Header image courtesy of @elena.1i (via Instagram)
Not to be confused with Devil’s Peak in Yau Tong, nor the poisonous South African plant of the same namesake, Devil’s Claw (魔爪石; mo1 jaau2 sek6) is a rock formation perched atop the headland of Chung Hom Kok mountain in the eponymous Chung Hom Kok neighbourhood. Only a short distance west of Stanley, on the peninsula opposite from Rhino Rock, this secluded turf is a great option for a southside hike with gorgeous views, fascinating formations, and touches of history.
Occupying the southernmost point of the peninsula, the Chung Hom Kok range showcases a whole series of peculiar rock formations. Aside from the leading attraction of Devil’s Claw, nearby Snoopy Rock is also another fixture that draws in a small handful of visitors.
The neighbourhood itself tends to be quite secluded, making it a preferred destination amongst those craving some peace and quiet. Most nearby residences are comprised of low-level luxury townhouses and sophisticated villas, many of which encircle a grassy lawn or private pool.
In the late 1970s, the colonial government had actually installed a signals intelligence hub in the area, instated by the government communications headquarters of the UK. It was used to intercept radio and telecommunication signals to make way for surveillance in the name of security. However, the facility had ceased operation in the 1990s and eventually closed down for good in 1995.
You really only need to reserve a little over a half-day for the journey, as the distance covered is easily manageable. It is the terrain, however, that adds to the level of difficulty. Do be aware that the trails are not officially marked or even paved out smoothly, which means a lot of ducking and dodging your way through under the guidance of ribboned trees.
Shoes with a decent grip are recommended, as you will be traversing through the coastal boulders and thrashing through whacking shrubbery. An ample supply of sunscreen and water is recommended (though that should just be considered good hiking practice in general).
Distance: 3 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 131 metres approx.
Total time: 2 hours approx.
Chung Hom Kok is a rather small area and quite remote, so there is a limited amount of bus lines available. The most straightforward route would require you to set off from Central, though you can easily hop on in-between the ride from Stanley. If you are looking to avoid weekend crowds at the station, a special bus route that starts from North Point is available exclusively on Sundays.
Your starting point will begin at the Chung Hum Kok Road Beach bus stop. At the finish, you will wind up by The Jockey Club Cheshire Home bus stop, where you can find bus 16A to bring you to Stanley, or bus 6X to take you back to Central, or board minibus 40X to Repulse Bay.
Upon alighting at the Cape Road bus stop in Chung Hom Kok, you will find a roundabout that branches off into three directions. Stick to the one straight ahead that brings you southbound, as the road to the right is the way to the Chung Hum Kok Beach.
As the road winds its way towards the mountain, it will narrow down a bit. Move forward until it widens again and you find a car lay-by-area to your left. Walk ahead a little and you will find a clearing between the trees that are marked with red and yellow ribbon.
Keep at the cleared path by sticking to the ribbon-marked trees. Soon, you will reach a more upwards-tilted incline which requires ascending clambering. Some people were kind enough to tie down some ropes in the more difficult parts, which you may find helpful for pulling yourself up.
After a couple of metres of bushwhacking, you will find a rocky cliff that requires you to grapple your way up. Once overcome, you will get to a clearing where bright green treetops are interwoven with weathered boulders stretch out before you.
From this checkpoint, you are able to catch sight of the Devil’s Claw looming a short distance away. Take a moment to absorb the view and enjoy the expansive panorama that unfolds from the hilltop residentials and crescent coastline.
It’s time to dive back into the canopy of trees. Take the passage to your left and continue on the trail by following the ribbons attached all along until the next clearing. This is a section that requires a smidgen of elbow grease to get through, as the branches are more densely packed together. It’s best to keep a hand on a sturdy branch or rock nearby to reinforce your footing.
After you weave your way through, you will reach a rocky section that leads to a large clearing similar to the previous stop that hosted the first viewpoint. Be extremely careful here—you will need to call upon your spidey senses to edge your way around and across the eroded surfaces to get ahead. From here, Devil’s Claw is just around the corner!
The exact demonic appendage this grand mass resembles is up for debate, as its moniker is known to switch between Devil’s Claw and Devil’s Paw. Jutting out from the side of the cliff in the form of two conical prongs, the intricate honeycomb texture on the rocks is a result of weathering. Exposure to humid winds carrying salt from the sea has caused granite minerals on the top layers of the “claw” to dissolve, hollowing out to reveal its skeleton.
The sights from here are quite similar to the last spot, though spectacular nonetheless. If you are feeling particularly devilish, you can take the structure by the horns—metaphorically and physically—by making your way up to sit at the top (with great care, of course).
Once you have soaked in the high views and shot enough photos to last a lifetime, head on up to continue your journey towards the peak. Take the path signalled by ribbon. You may need to use your hands to help grapple up certain parts at this stage of the hill. The trail mostly consists of russet soil that is quite slippery, so take your time.
When you see boulder cliffs and start feeling solid rock under your feet again, follow the trail that runs up and squeeze your way around the slabs to access the next clearing. The next rocky attraction that greets you will be a jutted rock that looks a bit like a frowny skull (it is yet to officially find a name). Have a look around and you will notice the calming vistas of Stanley. On a bright day, you may actually even scope a look as far out as Brick Hill, Ocean Park, and Twin Peaks.
Look out for the next ribbon-marked pathway and continue upwards—this will lead you to Snoopy Rock and another cluster of boulders that sort of resembles the head of Snoopy’s beloved sidekick Woodstock. Trek your way on the ridged terrain between the rocks that are also flagged by ribbons, and you will soon catch wind of the stone canine.
The “head” is turned towards the sea and slightly hangs off the precipice as if to guard the mountain. Though it is a rather reductive representation, it isn’t hard to make out the flop of Snoopy’s ear, the curve of his face, and even the dent of his button nose in the shape of the rock. This interesting formation has become an unofficial beacon that lets you know you have reached the absolute peak of Chung Hum Kok mountain.
From there, it is an uncomplicated but relatively steep path downwards, as the only climbable trail has been marked with ribbons. Follow it downwards, remaining alert and aware of where you are stepping to avoid slipping. A steep staircase will appear for you to go down, and you will reach the Chung Hom Kok Park, a well-loved sunset-watching and stargazing spot.
This is also where the Chung Hum Kok Battery lies, ending your trip with a little bit of old Hong Kong. This used battery station used to house a cannon that was used by the British soldiers against Japanese navy soldiers during the Second World War.
Although the original gear was destroyed in 1941 to prevent it from being sieged by the Japanese, the outside structure still offers an interesting spot to check out. Its quirky dome-shaped cover is reminiscent of an open-air play stage, or the dome of an observatory.
From here, follow the narrow staircase down, ending your adventure at Cheshire Home Public Hospital on Chung Hom Kok Road. You can wait at the stop in front for a bus back into the city, or continue up the road towards the beach for some well-deserved chill time.
If you are looking to end your adventure with a splash, take the route back north that loops along the edge of the coastline to Chung Hom Kok Beach. Simply follow Chung Hum Kok Road and turn left at the roundabout from the beginning of the trail, and continue staying on the road until you catch sight of the sands. This expedition should take around 20 minutes and will reward you with a relaxing beach replete with wonderful facilities (there is even a barbecue area!) but free from bustling hordes of people.