Physical exercise? Yuck. But let’s face it – you probably have a beer belly or two to burn. Here are the best hikes in Hong Kong to help you get that six-pack.
It’s a little weird to think that Hong Kong, the land of tiny apartments and excessive consumerism, actually has some of the best hiking trails in the world. Not only do these hikes hide amazing views of the city (not to mention with oodles of pain and regret), they also provide a very affordable way to work off all those greasy meals. If you don’t go hiking, you’re pretty much missing out on half of what Hong Kong has to offer.
The hikes on this list have been not-so-carefully chosen with two major factors in mind: 1) ease of accessibility with public transport and 2) whether the views are worth your agony. And don’t worry about your fitness level – if I can survive these hikes, then so can you.
Before you eagerly dash out the door, remember to pack enough liquids (at least one litre of water), Google Maps screenshots if you don’t have mobile internet (you will get lost), couple bandages, and a spare shirt. If you don’t own any Under Armour, I recommend picking up an AIRism top from Uniqlo (note: as much as I’d like to sell out, I have no actual affiliation with Uniqlo), which will manage to cool and dry even under this humidity.
Let’s get hiking!
5. Victoria Peak – Central
We’ll start nice and easy. Not only is this the least grueling trail on this list, you’ll also get to see some of the best views of Hong Kong Island.
On the way up Victoria Peak, you’ll be treated to vantage points looking over to Kowloon. Towards the top, the trail will loop around the mountain and reveal views of South Hong Kong Island. For route 1) and 2), you’ll even pass through Pinewood Battery, an old military site with some cool relics worth checking out. The only reason this hike isn’t ranked higher is because it’s less of a hike and more of an inclined walk. There are too many starting points to list, but here are my favorites.
Pro Tip: try not to look up or you may find some very colourful and potentially soul-sucking eight-legged monstrosities staring back; if you’re a tall person, good luck.
4. Monkey Mountain (Kam Shan Country Park) – North Kowloon
One word: monkeys.
While Kam Shan Country Park contains a bunch of trails with beautiful views of the surrounding neighborhoods, like Shatin and Tsing Yi, you’re really coming here to see the 1800 wild monkeys. These monkeys have long lost their fear of humans, which means you’ll be able to get close enough to snap some great photos. Just refrain from feeding them as they’re known to get quite aggressive. And don’t smile – I learned that the hard way.
This is a relatively easier hike, unless you plan to head all the way up to the park on foot (route #1), which I wholeheartedly recommend. Once you start to get bored of pointing at monkeys, you can head down to the nearby Sham Shui Po for a little shopping and a nice local dinner. Conveniently for you, we have a guide to help you do just that (shameless self plug).
3. Tai Tam Reservoir – Quarry Bay
This one has earned its place on the list for simply being so darn easy to reach. For once, you won’t have to hike just to get to this hike.
Right outside the Quarry Bay MTR is the Mount Parker Road Green Trail, which will take you all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir and beyond. Mount Parker is the second highest peak on the HK side, so that means the first 45 minutes of the trail will be the most draining. After the halfway point, however, it’s all downhill! Keep following the signs to Tai Tam and you’ll soon find yourself in Tai Tam Country Park walking along reservoirs teeming with koi fish and the like. Once you’re done enjoying the sights, take bus 14 to get out of Dodge or – if you’re Hercules – continue onwards to Stanley or Repulse Bay.
The coolest thing is that as soon as you hop onto the Mt Parker Green Trail, the hustle and bustle of Quarry Bay immediately dissipates behind you. So if you live nearby and are looking for a quick escape into nature, this hike is for you.
2. Lion Rock – Kowloon Tong
You probably already know about this one – and yes, it’s a huge cliché – but gimme a break, okay? Lion Rock is synonymous with Hong Kong for a reason.
I won’t lie, this is probably the hardest hike on this list. Lion Rock will kick your ass and – at times – send you scrambling on all fours, but it’s well worth the price of admission for the incredible panorama from the top of the lion’s head.
‘But the Peak already has awesome views of Hong Kong, why should I bother with Lion Rock?’
Well, let me ask you this. You must have seen Hong Kong Island from Victoria Harbour on the Kowloon side? Impressive, huh. Now the reverse – how does Kowloon look from the Hong Kong side? Not as cool, right? The same applies here. Just trust me. You can’t beat the view from Lion Rock, so make sure you bring a nice camera and your best selfie face, and get ready to make all your friends jealous with awe. Better yet, time your hike so you reach the top just before the sunset for maximum Facebook likes.
And a beer. Don’t forget to bring a cold beer to celebrate at the top. You’ll look like a stereotypical expat, but who gives a hoot. You’re a champ!
Fun Fact: viewed from the right angle, Lion Rock actually looks like a lion. In fact, the peak of the mountain is actually split into the lion’s head and its body. Neato!
1.Hero’s Cliff (Ma Dai Stream) – Ma On Shan
The last hike made you a champ, now you’re going to be a hero. Despite the glowing praise I gave Lion Rock, the number one hike on our list goes to Hero’s Cliff (technically called Ma Dai Stream).
First and foremost: DO NOT DO THIS ON A RAINY DAY. There are many rocks and boulders to climb over and, if you’re an idiot like me and go during/after the rain, you will slip and faceplant on surfaces where you will not want your face to plant.
This hike is tough in that there is no clear signage anywhere along the way, and you will constantly question whether you’re heading in the right direction. This gentleman wrote an excellent picture guide which will save your life (note: it’s a little outdated so things may look different, the dam – for example – is now blue). The general gist is that you’re going to hop some fences (seriously), trespass through a dam, scramble up a never-ending stream of rocks and probably run into a few giant spiders, before ultimately arriving a hidden waterfall – Hero’s Cliff. The water will be cool and clean enough to swim in, so make sure you pack a bathing suit. And don’t worry about privacy; as Hero’s Cliff is relatively unknown, not to mention incredibly tough to get to, I can almost guarantee that you will not see any other humans silly enough to try this hike.
After another half an hour or so of hiking along the top of the mountain, you’ll soon reach Ma On Shan Country Park BBQ Site, where washrooms and cabs await. If you follow the main road down, you’ll eventually pass through a highway and end up at Heng On MTR – one freakin’ stop away from where you started.
So did you survive these trails? Got any tales of valour to share? Curse at me in the comments below!
flickr/bluuepanda, edited with text