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5 best reservoir hikes in Hong Kong

By Beverly Ngai 14 May 2021 | Last Updated 30 September 2021

Header image courtesy of @instaudreyttt (via Instagram)

Just because you’ve got a case of acrophobia or are not of the athletically inclined does not mean you have to miss out on the joys of hiking. Hong Kong’s sprawling countryside is replete with reservoirs that not only serve as an important source of irrigation and drinking water supply to all corners of our land, but also provide an abundance of natural scenery and trekking-filled adventure—without the treacherous verticals of climbing up a high mountain. 

Constructed with ease of use and accessibility in mind, these water-storing behemoths generally come with hiking paths that are well-maintained, offering wonderfully pleasant waterside strolls. For the city-weary souls among us looking for a rejuvenating escape, we have rounded up the best reservoir hikes in Hong Kong to explore!

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Tai Lam Chung Reservoir

Tai Lam Chung Reservoir is unmistakably the prized showpiece of Tai Lam Country Park and among the most visually striking hiking locales in Hong Kong. Also known by its enchanting nickname “Thousand Island Lake,” the reservoir is made up of an archipelago of small, vegetative islands, scattered like emeralds across an open valley of turquoise waters. Surprisingly, these green splotches were originally the peaks of little hills before they were flooded by catchment water in the 1950s, forming the fragmented landscape that has since become the subject of countless postcards. As one of the best reservoir hikes in Hong Kong, few can compare.

There are multiple trails around the Tai Lam Chung Reservoir, but the one leading to the Reservoir Islands Viewpoint will afford you the most spectacular aerial panoramas of the geological formation. Admittedly, the views do not come without a bit of uphill toil. The ascent is some 230 metres in altitude, involving some steep inclines along the way, but the trail is nonetheless family-friendly and can be conquered in around three hours!

Your starting point is at So Kwun Wat Tsuen, a rural village just inland from Hong Kong Gold Coast. It is accessible via minibus from Tuen Mun Station or by a half-hour walk from Gold Coast along So Kwun Wan Road. Once you’re in the village, locate the Tin Hau Temple and take the concrete path next to it, signposted as So Kwun Wat Tsuen Area 4. Following this, you will eventually transition onto Maclehose Trail Section 10. Keep to your left as you continue along the paved path, and the rest is all a matter of climbing up to the top of the observation platform!

Click here to read our full guide on how to hike Tai Lam Chung Reservoir.

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Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail

History buffs will surely get their fill of cultural attractions alongside a healthy dose of exercise at the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail. This five-kilometre path nestled in Tai Tam Country Park takes you on a scenic walk through 21 waterwork structures that have been listed as declared monuments—you’d be hard-pressed to find a reservoir hike in Hong Kong with a higher concentration of historically significant architecture! Weaving through multiple reservoirs in the area, the trail will take approximately two hours to complete, but the well-paved paths make for easy trekking.

To get to the trailhead, take buses 6, 63, or 66 towards Stanley and get off at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park. Upon alighting, head east along Tai Tam Reservoir Road, going past Hong Kong Parkview, and all the way to the end of the road, where you will be greeted by a signboard about the heritage trail. Prepare for some uphill slopes, but once you get onto the actual trail, the road flattens out and it’s pretty much a breeze thereon after.

The impressive line-up of heritage sites begins with the beautiful Upper Reservoir Masonry Bridge and Aqueduct, which were both built in the late twentieth century and flaunt stunning granite arches and moulded corbels.

As you zigzag through the trail in a southerly direction, you’ll encounter numerous masonry bridges, rock-faced valve houses, and—the pièce de résistance—the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Dam. With twelve large spillways and era-defining ornamental parapets, the century-old dam is an arresting sight to behold on its own, but if you happen to catch it when the reservoir is full after a rainy day, the ensuing man-made waterfall is truly a magnificent spectacle!

Once you’ve seen all the landmarks, you can wrap up the hike at the Tai Tam Tuk Raw Water Pumping Station and leave via the nearby bus stops at Tai Tam Road, or head on down to the shore of Tai Tam Bay for a refreshing dip!

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Aberdeen Reservoirs

If you’re just looking to nip out for some fresh air and a taste of history without having to venture far out of the city lines, considering making Aberdeen Reservoirs your next hiking destination!

Home to four declared monuments and four graded historical buildings, this reservoir group in Aberdeen Country Park is made up of the Lower Aberdeen Reservoir and the Upper Aberdeen Reservoir. The former was originally constructed in 1890 as a private reservoir and was later bought by the government in 1920; while the latter came into existence in 1930 to augment the freshwater supply to western Hong Kong Island. As with many of Hong Kong’s earlier reservoirs, these artificial water basins are fairly small, but they more than make up for it in scenic charms and historical character!

In terms of accessibility and proximity to the city, it doesn’t get much better than the Aberdeen Reservoirs. You can commence from Wan Chai Gap Road, located just a stone’s throw away from Stone Nullah Lane Garden, and meander your way across Aberdeen Country Park, ending in Aberdeen. This reservoir hike is essentially bookended by buzzing neighbourhoods, meaning you’re never far away from civilisation.

