Mount Kinabalu Trail Information

“It’s all about Mount Kinabalu Trail Information, consisting of Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail (Timpohon Trail), Mount Kinabalu Ranau Trail, and Mount Kinabalu Kota Belud Trail. Enjoy your reading to understand more about Mount Kinabalu!”


About Timpohon Trail - Ranau Trail - Kota Belud Trail


Timpohon Gate to Panalaban Base Camp

In this Mount Kinabalu Trail Information page, we will explain more about the whole Mount Kinabalu hiking trails in detail. Firstly,  TIMPOHON TRAIL, also known as Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail, is the well-trodden main route taken by most climbers. It takes you from Timpohon Gate (the starting point of Mount Kinabalu climb journey) at an elevation of 1, 866 meters to a height of 4,095.2 meters at summit Low’s Peak. In addition, the 8.5 kilometers trails can be completed in 2 days 1 night. But we do recommend doing it over a 3 days span in order to get your body properly acclimatize in order to avoid altitude sickness during the climb. Most importantly, all climbers are required to display their climbing permit and register at the checkpoint at Timpohon Gate prior to the climb via Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail (Timpohon Trail).


Pondok Kandis (1981.7m)

Interestingly, the climb actually begins with the descent to Carson’s Fall, named after the first Park Warden of Kinabalu Park. From here onward, depending on your fitness level, it is about 4-5 hours climb for the day. The trail winds up a steep staircase of gnarled tree-roots. Then, will lead to a mossy world of drifting clouds and orchid-draped trees. From here, you can find pitcher plants and rhododendrons around. In short, there are 7 shelters throughout the 6KM hike to Laban Rata Resthouse via Timpohon Trail

The first is Kandis Shelter at 1981.7m where on a clear day, a view of the road that links Kota Kinabalu to the park can be seen.

Ubah Shelter Timpohon Trail (Pondok Ubah)


Pondok Ubah (2081.4m)

The second shelter is Ubah Shelter at 2081.4m. This is where one of Borneo’s most unusual pitcher plants grows – the Nepenthes Lowii. Hence, do look out for these oddly-shaped plants with pitcher containers. Besides that, mosses and ferns are growing well in damp conditions here.

The mossy forest continues on past the Sabah Telecoms Station at Komborongoh at 2252.2m. Interestingly, “Komborongoh” is a plant that the Kadazandusuns people use to ward off evil spirits. It also used in traditional ceremonies and rituals.

Layang-Layang Shelter (Pondok Layang-Layang) Timpohon Trail


Pondok Lowii – Pondok Mempening – Layang-layang

The third shelter of Timpohon Trail is Lowii Shelter. The trail continues up to the mossy forest of mixed bamboos and tree ferns. Furthermore, more rhododendrons can be seen here. Next, at 2515m, here comes to the fourth shelter, Mempening Shelter.  There are wild begonias growing nearby. Stops at these shelters, take a rest. Then, observe the squirrels, tree shrews, and birds that seem so unafraid of climbers.

Besides that, you will also see the Layang-Layang TV Station. After that, you will emerge to an open exposed ridge at Layang-Layang Shelter. This is the fifth shelter at 2702m (previously known as Carson’s Camp). At this point, a band of ultramafic soil, distinguished by its orange-cinnamon color, crosses the trail, and the vegetation changes dramatically.

Villosa Shelter (Pondok Villosa) Timpohon Trail


Pondok Villosa – Pondok Paka

Villosa Shelter, the sixth shelter of Timpohon Trail, at 2690m is situated at the top of an open rocky patch. The forest here will become even more stunned. Moreover, as you follow the trail upward, a superb view can be seen of Mount Kinabalu towering above. At the top of this open area, at 3050m, a small track leads off to a helipad on the right. After the helipad junction, the ultramafic soil ends. Then, the forest is again full with taller trees covered with mosses.

After that, you will arrive at the seventh shelter of Timpohon Trail – Paka Shelter, at 3080m. This shelter was named after Paka Cave nearby. The Paka Cave which sited on the edge of a small stream is nothing more than a large overhanging rock.

Panalaban Mount Kinabalu for kota belud trail or ranau trail


Laban Rata Resthouse - Pendant Hut - Panalaban Hostel -Lemaing Hut

Finally, you will reach the various accommodations for an overnight stops. There are few mountain huts available for overnight on Mount Kinabalu, which the Laban Rata Resthouse, Pendant Hut, Panalaban Hostel, and Lemaing Hut. Above all, Laban Rata Rest House, at 3272m, is the biggest mountain hut among the others, and also where the restaurant located at. Pendant Hut, a cozy and eco-friendly Alpine-inspired hut is exclusively for Via Ferrata’s climbers.

Lastly, check in to your accommodation and dinner will be served at Laban Rata Resthouse restaurant. After dinner, take a good rest and prepare for the summit climb.


Panalaban Base Camp to Summit Low's Peak

The following day begins well before dawn as climbers set out in a bee-line for the conquering the Low’s Peak, the highest peak of Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail. Commencing as early as 2.30 am, you can see the beams of torch lights in the dark as the procession of climbers trudge higher and higher. Nothing much is visible but the lights of the city. Furthermore, the small town can be seen if the weather is good. In order to help you over the steeper slopes, there are ladders, hand railings, and ropes along the Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail



Standard Summit Trail – Ranau Trail (1,270m in length)

You will learn more about Ranau Trail and Kota Belud Trail on this Mount Kinabalu Trail Details page. A new route – Ranau Trail has been introduced due to the route from Panalaban to Sayat-Sayat Hut / Check Point was damaged after the earthquake. This route has become the standard summit trail to the highest peak of Mount Kinabalu, Low’s Peak. Ranau Trail will take you from Panalaban (3272m) to Sayat-sayat Check Point (3,668m). It will continue to Low’s Peak (4095.2m). In short, Ranau Trail is near vertical with steep sections of wooden stairs of 70-80 degree incline. Some sections not even have wooden steps and you need to haul yourself using a fixed rope over large boulders. So, just proceed slowly and cautiously. In conclusion, the Ranau trail may be more challenging than the previous trail, but you are then rewarded with awesome views of the mountain terrain.

