Header image courtesy of William Vaccaro (Shutterstock)
Kowloon Peak, also known as Fei Ngo Shan, is a must for thrill-seekers and Instagrammers, offering unobstructed views over Hong Kong at its crown, as well as the ominously-named Suicide Cliff. This infamous bluff is a popular spot for many to take breathtaking (pun intended) photos of themselves looking over Kowloon. One photo at this scenic point even won local photographer, Kelvin Yuen, a notable prize in National Geographic’s International Photo Contest in 2015 and it’s pretty clear why!
Fei Ngo Shan is the highest peak in Kowloon at 602 metres and literally translates into “Soaring Goose Mountain.” The mountain is situated in Ma On Shan Country Park in the northeast side of Kowloon and intersects with the Wilson Trail and Maclehose Trail.
This walk (or rather, climb) is steep and narrow at parts, and the lack of barriers means one slip could prove fatal, so we must stress for hikers to be especially cautious should they be tempted to take on this hike. It is highly advised that only experienced hikers or rock climbers do this trail, as this spot has seen its fair share of accidents and casualties, with one incident involving two tourists requiring an extensive rescue mission carried out by a grand total of 160 firefighters! You have been warned.
Distance: 7 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 600 metres approx.
Total time: 4.5 hours
There are two ways to do this hike: the first will take you over Fei Ngo Shan with a 360-degree view as you approach Suicide Cliff, and the second will take you straight to Suicide Cliff. The latter is quite short and goes directly to the cliff.
The first third of this walk involves a lot of steps, and to begin with, you may start to question if this hike is really worth it. Luckily, a lot of this section is shaded, with a couple of points along the way where you may stop and splash yourself with some stream water. We recommend to climb at your own pace, and you know what they say: The best views come after the toughest climbs! So muster all you can to get to the top, because once you get out into the open, you will be greeted with beautiful views of thick luscious vegetation, reminiscent of faraway lands.
At the second crossroads, you will arrive at a small clearing, where you have the option to turn left up towards Buffalo Hill, or carry on straight along the Maclehose Trail. For Suicide Cliff, you will want to stay on Maclehose Trail Section 4 until you come upon a steep hill road. Here, you will want to turn left and go up the hill (sorry). This road takes you past Gilwell Campsite, a major campsite run by the Scout Association of Hong Kong—and the only spot in Hong Kong for wild camping activities. At this point, you will have made it 430 metres above sea level.
Continue to follow the road for 850 metres until you arrive at Kowloon Viewing Point, which makes for a great spot to take a breather as you can take in the views of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. From left to right of the viewing point, you will be able to make out the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, IFC in Central, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Kwun Tong, Lion’s Rock in Kowloon Tong, and Tate's Cairn Meteorological Station, which is just at the end of the concrete road (Wilson Trail Section 4) if you fancied a 10-minute detour.
Once you’re done with your break at the viewing point, you will want to come off the road and follow the signs towards the toilets behind the pagoda. Turn and carry on down a clearing made by the trail, which is signposted with a “Dangerous Walks” warning. If you are already feeling spent at this point, it is best to turn back, as the next two-thirds of this walk will involve a lot of clambering up and down steep hillsides on dirt and rock.
Beyond this point is where the trail really starts to get interesting and—for me, personally—made the walk all the more exciting and worthwhile. After all, you will be treated with 360-degree views over Hong Kong, with Marina Cove and Nam Wai to your left, and the Kowloon peninsula and Hong Kong’s famous skyline to your right. From this point on, the trail is straightforward (in terms of seeing where you need to go) but hiking it is a different story altogether. And here is where you really begin to reap the benefits of the hike!
Simply follow the undulating dirt path over Tai Lam Au and Elephant Hill, through the thick luscious green. As the crow flies, it’s only a mere one and a half kilometres from the viewing point to the Kowloon Peak Television and Radio Station on Fei Ngo Shan. Google Maps estimates this section to take 30 minutes but from our experience, this is not the case. The combination of having to pay attention to clambering over the dirt path and the stunning views sure does help take your mind off the time!
Just before you reach the Kowloon Peak Television and Radio Station, you have the option of turning left and following the steps down to Fei Ngo Shan Road for a relatively easier exit. But with two-thirds of the walk done, and Suicide Cliff a mere 300 metres away, do you really want to throw in the towel now?
Take a break here, and then head up the stairs past Kowloon Peak Television and Radio Station. You may thank your lucky stars for some uniform, concrete steps, but this quickly turns into a dirt trail, which you will need to follow (and rely on some good old common sense and stable footing) to get you down this section of the trail.
About halfway down the face of Fei Ngo Shan, you will hit Suicide Cliff, where you can take some spectacular photos of the rock face over Kowloon. Just be sure to keep your wits about you and watch your step; many unfortunate accidents have taken place around this spot.
Once you’ve had your fill, there are two ways back down. You can either keep heading down the trail until you reach Fei Ha Road, but beware the steep incline and exercise maximum caution if you do go this way. You can also choose to head down via the Kowloon Peak Television and Radio Station, which means backtracking and following the path to the right after the helipad. The road ultimately leads you to Fei Ngo Shan Road. The second option is a safer path down, as Fei Ha Road is quite steep.
From here, your best bet of catching any mode of transportation will be closer to Clear Water Bay Road, though you do get the odd taxi or two going in the opposite direction to drop other hikers off. Minibuses 1A and 11 will take you back to Choi Hung Station. Alternatively, if you still have some mileage left in those legs, Choi Hung Station is only a 25-minute walk away.
If you’re only interested in seeing Suicide Cliff, you may start from Fei Ha Road, which looks like a rather unofficial and hidden trail just to the right of someone’s driveway. The incline to Suicide Cliff is particularly intense from here, but it is the most direct way. Once you’re done at Suicide Cliff, make your way down via the Kowloon Peak Television and Radio Station, and this time, follow the path to the right after the helipad, which ultimately comes out on Fei Ngo Shan Road. This is a safer path down, as Fei Ha Road is quite steep.
Although this is the shorter and most direct route to see Suicide Cliff, do not mistakenly take this as an easy route, as this trail is rather treacherous, and involves a lot of climbing and walking on rock faces and slippery dirt paths.
Plenty of water: Depending on the season and time of day you attempt the hike, two litres per person should be an adequate amount.
Sunscreen and hat: If walking from Tai Che to Fei Ngo Shan, only the first third of this walk is covered, so it’s best to protect yourself from the sun. Once you get out into the sun, there ain’t no running from those rays!
Water-proof windbreaker: Again, depending on the weather, Fei Ngo Shan can be quite exposed to the winds and clouds. Just on the off chance that you have chosen a bad day to do this climb, best to have a waterproof or some sort of layering for safety.
Insect repellent: With the thick canopy and streams from the first section of this walk, there are naturally quite a few mozzies.
A good pair of walking shoes: Don’t wear your old gym shoes from high school with little to no tread.
Walking stick or hiking poles: You may prefer the use of a stick or hiking pole to provide a little extra support on those slipper dirt paths. Or alternatively, some people opt for gloves to provide rope burn and use their hands for better grip on the rocks.