Top 6 Hiking Trails in Hong Kong
When most people think of Hong Kong their minds tend to drift towards crowded sidewalks, soaring skyscrapers, designer shopping centres and astonishing luxury stores, but there is another side to this city. A cursory glance at a map shows that great swathes of the territory are open space to explore. In fact, 40 percent of Hong Kong’s land mass is protected, which means there is a wealth of tree lined plains, woods, mountains, wetlands and beaches to explore. With the health benefits of hiking including reduced risk of heart disease, lower risk of blood pressure, lower risk of colon and breast cancer, reduced depression and better quality sleep, there’s no reason not to get out there and tackle one of Hong Kong’s many hiking trails. We count down six of the best trails.
Voted the Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia by Time Magazine, the Dragon’s Back Trail is a ridge that connects Wan Cham Shan (226 m) and Shek O Peak (284 m) stretching vertically over D’Aguilar Peninsula. The path undulates between these hill tops and draws its name from its similarity to the shape of a dragon’s backbone.
Once you’ve made it past the initial steep ascent, the Dragon’s Back is a wonderful hike and suitable for people of all fitness and ability levels. A cool path takes you through shaded thickets of bamboo where birdcalls can be heard, before you emerge to the open hillside, covered in wild azaleas and rose myrtle. The ridge itself affords hikers spectacular views to Clear Water Bay Peninsula and a network of islands if you look to the east, whilst a westward gaze presents views of Stanley Peninsula and the South China Sea.
Be sure to stop for a splash at Tai Long Wan or Big Wave Bay Beach, or if you’re after a little more of a challenge continue through to the village of Shek O for a drink and a rest at one of the numerous alfresco restaurants by its sandy beaches.
Distance: 3.5 kilometres
Victoria Harbour is spectacular from the bay, but ogling this world famous vista from The Peak gives a whole new perspective. The Peak, one of Hong Kong’s most famous tourist destinations, is accessible either by walking through the University of Hong Kong or by taking a tram to the Upper Peak Terminus. At this point hikers can choose between a number of different trails, electing to either climb the peak or circle around it. The Peak Circle Walk loops around the highest point in Hong Kong but allows walkers to take their time and enjoy the majestic views unfolding around each corner.
If you commence your walk around 90 minutes before sunset, you’ll be able to catch Hong Kong island’s scenic south side bathed in the afternoon light. By waiting a little longer, day gives way to twilight and you can see one of the world’s most spectacular harbours erupt into a galaxy of shimmering lights.
Difficulty: 4 / 5
Distance: 9.5 kilometres
Many of the hikes in this list are quite achievable by people of almost any degree of fitness. Lion Rock is not one of those hikes. Arguably the toughest trail on this list, it makes up part of the MacLehose Trail and is tough going, with trekkers alternating between peak climbs, stone tracks and off-road trails.
Famous for the distinctive lion shaped granite formation at its peak, the Lion Rock trail winds its way up from a forested hillside through the more sparsely covered top and eventually onto the lion’s head itself, perched a precarious 495 metres above sea level. What’s the payoff for this sweat inducing ascent? Spectacular views across the New Territories, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, so be sure to tackle the hike on a clear day to make the most of the views.
Distance: 15 kilometres
At the furthest northeastern corner of the New Territories is one of the most pristine parts of all of Hong Kong and probably one of the best places to find a bit of solitude. Because it’s not as accessible as many of the other hikes on this list, the Plover Cove Reservoir Trail is consistently one of the quietest. A single hostel and a few campsites are the only accommodation options available, so the area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.
This six-hour trek loops around the reservoir and climbs the area’s steepest peaks, which provides for breathtaking vistas of the dramatic seascape all the way to mainland China. Wander past abandoned rice fields and terraces and gaze in wonder at geological formations dating back 400 million years. Be aware that the area is quite exposed with very little shade, so be sure to carry enough water for your journey, especially throughout the warmer months.
Lamma Island District Trail
Distance: 7 kilometres
Just a 30 minute ferry ride from Central Pier 4, Lamma Island is the perfect getaway when you need a bit of time outside the city. The entire island has no motorized transport, making for a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
After beginning your day in the laid back port of Yung Shue Wan there is no shortage of ways to spend your time on the island. Wander past Lamma Winds, the 71 metre tall wind turbine and find out about renewable energy, follow the crowds and bring a picnic to the powdery white sands and clean water of Hung Shing Yeh Beach, admire the views from the hilltop pavilion, explore the Tin Hau temple on the waterfront and finish up with a stop at one of the numerous waterfront restaurants at Sok Kwu Wan. The options are endless.
Distance: 10 kilometres
Spanning an area almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island has one of the tallest peaks in the Hong Kong. Whilst the 70 kilometre long Lantau trail that loops the south of the island may be beyond the scope of the casual hiker, there are a number of smaller day hikes available for those a little less intrepid, none more spectacular than the 934-metre ascent to Lantau Peak.
Rising high above the Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Peak has become one of the more popular hiking spots in Hong Kong since the trail was opened in 1984. The trail is mostly paved but there are sections where the stone steps can be difficult to navigate. Many hikers elect to stay overnight in Ngong Ping in order to set off at 4 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. sunrise from its peak. Since the trail can become quite crowded during the day, it’s often the best way to beat the crowds and start the day refreshed and reinvigorated.