My normal route design tries to include most of the best that areas offer. Obviously, that leaves out some of the possibilities. MacRitchie is ‘covered’ by the big green bob at the heart of the little red dot. This time round the objective was to figure out how much trail possibility the reservoir area actually offers.
The big green bob traverse of the MacRitchie area made for a total of just under 23k, with no out and backs on the same trail, and sorta staying on the beaten track. This time round I tried to include all trails, also when that required some out and backs. I am very aware that many prefer continuous routes over out and backs but given the paucity of trails and given that we all know that the out and the back make for a very different experience (yes, it’s indeed a changed world when you turn your head the other way), to heck with that preference. Let’s explore what all those runners repeating same old same old again and again miss out on.
To avoid the map becoming too messy, I split up the possibilities into two loops, both starting from the Mushroom cafe/toilet-shower-locker area.
Route specs: 11k and 160 altitude meters
The first and shorter one, the one I would recommend you to start with in case you opt for a marathon length day out, stays in the Southern part and makes the most of the board walks hugging the reservoir. It also includes four entry/exit trails that most runners totally ignore. Wrongly so because, despite being very short, they are seriously underappreciated: not heavily used, more gnarly and ‘technical’ than much of the main trail, and all offering an up and a down freebie. And it takes in the normally ignored little hill behind the Paddle lodge. To ensure that you’ll run all trail sections that are also part of the second and longer possibility (see map below) in the reverse direction you’ll need to start out with the Eastern part, run the board walk and return on the inland trail; then cross over the dam to the Western part, run the inland trail first and return via the board walk.
route specs (excluding the closed trails): 28k and 425 altitude meters
Ok, now you’re nicely warmed up for the longer Northern circuit. This goes East to West, heading out passed the paddle lodge, onto the inland trail, once more taking in the first two entry/exit trails if you wish so, then on toward the turn off into Windsor Nature park . During this first visit, at junctions, always take a left until you can see the toilet block ahead of you. Past the toilet block ignore the park connector and make for the grassy slope. I have marked this next bit of trail red as I am pretty sure hardly anyone knows about this perimeter option. Everything else is known but ignored, this is unexplored. It’s all trail, mostly lining the gardens of upmarket landed properties on one side and the jungle on the other. When the park connector ends, keep following the grassy slope, first straight East, then straight South before turning East again and hitting the dead end of Gardenia Rd. Look for the rickety metal bridge across the ditch into the forest again. You’ll see a trail to the left which makes for a 1.2k out and back to where the second entry/exit trail emerges from the forest. After this out and back, head into the forest on the faint and wild 3rd of MacRitchie’s Eastern entry/exit trails and hit the main trail after 150m, about 1.35k from the turn-off to Windsor park. Doing this bit of main trail twice is unavoidable if you want to explore this 5k loop.
At the turn-off go into Windsor Nature park once more, now take right turns at all junctions until you hit the park connector, turn left toward the boardwalk you emerged from first time round. On the way back on the route you came in on: include the Hanguana trail – a little loop just after the bridge to the toilet block.
Back in MacRitchie, it is quite straight forward all the way to the Petaling hut via the tree top walk (with the exception of doing the concrete footpath on the right just before the ranger station to the Bukit Kallang service reservoir as an out and back). Obviously the suspension bridge is non-running territory but the stairs and board walks after should be no problem outside weekends. From the Petaling hut do the sims track to the ranger station as an out and back and then continue toward Riffle Range link (taking a right at a t-crossing – following Bukit Timah signage). When you hit the link (a broad undulating trail) an “entry only for authorized personnel” forbids you to add an out and back on Riffle range link to the East and one along the rapid water flow channel to Upper Peirce reservoir to the North – good for a combined total of 3.7k of trail (both shown on the map so you know what I am referring to). Signage along these tracks suggest that they were accessible in the past, and neither conservation nor security arguments make for plausible reasons for closing them off. Sigh…..
But you can take Riffle range link to the West, up to where Riffle Range Rd starts, as an out and back, return to the t-crossing and continue to the Jelutong viewing tower – which, as I have argued before and before you should climb: free altitude meters and in this case a stellar view. From the tower make the out and back detour to a side entrance of the Singapore Island Country Club, climb the viewing tower once more, just for the heck of it, and then take the regular around-the-reservoir trail back to the Mushroom cafe. Throw in the two entry/exit trails from the Lornie trail for good measure.
Combining the two loops makes for 39k, and a good marathon in case you opt to ignore no entry signs.
Let me finish with some befitting jungly sounds from a young Aussie multi-instrumentalist: