Increasing popularity and availability of portable wireless devices, which constitute mobile ad hoc networks, calls for scalable ad hoc routing protocols. On-demand routing protocols adapt well with dynamic topologies of ad hoc networks, because of their lower control overhead and quick response to route breaks. But, as the size of the network increases, these protocols cease to perform due to large routing overhead generated while repairing route breaks. We propose a multipath on-demand routing protocol (SMORT), which reduces the routing overhead incurred in recovering from route breaks, by using secondary paths. SMORT computes fail-safe multiple paths, which provide all the intermediate nodes on the primary path with multiple routes (if exists) to destination. Exhaustive simulations using GloMoSim with large networks (2000 nodes) confirm that SMORT is scalable, and performs better even at higher mobility and traffic loads, when compared to the disjoint multipath routing protocol (DMRP) and ad hoc on-demand distance vector (AODV) routing protocol. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.