The Top 6 Hong Kong Hikes To Escape The City
There’s a saying that goes, “A Hong Kong Second Is A New York Minute”. No truer words have been said.
With its densely populated Legoland infrastructure tightly enveloped by soaring skyscrapers and strategically stacked high-rises - it’s easy to see how one could easily get sucked in to the fast paced lifestyle (so synonymous with Hong Kong culture), without ever coming up for air. The city is deceptive in that Hong Kong is actually made up of close to 80% natural wonders as opposed to the 100% concrete jungle we mistakenly believe it to be.
In the persistent strive to succeed, have we neglected on our own well-being? Do you ever hit the brakes and slow down to give your mind, body and soul the rest it so deserves? Have you become mind-full instead of more mindful?
After living in Hong Kong for a certain amount of time, people learn that evading stress is not an easy achievement at all. Suffocating is one way to put it. As time passes, it can become exponentially harder to extricate yourself from the humdrum routines of daily must-do’s. So how do we get ourselves off the hamster wheel to invigorate our lives once again? What options are there for all of us overworked urbanites? Contrary to popular belief, shopping and commuting to-and-from work are not the only forms of cardio we have available at our disposals.
Lo and behold! We have good news. With any city, it takes time, experience, trial and error to descend upon the locality’s best hidden gems. In Hong Kong, these treasures come in the form of blessed Mother Nature. Yes, you heard right. Hong Kong’s exalted beauty spreads far beyond just its concrete jungle. Imagine glistening beaches, vast expanses of tropical blues, sprawling emerald hills,and the soothing calls of nature's voice - the vision is practically Utopian.
We have taken it upon ourselves to give you the keys to unlocking the better and even more ravishing side of Hong Kong that often goes neglected. To achieve a fully immersive mind-body-soul vacation, you don’t need to squander your hard earned money or travel very far out of the city. If and when life ever gets too frantic, simply follow the list below and embark on our curated list of some of the best hiking trails that Hong Kong has to offer:
Easily the most popular hike in Hong Kong and Winner of Time Magazine’s best urban hike in Asia; Dragon’s back lives up to its title. The views along the trail are absolutely breathtaking on a clear day. The starting point of the trail is located on Hong Kong Island and finishing in Shek O - an old and quaint fishermen village that has now been converted to a lively promenade of local restaurants, bars, and street stalls. The area boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the city overlooking the South China Sea. A short distance away is the famed Big Wave Bay spotted with anchored private yachts and summer junks.You can even feed your recovering muscles from the hike at many of the delicious seafood restaurants.
From a skill level perspective, Dragon’s back hike trail is considered to be more tailored for beginners. It’s a trail frequented by families and the elderly alike. The distance isn’t too long and does not require strenuous physical effort in comparison to the other hikes in Hong Kong, which makes it a perfect stepping stone for new hikers. A word of caution: the weekends can become a bit of a circus, so if you are seeking serenity and less “party”, I would suggest saving this for a week day escape.
How to get there: The entry to Dragon’s back trail starts at Hong Kong Trail part 8, and is accessible both my car and public transport. If getting there by public transport, it can be reached by taking the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station (Exit A3), then transferring via number 9 bus to To Tei Wan. Once you reach the stop, simply follow the signs toward the hike entrance which is about 1 kilometer up the road. This is a very popular hike, so rest assured, you will find other fellow hikers to ask for directions if you do become lost.
The Twins (Twin Peaks)
WilsonTrail Section 1 — Violet Hill — Stanley
This is hailed as the most badass hike in the city. Why? One word. Stairs. An excruciating number of stairs. The Twins is only one section of the trail because it actually starts at the foot of Parkview and extending its path all the way towards Stanley. The total stretch of the trail is roughly 4.8KM but the stairs make this hike a thousand times more challenging than all the other ones. The nickname for The Twins is “Thousand Steps” because you are literally forced on a one-way road of pushing those quads and glutes up thousands steps plus with no exit in sight.
This hike is one of the more hidden ones in Hong Kong that only fitness fanatics know about. On a clear day, the panoramic views scattering offshore islands are out of this world, and even stunning on an overcast day. The sense of tranquility and serenity at the peak of the climb is refreshing and gives rise to an out of body experience that cannot be felt anywhere else in Hong Kong.
If you live in the surrounding areas, you can simply walk or run up the hill to arrive at the entry point. If this is too hardcore for you, any taxi will easily drop you off at the bottom of Parkview where the entrance to the hike trail is located.
