward to taking this walk again someday!

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