You’ll find the initial section of the hike to be the toughest, as the trail climbing steadily uphill for a kilometre. But even so, the path is wide and paved the whole way through. If you’re really desperate, you could even skip the inclines and take bus 15 or 15B straight to Wan Chai Gap Park, situated right at the entrance of the country park.

Enter on Aberdeen Reservoir Road and the flat path will lead you to the reservoirs that sit in the heart of the country park. Running parallel on the opposite side of the reservoirs is Lady Clementi’s Ride, a longer and slightly more rugged trail ideal for those who fancy a forest-bound jaunt. Otherwise, in roughly half an hour, you will reach the Upper Aberdeen Reservoir Dam, where you can soak in expansive views of the reservoir’s peaceful surroundings.

Before carrying on with the hike, make sure you descend down the adjoining arched bridge for some photogenic shots! Continuing along the Aberdeen Fitness Trail, the path skirts along the western edge of the Lower Reservoir and eventually spits you back out of the country park in Aberdeen. If you have time, don’t forget to head down to the shore of the Lower Reservoir for the ultimate waterfront experience!

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High Island Reservoir

Nowhere else in Hong Kong do the wonders of man and nature collide in more splendid harmony than at High Island Reservoir. Framed by burnished red volcanic rock formations and the undulating green hills of Sai Kung, High Island Reservoir ranks as the largest reservoir in Hong Kong, and it’s got the views to match.

While the behemoth is the most recent of its kind to be impounded in Hong Kong, its surrounding rocky treasures boast a far lengthier history, dating back to a volcanic eruption 140 million years ago! In recognition of its geological significance, the area has been included as part of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark.

Thanks to the minimal elevation and smooth, concrete roads, there’s no real challenge to the hike beyond the 10-kilometre distance and the hassle of getting to the far-flung, southeastern corner of Sai Kung. From Sai Kung Town, take bus 94 or minibus 7 or 9 to Pak Tam Chung, and follow along Tai Mong Tsai Road towards the start of Machelose Trail Section 1. Continue on the path for around half an hour until you emerge at the West Dam of the High Island Reservoir, where the waterside trekking begins.

The trail is fairly exposed as the trees start to thin from here on out, so bring a hat and be diligent about applying sunscreen. The good news is that this means practically any point of the hike is merited with stunning vistas of the reservoir in its sun-kissed, boundless glory, though we’d recommend saving up some space on your camera for the biggest drawcard at the end, the East Dam of the High Island Reservoir.

It’s hard not to feel utterly enamoured as you walk across the majestic dam, enveloped by the magical scenery of otherworldly rock cliffs and a swathe of sapphire waters. Plus, there is also a geo-trail in the vicinity that gives you a tour of the area’s geological highlights!

Click here to read our full guide on how to hike High Island Reservoir.

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Lau Shui Heung Reservoir

Renowned for being one of the best places in Hong Kong to see autumn foliage, hikers and photographers alike flock to Lau Shui Heung Reservoir during the cooler months to witness dense canopies of bald cypress trees erupt into a sea of copper-red. But while the vibrant red colours here may be fleeting, the beauty of the reservoir and its natural surroundings linger throughout the seasons.

This serene little enclave in Pat Sin Leng Country Park has plenty of gems up its sleeve, including various species of butterflies, a picturesque arched stone bridge, and of course, the famous “sky mirror” lake, which gets its nickname from its enchanting glassy waters that acts as a natural canvas reflecting the sky and trees on the opposite shore.

There are no trails going around the perimeter of Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, but the scenic spot can be explored by the popular paved loop path around Shek Au Shan, which actually encompasses both Lau Shui Heung Reservoir and the Hok Tau Reservoir—killing two birds with one stone! Perfect for a weekend family outing, the hike is easy-going. There are even barbecue pits and campsites nearby for a post-trek picnic!

To get to the trail, hop on minibus 52B outside Fanling MTR station and alight at the Pat Sin Leng Country Park roundabout. Then, simply follow along Hok Tau Road for around 20 minutes until you reach Lau Shui Heung Reservoir. You’ll see a small path on the left that bends uphill to get to the dam.

The track takes you down to the shore to fully soak in the uninterrupted views and scenery. After some thorough exploration along the water’s edge, you can either retrace your steps and end the hike, or head back to the junction point and take the flight up steps that lead to Hok Tau Reservoir!

Click here to read our full guide on how to hike Lau Shui Heung Reservoir.

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Beverly Ngai

Junior editor

A wanderer, chronic overthinker, and baking enthusiast, Beverly spent much of her childhood in the United States before moving to Hong Kong at age 11 and making the sparkling city her home. In her natural habitat, she can be found baking up a storm in her kitchen, journalling at a café, or scrolling through OpenRice deciding on her next meal.

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