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Take a Hike: How to hike from Pak Lap to East Dam in Sai Kung

By Lily Valette 14 September 2023

Header image courtesy of Lily Valette 

Anyone living in Hong Kong who has ever felt the need for fresh and open air knows that Sai Kung is the place to go. With its clear waters, white sand, towering peaks, and verdant nature, the Sai Kung Country Park is a local paradise to many. Once you have summited Sharp Peak, admired the beauty of Long Ke Wan, and barbecued on all of Tai Long Wan’s beaches, you may be on the lookout for something new on your next adventure out to Sai Kung. Why not try hiking Pak Lap to the High Island Reservoir East Dam?

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Photo: Lily Valette

Overview and fast facts:

Have you ever dreamed of travelling to the ends of the earth? Craved the feeling of being at the edge of horizon? You are in luck, as we have hit upon a hidden trail south of the Sai Kung Peninsula. From the small village of Pak Lap, a coastal trail takes you all the way up to the High Island Reservoir East Dam. With long stretches of grass, rock columns, and a mystical cairn clearing, this lesser-known trek has it all, including some of the greatest plunging views of the South China Sea our city has to offer.

This trail is not shaded, so be sure to protect your skin and your head with suitable sunscreen and gear. It is also quite isolated, so make sure you stock up on food and water before heading off! All in all, there are some uphill parts to take on, but none too high or steep. Even with little indications, the way is straightforward. There are multiples viewpoints worth a few snaps, and beautiful spots for breaks.

Distance: 3.5 kilometers approximately

Difficulty: Intermediate

Total time: 2 to 2.30 hours approx.

How to get there

From Sai Kung Pier, take a taxi to Pak Lap. Your driver will drop you off at the MacLehose Trail distance post M015. It is a 25-minute drive. You’ll have arrived at the right place when you see a visible shaded viewpoint just left of the trail entrance (we do recommend you take a minute to take in the landscape there before setting off). Follow the downhill path for 15 minutes until you reach the flower gardens and colourful houses of Pak Lap village. You’ll soon arrive at Pak Lap Beach where the real hiking begins.

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The hike

The starting point of this hike is Pak Lap Beach—not as famous as Tai Long Wan, but just as beautiful. Known among campers, you might be welcomed by a row of tents and cooled bonfires if you arrive in the morning. The last pitstop before you start walking is Pak Lap Café. You could opt for a sit-down breakfast or lunch (it serves a delicious selection of fried rice and noodles, as well as some delights from the fryer, a sweet mung bean soup, grass jelly with milk, and more), or just take away a few snacks for later. Do not forget to fill up on water as this is the last amenity you will come across!

Once you’ve taken in the beauty of Pak Lap Beach, make your way back until you reach the painted mural. Showcasing local fauna and vague directions, this mural is not the most precise map, but it gives you an idea of where you are headed. With your back to the sea, head right as soon as you can, and start walking!

At first, you’ll follow directions to Mok Min Cave, taking you on a cleared hill path for about 20 minutes. Pay attention to where you’re walking as this trail is not shy of stray rocks, but also take as many chances as you can to stop and look ahead. With only a few outlying islets scattered on the glistening sea, the unobstructed view is out of this world. You can also look back to see Sai Kung’s famous hexagonal rocks. You will soon be quite high up, but the ride doesn’t end there! As the natural landscape dries up gradually, you will arrive at a towering, vertigo-provoking rock formation further on your right. Be careful as this rocky part of the hike can get quite slippery on a rainy day.

Continue walking for around 25 minutes until you glimpse the clear turquoise water of a secluded beach. You can hike down for a break and a snack on the sand, where you are almost guaranteed to be alone. Once you’ve recuperated, it’s time to hike back up to make your way to High Island Reservoir, with still a few surprises along the way.

Photo: Lily Valette

Before you hit the final ascent, walk along the coast, following the path for another 20 to 30 minutes. You will then be confronted with a tall, steep, grassy flank. The effort is worth it, since the reward is a chance to see a peculiar place. On top of the hill lies a clearing covered in cairns! Hundreds—if not thousands­—of these human-made rock formations, varying in size and height, have been carefully mounted on top of the hill. Historically a way to guide travellers, some of the cairns are as high as a full-grown human, while others make you wonder how they are still standing upright!

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Finishing the hike

It is now time to end your hike. Leaving the cairns behind, you will soon catch sight of the High Island Reservoir East Dam. You can go up to your left up to Fa Shan, towering at 211 metres, for a wider view. If your legs are begging for a rest, simply follow the path down to the East Dam. You will have to climb around the cement dolosse (wave breakers) to reach the concrete path.

Walk the inclined HKTO path up to the East Dam Pavilion where you find yourself at a crossroads. You can stop here, call a taxi, and wait for it to take you back to Sai Kung Pier for many refuelling dining options. If it’s not too late and you are in the mood for more adventure, you can head right and make your way to Long Ke Wan. This beach is wonderful but not connected to any kind of transportation, so be sure to have enough water and energy left if you choose to go that way.

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Lily Valette

Editor

Born and raised in the French countryside, Lily arrived in Hong Kong looking for an adventure. Passionate about books, she spent some time in Parisian publishing houses and is the author of an illustrated book about hair. Life in Hong Kong for her entails looking for seaside places to eat and a lot of hiking.

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