Bukit Kembara hike

My family lived in the Ampang area of Selangor in the 90s, yet this was the first time I had hiked up to its old reservoir at Bukit Kembara. Taking under 2 hours roundtrip, it makes for a rewarding urban hike.

Hidden among the lush hills of Ampang, the Ampang Impounding Reservoir, to give it its proper title, was completed in 1892 and was the first water supply reservoir of its kind.  In hindsight, I suppose the street name, Jalan Kolam Ayer Lama (Old Water Resevoir Street), where the SPCA and ISKL aren should have given it away, but it didn’t. Dur.

To get to the reservoir, which is still in use, there are two approaches. Both take approximately the same amount of time. The Taman TAR approach (accessible between two  bungalows on Jalan 1) is the  easier of the two. The Bukit Indah approach, also known as Trail B, is more challenging as it requires hiking up over the peak of Bukit Kembara and back down again along a series of rather steep trails. Fortunately these are quite short, and the reward that awaits your efforts, well worth it.

This shrine opposite Emerald Hill Condos marked our entry point into the jungle.
Following entry, swing to the right.

The trailhead begins just behind and to the left of a small shrine located opposite Emerald Hill Condominiums.

A right turn takes you uphill along a steep incline (nothing less than 45 degrees) roped off with nylon cord and plastic tubing. It not only marks out most of the trail, it provides some support when needed. Occasionally I had to duck under it awkwardly, but otherwise its useful.

The trail is quite steep but a combination of rope and plastic tubing not only marks the boundaries of the trail but helps to steady your ascent and descent.
There’s a short flat before the final stretch to the peak.
Just when you have caught your breath….

Within 10 minutes or so you’ll come to a short flat stretch but any relief is short lived as the slog upwards quickly continues. A junction – left following the ropes or right where there are none – may confuse, but I was assured by a regular user that both lead to the same place (although I can only vouch for the route to the left).

Look out for this boulder, so you know you’re on the right path.
The peak is a viewless plateau with makeshift benches and a single shelter.

A flat open area with no view and a few makeshift seating areas and a shelter, the peak isn’t terribly exciting to be honest, but then aside the challenge, it isn’t the draw.

After a quick break, make your way across to the opposite side. Within 25 meters you’ll come to a fork. Steep and narrow, it can be slippery especially after rain, but within 5 to 10 minutes, you’ll spot the reflection of the water glimmering through the trees.

You’ve arrived at Ampang Reservoir.

A short but steep path leads from the peak down to the banks of the reservoir.
Almost there!

From here the pool of water looks misleadingly small, but at 100 meters across and 500 meters wide, it takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to circumnavigate its 1.8 kilometre circumference.

The shady path that winds its way alongside the reservoir.
A first glimpse of the water can give the false impression that the reservoir is quite small.


The pergola provides a romantic spot at which to stop.
Flat and wide and suitable for running or jogging.
There are a few tiny streams that feed into the water catchment, and this small waterfall.
A neighbourhood regular lifts weights by the falls.

Almost entirely flat,  the trail around the water’s edge passes several babbling streams and a small waterfall, but its highlight is an old pergola. Perched over the glassy surface of the water, from it you’ll have a view of rolling green hills as far the eye can see, across Bukit Antarabangsa and Taman Melawati to the west, and Hulu Langat to the east all the way into Pahang.


The final stretch before completing one loop around the water.


8.40am Start hike
8.45am Complete the first uphill stretch
8.55am Arrive at the peak
9.00am Leave the peak
9.05am Arrive at the reservoir
9.25am Complete a loop of the reservoir
9.50am Arrive back at the starting point

Altitude 245 meters.

Time A round trip should take you between 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on your pace. I took 1 hour 10 minutes: 25 minutes from the trailhead to the reservoir, 20 minutes to circumnavigate the water and 25 minutes back to the trailhead. But I’d recommend allocating some extra time to enjoy your surroundings.

Rating KL Hiking rates this “Very Easy” but I’d suggest it was “Moderate”. Though the sections up to the peak and down to the reservoir are short, they are steep and require stamina and strength going up, and care and a hiking pole going down. Fortunately you don’t have to rush and can take your time.

Recommendation If you want to get more out of your hike consider pulling a trans down to Taman TAR, back to the reservoir and up and over Bukit Kembara down to to Taman Ampang Indah again. Alternately, run or jog a few loops around the water.

Facilities There are no public toilets. Parking, which is hard to come by, is by the side of the road.

GPS coordinates of trailhead 3.158312, 101.775266

Post hike reward Grab brunch at the French-run The Bakery Ukay Heights or an early lunch at Sekor & Co upstairs. 1 Jalan Chong Khoon Lin, Ukay Heights, Ampang, Selangor. Sekor & Co is open: 12noon-8pm (last orders): Tuesday to Sunday, Closed: Monday. F: http://www.facebook.com/melatimadeit/

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