- Elevation: 2,110 m (6,923 ft)
- Prominence: 668 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Peninsular Malaysia
- Malaysian state: on the border of Perak and Pahang
- Range: Banjaran Titiwangsa / Main Range
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none.
Gunung Irau (not to be confused with the mountain in Papua of the same name) is the highest peak in the popular Cameron Highlands, a plateau developed in the 1930s and named after Scottish geologist William Cameron who first surveyed the area in 1885. The road winding up from Tapah to the main town of Tanah Rata is quite exhilarating and the region is an extremely popular tourist area today.
Located on the main Titiwangsa mountain range, Tanah Rata lies at an elevation of around 1,450m above sea level. The temperature is delightful and allows a wide range of plants to be cultivated, including fruit, vegetables and most notably tea – the vast Boh tea plantations cover the north-east end of the plateau. The main road in the Cameron Highlands runs between Tanah Rata, Brinchang (sometimes spelt Berinchang) and Kampung Raja near the tea plantations and there is a regular, cheap bus running back and forth throughout the day.
In the past, the area has been popular with hikers, with local tourist maps detailing numerous jungle trails. Today, the main attraction aside from the tea plantation, local produce and tourist stalls is the so-called Mossy Forest, a boardwalk along a ridge on Gunung Brinchang (2,032m) which is the second highest peak in the Cameron Highlands and usually combined with Gunung Irau on the same trek. The hiking opportunities ought to be great, but recent local mismanagement and lack of reliable information means it is often a rather disappointing and regimented experience.
There are signs for the Mossy Forest everywhere, and it appears to be the number one tour offered to tourists in Tanah Rata, whether for sunrise or as a half-day out in combination with a trip to the tea plantation. For experienced hikers, there is nothing particularly special about the forest here as it is quite normal for mountain ridges of this elevation in this part of the world to be ‘mossy’. It is the accessibility (most of the time!) that has lead to its considerable fame and popularity.
Gunung Brinchang (or Batu Brinchang as it is also known) can actually be driven up and is the highest section of road in all of Peninsular Malaysia. The junction for the Brinchang mountain road is opposite the Cameron Square shopping mall (1,605m) and it is around 6 kilometres from here to the summit ridge. This access road is steep, narrow and pot-holed in some places but despite what you hear, most regular cars should be fine if driven by careful and confident drivers. Most people go on tours arranged in Tanah Rata and the biggest problem you will encounter (other than the long list below) is the sheer number of other cars on such a narrow road. For those who prefer to walk up, allow around 2-3 hours to hike up to the Mossy Forest entrance and 2 to descend.
Looking at the maps and the shape of the mountains, and ignoring the bureaucracy and hassles noted below, the best full-day trek would be to follow what used to be called Jungle Path 1 (more recently Brinchang Barat trail) from the outskirts of the town of Brinchang (1,500m) and ascend to the communications compound and towers at the top of Gunung Brinchang (2km, 2 hours or less) before somehow squeezing along the side of the compound fence then walking 600 metres northwards along the summit access road, entering the Mossy Forest walkway (1,972m), heading out to Gunung Irau (allow 2 hours each way) and then back out at the Mossy Forest and just under 6 kilometres down the road through the Sungai Palas tea plantation to the main road (1,605m) where you can catch a bus or taxi back to Tanah Rata or wherever you are staying. Total hiking time would be around 8 hours not including breaks.
The section between the Mossy Forest entrance and the summit of Irau is not as simple as it might appear. Although it begins as a boardwalk (sometimes known on maps as Jungle Walk 14), and only 2.35km long, the ridge leads up and down and goes via Mini Irau (2,031m elevation) which is a false peak and is also sometimes used as a campsite. Much of the trail is very muddy, yet quite pleasant moss forest. That is why it takes most people two hours in each direction.
Unfortunately, there are so many problems with this fairly simple plan that we have decided to produce a list, to help visitors be aware before they arrive, and also on the off-chance that the authorities see sense and simplify matters for adventurous tourists.
