Look out your window, wherever you are. Chances are you can see a mountainous outline behind whatever building is blocking your view. You could be out there climbing it! One of Hong Kong’s most distinctive features is not the skyline we all know so well, but the vast areas of green space between the developed belts.
Striking out into the wilderness is a daunting prospect if you’re new to it, so we’ve put together a list of the best beginner treks in Hong Kong, whether you want to try out hiking or trail running. There is no need to feel intimidated by these mini adventures. None will take more than two hours, not including getting there or back. Trainers, water, snacks and a selfie-capable phone are all you need (yep… that selfie stick you got for Secret Santa might come in handy…).
The Morning Trail
The accessible, paved route makes this the best candidate for your first push into the city’s green spaces. The trailhead is an easy walk from Central, making it ideal for before or after work. We suggest you ignore the name and strike out in the evening, as the path is well lit and the city views are particularly spectacular at night. The trail starts on Hatton Road near Hong Kong University. It begins with a long winding uphill to a small park on Lugard Road. Once there, you can take a left on Lugard for a longer flat walk with incredible views of the city skyline or a right for a shorter stroll that passes outdoor exercise stations and has views of the South side of the island, both ending at the familiar Peak Galleria.
Get there: Take the number 13 bus to the Kotewall Road Bus Terminus or a taxi to Hatton Road. Walk up the hill at Hatton Road and it will turn into the trail.
Length: 2.8km or 4km, depending on direction
Time at a leisurely pace: 45 min to 1 hour
Avoiding wrong turns: When you get to the top of the hill at the park, keep walking toward Lugard road; do not take a right.
Biggest climb: A moderately steep 200 meters
Get home: The Peak Galleria offers several bus options, The Peak Tram or a taxi home. For a longer walk, take the steps down to the public restroom near the start of Lugard road. This leads down Old Peak Road and back into Central.
If you haven’t done this hike, you’ve heard of it. Heck, you’ve probably heard about it so often that you’ve lied about having done it, not wanting to admit you haven’t! Named for the rugged ridge-line that runs up the Southwest peninsula of Hong Kong Island, Dragon’s Back offers panoramic views of Stanley and Shek O where it’s not unusual to see paragliders drifting along the hills. After a gradual uphill for the first kilometre and a half, there are a few small climbs followed by flat and downhill trails, finishing in the tucked away Big Wave Bay. It is the ideal trek for showing off our gorgeous city when you’ve got visitors in town – so make sure they bring their trainers!
Get there: Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan. Exit A3 will take you to the bus terminus where you take the Number 9 toward Shek O, alighting at the To Tei Wan stop on Shek O Road. If you take a taxi, make sure you have GPS maps open so you know when you’re getting close. Most drivers don’t know To Tei Wan or Dragon’s Back so just say Shek O Road and keep an eye out for the stop. Follow the markers for the Hong Kong Trail.
Time at a leisurely pace: 2 hours (longer if you stop for snacks and admiring views)
Avoiding wrong turns: When you get to the bottom of the hill coming off the ridge, you will get to a point where you have to turn left or right on the trail. Go right, the left turn will take you back to the start. Next, when you come out on to the paved road after the flat trail you will come down a hill and can go left or right. It’s another right – the left will take you back out to Shek O Road.
Biggest climb: 150 meters
Get home: Follow the road from the beach and restaurants up the hill to the main parking lot. From there, either hop in a mini-bus back to Shau Kei Wan or a taxi.
Yes, there are 1,000 steps. But it’s doable. And worth it. We promise. Take it slow, with as many rests as you need on the climb and you will be rewarded with unreal views of Stanley and the outlying islands. The trek starts with a long, gradual climb up to Violet Hill. Before you ask – no, this doesn’t count as any of the steps. As you descend toward Repulse Bay, you will see an ominous indent running up the middle of the mountain in front of you – those are the steps. If you get to the base of the twins and decide you’ve had enough on your first go, there is a bailout point where you can take a right down into Repulse Bay. If you’re ready to tackle the never-ending staircase, it’s straight up the mountain. This is only the first twin, but the second is only about a quarter as big as the first. Once you reach the second summit, it’s all downhill to the road leading into Stanley.
Get there: Buses 6, 63 and 66 all go to Parkview. This is one trailhead that all taxi drivers know and not far from Central, so a cab is usually the easiest option. If you’re starting from Parkview, take a left onto main street and stay on that side of the road. You will see trail markers for the Hong Kong Trail on the opposite side of the street, but we’ll tell you about those another day. About 50 meters past those signs on your side of the road, you will see a trail map at the bottom of some stairs leading into the woods adjacent to Parkview. Follow them up.
