- Elevation: 1,778 m (5,833 ft)
- Prominence: 1,705 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Banten
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none
After Gunung Halimun which borders West Java, Gunung Karang is the highest peak in Banten. In exceptionally clear weather such as late afternoon in the rainy season after torrential downpours, the mountain is visible from apartment blocks in Jakarta. There are two separate trails on the mountain both of which can be done as half-day hikes. The first leads to the forested summit with a mosque on top, and the second leads to a rarely-visited crater area.
Given how close Gunung Karang is to Jakarta it is surprising that it is not yet as popular as similar peaks in West and Central Java. Whilst the mountain does not offer much in the way of views due to it being forested, both trails are really worthwhile days out. It is often hazy in Banten, quite possibly due to pollution from Jakarta, so the best time to visit might be the end of the rainy season or start of the dry season (ie. April and May).
The trail to the summit starts in the large village of Kaduengang (845m) which lies roughly east-northeast of the peak. It takes about 25 minutes by motorbike or car to reach the trailhead from the nearby town of Pandeglang but you will probably need to ask for directions as there are a couple of places where you might take a wrong turning.
From the trailhead, a clear plantation path leads up the hillside between fields of, amongst other things, onions. Pos 1 (1,150m) is a pleasant little warung selling drinks and simple snacks and has a nice seat made out of tree branches. Soon after (at 1,200m) is another simple wooden hut but this is not a Pos. The next Pos is Pos 2 (1,330m) – another simple warung and also a favourite camping spot for local hikers on weekends. This is a good spot for photographs in the easterly direction.
It should have taken you about an hour to reach Pos 2. Pos 3 follows at 1,375m (hot drinks available) before the trail leads into forest (1,400m) and the views are much more limited. The path remains clear but a little muddy at times and occasionally with steep drops on one or both sides. There are plenty of birds in the forest here, perhaps because it is not as popular with hikers as many other mountains are.
The next major landmark is a ‘false summit’ (1,720m) which is where the trail leads steeply down to the left for around 30 metres before ascending again to the true summit. The summit is covered in forest and features various interesting building and monuments. First of all, there is a mosque which is regularly used by local pilgrims. There is also an ancient grave, presumably of an important local leader or religious figure. There are the usual summit signs nailed to trees.
There are also pools of water with a fence around them. The summit is known locally as Sumur Tujuh (‘seven wells’) and these pools are some of those seven water sources. The views are very limited but there is one spot near the water pools where you can look down over the forest below.
It should have taken you a little over 2 hours to reach the summit. To descend the same way takes a little less.
Another interesting trail on the mountain leads up from Pasir Angin (685m), which is several kilometres south round the mountain from Kaduengang. This trail leads up to hot springs and a crater. Like Kaduengang, Pasir Angin can be reached from Pandeglang by car or motorbike in 20 minutes or so. Unfortunately it would appear that the two trails do not join up so it is not currently possible to do a circuit and each trail must be done separately.
Whereas the trail to the summit from Kaduengang is fairly obvious most of the way, the trail up to the crater from Pasir Angin is much less well-used, narrower, steeper and slippery in places. There are also numerous junctions meaning that a local guide is essential for this one. You should have no trouble finding someone in Pasir Angin, as the trek takes a similar amount of time to the summit trek (around 2 hours up and less than 2 hours back down again). In very general terms, after the first couple of rights below 1000m, you need mostly left turns at junctions.
Once again, views are best in an easterly direction before leaving the plantation area and entering degraded forest at around 1,170m. A tricky section is at what appears to be a usually dry stream (1,350m) where you need to take extra care not to slip on awkward terrain.
The crater and hot springs can be smelt from a couple of hundred metres away. When you finally arrive at the edge of the crater area (1,410m) you are confronted with a large rocky area with sulphur gases billowing into the sky and hot, muddy bubbling pools. Surrounding this typically surreal view are steep forested crater walls. Locals sometimes take bottles of the water back down with them as the high sulphur content means it is good for skin complaints.
Karang’s active crater is not circular in shape – more a large gash on the mountainside. If you look on Google Earth or Maps, you will see what appears to be a circular crater a few hundred metres north of this one. To the best of our knowledge, this is a swampy, dormant crater with no present activity, though it may be the spot where the medicinal cool spring is to be found (see John Hargreaves’ comment below mentioning a 7–hour round trip from Pasir Angin to a spot at 1,600m).
Strong hikers should make it back down from the crater to Pasir Angin in under 2 hours, where ojeks can be arranged back down to Pandeglang.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (last updated October 2017)
- Getting there: By car from Jakarta: Take the toll road to Merak. Exit at the Pandeglang turn-off and head into the town centre. Take a right up Jalan Gunung Karang and follow it to either Kaduengang (for the summit trail) or Pasir Angin (for the crater trail). There are buses from Jakarta to Serang, and angkots onward to Pandeglang. As of 2016 you can also now take the frequent Jakarta commuter line trains to Rangkasbitung (just Rp8,000, two hours) and then an ojek from there to Pandeglang.
- Accommodation: Limited accommodation available in Pandeglang – Hotel Rizki is probably the best as it is large and friendly and has a restaurant. A wider range available in Serang, Anyer and Carita.
- Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase. You are advised to take a local guide with you, expecially for the Pasir Angin trail to the crater.
- Water sources: Drinks available at Pos 1, 2 and 3 on the summit trail. Spring water available at the summit itself but stagnant so best take sufficient supplies. On the Pasir Angin trail to the crater there are a couple of streams but much better to take enough drinking water with you.
- 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.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
(unclear, possibly) = Rocky Mountain. Karang has a variety of meanings in different contexts. Mostly karang means “a rock” in watery surrounds, like coral, boulders on the seashore or rocks in a stream. But phrases like karang liman (elephant rock) also appear in some place names suggesting a rock or hill that is big and solid like an elephant and not necessarily in watery surrounds. So Gunung Karang could mean “the mountain that looks like a boulder” or “the mountain that is full of rocks and boulders”. In some contexts karang means “a place where people live or assemble” as in the Indonesian phrase karang desa = “the countryside (where there are a lot of villages)”. So karang gunung or karang pagunungan might mean “the place of many mountains” or “a mountainous region” (like the interior of West Java) and Gunung Karang might mean something like “the mountain in the interior”. (George Quinn, 2011)