Get ready for the hiking season. Where to go and what to bring.
The hiking season is upon us. Over the next few months as the weather cools down, this is the best time to get out and enjoy Hong Kong’s vast array of hiking routes. Our selection is by no means exhaustive, but whether you’re looking for an easy hike for visitors or a challenging thigh-burner of a climb, we’ve got you covered. Plus, expert tips and places to get your gear.
Spectacular views of Shek O mansions, beaches, and the South China Sea without a punishing climb. Named after its hilltop undulations, Dragon’s Back is ideal for visitors – you can do it in a morning or an afternoon. Busy on weekends, this section of the Hong Kong Trail is also popular with paragliders and owners of model aircraft. The walk can drag on a little towards the end but ending up at Big Wave Bay (Tai Long Wan) is suitable compensation – look out for the turning and don’t forget your swimsuit. There are a few cafes here, but for a larger meal head to Shek O, a few minutes down the road in a taxi – you can catch a cab in the car park. It’s possible to walk there but we wouldn’t advise it: there’s no pavement and vehicles travel fast along this stretch of road.
Get a taxi or, from Exit A3 at Shau Kei Wan MTR station, take bus 9 to To Tei Wan on Shek O Road. The hike starts up the stairs as soon as you get off the bus.
At 495 metres, Lion Rock in north Kowloon is the 52nd highest mountain in Hong Kong and part of Stage 5 of the MacLehose trail. The first (relatively easy) section of the trail takes you along the Gin Drinker’s Line, where Commonwealth troops defended Hong Kong against the Japanese in World War II. The ascent up Lion Rock is more challenging and very steep in parts. Once at the top, look north to see the New Territories and south for views of the Kowloon Peninsula and Victoria Harbour. On a clear day you can see as far as Hong Kong Island. Other famous sites along the hike include Amah Rock and Beacon Hill. Watch out for the wild fauna including the Black-eared Kite and Long-tailed Macaque.
We recommend starting at Wong Tai Sin MTR station and heading up Shatin Pass Road until you reach the start of the trail. The most popular route (three-four hours) comes full circle and finishes back at the station.
TWIN PEAKS AND VIOLET HILL
For a workout packing a serious punch, look no further than Violet Hill and the Twin Peaks – also known as the Terrible Twins for its seemingly never ending series of steps (over 1,000, actually). This 4.8km trek from Wong Nai Chung Gap (Parkview) to Stanley is classified as “very difficult” by the AFCD and gives any stair-climber at the gym a run for its money. The two- to three- hour hike is hard work, but those who accept the challenge are rewarded with a great workout and incredible views of the outlying islands – maybe even, as in the case of one friend, a marriage proposal. We strongly advise doing the hike this way round (Parkview to Stanley) – when you’re halfway up the first peak, cursing whoever it was who invented the step, visions of Stanley’s food, drink and gentle ocean breeze will keep you going. Two things to remember. One: the hike starts with an ascent up Violet Hill. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve conquered the first peak with ease. Two: the first peak is much harder than the second.
Buses 6, 63 and 66 all go to Parkview and most taxi drivers are familiar with the start of the hike, signposted by a trail map and a set of stairs leading into the woods adjacent to Parkview. Follow them up. The trail finishes on Stanley Gap Road at the Wilson Trail bus stop where you can catch a bus or taxi into Stanley.
PO TOI ISLAND
Foaming waves crash against rugged cliffs on Hong Kong’s southernmost island, a criss-cross of hiking trails over granite hills with unmatched views over the South China Sea. Here, you’ll find Ming Kee restaurant, situated beachside on a huge wooden deck and widely known to serve the best black pepper squid in Hong Kong. The seafood is fresh and the excellent set meals are good value, although prices rise considerably if you order a la carte, and there’s a good selection of wines and beers. Thirty years ago, Po Toi was home to about a thousand people, most of whom lived around the main cove. Drawn by the booming city, all but a handful have since left. From Po Toi Public Pier, turn right for a one-hour stroll to the southern headland. For a longer adventure, head for the store run by Mr and Mrs Ng – who collect and sell seaweed (Porphyra suborbiculata), which is reportedly good for a range of ailments – at a junction near the pier. Turn right at the seaweed store onto a trail and follow it upwards. Along the way, you’ll pass Old Mo’s House, or the Ghost House, a ruin occupied by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Other attractions include Palm Rock, a Tin Hau temple, and rock formations resembling a turtle and a monk (you may need a good imagination to make the association).
