Before I came to Hong Kong, I had never hiked. In fact, my idea of exercise was opening a tin of Aldi pasta sauce (and if you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know how much of a workout that can be). It was probably one of the biggest surprises to me that Hong Kong is laden with some of the greatest hikes in Asia and I soon became addicted. Even one hike a week doesn’t scratch the surface of Hong Kong’s natural beauty but here’s some of my personal favourites – from leisurely, scenic strolls to hikes that force you to literally crawl out of bed the next morning…
Dragon’s Back (Hong Kong Trail Section 8) || Duration: 2 hours || Difficulty: Fairly Easy
This is the quintessential Hong Kong hike. It’s certainly the most well-known for tourists and locals alike. Forming part of the 50km Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island, Dragon’s Back is so named because of its rugged terrain. Despite this, it’s a fairly leisurely hike and is a great first trek to try out in Hong Kong. It’s the hike that got me addicted to rambling in Hong Kong. Even better? It finishes off at Big Wave Bay so you can beach bum to your heart’s content once the hike is finished.
Getting there: MTR to Shau Kei Wan (Island Line). Exit A3. Then take bus 9 and alight at ‘To Tei Wan’. The same bus or a minibus can be used to return to the MTR afterwards.
Wilson Trail Section 2 || Duration: 3 hours || Difficulty: Medium
Another one of Hong Kong’s ‘big three’ trails, the Wilson Trail spans from the very bottom of Hong Kong Island all the way up to the border with China. Section 2, however, stays on the island and I love this section because it’s got a bit of everything. It kicks off with a gradual incline up to Jardine’s Lookout (above) with sweeping views of Hong Kong’s harbour. Then, to your right, you get equally gorgeous views of Tai Tam Reservoir. Finally it meanders up over a dam and provides you with a bit more of a workout. It’s the hike that keeps on giving.
Getting there: Take bus number 6 from Exchange Square (Central) and alight at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park stop. The trail finishes at Tai Koo MTR station (Island Line).
Maclehose Trail Section 2 || Duration: 3-4 hours || Difficulty: Medium
Probably the biggest of the big daddies, the huge (100km) Maclehose Trail is well known in Hong Kong for its outstanding beauty, the most notable of which can be seen during the early stages. After meandering past stunning views like the one above, you can rest your legs at not one but two beautiful beaches over the course of this hike. If you want to chill even longer, you can pitch a tent and camp at them too. The second beach, Ham Tin Wan, is definitely my favourite and has a couple of small restaurants and camping equipment available. The second half of the hike is a bit more strenuous whereas the motivation of a beautiful beach makes the first half a bit of a breeze.
Getting there: There are a number of buses which go to Sai Kung, the closest town to the trail. A red minibus goes from Dundas Street in Mong Kok or, alternatively, take bus 92 from Diamond Hill MTR (green Kwun Tong line). When in Sai Kung, take the white minibus 29R from outside McDonald’s.
Garden Hill || Duration: 15 minutes || Difficulty: Easy
Not so much a hike as an urban diversion, Garden Hill is one of my favourite chill spots in Hong Kong. A 15 minute climb up some relentless but well-maintained steps provide you with a dazzling view over Kowloon and it’s a prime photographer’s spot at sunset. Even when the hordes gather to get those coveted snaps, it manages to maintain a tranquility about it as you watch the madness of Hong Kong below. It’s definitely one of my favourites.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Sham Shui Po station (red Tsuen Wan Line) and exit D2. Walk straight until you reach Berwick Street then follow the sign and turn right up the steps.
Lion Rock || Duration: 2-3 hours || Difficulty: Fairly Difficult
There are a lot of animal-shaped rocks in Hong Kong which make you think, ‘Hm, really?’ but Lion Rock really does have a faint whiff of lion about it. Adding to its charm is the panoramic view of Kowloon you get from it, though it’s a pretty tough workout to get up there. Even before the hike begins, there’s a knackering climb up a long, inclining road. Then the final ascent up to the rock is one which your legs definitely won’t thank you for. It’s a great hike for earning some extra Maccies credits though. Going on a rare non-hazy day will make the view all the more magnificent.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Wong Tai Sin (green Kwun Tong line) and walk all the way up Sha Tin Road to the beginning of the trail. The hike will finish close to Wong Tai Sin MTR again.
Braemar Hill || Duration: 2 hours || Difficulty: Easy
I’m always on the lookout for great sunset spots in Hong Kong and I was delighted to add this one to my list recently. It’s rare in Hong Kong to be able to get a vantage point encompassing both sides of the harbour and the setting sun but Braemar Hill manages to achieve it. What’s even more impressive is that it’s a very gentle stroll to get there. If you want to bag the really spectacular views, there’s a bit of off-road scrambling to be done but it’s nothing too strenuous and the reward is more than worth it.
Getting there: Go to Admiralty MTR station (Island Line/Tsuen Wan Line/South Island Line) and take Exit A. Turn left and take minibus 24M to the terminus. You can either retrace your steps and return on the 24M or follow the trail all the way to Tai Koo MTR station.
Brick Hill || Duration: 2 hours || Difficulty: Easy
Another easy hill climb on Hong Kong Island that’s definitely worth a look is Brick Hill to the south the island. A leisurely climb up to Brick Hill’s helipad gives you fantastic views over the many islands and beaches that are dotted around this part of the region. An extra quirk are the background screams and rollercoaster whirring from Hong Kong’s much-loved theme park, Ocean Park down below. The recent opening of the South Island MTR line makes this hike more accessible than ever and would make for a lovely morning stroll.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Wong Chuk Hang station (light green South Island Line) and walk all the way up Nam Long Shan Road to Brick Hill.
Po Lo Shan || Duration: 3 hours || Difficulty: Medium
Hong Kong seems to have a bit of a thing for pineapple texture. The renowned sweet snack pineapple buns don’t have an ounce of pineapple in them and are so named because their crumbly texture resembles that of a pineapple. The same logic stands for Po Lo Shan – the ‘Pineapple Dam’. This is a true out of the way hike, so much so that you can see China not so far in the distance as you trek. That’s not all this hike has to offer though. There are luscious hills; Hong Kong’s answer to the Grand Canyon; plenty of Mars-esque terrain and, to round it off, a marshy beach (Ha Pak Nai) which is heralded as one of Hong Kong’s best sunset spots. Sometimes going the distance isn’t a bad thing.
Getting there: Take the MTR or bus to Siu Hong (purple West Rail Line) then take Light Rail 505 to Leung King. The trail starts just off Tin King Road. To return, take the green minibus from Ha Pak Nai back to the MTR station. If you are returning after sunset, be aware that the minibus queue will be very, very long.
If you want to try out any of these hikes, visit the Hong Kong hikers’ bible – Hike Hong Kong – and search for them. The blog gives full directions and instructions for each hike.