Header image courtesy of @hungjacky (via Instagram)
If you like your hikes served with a sprinkle of history, heaps of quad-busting climbs, and a big visual punch in the end, then venture to Castle Peak for a challenge that will surely go down as one of the most glorious feats in your trekking arsenal.
While the 583-metre peak is by no means the tallest of its kind in Hong Kong, it’s definitely one of the steepest, earning it a revered status as one of the “three sharp peaks” of Hong Kong alongside Sharp Peak and High Junk Peak. For the ambitious hikers out there who have the guts and grit, here’s your guide to hiking Castle Peak!
Nestled in mountainous ranges of western New Territories, Castle Peak is easily recognisable by the pointy radio towers sitting at its apex, which some say resemble spikes on a castle when beheld from a distance.
Befitting its lofty name and majestic appearance, this peak is matched by an equally demanding uphill journey, with relentless elevation and lots of loose gravel to navigate around. If you can manage it though, the rich rewards make every ounce of energy and sweat of the precipitous ascent worthwhile.
Apart from offering some of the most breathtaking views of Tuen Mun New Town, Yuen Long, and beyond, Castle Peak is also rife with historical significance. Widely regarded as the birthplace of Buddhism in Hong Kong, it is said that a travelling Indian monk from the Southern Song dynasty named Pui To established a Buddhist monastery at the foothills of this mountain and made it his humble abode. To this day, the site continues to be saturated with its Buddhist legacy, having reincarnated into the present-day Tsing Shan Monastery.
Standing quite at odds with its Chinese name, which literally translates to “Green Hill” (青山; cing1 saan1), Castle Peak does not in fact have much to show for on the vegetation front, but is in fact notorious for its exposed granite landscape. As logic would then dictate, a hat, loads of sunscreen, and a giant bottle of water are essential, as is a pair of good hiking shoes to help you tackle the rocky, shifty terrain.
Spanning six kilometres, the hike may not sound incredibly long, but it’s best to carve out around five hours for the full journey, as you’ll be stopping frequently for breaks and photo ops!
Distance: 6 kilometres approx.
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
Total ascent: 524 metres approx.
Total time: 5 hours approx.
Looming closely behind Tuen Mun New Town, Castle Peak is fairly accessible from the city; and as long as you are not too fussed about commuting to Tuen Mun, getting to the trail should not be too difficult.
The start of the Castle Peak hike follows Tsing Shan Monastery Path, which can be reached by a four-minute walk from Tsing Shan Tsuen Light Rail Station or a 20-minute walk from Tuen Mun MTR station.
Alternatively, you can also catch one of the many buses serving Tsing Wun Road, such as bus 57M, 66X, and 258D, and simply follow the signs pointing to Tsing Shan Monastery upon alighting.
Right from the get-go, the Castle Peak hike takes you through an impressive line-up of historic landmarks as you follow a well-paved, albeit steep concrete road up to Tsing Shan Monastery, with several notable archways and Chinese-style pavilions along the way. Amongst them is the Heung Hoi Ming Shan Memorial Archway, an elaborately decorated stone gateway erected in 1929 in honour of former Hong Kong governor Sir Cecil Clementi.
In about 20 minutes, you will reach see a wide set of stairs to your right that veers into Tsing Shan Monastery. It’s worth taking a detour to wander through the seminal spiritual grounds and drink in all its picturesque sights. You will find the monastery replete with charming temples, pagodas, and Buddhist structures, some splashed with eye-popping shades of red and yellow, while others built in grey bricks with tubular tiled roofs.
However, the piece de resistance is the Daxiong Baodian (Main Buddha Hall) situated right in the heart of the monastery. Known as the largest Chinese-style building in Hong Kong, this colourfully decked-out temple enshrines three gilded Buddha statues with nearly 100 years of history!
Continue on Hau Sze Path from behind the monastery by climbing up the steps with the yellow railings. About 100 metres in, just beyond the Tsing Shan Pavilion, there will be a path on your right that turns onto Tsing Shan Path and goes up to the summit of Castle Peak. Here is when the true test of fitness and endurance really begins—and you’ll be reminded of it when you see the sign near the pavilion warning hikers of the steep climb ahead!
The rest of the trail can be divided into three distinct sections. They can all be characterised by long flights of steps and zig-zag switchbacks, but that’s about where the similarities end. You’ll find the landscape changes drastically as you ascend, starting from shaded, well-paved roads to progressively more rugged terrain as you break from the canopy of trees onto an open, rocky path—though there are still handrails around to help.
In the final stretch of the hike, the handrails disappear altogether, and you’ll be slogging up slippery dirt and near-shifty boulders. With nothing to hold onto, you‘ll have to stay alert and tread with caution.
As much as your thighs will be throbbing in the second half of the hike, there are plenty of reasons to stay motivated. Apart from the white radio towers coming closer into view as you approach the summit, there are also multiple viewing spots sprinkled throughout the path, where you can enjoy vistas of Tuen Mun before you.
Be sure to snap a round of photos at the green pavilion before making the last 100-metre scramble up to the main tower. When you finally reach the top, expect to have your breath taken away from both the physical exertion and the sweeping views that stretch as far as the eyes can see. From the undulating ridges of Castle Peak Hinterland and the sprawling residential skyrises of Tuen Mun to the shimmering waters of Shenzhen Deep Bay, there’s something interesting to see no matter which direction you look. If you time your arrival to the peak just right, you’ll even catch the peak’s surroundings illuminated by the fiery red and orange hues of a romantic sunset!
Once you’re done indulging your eyes and soul, carefully clamber back down to the pavilion, watching out for the loose gravel underfoot. If the treacherous ascent has got you feeling wiped out, you can simply retrace your tracks back to Tsing Shan Monastery Path. Otherwise, those with a little more energy left in their tank can explore a different path down, continuing north on the ridge towards Leung Tin Au. When you reach the three-way junction, turn right and finish your hike at Leung King Estate. This route will extend your hike by an extra two kilometres and treat you to a fascinating adventure through heavily weathered terrain.
You’re pretty much back in civilisation once you’ve reached Leung King Estate, and there are numerous public transport options to get you wherever you need to go. Buses 58M and 58X will take you to Kwai Fong MTR station and Mong Kong East MTR station respectively. You can also hop on the light rail at Leung King station and interchange to the West Rail line at Siu Hong Station.