Hong Kong’s natural wonders do not have the same legendary status such as our harbour or urban skyline, but locals have long quietly enjoyed the numerous hiking trails, scattered all over the islands, Kowloon and the New Territories with varying degrees of difficulty and accessibility. Before summer starts in earnest, now maybe the best time to take to the mountains, while it’s also possible to enjoy a cool dip in the water at the beaches along the way.
Sai Kung Peninsula
In recent years, events such as Oxfam’s Trailwalker and Ultra Trail Hong Kong have helped to popularise hiking, drawing more visitors to our lush green hills. The 100km Maclehose Trail is where the former takes place. Leisure hikers normally do not hike the entire trail, but the earlier sections are enough to offer challengers and breathtaking scenery.
Going around Sai Kung Peninsula, the trail allows you to see the amazing hexagonal volcanic columns of High Island at East Dam. The route also encompasses High Island Reservoir and Long Ke Wan, two of Hong Kong’s best sights.
Starting at Pak Tam Chung and ending at Sai Wan Pavilion, the 14km hike takes around seven hours with some flat roads and paved paths. Take bus 94 and alight at Pak Tam Chung to start. At Sai Wan Pavilion, take the NR29 minibus or a taxi back to Sai Kung Town.
Po Toi Island
Located south to Hong Kong Island, Po Toi is a tiny, tranquil island in the South China Sea. Comprised mainly of easily weathered granite, the island boasts peculiar looking rocks. There is a restaurant on the beach serving simple authentic Cantonese-style seafood dishes so nourishment at the end of the three-hour, 4km hike is assured.
The trail starts and ends at Po Toi Pier. Ngau Wu Teng Pavilion is the peak of the trail where you can rest and take in the expansive sea view. The path also leads to you interesting rock formations such as the Monk Rock, Tortoise Rock, Palm Cliff as well as Nam Kok Tsui Lighthouse.
Don’t miss the 3,000-year-old rock carvings on a cliff in Nam Tum. This declared monument comprises prehistoric carvings that are now protected by a fibre glass cover. Unlike many other carvings elsewhere that are found in caves and depict animals, the Po Toi carvings are out in the open featuring indecipherable glyphs which some argue to be a lost indigenous language system.
This is probably Hong Kong Island’s signature trail, with beautiful coastal scenery that rivals the world’s best, and it is easily accessible from Island East. The popular trail offers stunning views of Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam, and the South China Sea.
This moderately difficult 8.5km trail takes an average of four hours to complete. Look for the entrance sign on Shek O Road near To Tei Wan village to start. You will end the hike in Tai Long Wan, that is, Big Wave Bay, where you can take a dip and get replenishments in the outdoor cafés. It is also a surfers’ paradise.
“Dragon’s Back” refers to the path rolling along the ridges from Shek O Peak to Wan Cham Shan. At 284m high, the scenic lookout platform on Shek O Peak is the perfect place to catch your breath while soaking in the panoramic views. A small mountain gap high up on the Dragon’s Back is a hot spot for flying kites and paragliding.
The Tung O Ancient Trail on Lantau was once an important passage for villagers commuting between Tung Chung and Tai O. The coastal trail starts at the now bustling Tung Chung with planes taking off above, passes through villages, a centuries-old temple, mangroves and bays, and ends in Tai O.
From Tung Chung Town Centre, head to San Shek Wan, meaning “scattered boulders”, as the shore is carpeted with colourful pebbles. You will pass through Sham Wat Wan, where the mangrove forests are home to a great variety of wildlife. Turn right at Sai Cho Wan to see the renowned rosy rocks.
The 16km trails takes you to Tai O in about six hours. The renowned fishing village needs no further introduction. Cafés can be found in the houses along the waterways, offering a picturesque and fulfilling way to end a long journey.