Header images courtesy of @chan06a (Instagram) and @nicholas_ng_photography (Instagram)
If you’re looking for an adventure, the hike from Yuk Kwai Shan to Ap Lei Pai will not disappoint. It has everything thrill-seeking hikers (or climbers!) are looking for: a thrilling sense of adventure, a killer quad workout, and stunning scenic views. Plus, you’ll get to explore a remote island with rock pools, beaches, and a lighthouse!
Ap Lei Pai is a small, uninhabited island just off of Ap Lei Chau in the southside of Hong Kong. It attracts many intrepid hikers for its clear blue waters and is a popular spot for rock climbers and local fishers. With only a single causeway connecting it to Ap Lei Chau—in itself an island—the trek to this curious place can feel like journeying to the remote ends of Hong Kong.
The trail across Yuk Kwai Shan—also known as Mount Johnston—through to Ap Lei Pai is famed for its coastal beauty and challenging ridges, but its scenic ocean views are worth the trip. As a bonus, you can also get a pretty rewarding glimpse of the Ocean Park attractions and rides from the little island.
While the hike itself looks quite short, don’t be fooled into thinking that it is an easy hike. Both Yuk Kwai Shan and Ap Lei Pai come well furnished with steep inclines, loose gravel, and slippery terrain. Adequate preparation is required and good shoes necessary. Since there are no shops or kiosks along the way, bringing at least two litres of water per person is recommended.
In addition, there are two trails you can take: the formal trail, suitable for intermediate hikers, and the bushwhacking trail, which is only recommended for advanced hikers with a sense of adventure. For the purpose of this guide, we will focus on the formal trail, which we think is challenging enough for the casual hiker!
Distance: 4 kilometres approx.
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
Total ascent: 196 metres
Total time: 3 hours approx.
The start of the hike to Ap Lei Pai does not look very official, but it is a well-documented hike, and there are two ways to get onto the Yuk Kwai Wan (Mount Johnston) trail. One starts behind Lei Tung Estate and the other route up to the trail goes via the Lei Tung Estate Bus Terminus.
Located on the southeast of Ap Lei Chau, the start of the walk (or climb) to Yuk Kwai Shan looks rather unofficial and hidden, making it all the more exciting. Although the climb can be pretty challenging, forcing you to clamber up on your hands and knees in some areas (and shuffle down on your bum in others!), the stunning views make it worthwhile.
Depending on which way you’ve chosen to get onto the Yuk Kwai Shan (Mount Johnston) trail, eventually, you will need to rely on your hands (and rope) to make your steep ascent to the top (which can feel pretty gruelling to start with). Go slow and take frequent breaks to preserve your energy—it’s better to get to the top safely, rather than risk taking a tumble. Once atop Yuk Kwai Shan, the plateau offers stunning views over the East Lamma Channel, Lamma Island, and the connected Ap Lei Pai.
There really is only one way to go once you’re on the trail, so all you need to do is follow it. The path of dirt and rocks will take you through some thick scrub and bushes. Be sure to take your time while climbing to admire the backdrop of residential high-rises. The ascent is steep and will be slippery but luckily, it’s not a long climb up.
The descent down Yuk Kwai Shan towards the sandbank can be a little tricky, being the steepest section of the trail, with lots of loose gravel. Here, you will need to rely on the rope and ensure you have stable footing to avoid taking a tumble. To be extra cautious, we would advise turning to grip the rope and rappelling backwards in Batman fashion, as opposed to going down front first.
Once on the sandbank, take the path to the right, marked with a big red painted dot and follow the trail all the way to Mount Johnston lighthouse at the tip of Ap Lei Pai. If you veer about 100 metres to the right of the lighthouse along the rocky coast, you will come across an idyllic rock pool for a bit of cooling off.
On the return, we would advise retracing your steps, going back the way you came, though, there is an alternative route around Yuk Kwai Shan which comes out at the back of Horizon Plaza, which should only be attempted by advanced walkers and hikers.
If you fancy taking a different route back, there is actually a way to Horizon Plaza to the left of Yuk Kwai Shan where the rock climbers meet, which requires a bit of climbing and balance. As mentioned above, this section should only be attempted by advanced walkers, and people who are comfortable with climbing, as a lot of this trail involves walking along narrow pathways and planks, whilst clinging to the hillside! Regardless of which route you take, we guarantee great views, a killer workout for your thighs, and a little burst of adrenaline.
Alternatively, you could make your way back via a third trail that takes you behind the Larvotto high-rises. Marked with blue ribbons, this trail takes you through the wilderness on the side of the mountain. It will require clambering over steep inclines and should only be attempted by advanced hikers as well.
Plenty of water: Depending on the season, and time of day you attempt the hike, two litres per person should be an adequate amount
Sunscreen and hat: This walk is rather exposed, offering absolutely no shade at all. You have been warned!
A good pair of walking shoes: Don’t wear your old gym shoes from high school, with little to no tread! Even with the best grip, the descent from Yuk Kwai Shan to the sandbank has a lot of loose rocks, so best to have a good grip on the rope, which brings us to the next thing on our checklist...
Gloves: Some people opt to wear gloves, as the climb does involve quite a bit of clambering. You will also need to use the rope to climb up and down the steep hillside, and gloves may come in handy (pun intended) to avoid rope burn.
Walking stick or hiking poles: You may prefer the use of a stick or hiking pole to provide a little extra support instead - but, again, just be careful of those loose rocks!