For many travelers, Hong Kong means shopping, dining, entertainment, and amusement. What many visitors may not be aware of, however, is that Hong Kong is also a great hiking destination: a fact that should be of interest to our country’s growing number of outdoor enthusiasts.
Granted, the territory does not have the high mountains of Taiwan or grand mountain ranges of Nepal, but behind its skyscrapers are numerous peaks with well-maintained, easily accessible trails and--surprisingly--impressive scenery.
What’s more, you can do pretty much any of the hikes in a day (even though there are also multi-day options like the famed MacLehose Trail). No need for guides or registration fees -- just arrive in the trailhead and follow the well-marked paths!
Just like the Philippines, Hong Kong is a year-round hiking destination, but the best time to hike is actually in the winter months of December to February, when its mostly dry and cool. Whether you’re on vacation or a business trip, whether you want to escape from your family and friends or take them along, here are five dayhikes you can easily do while in Hong Kong:
(1) Dragon’s Back Trail
Voted as "Asia's Best Urban Trail,” this one boasts of convenient access, easy trails and fantastic scenery in Hong Kong Island. The trail is so popular that it’s quite common to see locals dressed as if they’re in Disneyland; don’t be surprised to see women wearing heels. Despite its popularity, however, there’s always a quiet corner -- either a bench or a rocky ledge -- where you can relax and enjoy the views of Hong Kong’s southern coast.
For a really easy hike, one can do a five-kilometre loop that takes you to the Shek O Peak (284 meters) and around the pleasantly-forested ridge. You can also opt for a traverse to Big Wave Bay, making for a longer (8 kms) -- but still easy -- adventure. Dragon’s Back is one hiking destination where you can bring your whole family -- including the kids!
Hiking time: 2-3 hours (loop); 2.5-4 hours (traverse)
How to get there: At Shau Kei Wan MTR Station walk from Exit A and cross over to Shau Kei Wan Bus to take Bus 9 bound for “Shek O”. Get off at the To Tei Wan stop on Shek O Road. If you decide to traverse, you can take a red minibus with the sign “Shau Kei Wan” to take you back to the MTR Station.
(2) Lion Rock Hill
Another easy hike that can be completed in half a day, Lion Rock is a 495-meter granite peak in between Kowloon and the New Territories. As the name suggests, the mountain is shaped like a lion, and the highlight of the hike is a climb up the ‘lion’s head’. Throughout much of the hike, one can have breathtaking views of the Kowloon skyline, Hong Kong island, and on a clear day even Lantau Island and its peaks.
The first section of the hike actually involves walking up a rood just to reach the official trailhead -- which can be quite taxing as it takes around 40 minutes. However, this effort is easily rewarded once the views emerge from the hike proper with plenty of scenic spots. As with Dragon’s Back, the default option is just to head back the same way, but you can also opt to walk all the way to Kowloon Reservoir.
Hiking time: 4-5 hours (loop); 2.5-4 hours (traverse)
How to get there: At Won Tai Sin MTR Station walk from Exit B3 to Shatin Pass Road until you see an wooden archway titled “Lion Rock Country Park”. From this point it is a straightforward ascent.
(3) Lantau Peak
At 934 meters, the second-highest point in all of Hong Kong, Lantau Peak is the highest point in Lantau Island, where Hong Kong International Airport is located. (If you have a relatively-long layover, you can actually go out of the airport just to do this hike!) Lantau Peak offers rolling grassland slopes reminiscent of Mt. Pulag but instead of the Cordilleras, the surrounding view features the coastal landscapes of Hong Kong.
Although more difficult than either Lion Rock or Dragon’s Back (there are relatively steep sections), it is still a very manageable hike, with a well-marked trail that regular hikers can do in half a day. From Lantau Peak, most hikers opt to descend to Ngong Ping, which is an attraction in itself with a big bronze buddha statue, the Tian Tan Buddha. The entire hike takes takes just 5 kilometres!
Hiking time: 3-5 hours (Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping)
How to get there: From Tung Chung MTR Station, take Bus 3, 3M, 11, or 23 and get off at Pak Kung Au (You can also take a cab). On the way back from Ngong Ping, there are also buses - as well as a cable car - going back to Tung Chung.
(4) Sunset Peak
Sharing the same trailhead as Lantau Peak in Pak Kung Au, Sunset Peak is Hong Kong’s third highest peak (869m), offering similar views as its taller neighbor. The conventional trail across Sunset Peak is longer (7 kms) and slightly more difficult than Lantau Peak, but again, it is very manageable -- and can even be combined with Lantau Peak for a challenging (and very rewarding) day.
Sunset Peak is famed for its beautiful twilight views, but it can actually be done throughout the day. An early morning or late afternoon hike is recommended to avoid the intense heat. The trail ends in Mui Wo which offers a number of restaurants and cafes -- and a direct ferry to Hong Kong.
Hiking time: 4-6 hours (Pak Kung Au to Mui Wo)
How to get there: As with Lantau Peak (above), one can take a Bus 3, 3M, 11, or 23 from Tung Chung MTR Station to Pak Kung Au. At Mui Wo there are buses back to Tung Chung and a regular ferry (twice-hourly on weekends) to Hong Kong.
(5) Ma On Shan
Located in the New Territories, the 702-meter Ma On Shan literally means “"horse saddle mountain” and features subtropical forests interrupted by rolling, grassy hills made colorful with rhododendron blooms that arrive in early spring. The relative difficulty of the hike -- which is actually a section of the long-distance MacLehose Trail -- makes it a favourite of local hikers.
As a testament to the myriad possibilities in Hong Kong, there are various trails up Ma On Shan, but the recommended option is a loop hike that goes the 536-meter Pyramid Hill: an attraction in its own right and actually an easier (and no less worthy) target if you decide to cut your hike short.
Hiking time: 5-7 hours (loop); 3-5 hours (Pyramid Hill only)
How to get there: From Exit B of Ma On Shan MTR station, take a cab to Ma On Shan Barbecue Park. There are also infrequent buses (e.g. minibus 84NR) but if hiking with two or three companions, the cab is more efficient and economical.
1. Don’t underestimate the hikes - come physically, mentally, and materially prepared! Do online research about the latest updates on trail and transport information
2. Always let at least one person know about your itinerary and expected time of return.
3. Hong Kong has an app called “Safeguard HK” with a hiker tracking function that shares your real-time location to authorities in case of an accident. Consider using this app especially if you’re hiking alone.
4. Normally you can wear the same clothes you wear on Philippine mountains, but weather can change quickly: bring a windbreaker and a jacket as it can get quite cold especially in the winter months
5. An Octopus card is a must-have if you’re taking public transport!
6. As in any other place, be sure to practice the Leave No Trace principles.