With the advent of blissfully cooler weather, it’s time to take your workout outdoors. One of the most rewarding things to do is to hike in Hong Kong. Sure, gyms and fitness centres have their place, but nothing beats the stunning scenery of wild natural forests, magnificently isolated beaches, and amazing city views that you get when you’re on the trails.
For beginners there are easier hikes that take only a few hours; for pros there are enough full-day challenges to make it worth the while. Grab a picnic, plenty of water and sunscreen and head out with a few friends. You won’t regret it.
1. DRAGON'S BACK, THE HONG KONG TRAIL
Duration: About 2.5 hours
One of the most beautiful and also one of the most popular, this is a great beginner’s hike. Start at the first section with the steep stairs from Cape Collinson Cemetery, Chai Wan, to the top. The steps lead to a ridge overlooking all of southern Hong Kong – the famed Dragon’s Back. The highest point is 284m and the views are fabulous. If you’re feeling fit and have the time, you can continue towards Tai Tam Reservoir. If you aren’t that ambitious, you can decide to end at Shek O Road, walk to the beach and have lunch there.
2. MT PARKER TRAIL
Duration: About 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
This is Section 6 of the Hong Kong Trail and it branches out into multiple routes along the way: some paths go from Quarry Bay to Kornhill, some from Quarry Bay to Shek O, and some from Quarry Bay to Tai Tam Country Park through beautiful Tai Tam Reservoir. The trail starts off from Quarry Bay with a pretty steep climb for about an hour. If you need a break there are various picnic or BBQ spots along the way. At the top, you can either turn left or right: left goes to Mt Butler (uphill all the way!); right will take you down to scenic Tai Tam Reservoir (downhill all the way!). At the bottom is Tai Tam main road where you can take any public transportation back to the city. Unlike many other trails, this one is paved all the way.
3. MACLEHOSE STAGES 1 AND 2
Duration: Between 5.5-8 hours
Difficulty: Section 1 Easy; Section 2 Moderate to hard
This is the first part of the annual Oxfam Trailwalker 100km Marathon that stretches across the New Territories from east to west. If you’re participating in Trailwalker, you’re only allowed 48 hours to get your team from Stage 1 to Stage 10. For most of us though, it’s not at all necessary (or possible!) to do the full 100km to enjoy the MacLehose, and some of the most beautiful sections are the first two. Stage 1 is 10km and starts at High Island Reservoir Sai Kung and is full of vistas of the South China Sea dotted with islands; Stage 2 is 13km and is even more spectacular. It leads down towards gorgeous Tai Long Wan beach where you can rest, refresh and grab a bite at the small beach café. There are places to catch transport (sporadic ferries and mini buses) but do plan transportation times in advance. Take a swimsuit, as there are plenty of rock pools and beaches in which to cool off.
4. MACLEHOSE STAGE 5
Duration: 7-9 hours
This section of the MacLehose is tougher. Get to it by taking the MTR to Choi Hung, then a taxi to Gilwell Campsite where you will see a sign for the beginning of Stage 5. The trail goes along the Gin Drinker’s Line, where the Commonwealth troops defended Hong Kong against the Japanese in WWII. For amateur historians it is full of trail markers and pillboxes along the path, together with historic sites and shrines. After the first section, the climb begins to get tougher. Take the signpost towards Lion Rock – a must! While the climb to the top of Lion Rock is hard work, once you get there you’ll have Kowloon and Hong Kong Island spread out beneath you. Keep walking and you’ll reach a nature walk that takes you to Sha Tin. About halfway along you’ll be besieged by monkeys (even more monkeys if you continue to Stage 6) – you’ll get some great photos but they can get aggressive if they feel threatened so be warned. Stage 5 conveniently ends at a major road with a bus stop, where the number 81 bus will take you to Austin Road MTR station.
5. LANTAU PEAK
Duration: About 2-3 hours
If you’re serious about hiking, then at some stage you have to do Lantau Peak. And the best time to do it is at 4am to catch the sunrise when you summit (spending the night in the hostel at Ngong Ping is therefore a good idea). At 934m it’s the second highest peak in Hong Kong and the climb is gruelling but totally rewarding. Every time the ground levels off, you’ll hope you’re almost there…! You’re probably not, but you are offered rest stops with dramatic sweeping panoramas of the villages on the south slope and the airport to the north. To approach Lantau Peak there are a few options: you can take the direct route up stone steps for 6km; you could climb from the Big Buddha or Tung Chung Road; or you could lengthen the hike by going for the two peaks starting in Tung Chung (Sunset Peak is the third highest point in HK).
Photo caption (from left to right):
1. Dragon's Back. Photo courtesy of Joan Leung
2. Dragon's Back. Photo courtesy of Ringo Lau
3. Mt. Parker Trail
4. Maclehose Trail Section 2. Photo courtesy of Tracy Wong
5. Lantau Peak. Photo courtesy of Polly Cheuk