Ming Kee is open daily and busy at weekends, so book in advance (11.30am-10pm, 2849 7038). Tsui Wah Ferries (2272 2022) operates services to Po Toi from Aberdeen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and from Stanley Blake Pier on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays ($40 return). See www.traway.com.hk for timetables.
Known for its seafood, laidback lifestyle and friendly community, Lamma Island is just 30 minutes and a world away from Aberdeen. There are separate ferry services from Aberdeen to both of the main villages on the island: Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan.
Yung Shue Wan, in the northwest, is the main “town”, with alleyways bursting with trinket shops, restaurants, bars and organic shops. It’s a short walk to two beaches: Power Station Beach – home to the island’s Full Moon Parties – and the busier Hung Shing Yeh Beach, with lifeguards.
Alternatively, embark on a 45-minute walk over the hill to Sok Kwu Wan on the east coast, famous for its strip of seafood restaurants. Rainbow Seafood Restaurant runs a Fishermen’s Village tourist experience on fishing rafts out in the bay for a fun diversion. Or try old stalwart the Lamma Hilton for superb black-pepper prawns. After lunch, take the easy 15-minute trail to pretty Lo Shing Beach on the west coast More serious hikers might consider tackling Mount Stenhouse, Lamma’s highest peak at 353 metres.
Catch a wooden kaido from Aberdeen (the last pier before the fish market) to Sok Kwu Wan (www.ferry.com.hk) or Yung Shue Wan (www.td.gov.hk). For details of events, visit www.lamma.com.hk. Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, 2982 8100. Lamma Hilton Shum Kee Restaurant, 2982 8290.
PAT SING LENG
Deep in the New Territories lies Pat Sin Leng (“the Eight Fairies”), a range of eight peaks set amidst emerald lakes. Each peak is named after one of the eight fairies in Chinese mythology. The highest peak is Shun Yeung Fung (591m), whose summit offers a panorama of the Northeastern landscape. Experienced hikers may enjoy Stage 9 and Stage 10 of the Wilson Trail, which take you along the ridges of Wong Leng, Lai Pek Shan and Pat Sin Leng. The trail is difficult in terms of elevation and distance, but you’ll enjoy spectacular views of rolling green hills against the backdrop of Plover Cove Reservoir. On a clear day, you can see Shenzhen in the distance.
For something less strenuous, try the 4.4km (2.5 hours) trail from Tai Mei Tuk to Bride’s Pool. Numbered signboards (from 1 to 22) will help you to navigate and the two waterfalls at Bride’s Pool are a great way to end the walk – although the route can get busy at weekends. Take the MTR to Tai Po Market MTR Station. Section 9 starts on the summit of Cloudy Hill – to get there, take a taxi from the station to Tai Po Tau Drive and walk. Alternatively, to get to Tai Mei Tuk, catch green minibus 20C from the station.
NG TUNG CHAI WATERFALLS
A stone’s throw from the high rises of Tai Po, the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls are one of Hong Kong’s best-kept secrets. Climb into a steep-sided world enveloped in dense rainforest and peppered with flowing cascades. Despite the area’s accessibility, it offers an escape from the crowds at weekends. During the week, you’re likely to have this tropical wonderland all to yourself. Allow four to five hours for the moderately strenuous 6km walk to the three main falls, including swimming time.
Catch a taxi or bus 64K from Tai Wo MTR Station (Exit A) to Ng Tung Chai village, then follow the road uphill to the trailhead. Pass by Man Tak Monastery and head up the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan – Hong Kong’s highest peak. Take a dip at each of the waterfalls and rest easy knowing it’s only a 45-minute walk from the Bottoms Falls to Lam Kam Road to grab a bus.
PAK TAM CHUNG TO LONG KE WAN
Also known as Section 1 of the MacLehose trail, the route begins at Pak Tam Chung and continues along Sai Kung Man Yee Road, skirting the south side of High Island Reservoir in Sai Kung East Country Park. Built in the late 1970s, following severe water shortages in the previous decade, the reservoir was created by damming the two ends of a narrow sea channel between High Island and the mainland, submerging half a dozen villages in the process and requiring four hundred Hakka villagers to relocate. The reservoir holds over 270 million cubic metres of water – 40 times the capacity of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir.