Length: 4.7 km
Time at a leisurely pace: 1.5 hours
Avoiding wrong turns: About 1 km into the hike, there will be a fork in the trail, one leading to the left up a hill, one leading off to the right down the hill and back toward the centre of the island. Take the left fork.
Biggest climb: A steep 200 meters
Get home: The trail finishes on Stanley Gap Road at the Wilson Trail bus stop. If you want to go down to Stanley to celebrate your athletic achievement at a waterfront restaurant, take any of the buses or a taxi from the same side of the road where you have finished. To head back to Central, cross the street and take a right to for the bus stop where you can take the 6 or the 6A back into town.
Tai Long Wan
In Sai Kung, there is a cove called Tai Long Wan with three adjacent beaches, Sai Wan, Ham Tin and Tai Wan. You’ve probably heard of Ham Tin as the beach where you can camp and both Sai Wan and Ham Tin can be accessed by boat from the Sai Kung Pier. You will reach Sai Wan after about 40 minutes and feel free to stop for a cheeky coconut – but it is worth the extra hour to get to Ham Tin in the next inlet over. Once you get to the cliffs between the two beaches, the endless views of blue peppered with green islands will make you forget that you woke up in a dense, skyscraper-filled city. There are longer treks to get to this spot, but as this is the beginners guide, we’re sticking with the shortest one.
Get there: From Sai Kung town, take the 29R Minibus from outside the McDonald’s to the Sai Wan Pavilion, or take a taxi to the Sai Wan Pavilion. You will see signs from there to Sai Wan. If you’re coming from Hong Kong Island, you will likely need to get a red taxi to Sai Kung and then switch over to a green one to get the rest of the way to the trail head.
Time at a leisurely pace: 1.5 hours
Avoiding wrong turns: As you walk across the beach at Sai Wan toward Ham Tin – go straight up the hill, there is a path that leads back in away from the beach but you are going up and around the cliffs to the next beach over.
Biggest climb: Less than 100 meters
Get home: From Ham Tin, you can arrange to get a boat back to the Sai Kung Pier or hike back out the way you came in after a leisurely lunch and rest on the beach. If you are planning to take a boat back, make sure you arrange it at the pier before you go. There will be several small stands along the water front in Sai Kung advertising these boat trips. In the off-season they don’t run regularly so if you don’t book ahead, the hike out might become your only option.
True to its name, you will see plenty of monkeys on this hike across Kam Shan Country Park in the New Territories. We know what you’re thinking, “Hooray! Monkeys!” – and we don’t want to burst your bubble because it’s so cool to see them up close and the babies are squeal-inducing adorable – but please heed our disclaimer: they are wild and they are not afraid of you. Don’t hold food or appear to be holding food. They will approach you, follow you and try to take it. Generally avoiding eye contact and anything that could be perceived as a threatening movement is a good idea… these little guys can get aggressive! If you’re doing this as a run, be prepared for some personal bests on speed once you hear the rustling in the trees. To see the monkeys, you can either do Stage 6 of the Maclehose Trail or Stage 6 of the Wilson Trail. We prefer Wilson as its more trail than pavement, but if you’re feeling less adventurous, stick to the Mac.
Get there: Both trails start on Tai Po Road. To get to the Maclehose trail head take the 72 or 81 bus to the Shek Lui Pui Reservoir stop. This trail starts at the intersection of Tai Po Road and Golden Hill Road. Start the hike by going up Golden Hill toward the reservoirs. The Wilson Trail head is another 750 meters along Tai Po Road (the next bus stop) at Tai Po Road Lookout.
Length: 4.2km on the Maclehose or 5.3km on the Wilson
Time at a leisurely pace: 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on route
Avoiding wrong turns: As the Maclehose and Wilson are both major trails in Hong Kong they are marked with posts every 500 meters. If you start seeing signs for a trail you didn’t think you were on, don’t worry, there are places where these two trails converge so you haven’t necessarily taken a wrong turn.
Biggest climb: The Maclehose route kicks off with a slow, long uphill of about 150 meters while the Wilson has smaller, rolling hills.
Get home: Both trails finish on Shing Mun Road. Minibuses do come by but it is easiest to get a taxi to the nearest MTR station at Tai Wo Hau.