Header image courtesy of @tintin_jamie (via Instagram)
Jardine’s Lookout may have a reputation for being one of Hong Kong’s most expensive neighbourhoods to live in, but luckily, hiking there and drinking in its scenic views will cost you little more than a free afternoon and a bit of sweat. A short trek from Wong Nai Chung Reservoir will take you to the mountain’s summit where some of the most expansive outlooks of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, and beyond await. For anyone looking for a quick burst of outdoor tranquillity or a lesser-known spot to watch the sun close out the day, here is your guide to hiking Jardine’s Lookout.
Nestled against Happy Valley to its south and Causeway Bay to its east, Jardine’s Lookout boasts the best of both worlds: it’s close to the urban pulse yet far enough with its towering 433-metre height to enjoy a slice of countryside quietude—no wonder the mountain has become one of the city’s most prestigious residential addresses!
It is no mere coincidence that the name Jardine’s Lookout calls to mind one British multinational conglomerate. As a matter of fact, the mountain was named after William Jardine, founder of Jardine Matheson. Allegedly, back in the eighteenth century, the platform of the summit was where the trading firm kept a lookout for approaching ships from India and England, so that news about the market could be relayed to the firm’s directors as promptly as possible.
As this interesting piece of history already gives clue, Jardine’s Lookout is beloved by hikers for its panoramic views of Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon peninsula. Despite its considerable elevation, the hike starts from the waist of the mountain and follows a short and straightforward trail, making for a beginner and family-friendly excursion. At the same time, the area is well-connected to several other trails, so veteran hikers can opt to continue their adventure to Mount Butler or explore the nearby Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail and get a hefty dose of World War Two history.
Distance: 4 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 231 metres approx.
Total time: 1 to 1.5 hours approx.
The headway of the trail to Jardine’s Lookout coincides with that of Wilson Trail Section Two, which is located right opposite Hong Kong Parkview near Wong Nai Chung Reservoir. Although it’s not the most accessible starting point, there are a handful of buses from all around Hong Kong Island (including minibus 5, bus 6, 66, and 76) that will take you to the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park stop. From there, a 10-minute uphill trek along Tai Tam Reservoir Road will get you to the starting point of the hike. Conveniently, there is a public toilet along the road to the trailhead in case you need to use the restroom before tackling the trail.
Upon setting foot on the Wilson Trail, you will be immediately greeted by a sign turning you right for Jardine’s Lookout. There is only one path from here that leads to the summit of Jardine’s Lookout, so simply follow along and cast aside any worries of veering astray. The first leg of the hike is lightly shaded, taking you through a series of concrete steps that are steep enough to get your blood flowing, but equally well-groomed and fairly uniform to provide safe, even footing for novice hikers and trail runners alike.
In just a few minutes, you will reach the Osborn Memorial, a commemorative plaque dedicated to Sergent-Major John Osborn and the members of the Canadian military regiment Winnipeg Grenadiers who were deployed to Hong Kong in the Second World War and fought in defence of the colony. During the Battle of Hong Kong, the Winnipeg Grenadiers were attacked by Japanese troops at the foothill of Jardine’s Lookout.
In a moment of dire peril, the unit’s leader threw his body over a live grenade in an attempt to save his fellow comrades. In recognition of Osborn’s valiant sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and honoured with the commemorative plaque near where he made the self-sacrifice.
Advance steadily uphill along the dirt-and-concrete path as you muse on the historic event that unfolded on the site, but do remember to stop and look back occasionally for some stunning vistas of Tai Tam and the southern side of Hong Kong Island. In case you forget though, there is an unmissable giant rock platform just beyond the mid-way mark on which you can mount and feast your eyes on the beautiful sea-enveloped landscape.
The vegetation flanking both sides of the trail grow sparser and shorter as you ascend northwards, save for the brief interlude of a shady bamboo tunnel right after passing the rocky viewing point. If you are hiking mid-day, prepare to be loomed over by the sunlight in the second half of the hike. On the flip side, this means that the views get increasingly open and spectacular and you draw closer to the top!
You will know that you’ve nearly crested to the summit when the trail flattens out considerably. Awaiting your arrival at Jardine’s Lookout are a black-and-white trig pillar, and, concealed by an inconspicuous path just a few steps behind it, the titular observation platform. On a clear day, the view from this vantage point is truly phenomenal, presenting the entire length of the Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon skyline in one sweeping panorama. On a clear day, you can cast your gaze out as far as Lion Rock and even Tai Mo Shan!
If you time your hike to coincide with the sun making its nightly exit, you’ll be treated to a front-row seat viewing of a breathtaking sunset! A chief advantage here is that the hike is short and easy enough that you don’t have to worry about floundering in the dark for long after dusk.
After you’re done taking in the beauty of your surroundings, you can simply head back down to the trailhead the same way you came. There are several buses on Wong Nai Chung Gap Road that you can catch to return to the city, such as buses 6, 63, 66, and 76, and minibus 5.
If you’ve still got fuel in your tank, consider making it a through-hike by continuing for another hour to Mount Butler and finishing up at Quarry Bay—this will bump up the total hiking distance to around six kilometres. Alternatively, for something a little less taxing, proceed to hop on the historic Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail from Tai Tam Reservoir Road. The trail meanders for an easy three kilometres along the hillside of the mountain, covering 10 key wartime sites from the Battle of Hong Kong.