Hong Kong may be better known for its electric skyline, imposing skyscrapers and sky-high rent, but did you know that 75% of the Fragrant Harbour is actually countryside? Having called Hong Kong my home for the past five years, I love the city but I also love to get out of it! So, here is my list of the best hikes in Hong Kong, which offer the most scenic and breathtaking views of HK’s epic coastline, lush hillsides and pretty little islands.
1. Dragon’s Back
Difficulty level: 6/10 Starts: Shek O Road near To Tei Wan village Finishes: Big Wave Bay (Tai Long Wan) Beach
The undulating Dragon’s Back is easily accessible from the city, winding around the east side of Hong Kong Island, and offers beautiful coastal scenery without being too strenuous. As one of the most famous hikes in Hong Kong, you probably won’t find yourself hiking alone, but you will definitely be able to see why it’s so popular.
The 8.5km climb is hilly, takes around four hours to complete, but there’s a reward at the end – Big Wave Bay beach! This is one of the best hikes in Hong Kong if you’re in the city for a brief visit and only have time to squeeze in one trail.
2. MacLehose Trail
Difficulty level: 10/10 Starts: Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung Finishes: Tuen Mun
Named after the longest-serving British governor of Hong Kong, who was responsible for establishing the city’s Country Parks, the MacLehose Trail is a 100-kilometre trek from the east to the west of the New Territories. The National Geographic Society named it one of the best hikes in the world last year.
The trail will set you back a long weekend if you want to do it all, making time for a few camping spots in between. Of all the hikes in Hong Kong, this was the toughest for me personally; the steps are a killer, but the views are totally worth it. If you don’t fancy tackling 100km, you can always pick just one or two of the 10 stages to do instead. I managed Stages 1 and 2 of the MacLehose Trail over one day and that was tough enough!
3. Wilson Trail
Difficulty level: 9/10 Starts: Stanley Finishes: Nam Chung
Running perpendicular to the MacLehose Trail and also named after a former British governor, the Wilson Trail is a south-to-north footpath that starts in Stanley, on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
After traversing the island and crossing the harbour (don’t worry, you won’t be walking on water; you’re allowed to take a boat for that bit), the trail crosses through eight different country parks on its 78km journey, before finishing in Nam Chung in the northeastern New Territories. Just watch out for the wild monkeys between stages six and eight!
4. Lamma Island Family Trail
Difficulty Level: 3/10 Starts: Yung Shue Wan Finishes: Sok Kwu Wan
A visit to Lamma Island makes for a lovely day out anyway, but there are beautiful views along the path that connects the two biggest villages of Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. Take the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan and spend the morning exploring the little shops and cafes around this area, before heading to Power Plant Beach to start the hike over to Sok Kwu Wan.
The walk doesn’t take more than an hour or two and is relatively easy, featuring beach views and a ‘Kamikaze Cave’ from the Second World War occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese.
5. Lantau Peak
Difficulty Level: 7/10 Starts: Ngong Ping or Tung Chung Finishes: Pak Kung Au
The second-highest summit in Hong Kong, Lantau Peak isn’t an easy feat at 934 metres high, but it’s a local favourite for catching a magnificent sunrise. Chase the sun by staying overnight in Ngong Ping and head out early to make it for an epic dawn view.
It takes the average person approximately two hours to reach the peak, but be warned that every time you think you’ve reached the top, you always seem to have a few more steps to go…
6. Plover Cove Country Trail
Difficulty Level: 8/10 Starts: Wu Kau Tang Finishes: Tai Mei Tuk
This 19-kilometre trail is a challenge for hikers of all abilities and experience. It features steep slopes and tough terrain, but it also has the holy grail of hiking – waterfalls!
Taking an estimated seven hours to complete, this may be one of the most photogenic hikes in Hong Kong; the path takes you past Bride’s Pool and Mirror Pool, as well as the Plover Cove reservoir.
7. Bowen Road on The Peak
Difficulty Level: 2/10 Starts and finishes: Take a cab to Bowen Road, or walk uphill for some additional calorie-burning from one of the several different points that connect along Queen’s Road and Wan Chai
If you fancy something flatter, but still want to take in some breathtaking views, then head up to Bowen Road. This walk around The Peak is a flat three-kilometre circuit. It delivers some stunning scenes of greenery, the harbour, the China Sea to the south and the skyscrapers below.
This is one of the best hikes in Hong Kong if you hate hiking! Plus, if you time your walk for early evening, you can watch the sunset transform the harbour below into a glittering neon-fest of bright city lights.
8. Lion Rock
Difficulty Level: 7/10 Starts: Sha Tin Wai Train Station Finishes: Tin Ma Court, Chuk Yuen
Lion Rock is a symbol of hope and hard work for a lot of Hong Kongers. So naturally, the hike takes around four hours, with some challenging steep climbs. Once at the peak, rock climbers can attempt to scale the lion’s head, which looks proudly out to Kowloon.
This is probably one of the best hikes in Hong Kong if you like a challenge and amazing views. You get to see the city from a completely different angle.
9. Sharp Peak
Difficulty Level: 10/10 Starts and finishes: Pak Tam Au
Well, nothing sounds like more of a challenge than somewhere called ‘Sharp Peak’! Although this may not be Hong Kong’s highest mountain, it’s definitely the most precipitous.
The hike up to the highest point on Sharp Peak and back down again is 14.5 kilometres long. It should take around seven hours to complete. But whatever you do, don’t look down…
10. Tap Mun
Difficulty Level: 2/10 Starts and finishes: Tap Mun Pier
Sometimes you just want to get as far out of the city as possible. This is when I go right out into the northeast of the New Territories to Tap Mun, or ‘Grass Island’.
Once on the island, there is a gentle circuit walk that takes two hours and is suitable for everyone. You can also explore the old fishing villages and gaze out to Mainland China across the water. It’s also a great place to camp.
The Best Hikes in Hong Kong
Whether you prefer toning your calf muscles or ambling along at a gentle pace, Hong Kong has a seemingly endless supply of walks and hikes. Personally, I just like climbing up tall things and looking out at sun, sea and dark jungle greens.
So, if you’re a Honger Konge who sometimes gets sick of the city, remember that there’s another side to HK. Far from the congested streets and haze of pollution, there is a rural, quiet and distinctly greener side of one of Asia’s most famous metropolises. If you’re visiting, be sure to pack your walking boots because you need to tackle at least one of the best hikes in Hong Kong during your stay.