- Elevation: 1,862 m (6,109 ft)
- Prominence: 1,566 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Peninsular Malaysia
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none.
Gunung Bintang (‘star mountain’) is the highest peak in Kedah and is part of a very large mountain range stretching north all the way from Gunung Bubu south of Taiping. It is one of only 4 Ultra-prominent peaks in West Malaysia and is home to an impressive range of animals. Like the mountains Gunung Chamah and Ulu Sepat further north, this whole region was closed to hikers until the late 1980s due to the Communist insurgency.
The main trail to the top starts in Ulu Sedim (roughly 110m above sea level), 28 kilometres from the nearest town of Kulim and only 90 minutes from Penang airport. It takes most hikers around 7-8 hours to reach the summit and around 5-6 to descend again. Many local hikers spend three days on the mountain, with 2 nights camping at the picturesque waterfall (800m), but it can also be hiked in two days with one night camping at Taman Bunian (1,555m). Really strong hikers can just about complete the trek in one long day (13 hours return trip with daypacks) if they set out pre-dawn.
Very few guides are willing to hike up at night due to the large amount of wildlife on this mountain. Recent trip reports from those bagging Ultra-prominent peaks (Gunung Bintang is just one of only 5 on the Malay Peninsula including Khao Luang in southern Thailand) detail an encounter with a sun bear (‘beruang madu’), snakes, plus elephant droppings and wild boar and ‘large feline’ prints in the mud. The Sumatran Rhinoceros has also been recorded on this range. There are also lots of leeches on this range during the rainy season so wear leech socks if you have them unless you are hiking during January or February.
The first 4km follows a cement track which is an old logging road. It is often blocked by fallen trees but guides often provide motorbike transport to where the proper trail begins at the end of the cement – Pintu Rimba (‘forest entrance’, 350m). From here it is approximately 14 kilometres (one way) to the summit.
It is just 15 minutes from here to the first stream crossing (355m). It looks like a very slippery log is the only option, but thankfully you can drop down to the right and cross the shallow stream on foot. This is quickly followed by another quite pleasant stream crossing. After this, the trail starts to lead upwards and there is a modest view (440m) on the left. A short while afterwards is another spot to admire the view (600m).
After this you will probably see lots of evidence of wild pigs, with muddy prints either side of the trail. Another stream crossing soon follows before you reach what is known as Bukit Tonggek (635m). It should have taken you less than hours to reach this point from Pintu Rimba. Yet another stream is crossed (745m) before you reach the first major landmark which is the shelter and waterfall (800m). It should have taken you between 2 and 2 and a half hours from Pintu Rimba.
Previously known as Camp 2, the Sungai Kerian waterfall is incredibly impressive. Many Malaysian hikers spend three days hiking Gunung Bintang, and spend both nights camping here. Despite the deep holes in the concrete floor and the lack of walls, the shelter is idea protection from the rain and there is plenty of space near the waterfall to set up camp. Look out for sun bears and elephants in this area.
Beyond the waterfall, the trail starts to get a little steeper. Other than occasional hectometer signs, the next sign is for Bukit Redbull (1,150m) and there are moderate views to the left of the trail. The 10km mark is passed at around 1,420m elevation and the next major landmark is Taman Bunian (‘elves garden’, 1,555m). This is the obvious camping spot for those trying to complete the trek in two days (unless you have time and want to continue all the way to Bonzai Garden or the summit). It should have taken you around 5-6 hours to reach Taman Bunian from Pintu Rimba. There are no real views but it is a pleasant spot and not especially cold at night.
Bonzai Garden soon follows (1,605m) and it too would make a reasonable camping spot for one or two small tents. It is followed by a series of minor ups and downs, some of which are made easier by rudimentary ropes. Bintang Kecil (also sometimes called Anak Bintang) comes next at 1,790m after around 75-90 minutes total from Taman Bunian. From here you should see the true summit which lies about 30 minutes away.
At Bintang Kecil is the only real junction on the whole trail. To the right is a path up from the southwest at Mahang, but this is much less well-used than the main trail via the waterfall.
The summit has good views and the usual summit signs. It is also only one of two peaks in the Bintang range to have a ‘beirut’ (surveyor’s metal tripod) at the top – the other being Gunung Inas (1,801m). The ‘beirut’ on Gunung Bintang has toppled over and is collapsed to one side. There is a rumour this was due to elephants knocking it over but the elephants in this region are likely to spend much of their time much lower down!
Occasionally, hikers trek via Bintang South (1,560m) from Sebonton, Perak, sometimes doing a full traverse, but this path is apparently quite overgrown and would require at least one or two extra days.
Bagging information by Dan Quinn (January 2019)
- Getting there: The trailhead is about 450km from KL, so it’s much easier to fly to Penang. From Penang Airport to Sedim is around 90 minutes by car. Bukit Mertajam is the closest train station. By car or motorbike, follow signs for Sungai Sedim and then Tree Top Walk.
- Accommodation: Resorts and homestays available in Sedim to suit most budgets. The area is popular with white water rafters. Penang is only 90 minutes away.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Bintang information pack can be downloaded here.
- Permits: Required from Pejabat Hutan Daerah Kedah Selatan in Kulim, although this process is far from easy unless you live locally or have your guide arrange it on your behalf. RM10 per person. As of 2019, you can register and pay for an e-Permit online from the Forestry Department of Malaysia website.
- Water sources: Several streams up to and including the waterfall (800m). Some poor quality water available in a hole near Taman Bunian (1,555m) but better to take sufficient supplies with you from the waterfall.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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