- Gunung Irau, Gunung Brinchang and (more surprisingly) the Mossy Forest are usually closed three months of the year (start of November to end of January). This is not widely-publicised online or even in Tanah Rata, so many people plan their trips assuming it will be open to find, very disappointingly that it is closed and all are forbidden from entering. It is basic manners to publicise such important information – a simple website of tourist sites in Malaysia and seasonal closure times would be very simple to produce and save many folk from wasting their time. If the forest needs to be closed for a period, it seems odd that it is still closed in January as the wettest months are in April, May, September, October and November according to average rainfall graphs.
- Despite the closures (which could of course change from one year to the next), most tour operators in town (including the so-called Tourist Information Centres which are commercial rather than impartial as you would hope) are happy to sell people tours to the Mossy Forest and then lead them on a disappointing, shortened tour lower down or on a side trail but for the usual price. This is very poor manners.
- The road up to the Mossy Forest is in sufficiently poor state for all taxis to charge extra to take you up there, and all motorbike hire companies to forbid you from taking your motorbike up there (or lose your RM100-150 deposit). This is a very odd situation, but as common in Asia, it is often in local folks’ interests to keep roads in bad shape in order to have an excuse to charge you more. Again, this is very poor form and should be rectified either with a newly-surfaced road, or with a local law to prevent overcharging. Given that most people want to use a taxi or bike to visit the Mossy Forest and most other places can be visited using the very affordable bus, tourists ought to think whether it is worthwhile renting a car or taxi.
- The area ought to be wonderful for trekkers, but the authorities seem intent on closing trails. Jungle Trail 1 (Brinchang Barat) is apparently closed permanently with warning signs at the old entrance near the water treatment works. This may be to do with the installations at the top of Gunung Brinchang, but it is pretty disappointing for tourists. Most obviously, it means you are not able to do a decent full-day circuit of the highest peaks as suggested above. At present, we have a really weird situation of tourists either not being able to hike in what should be a wonderful hiking area, or else getting onto the trails by climbing under or over barbed wire and past warning signs.
- The whole region, including the access road itself, is covered in ‘keep out’ or ‘no entry’ signs. This gives a very poor impression and makes you feel unwelcome and in some kind of strange outdoor prison with perimeter fences. Not very friendly at all, especially considering that hiking in the forests appears to be increasingly discouraged by indifferent or plain inept authorities.
- Even if the Mossy Forest is open when you get there, in 2018, the trail was closed between Mini Irau and Irau summit due to a landslide area. As far as we know this is still the case in January 2019. One wonders if the authorities simply like putting up warning signs and such like or whether they actually intend to fix the trails and re-open them as soon as possible (which they would do if they were competent and respectful of visitors).
- Finally, even if the whole trail to Irau summit is open, the hassles of getting a ‘permit’ to be allowed to continue to Gunung Irau are more than most visitors will be prepared to deal with. Perhaps this is what the authorities want. It is likely that many hikers continue to Irau without a permit because of this, which is more of a risk. Much better if you could simply pay a small fee at the Mossy Forest entrance rather than search for a forestry office in Tanah Rata and have a meeting about getting permission by submitting your details over a week in advance in order to hike for 2 kilometres and back with an over-priced guide in a regimented experience. This, sadly, seems to be the norm in Peninsular Malaysia. Why can’t they make the process simple ?
In view of the above issues, an alternative, very different and more demanding approach from the northern road (1,435m) near Green View Garden via Gunung Pass (1,587m) and Gunung Yellow (1,767m) is preferable for serious hikers, especially doing a full traverse by finishing at Mossy Forest. It would certainly be much quieter for the most part, far from the tourists, restaurants and weekend traffic jams of the Tanah Rata – Brinchang road, and is apparently doable in one long day or spread over two days with one night camping. It can also be combined with Gunung Suku (1,797m) to form what is known as the Trans Jerging (named after a local river) and is generally hiked in the order Suku – bonsai tree ridgeline viewpoint – Irau – Yellow – Pass because Suku offers some great views of the Titiwangsa range.
