Indonesia is known for its volcanoes. More than a hundred volcanoes are scattered on various islands. Some of them are active, some are sleeping. Some are tall, and some are low. The tallest one is located on the island of Sumatra. It is called Mount Kerinci (Gunung Kerinci) and attracts travelers and hikers with its beauty, wild nature, and challenging trekking to the top. This is a guide to Mount Kerinci, how to reach it, how to hike it, and more useful information.
Table of Contents
Basic facts about Mount Kerinci
Mount Kerinci is located in the western part of Sumatra, on the border between the provinces of West Sumatra and Jambi. It is a part of the Barisan Mountains- the mountain chain that stretches along the whole length of Sumatra. Its height is 3805 m (12,484 ft), and this altitude makes Kerinci the highest volcano in Indonesia, and the highest point of Sumatra (the second highest peak of Indonesia after Mount Puncak Jaya in New Guinea).
Kerinci is an active stratovolcano, with regular eruptions and almost constant rising of sulphurous smoke. While you ascend to the top, you can feel its smell, and you can see it rising from its crater when you reach the top. It emits phreatic eruptions (gas and steam explosions, without magma) every year.
The volcano is covered by lush tropical mountain rainforest in the low zone (between 1600 and 2400 m) with rich wildlife, including species like the Sumatran tiger, and more. It is followed by the mountain “mossy forest” that gradually turns into “mossy bush”, between 2400 and 3200 m. Then, the highest zone to the top consists of naked stony steep slopes, only with some grass between 3200 and 3400 m.
Today, Mount Kerinci is included in the Kerinci-Seblat National Park– one of the largest national parks in Indonesia, and the largest in Sumatra, spread into three provinces- West Sumatra, Bengkulu, and Jambi.
Mount Kerinci Trek
All of the above makes Mount Kerinci an attractive point for travelers and adventurers. Today, there is a popular trail that leads to the top of the volcano. It ascends from 1700 to 3805 m- more than 2 km elevation, passing through the three natural zones.
Due to the steepness of the slope of the mountain, the trek to Mount Kerinci has a high level of difficulty. You can add to this the constant mud of the trail- due to the high humidity of the rainforest and the mossy forest, as well as the regular rains, it is never dry, but muddy, wet, and slippery- at least to the end of the forest zone. Above 3200 m, it becomes drier but with small stones that can make it dangerous.
Normally, the whole trek to the top and back can be climbed for two days and one night (some good-fit hikers can make it for a shorter time), with spending the night in one of the campgrounds along the trail.
Hiking Mount Kerinci in detail
The trail starts from the entrance of Kerinci-Seblat NP (about 1600 m altitude). The first 2,8 km, you ascend to 1820 m on a dirt road with broken asphalt here and there through a rural area with agricultural fields. Finally, you reach a station with a large marker and a sign of the real starting point of the Mount Kerinci trail.
From the entrance to Pos 1
From this point, you dive into the mountain rainforest. First, you start walking on a muddy trail that is not too steep, with a little slope. It would be easy if there wasn’t so much mud. After about 30-40 min you reach Pos 1 (a small shelter for relaxation), at 1910 m.
From Pos 1 to Pos 2
From Pos 1, the trail proceeds slowly ascending. This section is still relatively easy- muddy, but not too steep, just a bit steeper than the first section. Again, after about 40 min you reach Pos 2, at 2020 m. There isn’t even a shelter here, but only a sign. However, here is the only proper place where you can fill your bottle with fresh cold water– there is a short trail descending to the nearby pure mountain stream.
From Pos 2 to Pos 3
This section is steeper, and the level of difficulty is higher. The trail “jumps” on the roots of the trees, and in some places passes through steep muddy chutes. However, it is still in “soft style” compared with what follows next. You reach Pos 3 (2205 m) after about an hour and a half. There is a shelter here.
From Pos 3 to Camp 1
This section is again one level more difficult than the previous one- here the muddy chutes are more regular, and the steep places where you should use your hands to catch the wet and muddy tree roots are more. You ascend from 2205 to 2505 m, normally for about 2 hours. You gradually enter the mossy forest zone. Finally, you reach a small meadow with a shelter, but also arrange for camping. This is Camp 1.
