Header image credit: hangrafitti / Flickr
Lantau Island is famous for its gorgeous hikes: Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak… but one that’s often overlooked is a challenging trek from Mui Wo to Discovery Bay that passes through a waterfall, old villages, interesting rock formations, not one but two beaches, and some of the most unparalleled views Hong Kong has to offer. You can transverse through the two peaceful neighbourhoods via the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail ridge hike that runs through North Lantau Country Park. What are you waiting for?
The Lo Fu Tau Country Trail has a total ascent of about 500 metres, with the eponymous Lo Fu Tau (Tiger’s Head) sitting at 465 metres above sea level and overlooking the beautiful Discovery Bay as well as developments in North Lantau Island. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the skyscrapers along Victoria Harbour in the distance. Lo Fu Tau is less of an actual peak, as the trail dips up and down several high points, and more of a treacherous cliffside lookout that requires climbing to get up to or down from. The views along the way are definitely worth it though.
The hike starts at Pak Ngan Heung, an ancient village that houses Hong Kong’s oldest Man Mo Temple, believed to have been built sometime during the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644). Along the way, we recommend stocking up on snacks and water in Mui Wo Town or Chuen Kee at Pak Ngan Heung, as there are no refuel or rest stops once you begin your trek. There is plenty of signage along the way to guide you, and a detailed map is located at A Po Long, where the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail officially begins. You’ll end your hike at Discovery Bay, a sprawling community with all the modern amenities you’re going to want after the three-hour hike.
We would class this as a solid intermediate hike, as it’s the length of the hike that’ll wear you out, in addition to the kilometre-long scramble up and down a sandy path from Lo Fu Tau. The total distance of the hike is about nine to 10 kilometres, depending on where you start and finish, though the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail itself is only about 3.5 kilometres long. The first part of the hike takes you along the old Olympic Trail (also known as the Tung Mui Ancient Trail) until you reach A Po Long, where the country trail begins.
We always recommend bringing a sufficient amount of water on hikes, portioning for at least two litres per person, but on this particular hike you’ll definitely want to bring more than you think you need. With its copious ascents and descents along the way, and the complete lack of shade for the majority of the trail, you’ll find yourself needing more water than usual, about three to four litres. A hat and copious amounts of sun protection is a must too. While most of the trail is well maintained, you’re going to need sneakers with proper tread, or hiking shoes to tackle the irregular rocky steps along the hike and the steep scraggly section around Lo Fu Tau.
Distance: 8.5 to 10 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 500 metres approx (Lo Fu Tau sits 465 metres above sea level)
Total time: 3.5 hours approx.
Since we’re starting this hike from Mui Wo, the start of the trail is located at Pak Ngan Heung, a stone’s throw away from Mui Wo Pier and Mui Wo Town. You can choose to either take the ferry from Central, or the bus or a taxi from Tung Chung. We would not recommend driving to this hike, as there is limited parking space on either end of the trail.
The first part of this hike is seriously easy. The walk to Pak Ngan Heung from Mui Wo, then from the village to A Po Long, is full of farms and wildlife, easing your mind into a state of calm. Pass through the old archway at Pak Ngan Heung, an idyllic village with friendly locals, and continue along the paved road. Stop by the historic Man Mo Temple, where the villagers who settled in Mui Wo during the silver rush would ask the gods to settle their affairs and protect their jobs.
The Silvermine Waterfall is a short walk away, and is one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in Hong Kong. There’s a small garden here perfect for a short picnic accompanied by birdsong and the rush (or trickle, if you come before the rain) of the waterfall. Be careful when hopping along the rocks of the pools, as they’re covered in moss.
A stone’s throw away is the Silvermine Cave. Silver mining was the main industry in Mui Wo from 1862 to 1896, leading to the names of the hill and the surrounding bay. The cave is blocked off about 20 metres in, discouraging any explorers who hope to find any trace remnants of silver or might get trapped in the treacherous mining tunnels. The now defunct mine is home to a rare species of bats, and if the timing is right you might see them emerge from a hole carved out inside the cave.
Follow the cement Olympic Trail up, where you can look back at Silvermine Bay and Mui Wo Town, and steel yourself for a long walk ahead. Turn left at the junction after Wo Tin Village. This will take you to A Po Long, the high ravine where Lo Fu Tau Country Trail begins. From here, it’s all dirt paths and rocky steps. Fortunately, the ridge isn’t all steep, but rather gentle for most of the first hour or so.
Again, it’s the complete lack of shade that’ll get your sweat dripping and your heart rate up. You’ll have sweeping grasslands on either side of you, and the majestic Lin Fa Shan at the back. As you trudge along, you’ll spot the beautifully maintained Discovery Bay Golf Course on your right, next to the Discovery Bay Reservoir. Further ahead to your left, you’ll be able to observe the North Lantau Highway beside the runways of the Hong Kong International Airport. Though the scenic views that surround you will remind you that you’re never far from civilisation, Lo Fu Tau Country Trail can nevertheless be described as utterly peaceful.
The trail then winds along the hillside and you’ll come across some natural though oddly placed boulders and interesting rock formations. There’s the Peach Stone that stands right in the middle of the path, the Devil’s Tongue (or Duck Head) Rock on your side up ahead, and the imposing Sword Testing Rock with a neat crack down the middle. Did we once have a local Excalibur lying around?
After about two hours on the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail, you’ll come up to Lo Fu Tau. Lo Fu Tau translates to "Tiger’s Head" in Cantonese, referring to the two rocks on either side of the cliff, and the grassy pastures that turn yellowish-brown in the autumn resembling a tiger’s fur.
This tiger gazes out to Discovery Bay, and you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the airport, Peng Chau, Central, and more from the viewpoint. Enjoy a moment of respite here and recharge before you attempt the truthfully treacherous descent down the head and into Discovery Bay.
If you wish to climb Lo Fu Tau, there is a side path on the right looking down, with ribbons marking the way. This is really steep though, so it’s preferable to take the rugged path on the left, armed with a sturdy walking stick, strong knees, and your mates figuring out the safest places to step. The rocks can get really loose after a storm or during typhoon season, so proceed with caution!
Once you’ve made it down the tiger, descend along the trail through the woods until you hit concrete again. About 10 to 15 minutes later, you’ll reach the Discovery Bay Lookout Pavilion, where you can see Hong Kong Disneyland. The solid flights of steps there will lead you down to Parkvale Village, where your hike ends.
Follow the obvious paths through Woodland Court and Crystal Court along Parkvale Drive, where you’ll reach Discovery Bay Plaza in roughly a quarter of an hour. Congratulations, you’ve made it!
Treat yourself to a dip on the nearby beach, or grab a bite at one of the many fantastic restaurants along the seaside. When you’re ready, get on the ferry back to Central, or hop on the DB01R bus back to Tung Chung.