Hong Kong has a miraculous ability to surprise you – and one thing that constantly inspires me here is the great hiking. If you’ve been to Hong Kong and haven’t gone on a hike, then you are missing out on half of the city! The skyscrapers and rooftop bars have their own charm, but there is nothing like a hike for getting away. It really is the best way to take advantage of our incredible forests, wild isolated beaches, and stellar city views.
Sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to leave your cosy apartment, but give it a try and you’ll never look back. If you’re a beginner, easy hikes take only a few hours; once you get better, try some of the mountains that can take a full day. If you’re looking for a way to get some exercise, hiking is a stunning way to do it, plus you simply can’t beat the accessibility of Hong Kong’s public transport for getting there – and the beautiful scenery you’ll see once you do! So grab some friends and check out our top five hikes in Hong Kong!
Dragon’s Back Ridge, the Hong Kong Trail: for beginners who still want the views
This is one of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong, and rightly so. As the easiest hike on my list, it is short, simple and incredibly scenic. The best thing about Dragon’s Back is its accessibility – all you have to do is take the MTR to Chai Wan and start walking. You can easily fit this into a morning or afternoon, so it’s perfect for those busy Hong Kong schedules!
The first section consists of stairs through Cape Collinson Cemetery, and once you finish those, it’s a 1 or 2-hour hike along the ridge overlooking southern Hong Kong Island – a total breeze! Certain parts are wooded and boast beautiful plant life, whilst the rest is on a ridge overlooking the sea. The highest point on the trail is only 284 metres, but the views are worthy of a much more difficult hike. If it’s a cloudy day you can still enjoy the slopes, but you may not see as far into the distance.
Start at Chai Wan and head up the stairs, then either turn to end at Shek O Road or carry on. If you’re feeling ambitious and have extra time, you can do more of the Hong Kong Trail by continuing towards the Tai Tam Reservoir, where you’ll get to see even more of Hong Kong’s landscape. If you decide to end at Shek O Road, you could take a bus back north… but I reckon the beach is a much better idea! Pack a swimsuit and a towel before you leave, then take the #9 bus South, or walk to Shek O beach.
For more directions, read here.
Lamma Island: unique villages, forests and urban beaches
This is a lovely day trip (see our article here!) and a relatively easy hike. Most of the paths are paved, there are vistas around every corner, and the villages and beaches have a distinct character (one beach overlooks the power plant). The main trail is one of the only ways to get between the villages on land; since Lamma is not accessible by car, walkers and bikers are everywhere.
Being a small island, you can easily wander around the network of trails and discover hidden gems without ever being too far from the way home. Head south of Sok Kwu Wan for some simple but less-travelled trails with deep forests, Buddhist shrines and beaches – since there are less walkers in this area, you’ll feel even more of an explorer!
My recommendation is to take the ferry from Central to Sok Kwu Wan (see the timetables here) and end at Yung Shue Wan where there is a larger village with more restaurants – some people even reckon that they have the best Indian food in Hong Kong! Check out the beaches on the way there, then have a leisurely dinner and drinks looking over the water.
MacLehose Stages 1 & 2: secluded villages, beaches, and cliffs
The MacLehose trail is 100km of hiking that stretches across the New Territories, East to West. Every fall, there is a race that covers the entire 100k – the Oxfam TrailWalker, where you’re allowed 48 hours to get your team from stage 1 to stage 10. If that doesn’t sound like your game, you don’t have to do the full 100k to enjoy MacLehose, so definitely check out a stage or two on your own.
The most beautiful tropical sections are stages one and two in Sai Kung. If you begin from stage one, start the day early. Stage one is 10km and stage two is 13km. There are places to catch transport (ferries and mini buses have sporadic service along the trails) but you should plan your transportation times in advance, as the journey to start the hike is long in itself (it can take an hour or more on public transport).
However, once you get there, you will never want to leave! Make sure you pack a swimsuit – stage one starts at the High Island reservoir, where you can sneak in some fun cliff jumping in Sheung Luk stream. After the swim, the hike is full of rolling hills and ocean views, complete with islands dotting the sea.