From Camp 1 to Camp 2
Here the difficulty rises once more. You ascend through the mossy forest, with the most difficult muddy chute on the route. You will inevitably pass through the most difficult chute, where you may need some help- it is extremely muddy, and slippery, with no root, wood branch, or stone to catch with your hand.
With a few short exceptions, it is also very steep. It is also the longest section between the arranged spots- normally, you would need about 3,5 to 4 hours to reach Camp 2 (3050 m).
That’s why, there is a smaller campsite, arranged a bit earlier, at about 2890 m, for those who are too tired and arrive too late after the sunset- it is not Camp 2 yet (it hasn’t an official name).
From Camp 2 to Camp3
The steep trail continues ascending further. Here the mossy forest gradually turns into thick mossy bush. At least the muddy chutes are not too difficult here. But some sections are almost vertical- you have to climb on stretching roots here and there, and the park managers have installed ropes that you can catch for help. Finally, you reach Camp 3 (3280 m).
From Camp 3 to the top of Mount Kerinci
This is the final attack of the top. Camp 3 is arranged on a relatively flat section, with a small incline. Here is the end of the mossy bush- the bush gradually turns to grass and rarefy. Soon after the camp, the vegetation disappears completely. The mud disappears too and is replaced with small stones. The ascending becomes very steep again, and this time, there are no roots to catch with your hands, only stones. There are only two “relaxing” places where the slope is softer.
Here you can smell the sulphurous smoke that sometimes falls on the slope from the crater. It can irritate your throat and cause coughing, but in general, it is safe. Here the slopes are stony, with long chutes, and a strange orange-pink color with volcanic origin. Needless to say, if there is no fog, the panoramic views around you are fantastic! However, be careful, enjoy the views but watch your steps, the trail is dangerous!
The top of Mount Kerinci (3805 m)
The last 200 m (in altitude, not length!) ascend is steep. Finally, the slop suddenly ends, and you arrive at the top. Here is the sign of Mount Kerinci (Gunung Kerinci), where you can take great photos of yourself and the fantastic panoramic view all around.
But beware! The top is at the edge of the crater, and there is a vertical wall on the other side, not a slope. In other words, you are at the edge of an abyss, without any protection fence! So, don’t get too close to the edge- one wrong step for a better selfie or just curiosity “What is on the bottom” can be lethal- the crater is about 600 m deep! Anyway, you won’t see lava (if it was possible, it would mean an eruption, and nobody would be allowed to get even close to the mountain).
You may think that you can descend much faster than ascending, but that’s an illusion. Yes, it would be faster, but not too much- the trail is too difficult, slippery, and can be dangerous if you try to “run” downward.
That’s why, most hikers start on the first day in the morning and ascend to Camp 2 or 3 (or the small camp before Camp 2), and on the second day wake up while it is still dark, to reach the top at the sunrise or not too late after that. Thus, they could have a whole day to descend. And if you are tired, with a heavy backpack, and unstable footwear, the chances are that you will go out of the jungle in the dark.
That’s what I did- on the first day I spent the night in the small camp below Camp 2, and on the second day I started hiking around 3:00 am and reached the top at 9:00. Then I started descending, but due to my heavy backpack and unstable shoes, I descent to the exit of the jungle around 21:00! Of course, most of the other local hikers were better organized, with lighter backpacks and better shoes, so they were faster than me.
Anyway, if you walk in the night, it is beautiful and mysterious. Hiking above the tree zone is fantastic- you can see the whole space above you (if the sky is clear). And if you are in the jungle, you can hear various noises- from the cicada noise around 18:00 to various night animals. Sumatran tigers? Yes, they also live nearby, but they know the trail and try to stay away from the crowds of people.
Tip: After you spend the night in one of the camps, you can just leave it and attack the top without it- a lighter backpack is always better. When you descend, you can fold your tent and proceed downwards with it, nobody would steal it. I, being a solo hiker (without a guide or a porter) did it, without any problem.
How to travel to Mount Kerinci
Here is the important part. First, you have to decide, will you travel solo, or will join a tour with a guide?
Pros and cons of joining a tour
- They can arrange your transport from wherever you come- Padang, Sungai Penuh (Jambi), Bengkulu, or another place, you don’t need to worry about that.
- You have porters who would help you with your luggage- it can definitely make the hike easier.
- It is safer- you have much better protection from injury, illness, getting lost, etc.
