Updated: Jun 17
Gunung Irau, standing at 2110m is Malaysia's 16th highest peak, and it is an easy bag!
The famed mossy forest trail has a magnetic appeal due to its moss carpeted spongy labyrinth. Twisted branches dripping with soft chandeliers and pendants. The passage way dotted with gigantic and miniature pitcher plants that all seem like a trip in fairyland!
The only problem that stands between summiting Gunung Irau is the quota imposed by the forestry department and the ever treacherous erosion on the trail and road leading to it due to the climate and of late, over-development!
Many hurdles stood between our hike date and the events such as landslides, total park closure, hiker accidents, freak weather! It was through divine intervention that we arrived and peaked and remained dry albeit dirty!
Starting point: Mossy Forest Reserve
Hike Duration: Allow around 8 hours from the entrance of the first gate
End Hike: Backtrack
Hike Difficulty: 3.5/5
Distance: 2.35km one way (3 hours one way)
It is a photography hike, but expect some challenges in between roots, rocks, ladders and a load of muddy tracks!
CP 1- Balak (1989m) A short while after the board walk
CP 2- Taman (1908m) Walk in a park
CP 3- Tali (1939m) Eroded area of the trail supported with thick ropes
CP 4- Pisang (1873m) Lowest point of the trail, with many banana trees
CP 5- Pergam (1947m) A local bird that is frequently spotted here
CP6- Mini Irau (2024m)
CP7- Slide ( 2028m) Terrifying landslide area, sign board washed away!
CP8- Bonsai (2043m) Once a magnificent tree, and now a fallen log!
CP9- Batu ( 2048m) A series of boulders stacked vertically leading to the peak!
CP10-Lord of the Rings
GUNUNG IRAU PEAK 2110m
Scenery Rewards: Mesmerising
Permit Application Guide
A permit and a quota is applied to hike Gunung Irau, Gunung, Siku and Berincang. You can apply though the Pahang forestry
All applications should be done minimum 3-4 week before planned date, on-line. Only pay when you have receive approve permit (normally within a week).
Call the Cameron Highlands office to verify (05-4911384) payment method RM10. Payment has to be done through Pos Malaysia or Bank Draft to Pengarah Perhutanan Pahang, Daerah Cameron Highlands. Verify allocated dates for hike. There is a quota of 50-60 hikers a day to summit these mountains and once quota is reached, your requested date might differ.
Wait for confirm payment and approved permit
Print out copy and bring together on hike day
Click here for step by step explanation to apply
Transport from town to Mossy Forest Entrance
There is a proper road leading to the entrance of mossy forest reserve park, the road is notoriously narrow and hugs menacingly at the edge of eroded cliffs of the tea plantation. If you want peace of mind and enjoy the tea plantation scenery, there are few transport companies that can bring you to your location for a fee. Click here fore contact
Mossy forest Entrance
There are visitors who come up all the way to only walk up to the boardwalk. I would not recommend this as there is nothing much to see.
What to bring
1. Basic first aid stuff such as disinfectant, ankle guard in case you sprain your ankle, band-aid.
3. Raincoat and Poncho
5. At least 2l of water, pack lunch, snack!
6. Change of clothes
7. Good pair of hiking shoes is absolutely necessary
9. No leech
10. Check the weather forecast
11. Windbreaker (optional)
Board Walk to Pisang check-point 4
We waited for the forestry office to open about 8am, registered, and our guide open the gates to the mossy forest.
The hike starts on a board walk built on the original trail with explanation placards of the cloud forest, an observation deck, pavilions, and very little mossy experience! Thankfully, it only lasted approximately 250m and the trail meets the original path.
Although efforts has been made to make it less muddy, but due to the natural climate conditions, it is in an eternal cloud, and constantly shrouded in thick mist, only allowing only moments of sunlight to burnt through. Therefore expect the terrain of mossy forest to Gunung Irau to be muddy!
...............The trail boarders Perak and Pahang state
From Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 4, it was a relatively gradual descend down to the valley from 1980m to 1973m. Very quickly we were greeted with #pitcherplants and they only became bigger as we progressed deeper into the trail. The were many muddy areas on this section!
Note: Peat soil in montane forest is normally waterlogged, nutrient-poor, and many decomposer insects (termites, earth worms, fungi) don't exist. Fallen logs and trees takes a longer to decompose. Peat increases as altitude increases, while seedings are unable to thrive in such anaerobic environment, which in turn imped root respiration, causing roots of trees to exposed and absorb! .......please click here for further readings of montane forest.
Checkpoint 4 (Pisang) to Mini Irau
The challenge began from Checkpoint 4 to Mini Irau as the quadrant steadily increased. We were blessed with the weather as the mist cleared as the sun shone through as we make haste. We arrived at Mini Irau at 1100, regrouped and refilled our tummies for the journey to the peak. Few hikers who couldn't make it to Mini Irau by 1230 cut off time will not be able to progress to the peak!
Many newbie hikers would turn back from mini Irau. The trail to the peak from Mini Irau would take about 1 hour of arduous climb and perhaps another 30 minutes for photo shots.
* Behind the Mini Irau sign, there are more labyrinth of thick moss, and will make good bedding for a quick nap!
Mini Irau To Irau Peak
The one hour hike to Irau peak is a steady ascend over exposed roots, boulders, spongy carpet and overhangs. Some part of the trail follows the contours of the ridge giving clear views of the upper dipterocarp forest, and reenters the canopy before finally reaching the thick mossy forest again.
After a series of ladder climb on CP9 Batu, the landscape is a thick moss of green with spongy labyrinths and carpeted passages leading to the peak. It was magical and at some point you hope a talking rabbit would pop out!
Through the carpeted labyrinth and a couple more slopes, we finally reached Irau peak. It wasn't so much of a jubilant burst to reach the 10th highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia, rather, we were still struck in awe with the enthralling magic of the montane forest.
From the peak, a trail continues to other mountains on the Yellow Pass, exiting out at Simpang Pulai highway. However we did not venture further!
The return journey from CP10 to CP4 would need more care and effort, especially with tired legs. Many of us were victims to protruding roots, fallen logs and slippery topsoil on the descend. A hiker from another group twisted his knee on the way up and had to abort his hike to the peak.
Although it is best to be cautious but I can't help the irresistible temptation of hopping down from tree root to another with a little pace! Therefore I am nursing a wound caused by an invisible root!
Flora and Fauna
A kaleidoscope epiphytes (orchids, nepenthes, bromeliads, ferns, mosses, bryophytes, liverworts, algae, lichens, and fungi) blankets the surface of host trees and shrubs.
Tropical wild orchids in bloom! There were many more perched on big trees, best admired from the far!
The experience through the montane forest can never be accurately imagined through words or photos but it is out there! However if the troublesome process of applying permits sickens you, Peaks Outdoors can settle all that and guarantee a seamless trip...... although they can't control the weather!
If travelling to Cameron Highlands to visit the montane forest is a tall order, perhaps hiking up Gunung Bunga Buah would be an easier option!
The mossy forest thrives in fragile environment. It is exposed to extreme weather especially of late, creating dangerous erosions and landslides on the trail, therefore it needs periods of rehabilitation. From July 9th to an indefinite date, the forest reserve will be close until further notice. It is only by planning and with a stroke of lady luck that we manage to visit this surreal magical wonderland!
A big shout out to Elsa, Botak and Matrock for leading and sweeping the group out safely and Elysee for organising this wonderful trip!
Date visited: 4th July 2022