Stage two might be even more spectacular. As you begin to travel north, you’ll see the most famous beach in Hong Kong – Tai Lung Wan. There is a restaurant on the beach that also rents tents so if you don’t make it as far as you’d hoped, grab a drink and camp overnight with your friends! As you continue on the trail, you will pass by the deserted village of Chek Keng, which is completely empty except for a ferry pier (which takes you to HKU) and dilapidated buildings still containing family portraits and tea sets. Make sure you have a camera for the eerie village and the spectacular tropical views.
For more directions, read here.
MacLehose Stage 5, Lion Rock: history and monkeys
This hike has an amazing variety of sites – from historic artefacts to wild monkeys! The first part of the trail is fairly easy and goes along the Gin Drinker’s Line, where the Commonwealth troops defended Hong Kong against the Japanese in WWII. You can see trail markers and pillboxes all along the path, whilst the historic sites alternate with shrines and blend into the surroundings. After the first section, you’ll walk along a road and pass a café where you can grab some food; after that, the climb really begins!
As you continue on the trail, you’ll see an option to go to Lion Rock – definitely do this! This stage of the MacLehose is a little more difficult than the first sections but if you climb to the top of Lion Rock, you can see all of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It’s a great place to have a picnic and take photos that show off the drama of Hong Kong.
The historic monuments and views from Lion Rock aren’t all that this trail has to offer. Keep going on the path and you’ll come to a weather observatory, and then a nature walk that takes you to Sha Tin. About halfway along this, you’ll encounter a full monkey colony (with even more monkeys if you continue onto stage six) – so if you like monkeys, have fun! You’ll get some fantastic photographs but be careful, as loud noises might make them aggressive.
To start at the beginning of stage five, take the MTR to Choi Hung, then a taxi to Gilwell Campsite. Walk past the campground until the end of the road, where you will see a sign for the beginning of stage five. Stage five conveniently ends at a major road with a bus stop, where the number 81 bus will take you all the way back to Austin MTR station.
For more directions, read here.
Lantau Peak: climbing the mountain
There are dozens of great hikes you can do on Lantau Island but since I’m particularly partial to climbing mountains, my top pick is Lantau Peak. At 934 metres, it’s the second highest peak in Hong Kong and the climb is stunning if, at times, gruelling. It’s a must for any hiker!
Every time the ground levels off, you’ll hope you’re almost there… You’re probably not, but you are rewarded with dramatic sweeping slopes where you can see the villages on the South side and the airport to the North as you ascend! If you climb on a cloudy day, you’ll still see some things but there might be a fog at the peak; even if you can’t see miles around, the accomplishment of scaling 934 metres is intoxicating.
After you’ve reached the summit, I recommend that you hike straight down to a beach on the South side. Nothing feels better than jumping into the ocean after a 5 hour hike! There are also great restaurants near most of the beaches, so clean up a bit and grab a bite to eat.
There are many ways to approach the mountain. I take the direct route up the huge stone steps for 6 km, but you could also climb from the Big Buddha or Tung Chung Road, or lengthen the hike by going for the two peaks starting in Tung Chung (Sunset Peak is the third highest point in HK). This is a popular climb and as the different trails converge, you’ll see other trekkers waving genially as you walk by or sitting on benches for a much-needed break (and you’ll probably soon be joining them!).
For more directions, read here.
A couple more HK hiking tips:
• Pack a swimsuit and a spare shirt (or be prepared to get your clothes wet – with both sweat and ocean water!).
• Use bug spray to avoid mosquitos and sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. Pack plenty of water and salty snacks and definitely bring a camera (put it in a plastic bag if you’re worried about rain). You should also pack a first aid kit just in case, plus extra sunblock and bug spray.
• You are usually within an hour (or less) of public transport or a phone station, but take some precautions anyway. Make sure you look up directions beforehand and bring a trail map with you. You should always tell someone where you’re going, and try to bring along a friend to hike with – much safer and far more fun! There are often PCCW emergency phones near trail heads, whilst emergency crews are reassuringly well-practiced at getting people out of bad situations just in case; I once saw someone evacuated by a crew of 15 officers, so you’re in safe hands.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out Jamie’s post on her top five running spots on HK Island here too.
Jamie writes about Hong Kong life on her blog jamielynnolson.wordpress.com.