Chestnut Drive Nature Park is a relatively new park in the Bukit Timah area of Singapore. The park features a Northern section and a Southern section, both with separate hiking and mountain biking trails. There is also a mountain bike circuit (‘Pump track’) next to the car park for riders to practice their skills. Chestnut Drive Nature Park has limited – but free – parking.
The Northern section of the park has a 3.5km trail loop which starts and ends at the car park. The trail is largely flat and easy hiking. Along the way there is also a optional loop section that can be taken. On the trail there are several huts that provide shelter from the sun or the rain, and are a nice place to rest and listen to the sounds of the forest. On this trail I saw numerous butterflies, a group of macaques with young (luckily foraging in a tree rather than being habituated pests), and even some young wild boar hurtling across the path. During the construction of the park the area was re-planted with many native trees, and you can see examples of Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis), Singapore Walking-Stick Palm (Rhopaloblaste singaporensis) and Jelutong (Dyera costulata) – if you know what to look for!
There is a second, longer hiking trail in the Northern section, marked in orange on the official maps of the park. This trail heads north towards a recently constructed watchtower. Unfortunately this trail isn’t a loop, which means if you arrived by car you will have to find your own way back to the car park, or retrace your steps. Public transport users have an advantage here. The Singapore National Parks website has a good map of the Northern section trails.
The Southern hiking trail (2.1 km) starts across the road from the car park, slightly further down. Again there are separate trails for mountain biking and hiking (which makes a lot of sense). Going anti-clockwise, the first part of the loop (called the Sunbird trail) heads south and runs above the BKE. This makes it a bit noisy in places. However, there is still plenty of wildlife here and I saw many butterflies and a couple of water monitors. Again, the Singapore National Parks website is a good place to view a map of the park before visiting.
The second part of the Southern section does a 180 degree turn, heading further into the forest and away from the road noise. Just before returning to the car park, the environment changes. The forest gives way to a series of clearings and tall grass, where is it possible to spot many birds and insects. It’s good to see this kind of variety of the trail, and helps to maintain interest.
Overall, Chestnut Drive Nature Park is never truly wild or remote – but where in Singapore is? The environment certainly feels wilder and more natural than the Rail Corridor or the Southern Ridges. Although I didn’t spot as much wildlife as I did at Sungei Buloh, I did enjoy a peaceful walk through the forest with virtually nobody else around – a great way to spend a few hours.