Bagging report by Daniel Quinn (January 2019)
Additional hikes at Cameron Highlands:
There are several ‘Jungle Trail’ routes that were publicised in years past but by the 2020s are suffering from several problems including (a) lost or unmaintained signage (b) access issues from landowners and the forestry department, sometimes leading to official closure of trails or the requirement to arrange a special permit in advance. Nontheless, the information is worth preserving here in the hope that this network of trails is rejuvenated in the future. A old map of the trail network is still available in many tourist places in Cameron Highlands (refer to this map or see the photo in the image gallery above).
In brief: Gunung Berembun can be hiked using trails 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Gunung Jasar and Perdah can be hiked using trail 10, (previously also 11 and 12 which no longer exist). Gunung Irau can be hiked using trail 14. The rest are either closed or insignificant in terms of mountain peaks.
Jungle Trail 1: Gunung Brinchang (2,032m) / Brinchang Barat from Brinchang. See write-up for Gunung Irau above. APPARENTLY CLOSED PERMANENTLY. It is technically possible to climb over barbed wire and do this trek but you have the risk of being fined or worse.
Jungle Trail 2: Gunung Berembun (1,840m) from Sam Poh Buddhist Temple (1,430m) in Brinchang. Lots of ups and down near the start and a couple of stream crossings (1,515m and 1,520m). This trail then joins (1,603m) the easier Trail 3 before leading on towards the summit. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023. See info on Gunung Berembun below.
Jungle Trail 3: Gunung Berembun (1,840m) from near Padang Golf (golf course) at end of minor road (Aradia Bungalow at 1,530m) between Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Also known as the Arcadia trail due to name of the building near the trailhead. After the junction with Trail 2 (1,603m), the path drops down to a stream crossing (1,520m) and then ascends via junction with Trail 5 (1,555m, with another Trail 5 junction at 1,635m) and a landslide area (1,735m) offering some views. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023. See info on Gunung Berembun below.
Jungle Trail 4: Century Pines Hotel to the Forestry Office. A flat and short walk with no hills to hike.
Jungle Trail 5: Rain Shelter Cross Junction (and onward to Gunung Berembun) from MARDI in Tanah Rata. A fairly straightforward and pleasant hike but stray dogs reported at the trailhead. From the Shelter, the trail continues via Trail 6 and Trail 3 to Gunung Berembun. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023.
Jungle Trail 6: Rain Shelter Cross Junction (and onward to Gunung Berembun) from Sungai Pauh campsite near Forestry Office between Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Very steep in places. From the Shelter, the trail continues via Trail 6 and Trail 3 to Gunung Berembun. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023.
Jungle Trail 7: Gunung Berembun (1,840m) from MARDI in Tanah Rata. The easiest of the trails up Gunung Berembun but still rather steep in places. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023.
Jungle Trail 8: Gunung Berembun (1,840m) from Robinson Falls. Very steep and you may encounter leeches. Permit required from local forestry office, RM10 per person in 2023.
Jungle Trail 9: Robinson Falls to BOH Tea Plantation with Trail 9B leading via Hydropower Station. Not really a hill-walk but challenging in places.
Jungle Trail 10: Gunung Jasar (1,704m) and Gunung Perdah (1,551m) from Carnation Park Housing. Some pleasant forest here but also a rather over-developed and urban feel near the start.
Jungle Trail 11: Gunung Perdah (1,551m) from near Carnation Park Housing. Similar to Trail 10, above, but less attractive and apparently no longer in existence.
Jungle Trail 12: Gunung Perdah to Power substation. Apparently no longer in existence due to urban development.
Jungle Trail 13: SAS Students Hostel to 33rd Milestone. Apparently no longer in existence due to urban development.
