Header images courtesy of @rhk_studio and @g.surajj (Instagram)
As the weather continues to heat up in Hong Kong, hiking becomes a more arduous task than usual. Unless you embark on a trail that’s well-shaded and relatively gentle, you can guarantee that within five minutes you’ll be sweating like you’re in a sauna.
Luckily, we’ve found the perfect summer hike for you to still get exercise while staying cool: The oft-overlooked Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail in the majestic Plover Cove Country Park, which ends with a visit to the beautiful but tragically named Bride’s Pool waterfall. Let’s go!
Pat Sin Leng (which literally translates into “The Eight Immortals Ridge”) has been a place marked by tragedy, one of the eight peaks being the site of a freak hill fire that claimed the lives of three students and two teachers during a school field trip. Bride’s Pool was also marked by tragedy, named after an urban legend of a bride falling in and drowning after being thrown from her carriage while on her way to meet her groom.
Tragedy aside, the area remains absolutely breathtaking and serene, closer to mainland China than Hong Kong. There are many trails of varying levels of difficulty throughout the country park, but today, we’re taking it easy on the Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail. It’s approximately five kilometres long and will take about two hours to complete, including breaks. There is no peak to summit, taking you along the peaceful countryside instead with stunning views of Plover Cove Reservoir, Tolo Harbour, and even Shenzhen.
The trail is shaded by an abundance of trees and takes you along many little streams and rivers, making it the perfect summer hike. As the trail is not paved, make sure you wear proper footwear with good grip so you don’t slip on any dirt and rocks. Sun protection is still important despite the trail being shaded, and you’ll be able to stock up on water in Tai Po Market or Tai Mei Tuk. The trail doesn’t get hectic at any point, except for some narrow passages, and is great for the whole family, too.
Distance: 5 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 300 metres approx.
Total time: 2 hours approx.
No matter how you choose to get to the starting point of the Nature Trail outside of Tai Mei Tuk, the first thing you have to do is get to Tai Po Market Station. From there, there are buses, minibuses, and taxis that will take you to the Plover Cove Country Park Tai Mei Tuk Visitor Centre, where the trail begins.
Do note that bus 275R is significantly slower compared to the minibus. If you’d like to soak in the scenic views along the way, take this bus. Minibus 20R actually goes straight to Bride’s Pool, so if you’re feeling lazy, skip the hike and head straight to the waterfall.
Follow the large and clearly marked signs at the Tai Mei Tuk Visitor Centre and head uphill for the Spring Breeze Pavilion. On the way in, you’ll pass through an arched entryway marked with “Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail,” which is where your Pat Sin Leng hike begins.
The stone steps are smooth and the incline gentle as you head up to the Pavilion. On a good day, it offers a panoramic view of everywhere from Plover Cove Reservoir to Tai Mo Shan. A little bit of grim history: The Spring Breeze Pavilion was erected after the 1996 Pat Sin Leng wildfire in memory of those lost that day. The wildfire raged on for over 40 hours and the event is recorded as the worst wildfire in local history.
From the pavilion, continue up the stone steps for about 10 to 15 minutes until you reach a small sign and a break in the foliage. Here, you can admire the view of the Plover Cove Reservoir as well as Ma On Shan and Ma On Shan Town Centre. Continue on and the stone path will give way to a clear dirt path. Be careful to stay on the path as there are hidden slopes on your right that you may trip and fall down.
The trail is well-defined and there are no confusing forks in the path, so simply carry on the rocky dirt trail. About one kilometre into the trail, there is a “shortcut” directing you to Bride’s Pool Road. Do not take this path as it’ll lead you out to a busy road frequented by tour buses going into Bride’s Pool.
The steps for the next hour or so are pretty uneven and aren’t as well maintained as the initial section of this hike. As the Nature Trail meets up with the Wilson Trail Section 10, the path gets more rugged.
Along the way, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the local flora and fauna. There are weeping willows, azaleas that colour the hillside with their exotic blooms, and Fortune’s Keteleerias, a protected species of coniferous evergreen trees native to Hong Kong.
The forests in Plover Cove Country Park and Pat Sin Leng are also home to birds like the common kingfisher, the crested bulbul, and the Chinese bulbul. Even rarer are sightings of the Chinese pangolin, masked palm civet, and leopard cat. If you don’t get a chance to see these interesting animals, don’t fret. The foliage should be impressive enough for you to remember that you’re in a slice of nature untouched by civilisation, and the distant sights of Shenzhen will remind you that you are definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
The nature trail is one of the most straightforward hikes we’ve done, but there is one tricky part before you get to the end of the trail and cross the road to Bride’s Pool. We took a wrong turn and ended up at a bridge after crossing one of the many streams along the trail, and had to turn back.
After making our way back to the main path, the steps lead you down to Bride’s Pool Road, where there is a pavilion on your right and the entrance to the Bride’s Pool Nature Trail to the left. The waterfall is accessible from this main gate, or the steps to the left of the Bride’s Pool barbecue site (not Bride’s Pool Road).
It doesn’t matter which entrance you take as the Nature Trail loops around the waterfall. You simply walk down the stone steps and cut through to the river to get to the beautiful natural swimming hole that the ghost of the ill-fated bride allegedly haunts.
The water in the mirror pool at Bride’s Pool is crystal clear and teeming with fish, the 15-metre-high waterfalls cascading after the rainy season. There is a sign stating that, for safety reasons, there isn’t a clear access path into the rocky falls. It also says that visitors should refrain from swimming, but during the summer, Bride’s Pool is a popular bathing spot for locals. You can, of course, stay on the Nature Trail to admire the falls from a vantage point, but it’s better to (safely) get up close to the gorgeous waterfall.
When you’re done at the falls, take bus 275R back out to Tai Po Market, or stop at Tai Mei Tuk for a scenic bike ride and barbecue. There are also boating opportunities and great Thai cuisine to be had.