Kota Belud Trail


Alternative Summit Trail – Kota Belud Trail (1,100m in length)

‘Kota Belud Trail’ is an alternative route towards summit Low’s Peak other than Ranau Trail. Even though it is 170m shorter than Ranau Trail, some parts of the Kota Belud trail have slopes that are more than 60 degrees. Hence, it is slightly tougher compared to the Ranau trail. Wooden steps and ropes can be found along with certain parts of the summit trail.

This trail begins from Panalaban and ends at Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint where you will make the ascent to the summit. Remember to book in advance as Kota Belud trail required a special permit to enter.

Sayat-Sayat Hut (Check Point) Mount Kinabalu for kota belud trail or ranau trail


Sayat-Sayat Hut / Check-Point (3668m)

The one-hour climb crossing of the sheer Panar Laban rock face to Sayat-Sayat Hut (3668m) is one of the toughest parts of the summit climb. Sayat-Sayat Hut is the last and highest shelter on Mount Kinabalu. Here is also where the last check-point located at. All climbers have to show their climbing tag to the officer on duty before they can continue with the summit climb.

You can use the toilet (last toilet stop), refill your water (untreated mountain water) or take a rest here. From Sayat-Sayat Check Point, you will walk across the bare granite slabs that stretch endless ahead, in an eerie moonscape of stone. The vegetation is stunted shrubs and tough grasses in the crevices. You’ll see a marker at every kilometer until the Low’s Peak Summit as you walk up.

Summit Low's peak Mount Kinabalu - Kota Belud Trail


The Highest Point of Mount Kinabalu (4095.2m)

After KM8.5, you will reach your final destination. However, the last stretch of the summit ascent is the steepest and hardest part of the climb. As a result, you might need to crawling on hands and knees to reach out for the highest point on Mount Kinabalu, the summit of Borneo at 4095.2m – The Low’s Peak! As you wait in the cold, dawn gradually creeps over the horizon, illuminating the darkness with the light of a new day. Watching as the day unfolds over a spectacular view of the mountains plateau and valleys below, which were not visible before. In addition, you can almost see all of Sabah spread out below in clear weather. Here will be the ending point of the whole summit trail outlined in this Mount Kinabalu Trail Information document.


Ranau Trail or Kota Belud Trail?


What are the differences between Ranau Trail and Kota Belud Trail?
We often hear about the two different hiking trails while summiting Mount Kinabalu – the Kota Belud Trail & the Ranau Trail. Climbers are often confused between the two. In this Mount Kinabalu Trail Information documents, we are going to explain their main differences and what you can expect from each trail.


Ever since the earthquake in 2015, the old hiking route became inaccessible. After proper construction work is done, Ranau Trail was introduced and opened to the public after 3 months. The newly constructed trail is estimated 300m longer than the old route. In order to properly guide climbers, mountain guides were required to go through training on the new trail. Ranau trail has now become the standard summit trail that all climbers use, with the starting point from Pendant Hut to Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint and requires only average fitness level. The total distance of Ranau Trail to summit Low’s Peak is about 2.8KM. When there is bad weather, the Summit gate will be closed for the safety of all climbers.

Ranau Trail or Kota Belud Trail

There are no restrictions on the number of climbers that allowed to go through the Ranau trail. 1 guide will be assigned to 5 climbers at max. If you are choosing Ranau Trail in the first place, you are not allowed to change to Kota Belud Trail. At the beginning of the trail, you will be greeted with what seems like a never-ending flight of wooden stairs. However, with proper training and preparation, it won’t be too hard for you to overcome this obstacle. This trail is suitable for climbers of all ages as it comprises stairs and climbing aids along the hike. When the hike gets tougher, make sure to take a short break and enjoy the greenery view the trail has to offer.

If you have hiked Mount Kinabalu before, you can give Kota Belud Traill a try, especially if you are looking for something more thrilling and challenging. On top of that, you get to see Mount Kinabalu from a different view.

Mount Kinabalu Trail Information - Kota Belud Trail

Mount KK Kota Belud Trail

Kota Belud Trail is an alternate route to the peak, which has been introduced to climbers on 9 Dec 2016. Even though this trail offers a less greenery view, but it boasts of its beautiful panoramic view from the rocky mountain. Don’t underestimate the toughness of this route even though it is 170m shorter than Ranau Trail. Kota Belud trail’s starting point is from Panalaban Hostel and ends at Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint. 

The total distance of Kota Belud Trail to summit Low’s Peak is around 2.8KM. The trail will be open at 3 am if weather permitted. If you are looking to take this trail to the peak, do make sure to book in advance as it is limited to only 30 climbers per day and no last-minute changes from Ranau trail are allowed. However, you are allowed to change from Kota Belud trail to Ranau Trail.

Taking Kota Belud trail requires good upper body strength especially when you reach the steeper part of this trail. It is definitely more challenging as you need to hold on to the ropes during the hike. This trail only open for climbers aged 18 years and above. One mountain guide will be assigned to a maximum of 3 climbers during the hike on this trail. In addition, mountain guides will assess and have the authority to call-off climbers from taking this route if found physically unfit. Hence, you are advised to have an above-average fitness level with good agility and dexterity. Climbers with acrophobia are not recommended to take this route.


Mount Kinabalu Trail Map (Kota Belud Trail & Ranau Trail)