- It can be fun- you can meet new friends and have a fun time together.
- If you are a foreigner, it can be expensive.
- You are not as free and flexible as you would be if you hike solo- after all, you should follow the group unless you pay about a million IDR for a personal guide.
- It is useless- the trail is very clear, and you can’t get lost, even in the dark. In addition, the whole trail is crowded- you will definitely not be alone but will meet people all the time.
If you anyway prefer joining a tour, click on the button below:
Independent solo hiking of Mount Kerinci
That’s what I did. You can read some information on the Internet that you can’t hike alone but always with a guide, but as of August 2023, that’s not true. I did it solo, normally, legally. I came from Padang and found a hotel in Kersik Tuo as my “base camp” not only for Mount Kerinci but also for Gunung Tujuh trek.
If you are a solo hiker, you must obtain a health certificate! They will require it at the entrance of the national park for the Mount Kerinci trek. I read on another website that you can get it in every “puskesmas” (local health center), but that’s not true- I tried in two puskesmas, and they said they can’t do it. Instead, they directed me to a bigger, “Central Puskesmas” in Padang (called also Puskesmas Seberang Padang). HERE is its location.
I went there, and they checked my body- only blood pressure, weight, and height, nothing more, and issued a health certificate for 15,000 IDR. Probably, there are other “bigger puskesmases” in Padang that also can issue a health certificate for Mount Kerinci, but if you don’t want to waste your time searching and asking, just go to that one.
Transportation from Padang
Your goal is the village of Kersik Tuo. There are no buses from Padang to Kersik Tuo, but there is a regular van (minibus) travel service from Padang to Sungai Penuh, and they can drop you in Kersik Tuo. Several companies offer this service- PT AYU Transportation, Safa Marwa, SKW, and more. Their offices (and starting points) can be found HERE. I traveled by PT AYU, and I can say that it is very convenient.
You have two options: You can go directly to their office, buy a ticket, and depart from there. When the minibus departs, first it roams around Padang, picking up people or luggage from various spots- for about 1-2 hours, until finally it leaves the city. So, the second option is to call them in advance and be one of those who they pick on the way- however, keep in mind that they most probably don’t know English, so you have to ask someone to help you make a phone call and arrange it for you. In both cases, you better call them in advance to ask for the departure time, or just go there earlier!
Minibus travel price
The price for the transport from Padang to Kersik Tuo is 150,000 IDR. Usually, all of them depart between 18:00 and 19:00 (some of them in the morning around 9:00, but you have to check it in advance- it is not every day). The travel from Padang to Kersik Tuo is between 6 and 8 hours long (they usually stop in the middle for a short rest), and you can expect crazy driving, surpassing everything on the way.
I arrived in Kersik Tuo around 2:45 in the morning- the driver dropped me exactly in front of the hotel that I had booked, it was a roadside hotel, and I had a few hours for a shower and sleep before starting my trek to Mount Kerinci.
Kersik Tuo is a big village (or a small town), located on the southern side of Mount Kerinci. It gradually gets popular among travelers since it is the main starting point for several treks- to Mount Kerinci, Lake Gunung Tujuh, the offbeat Ladeh Panjang, some beautiful riverside spots like Rawa Bento, and more.
In fact, Kersik Tuo and its smaller “satellite” villages are mostly established on both sides of the main road between Padang and Sungai Penuh. Some of these villages are even closer to the starting point of the trail.
From Kersik Tuo to the starting point
Keep in mind that once you arrive in Kersik Tuo, there is no “public transport” to the starting point of Mount Kerinci, as well as to the starting points of the other treks in the area. No buses, no taxis, and no ojeks (motorcycle taxis). And it can be a problem if you are a solo hiker.
In my case, the owner of the hotel personally took me by his scooter to the entrance (so I guess the staff of your hotel would help you too), but when I descent in the evening, I was just lucky to meet other Indonesian hikers, and one of them helped me to find a local mini-truck. Otherwise, I had to walk another 2 hours (about 6-7 km) tired, with the heavy backpack, to the hotel.
So, if you descend earlier from Mount Kerinci, after walking on the dirt road back to the entrance, probably, you can find some “ojeks” waiting there, but don’t count on it. Instead, get the phone number of your hotel and call them to come and pick you up!
Of course, those who travel organized, don’t have to think about this.
