If you’ve been to Hong Kong but haven’t been on a hike, you’re missing out on half the city. Whilst rooftop bars have their own charm, there’s nothing quite like a hike to get away from it all. It’s the best way to explore isolated beaches, breathtaking nature and stellar city views. If you’re a beginner, easy hikes take only a few hours; and once you get more confident, you can try some of the more challenging hikes, that can take a full day. And if you’re looking for the ultimate Hong Kong hike bucket list, we’ve got you covered.
Best 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 the 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 the beach is a much better idea! Pack a swimsuit and a towel, then take the number 9 bus South, or walk to Shek O beach.
For more directions, read here.
Best for: unique villages, forests and urban beaches
This is a lovely day trip, 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!
Our 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. Check out the beaches on the way there, then have a leisurely dinner and drinks overlooking the water.
Read more: Sassy’s Top Beginner Hikes in Hong Kong
Best for: secluded villages, beaches, and cliffs
The MacLehose trail is 100km of hiking that stretches across the New Territories, East to West. Every autumn, 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 from Central).
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.
Best for: 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 best 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). You’ll get some fantastic photographs but be careful, as loud noises and tempting food can 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.
Read more: Waterfall Hikes in Hong Kong
Best for: climbing!
There are dozens of great hikes you can do on Lantau Island but if you’re keen on climbing mountains, our 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, the accomplishment of scaling 934 metres is intoxicating.
After you’ve reached the summit, we 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 you’ll get a reward for your hard work.
There are many ways to approach the mountain. Take the direct route up the huge stone steps for 6km, 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.
Best for: a serious workout
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!
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. 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. Roughly a 1.5 hour hike, 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.
- Pack a swimsuit and a spare shirt
- Use bug spray to avoid mosquitos and sunscreen even if it’s cloudy.
- Drink plenty of water and munch on salty snacks along the way
- Bring a camera (put it in a plastic bag if you’re worried about rain).
- Keep a simple first aid kit, just in case (with 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, in general hiking with a friend is 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 emergency situations.
Read more: Top 5 Night Hikes in Hong Kong
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013, and was updated in January 2018 by Tania Shroff.