Jungle Trail 14: Gunung Irau (2,110m) from Mossy Forest. Guide and permit required, booking at least a week in advance. Laborious administration and high costs. Mossy Forest boardwalk fine without guide and ticket available on the day, though may be closed at short-notice and always closed November-January. See above for further details.
Gunung Berembun (1,840m).
Gunung Berembun is perhaps the best hike you can do without a guide in the Cameron Highlands region, taking no more than 3-4 hours round-trip depending on the trails you use. It is regarded by some as ‘Mossy Forest Part 2’ and indeed there are some lovely mossy spots on the summit ridge. ‘Embun’ means ‘dew’ in English, so the name translates to Dewy Mountain, of which there are several in Peninsular Malaysia. It remains quite popular, especially with European tourists.
There are numerous trails up from Tanah Rata and Brinchang and until recently these were well signposted with the series of yellow ‘jungle trail’ signs. Whoever made them and the accompanying map deserves a great deal of thanks and ought to be invited to continue their work on a larger scale here. Unfortunately, these old yellow signs encouraging access to the mountains here have been left to decay by the authorities and in 2023 could be described as having ‘competition’ in the form of red signs from Pahang Forestry stating ‘no entry / dilarang masuk’. It is very confusing for foreign visitors to encounter one sign encouraging access next to another sign flatly denying it along with threats of prison time and immense fines if you enter without a permit. Thankfully in 2023 it is still fairly simple to obtain a permit on the day of your hike from the local Cameron Highlands forestry office for just RM10 per person which basically grants you permission to ignore the unpleasant red signs and threats of jail time and or huge fines for having the audacity to consider going for a walk without dealing with the admin. You just need to give your name and passport number and your ticket should be available within minutes. If only this were the case for Gunung Irau.
Gunung Berembun has a prominence of only around 230 metres but do not underestimate what can be challenging and occasionally difficult-to navigate terrain depending on the route you use due to the poorly-maintained junction signs. Trail 2 is one of the more challenging with a series of ups and downs near the start beyond the temple before meeting up with Trail 3 from the golf course area which is a simpler route.
The summit features a metal beirut as is common in this part of Malaysia and in clear weather some reasonable views are possible.
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.
If you are a reliable local guide and would like to be featured on this page to increase your bookings, or a tourist who would like to support the development of a local guide business, please email email@example.com with the following information: Mountain name, guide name, guide location, guide contact details, and at least one English language review from a previous hiker who was pleased with the guiding services. An example is given below for reference. We have a maximum quota of 3 featured guides for each mountain page on the site. The fee for this is £20 (British pounds sterling, typically via the Wise app or PayPal) for a period of 1 year and helps to pay towards the ongoing development of the Gunung Bagging project.
- Name and location: Pak Budi, Surabaya, East Java.
- Contact details: +62812xxxxxxxx, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.instagram.com/budi_mountain_guide/
- Review from previous client: “Budi was a brilliant guide for our September 2023 trek up Gunung X and I would definitely recommend him to other tourists“, John, USA.
- Getting there: Lots of buses from KL to Cameron Highlands from both KL Sentral and Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (RM35 one way in 2018, allow 4 hours). Ipoh is the closest train station and also has bus connections (around 2 hours).
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Irau information pack can be downloaded here.
- Trip planning assistance: Would you like Gunung Bagging to personally help you in arranging your whole trip? Please contact us here.
- Permits: Apparently, since March 2019 it costs foreigners RM30 per person to enter the Mossy Forest. You are supposed to get a permit from the forestry department if you wish to hike from Brinchang to Irau but in reality very few hikers do. Along with the Mossy Forest itself, Irau is usually closed November-January. You can register and pay for an e-Permit online for the hike to Irau from the Forestry Department of Malaysia website.
- Water sources: Available at Kem Bear (1,580m). Note there is NO shop at the Mossy Forest.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall