Tahan

Facts

  • Elevation: 2,187 m (7,175 ft)
  • Prominence: 2,140 m
  • Ribu category Tinggi Sedang
  • Province: Peninsular Malaysia
  • Malaysian state: on the border of Kelantan and Pahang
  • Google Earth: kml
  • Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes) Add your rating
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  • Other names: none.

Photos

Bagging It!

At 2,187m, Gunung Tahan is the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia and is located in the Taman Negara National Park. It is also the highest peak in the Tenasserim Hills chain (Banjaran Tanah Seri), a 1,700 kilometre-long granite ridge older than the Himalayas which runs all the way down from mid-Thailand to southern Peninsular Malaysia.

It’s probably this region’s most challenging trek and the word ‘tahan’ means ‘endure’ which is certainly rather apt! There are two main trailheads, with one route being longer and requiring a lot more time than the other. The views from the higher slopes of Gunung Tahan are excellent, as the vegetation is mostly low-growing shrubs rather than tall trees.

Elephants and tigers still live in this region, though the chance of seeing any is very, very small. You will almost certainly meet plenty of sweat bees although they are relatively harmless unless they get stuck inside your shirt.

The newer, shorter route is 32 kilometres long and starts at Sungai Relau, which is 7 kilometres from Merapoh. A return hike can be done in 4 days and 3 nights. The route is as follows: Sungai Relau (290m) – Kuala Juram (205m) – Kuala Luis (240m) – Lata Luis (520m) – Kem Kor (685m) – Permatang (785m) – Kubang (1,375m) – Belumut (1,450m) – Bonsai (1,675m) – Kem Botak (1,935m) – Tahan summit (2,187m).

The other, traditional trail (which is regarded as the most beautiful) is 53 kilometres long and starts in Kampung Kuala Tahan and a return hike typically requires 7 or 8 days. There are numerous river crossings. The route is as follows: Kuala Tahan (80m) – Kuala Melantai (140m) – Kem Tengah (415m) – Gunung Rajah (595m) – Kuala Putih (160m) – Kuala Teku (205m) – Bukit Sarsi (845m) – Gunung Pondok Dua (Wray’s Camp, 1,095m) – Kem Pangkin (1,265m) – Gunung Tangga (1,510m) – Gunung Reskit (1,635m) – Gunung Tangga Lima Belas (1,750m) – Gunung Gedung (2,066m) – Padang (1,800m) – Tahan summit (2,187m).

Obviously, the best hike to do is a traverse from one side to the other and most who do this seem to opt to start in Sungai Relau and finish at Kuala Tahan so that the lengthy Kuala Tahan route is more descent than ascent. This is around 85km in total and apparently the standard National Park requirement is that it is done over 7 days although as little as 5 days and 4 nights is possible if you can find a willing guide for this and you are sure your group is very fit. The shortest itinerary timewise is briefly outlined below based on our online research so far. Be sure that you start no later than 8am each morning.

Day 0: Get to Gua Musang or Merapoh by train or bus.

Day 1: Sungai Relau-Kuala Juram-Kuala Luis-Lata Luis-Kem Kor-Permatang-Kem Kubang (1,375m). 7-8 hours of hiking.

Travel 13km by 4WD to Kuala Juram (205m) and begin the hike to Kuala Luis (240m). Start the proper climb here to Lata Luis (520m) and Kem Kor (685m) which you should have reached in around 4 hours total. It is then a further 3 hours or so to Kem Kubang. If you don’t make it to Kem Kubang, then stay at Kem Kor and be sure to set off early on Day 2 to ensure you reach Camp Botak or the summit on the second day.

Day 2: Kem Kubang-Belumut-Bonsai-Botak-Summit (2,187m). 6-7 hours of hiking.

From Kubang, it is about 30 minutes to Belumut. From Belumut to Bonsai is a further 3 hours. Bonsai to Botak is 1 hour and Botak to the summit is 1 hour. The last water source is at Camp Botak (1,935m) but if you can make it to the summit (one further hour) then it is obviously preferable for sunset and sunrise photos.

Day 3: Summit-Gunung Gedung-Gunung Reskit-Gunung Pangkin-Gunung Pondok Dua / Wray’s Camp (1,095m). 9-10 hours of hiking.

From the summit to Gunung Gedung is around 4 hours. Gn Gedung to Gunung Reskit is 1.5 hours. Gn Reskit to Gunung Pangkin is 3 hours  and Gn Pangkin to Wray’s Camp is 1 hour. Wray’s Camp is named after a member of the 1905 Herbert C Robinson expedition here who were the first recorded hikers to have reached the peak, requiring two weeks in total. Unfortunately, Mr Wray was stuck here with diarrhea and didn’t make it to the summit.

Day 4: Gunung Pondok Dua / Wray’s Camp-Kuala Teku-Kuala Putih (160m). 8-9 hours of hiking.

Wray’s Camp to Kuala Teku takes around 3.5 hours. Kuala Teku to Kuala Puteh requires around 5 hours and no less than 7 river crossings (some sources state 9 river crossings!) Watch out for leeches here.

Day 5: Kuala Puteh-Gunung Rajah-Kem Tengah-Bukit Malang-Kuala Melantai-Kuala Tahan. 11-12 hours of hiking.

Ascend to Gunung Rajah (about 2 hours), and on to Kem Tengah (a further hour). From Kem Tengah to Kuala Melantai takes around 4 hours and involves crossing the 27 minor hills of Bukit Malang. It is then around 5 hours to reach the Park Resort from Kuala Melantai. Stay the night at the National Park Resort.

Day 6: Transport home – probably using bus or train from Jerantut.

Trail Map

Peta Jalur Pendakian Gunung Tahan
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.

Local Accommodation



Booking.com

Practicalities

  • Getting there: A bus from KL to Merapoh and Gua Musang takes a little over 5 hours. Merapoh and Jerantut are the closest train stations, with an overnight train between Johor and Gua Musang operating in both directions in 2019. To reach Merapoh from Gua Musang takes about 40 minutes by car.
  • Trip planning assistance: Would you like Gunung Bagging to personally help you in arranging your whole trip? Please contact us here.
  • Permits: National Park guides are mandatory and your items will be checked by staff to ensure no litter is left behind on the mountain. The trail is closed from November to mid-February every year. As of 2022, it is only possible to book via 2 local travel agencies / tour operators typically with a basica price of RM230 per person (minimum 10 people): Sgi Outdoor – 017-907 4241 (Pn.Fauziana) and RA Adventure-013-6056941 / 017-7065470 (Ms. Laila).
  • Water sources: On the Sungai Relau-Kuala Tahan traverse route available at Kem Kor, Kubang, Botak, near Wray’s Camp, Kuala Teku, Kuala Putih, near Kem Tengah, and Kuala Melantai.
  • 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
Average precipitation (rain/snow) in Gua Musang, Malaysia

Location

9 thoughts on “Tahan

  1. More bad news for fast, responsible hikers in Malaysia. As of 2022, if you want to hike Tahan from Merapoh the fastest you are allowed to go is 5 days and 4 nights, an extra day added from the previous 4 days and 3 nights, and obviously a lot more waiting around at camp for fit hikers, and a bit more money for the authorities involved. It never seems to go in the right way in Malaysia – Kinabalu is basically a corporate hike now, and Tahan… well, the ‘endurance’ is the admin before the hike itself!

    I sent a message to the Park office enquiring about booking a trip, and nobody bothered to reply. It seems they are farming the booking out to third parties who take an extra cut, so you need to negotiate hard to get a good deal unless you have some local contacts in Merapoh. One recommended company I contacted said a group of 10 was the standard. Why? Money is the answer. A group of 10 is never good for the environment nor other groups. Noise, erosion, and idiocy are the only things that win when you make it beneficial for groups of 10 to visit and make it almost impossible for small groups to visit. Indeed, this ‘contact’ wouldn’t even give a price for a group of 4 except to say that it would be ‘mahal’ (expensive).

    • A week later and the booking process is as opaque as ever, with no further information, unless you join a huge group of 20 hikers who will make you do awful group photos to promote their ‘brand’ and make you pay a premium for unnecessary, trivial things like a certificate of completion. Nobody seems able to answer the simple question of ‘how much does it cost?’ unless you go via a profiteering third party and have 10 folk ready to join you. I’ve had to email several officials to get some clarity on the matter, as it seems the process is even more convoluted than it was before. This is my third attempt at Tahan (!) First was aborted due to dreadful management of a large group of local hikers who failed to communicate basic information meaning I waited in a shopping mall for 8 hours and got no sleep at all (they decided to drive at midnight from KL for some unclear reason, but didn’t tell me this plan). Second was cancelled the week that countries closed their borders in March 2020 due to Covid. And now, let’s see if it will be third time lucky for June 2022! Even by Southeast Asia standards, this is a really really weird process.

  2. Well, as Indonesia struggles to control things and Jakarta plans a second lockdown from Monday 14th September (almost guaranteed to completely cripple businesses already struggling), Malaysia seems to be closer to normality again with Gunung Tahan opening for hikers from September 15th, almost 6 months after being closed.

  3. 3 spaces available for the Merapoh route on March 20-23rd 2020. This is the shortest number of days (4) you can complete the trek according to the rules of the park authorities. We will be a small group of maximum 5 participants plus local guide. Cost around RM315 for admin, guide, 4WD to start. Extra if you need a porter, tent, food etc.
    Need to be in Merapoh for a very early start on March 20 and will be down hopefully by late afternoon on March 23. Please reply here or email danpquinn at gmail dot com if interested.

    • Hi I just saw the post goday. Is it still available? Just me one person. A lady near 50fifties

      • Hello there. Full up now, I’m afraid, although I’ll let you know if anyone drops out at the last minute.

        Feel free to join the mailing list, as I have numerous hiking trips to Malaysia planned over the next twelve months or so.

    • Hi, are there any more hikes planned between March 29-April 11,2020? I’m most interested in doing the 7-8 day traditional trail.

  4. I had planned to hike Gunung Tahan at the end of August (another Independence Day hike after the Indonesian one on West Kalimantan’s Gunung Saran) but yet again my 2018 summer of hiking provided considerable disappointment and frustration, so much so that over the last few weeks I have been wondering why I am doing the project when there is more pain than pleasure! I am still undecided as to whether or not I will carry on in this region of the world, but hopefully my anecdote will encourage folk thinking of joining these huge groups of 30 or more hikers (usually Malay) that hike regularly in Peninsular Malaysia to be very careful and perhaps even avoid them altogether and find a small group that is well-organized.

    This was going to be my first hike in Peninsular Malaysia, and a kind of celebration of extending the coverage of the Gunung Bagging site to include this region too (which we are currently implementing), so it was extra annoying that it didn’t work out. Especially as I’m sure it is a great mountain.

    The trip leader initially told me we would start on 29th August at 8am at Taman Negara and initially mentioned a train leaving at 1500 the day before, presumably to Gua Musang. I decided to book the first flight out of Jakarta to KL for that morning, knowing what Soekarno Hatta Airport is like, in order to be sure I would avoid any major delay issues and could get to the station in good time, and purchase some food etc.

    This means getting up at 2am, but I assume we will get to the trailhead in good time for a decent night’s sleep the night before the trek actually starts. Once I have booked the flight, he then tells me I will be car-sharing with another hiker. I get in touch with the other guy, very friendly, but says to meet at 6pm in Cyberjaya, well outside KL, closer to the airport. Not ideal – it means I will have to spend the day waiting with a huge rucksack. And I do indeed do this – about 8 hours at a shopping mall! All this information is passed on not via email but in snippets via WhatsApp, including a huge group chat which is basically hundreds of unimportant chit-chat messages, with a few important bits hidden in the middle somewhere. I had to mute them.

    Anyway, at 6pm he arrives as planned, but is not ready to leave and says we can go to his house and we will leave at 9pm, and pick up 2 other hikers on the way. I am not best pleased, but he is a friendly guy, so I don’t worry too much about us not reaching Taman Negara until gone midnight (it is about 3.5 or 4 hours from KL by car).

    Fast forward to 12 midnight and we are still picking up the 4th and final hiker in KL! Instead of everyone meeting somewhere convenient for all, we have been driving around various suburbs collecting people. I have been awake since 2am and it is clear we will not get to Taman Negara until at least 4am (the next day). Therefore no chance for proper sleep the night before starting a 4-day trek. I could just about do this if I had had a decent rest the previous night, but having been up since 2am I know this is going to be impossible and potentially dangerous.

    As happens so often in Indonesia and Malaysia, I am exhausted and haven’t even started the hike! The mountains are great – it is everything else that gets in the way of enjoying them. Barriers galore. Such as terrible planning and idiotic ideas like not sleeping the night before even though there is enough time to get there before midnight (or indeed just depart KL at 3am on the day of the hike). Naturally, up until now there has been no mention of driving overnight, or still being in KL at midnight. If there had been I obviously wouldn’t have woken up at 2am in Jakarta and arrived in KL at 0835!

    I got out of the car and checked into a hotel and vowed to cancel the rest of my hiking plans in this region and pursue something more…. enjoyable. I returned to Jakarta the next day and remained in a bad mood for several weeks!

    So… be very careful about the hiking groups that you join in Malaysia. You have to ask and double-check everything! Even things that seem obvious such as ‘Are we going to sleep the night before the 4-day hike starts?’ and ‘When you say meet at 6pm do you actually mean meet at 6pm but not leave for another 6 hours?’ It can be impossible to cover all this stuff as logical thought is in such short supply with many of these groups. So… take care!

    Perhaps I will do Tahan eventually…. but certainly not with one of these groups.

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