Entrance and ticket
Once you arrive at the entrance station, you have to buy a ticket. For foreigners, the price is 310,000 IDR for two days and one night. You must present your passport and the health certificate. Then, they will give you a ticket and a trash posh, wishing you a happy and safe trek.
Don’t try to hike illegally! Yes, technically, you can do it, you can skip the entrance station, but first, it is always good to be legal. Second, rangers also hike along the trail, they have the right to check your ticket, and if you can’t show it, you will be in trouble. It is always not advisable to be illegal, especially in a foreign country!
Keeping this in mind, plan your accommodation wisely. If you plan only a Mount Kerinci trek, better find a place that is enough close to the entrance station, or between the entrance station and the starting point of the trail. This is the center of Kersik Tuo, or the nearby village of Giri Mulyo, located beyond the entrance. Thus, even if you can’t arrange an ojek, you can easily just walk. You can find dozens of properties on Booking or Agoda.
But if you also plan a trek to Lake Gunung Tujuh, probably it would be better to find a place in the middle between the starting points of the two treks. That’s what I did, so I found MT Syariah Homestay Kerinci, located about 7 km from the entrance to Mount Kerinci, and 7,5 km from the entrance of Gunung Tujuh (the total distance between the two entrances is 15,5 km, and I was just in the middle). Another proper place, just 50 m from my hotel is the Zahza Hotel.
A popular campground is Pintu Rimba, located in front of the starting point of the trail. If you choose to stay there, buy your ticket in advance, walk to Pintu Rimba in the evening, spend the night there, and be ready to attack Mount Kerinci directly from the starting point early morning. And when you return, you can just spend the night there again, before leaving the area on the next day.
Packing list- what to bring for the trek
It is important to be prepared well for the trek. On the foot of the volcano, the weather is nicely cool, but above the tree line can be cold, almost freezing (although it is almost never below zero, and it never snows). Also, the weather is changeable- it is one of the wettest areas in Indonesia. It can be a nice sunny morning, but it can be rainy in the afternoon.
So, what to bring for your Mount Kerinci trek?
- Footwear. Be prepared for mud. A LOT of mud! At the same time, your shoes should be enough stable and strong- it is not uncommon to see abandoned parts of shoes here and there along the path, left by someone. Yes, you can see some happy young Indonesians hiking in slippers or even barefoot, but I would not advise it unless you have a good experience.
- Clothes. Wear long pants, shirts, a polar or a sweater. This is the basic. Then, bring your jacket. You can get hot and sweat while you ascend, but when you stop, it is different. At night, in Camps 2 and 3, the temperature can drop to about 5 to 10 C, so you don’t need to be dressed for a snowy winter, but still prepare for this temperature!
- Waterproof. Prepare for rain. While I ascent, it rained between Camps 1 and 2, and only my raincoat protected me and my backpack with the tent. But don’t bring a poncho-type raincoat, it is very difficult to climb on the muddy roots with it! Instead, bring a raincoat with sleeves and legs, and cover your backpack too.
- Camping gear. Your tent should be waterproof too. Then, just prepare a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad.
- Trekking poles. Bring them too. However, they are not always useful. For example, when you descend and catch roots and stones with your hands, the poles only balk.
- Light. Bring your headlamp! You almost certainly will walk in the dark at some point. You will also need it in the tent.
- Electric devices. People in the past didn’t have mobiles, but today your mobile with a power bank and a cable can be very helpful- you can use it for GPS, for alternative light, or for calling someone, and of course- for fantastic photos all along the trek.
- Food. Plan your food wisely. I had food for lunch and dinner on the first day, and for breakfast and lunch on the second day. It would be better to buy a gas bottle, so you can cook noodles, soup, or something else. But even if you don’t bring it, you can buy some chicken with rice from the small fast foods in Kersik Tuo.
I descended in the evening on the second day and back to my hotel. On the next day, I made another two-day and one-night trek- to Lake Gunung Tujuh. The owner of the hotel called PT AYU Transport to pick me up from the hotel on the way back to Padang. He came in the morning, traveled the whole day, at in the late afternoon I was in Padang again.
This is Mount Kerinci. Hiking to the top is not for everyone, so if you want to do it and invite your friends, warn them what to expect in advance. But for those who accept the challenge, it is worth the effort and adventure!
Check some travel books about Sumatra:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
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