Lantau Island is close to twice the size of Hong Kong Island. With Lantau Peak as the second tallest mountain in Hong Kong (trailing behind Tai Mo Shan), this is the mother of all hike trails. Although there are many intersecting trails that make up the Lantau hike, the most popular one begins at the foot of the hill and ends at the top where the famous Big Buddha Statue and monastery perches with magnificence.
Difficult level of the hike is above average since the majority of the trail is made up of paved stone steps, and the incline is consistently steep. It’s best to venture on this hike at the break of dawn because, (1) you will beat the sweltering heat, and (2) any later in the day and you can expect the place to be cramped with tourists visiting the famed tourist attraction at the top ofthe peak - not the most idyllic time for a mental escape. Learning to circumvent the crowds is a necessary part of living in Hong Kong.
Getting to the destination is a breeze. The quickest way to get there is by MTR to Tung Chung Station followed by a bus towards Mui Wo. All the drivers in the area will know the best drop off point if you let them know you want to go on the Lantau trail. Sign posts are visible.
Lion Rock Hike
If Lantau Peak is the mother of Hong Kong hike trails, then Lion Rock would be its godmother. This is one of the most challenges hikes on the list. If you are looking to go Bear Grylls for a day, this is the hike for you. Situated in Lion Rock Country Park farther out in the New Territories, it is part of the larger MacLehose Trailr that intersects the region from east to all the way to the west. The hike up to Lion Rock makes up of part 5 of the grande MacLehose Trail.
This is one of the most difficult hikes on our list. The Lion Rock climb is no walk through the park. Be prepared for hard hitting intensity off-road tracks that dip high and low. Climbing on all fours will be a part of your wilderness adventure. This is not an advisable trail for beginners or even the average hiker.
The best way to get to the trail’s entry point is to take a taxi. Ask to be dropped off at the Gilwell campsite, which runs between Beacon Hill and Tai Po Road.
The getaway of all getaways! Lantau is popular among expats and is a phenomenal destination for those of you who are looking for a greater escape from the city. Far removed from the cit-center Lantau island is accessible only by ferry or private boat. The ambience of the island is relaxed and laidback with an air of hippy-beachy vibes.
The Family Trail hike is nestled on the island between the two main villages of Yung Shu Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. This trail is made up of paved roads and limited inclines, making it one of the easiest hikes on our list.
Directions to get there: Ferry across from Central ferry piers to Yung Shu Wan and you will find the trail’s entrance at the end of the main street once you arrive on the Island. The best part is that you can take the ferry back home to Hong Kong Island via Sok Kwu Wan (trail end).
This trail isn’t honoured as a real hike by many Hong Kong hikers but we have included The Peak trail in this list because it is just too efficient and accessible to be casted out. This hike trail is located in the city center of Hong Kong, sandwiched between Central and Midlevels. This is not the hike for you if you are looking for a proper escape with vast greenery and clean air,but it’s a great go-to for a short and sweet R & R (rest and recuperation).
The Peak is a straight shooter; it starts on the flat surface of Bowen Road and climbing its way up to Wong Nai Chung Gap Road then up to Black Links eventually ending up at The Peak. The path is a direct uphill battle that ends with one spectacular reward - an impressive view of Hong Kong’s famous skyline overlooking the Victoria Harbour. Although the trail is steep, it’s relatively easy to get through.
There are a number of roads that lead up to the Peak Trail (you can walk, Uber ortake a taxi), and a simple search on Google Map will guide you on the best path. Remember, there are no set routes when it comes to hiking and it really all comes down to the exploration. Find the path that most resonates with you.
Tips For A Happy Hike
•Wear old shoes or hiking boots. You will get dirty
•Wear light and breezy sports apparel
•Wear and bring sunscreen. The Hong Kong sun is no joke
•Try to avoid hiking alone. It’s always safer to use the buddy system or go in small groups.
•Put down Google Maps and let go. Explore the many different mini-trails on the hikes. Discovery is part of your journey.
•Enjoy the views and breathe in the smog-free air
•Bring a backpack and fill it with: Plenty of water, healthy snacks (nuts,fruit, energy bars), electrolytes-replenishing drinks, a change of clothes,music system (earphones, portable speakers), and insect repellent.
•During the hotter months, aim to hike in the early mornings and late afternoons closer to sunset.
•If you are bringing your dog, try to avoid summer hikes. Dogs can easily get heat strokes, which is fatal.