At just under 11km, Section 1 takes around three hours. The beginning of the trail is mostly flat and the few climbs are gradual. Walk across the two dams and make the short climb over to lovely Long Ke Wan beach for a swim. Notice the unusual hexagonal rock formations nearby, formed of rhyolite, a fine grained volcanic rock formed when lava cools rapidly.
Section Two goes through the north half of Sai Kung East Country Park, to its border along the Pak Tam Road. From Long Ke, make the steep ascent to Sai Wan Shan. Enjoy fantastic views over the coastline – and north towards Sharp Peak. The trail drops down to Sai Wan, then follows the beaches to Ham Tin, turning inland over the coastal hills. It ends at Pak Tam Au.
Section 1 starts at Pak Tam Chung. Take bus 94 or 96R (or minibus 7 or 9) from Sai Kung Town and get off at the Pak Tam Chung Terminus, next to the Pak Tam Chung Barrier Gate. The starting point is by the junction of Pak Tam Road and Man Yee Road.
TAI TAM COUNTRY PARK
Tai Tam Country Park occupies one fifth of Hong Kong Island’s land area. Both the Hong Kong Trail (Stages 5 & 6) and the Wilson Trail (stages 1 & 2) cut through the park, which contains four reservoirs as well as a variety of war remnants – Tai Tam was a battleground during World War II. During the war, most of its vegetation was severely damaged, but systematic reforestation has paid off, and today the park is full of life. Stage 5 of the Hong Kong Trail takes you to the summit of Jardine’s Lookout, from where you can enjoy a 180-degree panorama of Victoria Harbour. You’ll also see the ruins of a bungalow, once the residence of James Matheson, the original Scottish founder of Jardine Matheson & Co. Ltd. Follow the trail eastward to ascend a second peak: Mount Butler. Stage 5 ends with a series of 599 steps down to Quarry Gap, where you’ll find a picnic and barbecue area and toilets. Stop for a quick rest before heading on to Stage 6 – an easier downhill walk towards Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir, followed by a short unpaved hike towards Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir. Eventually, you’ll arrive at Tai Tam Road, from where you can catch a bus or taxi to Stanley, or continue on to Stage 7.
To get to the starting point of Stage 5 of the Hong Kong Trail at Wong Nai Chung Gap, take CityBus No.6.
SHING MUN REDOUBT
The Gin Drinkers Line (named after Gin Drinkers Bay, now part of Kwai Fong) was a 13-mile “Oriental Maginot Line” of pillboxes, lookout positions and artillery observation posts that snaked through difficult terrain north of Kowloon. The lynch pin was the Shing Mun Redoubt, which comprises an intricate tunnel network linking pillboxes,bunkers, a Command Post and artillery. The tunnels are named after famous London streets, such as Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly and Charing Cross.
The bullet-scarred remnants of these fortifications being reclaimed by the forest are all that remain of a battle that was over almost before it started.
To get there, take a taxi (there are car parks if you plan a round trip) to the start of Stage 6 of the MacLehose Trail on Tai Po Road, and stroll alongside the Kowloon Reservoirs. You’ll soon become aware of a modern invader – hordes of rhesus macaques. The walk to the Shing Mun Redoubt is an easy 4.6 km (90 minutes). Follow the signs for the MacLehose Trail (not the Wilson Trail). If you’re doing a return trip, follow the “M” signs one way, and “W” the other. This stage finishes at Shing Mun Reservoir, where you can picnic. To leave, head to the west of the reservoir and connect with Shing Mun Road to catch a cab.
GET THE GEAR
Asia Pacific Adventure, Wong Chuk Hang
Shop online or in store. Unit A, 16/F, Gee Chang Hong Centre, 65 Wong Chuk Hang Road, 2792-7128. Open Monday to Friday, 10am-7pm.
Shop online or in store. 110, Level 1, the pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, 2395 2778. Open Monday to Sunday, 10am-8pm.
Stocks a range of international sports brands. Shop G11-G14, G/F, Port Centre, 38 Chengtu Road, Aberdeen, 2814 1208. Open Monday to Sunday, 10:30am-9:30pm.