Header image courtesy of @adam_nich (via Instagram)
Hong Kong Island has no shortage of hiking trails, but the great Hong Kong Trail is the boss that rules them all. You can opt to begin this heroic-length journey from the Peak Tower on Victoria Peak all the way through to its end at Big Wave Bay, or you can also simply break the trip into smaller adventures, each consisting of one of the eight sections that make it up. Here is our guide on how to tackle this legendary track.
As the shortest of the famed “Big Four” hiking trails, which also include the Lantau Trail, the Wilson Trail, and the MacLehose Trail, the Hong Kong Trail (港島徑; gong2 dou2 ging3) is perhaps best suited as the first one to conquer. Weaving its way through five country parks, the journey offers waterfalls, high-rolling peaks, historical relics, and exciting terrain.
A great way to ease yourself into the challenge of thru-hiking, the Hong Kong Trail is clearly marked throughout, and is considerably shaded from the sun as it passes through the woods quite often, making for frequent pitstops surrounded by lush nature.
It has become quite the popular conquest for local hikers, with several non-profit groups and organisations making the Hong Kong Trail the setting to their annual races and hiking events, like the Green Power Hike that raises funds for environmental education for local youth, the Rainbow Trek which raises money for autistic children, and the Trail Walker@HKU challenge that aims to propagate the benefits of hiking amongst students.
Split into eight main sections, the interconnected route makes its way from the western end of Hong Kong Island all the way to the borderlands along the eastern coast, bookended by H100 line markers. You can also tough it out and face the 50-kilometre challenge in one go, but there are also plenty of explorers who decide to take their sweet time camping out in-between and enjoying the quest at their own pace. Although there are no official campsites along the trail, people have been known to pitch their tents at picnic sites and the beach.
Please be mindful of your individual health background and hiking skills, and make sure to plan ahead according to your personal abilities before setting off. Water is a must, with a minimum of two litres as a recommended supply.
Distance: 50 kilometres approx.
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
Total ascent: 3,031 metres approx.
Total time: 10 to 12 hours approx. on average
Hong Kong Trail sets off from the high point of Victoria Peak, encircling the peak itself and High West, then cutting through the Pok Fu Lam Country Park. Find the Lugard Road sign opposite from the Peak Galleria and head downhill, and after few moments, you will see the first H001 post to your right. Once you reach the end, the road forks off into the Pok Fu Lam Family Walk to take you back to the neighbourhood, and the headway towards Section 2 is marked by the post H014. At seven kilometres, this portion is fairly easy and makes for a good family walk in itself, with ample flora and fauna all around.
Making your way from marker H014, the second section takes you from the hills of Pok Fu Lam, traversing down the green zones of the Southern District, then to the Peel Rise strip. As majority of the hike is located on a paved path away from cars and traffic, the 4.5-kilometre walk is a breeze and quite manageable for children and pets.
Although it is mostly considered an interim trail to take you through to the next section, you are still privy to fantastic views that look out across Aberdeen, Cyberport, and even the East Lamma Channel. Section 3 is signalled by the H025 post and a babbling little creek by the name of Geung Fa Gaan (薑花澗)—“white ginger lily stream.”
Here is where the trip goes deeper into nature, with pavements transforming into well-trodden dirt roads. Section 3 starts at marker H026, where Peel Rise eventually leads to Aberdeen Country Park under the shade of overhanging trees and surrounded by verdure. Despite the switch in terrain, the 6.5-kilometre trail remains unintimidating, all the way to its end at Aberdeen Reservoir Road at marker H037. For those who need to take a breather or want to pause and refuel, there is a picnic site overlooking the calm waters at the earlier chunk of the trail, where Peel Rise splits into Hong Kong Trail Section 3.
Hong Kong history buffs may already be familiar with this stretch by way of the iconic Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail that once served as the backdrop to one of the bloodiest moments in the city’s past. Although this part of the trail overlaps with the one we have covered in our guide, heading from the point at marker H038 towards the end of Black Link that is capped with marker H050 means less manoeuvring about. A bit of a climb is involved around the H044 point, so prepare for some uphill movement. At the Middle Gap Road Viewing Point, enjoy the panoramas that reach as far as Violet Hill to Ap Lei Chau.
Before approaching the trudge up Tai Tam Reservoir Road at the end of the trail, there is a Sinopec gas station where you can stock up water or any other necessities before tackling the more difficult passage to come. For a proper sit-down, there is also the Tai Tam BBQ site next to the bridge at the end of Section 4, also acting as an unofficial sign that you have reached the halfway point of the great Hong Kong Trail.
Gear up and get ready for Section 5, as here is where the journey toughens up. It is where the elevation takes on a harder incline, winding through Tai Tam Country Park in an upwards direction towards Jardine’s Lookout. Somewhat reassuringly, it is also the shortest section of the Hong Kong Trail, running between markers H051 to H059 at a length of just four kilometres. Via the dreaded Jacob’s Ladder, there are two peaks to conquer, with a combined height of 350 metres, which explains the breathtaking scenes—pun intended—across Victoria Harbour, Mount Butler, and Quarry Bay. You will also get to enjoy a vantage point of the stepped quarry that still operates as a rock blasting site today.
It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief, as this part of the trail is a straightforward path downhill towards the Tai Tam Reservoir. From the concrete path that spans out from signpost H060, the section takes you towards the natural course that allows you brushes with miniature rivers and rocks. During the summer days, you can take a detour to the Tai Tam Mound Waterfall near marker H066 for a quick dip, though be sure to remain aware and avoid heading there when the area is too slippery or dangerous. When at the reservoir, the route brings you to the dam’s beautiful stonework wall, surrounded by serene waters. Section 6 of the Hong Kong Trail ends at marker H068 at Tai Tam Road.
Welcome to the second-final stretch of the arduous Hong Kong Trail. Is the muscle soreness settling in yet or is your adrenaline still pumping strong? Section 7 of the route follows a catchwater, so the surroundings are comparably less thrilling, but the terrain is a paved one, so this will at least give your shoes a break from grappling. You can catch a glimpse of Tai Tam Harbour and—if you’re lucky—some varieties of wildlife.
Its initial segments from H068 are flat and manageable, but the latter parts take you uphill. For a change in scenery, you can drop by the beach in To Tei Wan Tsuen (土地灣村), where Nam Kee Store offers water and supplies. Altogether, Section 7 of the Hong Kong Trail is around 7.5 kilometres, and ends at the marker H084 at Shek O Road.
Here it is—the final stage of the Hong Kong Trail. Boasting a reputation as one of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong, and an iconic route to the city, Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail is also known as the Dragon’s Back hike. Sending you through Shek O Country Park, the undulating route stretches out to 8.5 kilometres, granting you impressive vantages of Shek O and Big Wave Bay on the way. For a full length guide on how to conquer this beast of a journey, and finish your quest at the looming H100 marker, click here.