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Take a Hike: How to hike to Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, Hong Kong’s “sky mirror”

By Catharina Cheung 22 January 2021 | Last Updated 29 December 2021

Header image courtesy of @instaudreyttt (via Instagram)

Situated within the Pat Sin Leng Country Park in the northeastern New Territories, the Lau Shui Heung Country Trail is famous for its scenic reservoir as well as its large population of butterflies living in the area. Compared to other more well-known and accessible reservoirs in Hong Kong, Lau Shui Heung Reservoir is a more understated and quieter location from which to enjoy the serene beauty of nature without too many hordes of hikers jostling for photo ops. Visit the Lau Shui Heung Reservoir soon before our guide makes this another hotspot!

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Photo: @patricklamphotography (via Instagram)

Overview & fast facts

This area of Pat Sin Leng is renowned for its feng shui woods, which were traditionally seen as a sign for being a good place to settle and build villages on. Initially used to irrigate farmlands nearby, the Lau Shui Heung Reservoir has long since lost its original agricultural purpose, but is nonetheless well-loved by hikers for its picturesque surroundings and biodiversity. It is also an easy-going half-day hike, which can also be combined with other trails nearby for more adventuring, including another nearby reservoir.

There isn’t really a trail that goes all the way around the reservoir for maximum scenic enjoyment, but rather the most widely taken route is a loop trail going around the nearby Shek Au Shan, part of which runs next to the reservoir. A section of the ascent via stairs is pretty steep, but it’s not too long and therefore not difficult to tough out.

The entire trail is paved concrete, which might get pretty boring for those who prefer their hikes more wild, but on the upside, there are also barbecue and camping sites nearby, and the area has become a popular location for picnics. Pack some food to reward yourselves with after the hike, and head out the door!

Distance: 4.5 kilometres approx.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Total ascent: 280 metres

Total time: 2.5 hours approx.

How to get there

From Fanling MTR station, come out of exit A and hop onto minibus 52B at the terminus. The service runs to Hok Tau, so alight at the Pat Sin Leng Country Park roundabout, at the junction of Lau Shui Heung Road and Hok Tak Road, then walk back along Lau Shui Heung Road to reach the entrance of the park, which also marks the trailhead of the Lau Shui Heung Reservoir hike.

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By Catharina Cheung 28 December 2020
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The hike

This section of the walk to Lau Shui Heung Reservoir is on an uninspired concrete road with not much scenery to speak of, but it only takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to reach the water. When you reach the public toilet with the red tiled roof—the only one on this hike—take the path on the left that bends uphill behind it to get onto the dam of the reservoir.

This leads to a dead end, but it does offer a splendid view of Lau Shui Heung Reservoir’s waters and the verdant hills that surround it. If you make this trip in the mornings, there is usually a pretty mist that hangs above the water, giving the place a vaguely mystical vibe. When there’s not much wind, the hills and trees of the opposite shore are reflected prettily on the surface of the reservoir, so the locals sometimes fittingly call the lake a “sky mirror.” 

The water is also surrounded by white melaleuca, paperbark, and bald cypress trees, some of which turn fetching shades of orange and yellow during autumn. The trees here are also commonly clad with the white-flower derris, a vine that crawls up tree trunks.

Once done at this viewing point, head back to the public toilets and continue up the path going past it to get to a barbecue site. Cross the little bridge to reach a picturesque line of trees on the edge of the reservoir, which is also a great spot for photos and a scenic picnic. This path is yet another dead end so simply retrace your steps to get back to the road. From here, you can either end your journey to Lau Shui Heung and call it a day, or tack on an additional sojourn to the nearby Hok Tau Reservoir, which we very much recommend since you’re already there!

Loop back to the point some ways past the public toilets where the concrete road becomes a smaller paved path to locate the flight of stairs that turn onto Lau Shui Heung Nature Trail. This uphill climb runs up Shek Au Shan, merges with a trail on Cloudy Hill, and eventually turns north to loop back towards the starting point of the reservoir. It is the only part of this entire hike that may pose difficulties so take it easy and rest assured that once at the top, the trail will be relatively flat with only small, sporadic flights of stairs.

The view from higher up is of the lush green hills of Pat Sin Leng, and at some point, you’ll be able to gaze down at the narrow Hok Tau Reservoir tucked into the base of the slopes. Follow the main trail to a junction then take the left path signposted for Hok Tau, sloping down an incline that morphs into a flight of stairs. The trail at the bottom runs along the edge of Hok Tau Reservoir at a height, making for good views over the water. 

Turning left at the bottom of the stairs will eventually lead to another set of narrow steps which takes you onto the dam. Hok Tau Reservoir is a designated tree-planting site, home to many species of butterflies and dragonflies—the best times of year to view these insects are between April to June, and October to November.

To leave, take the concrete path by the narrow stairs and the dam bridge, which passes by the campsite and leads you to Hok Tau Wai and take minibus 52B back to Fanling. See if you can grab a bowl of silky beancurd pudding at the small store located at Hok Tau Wai while waiting for the public transport—a sweet end to the day’s hike.

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys scouring the city for under-the-radar things to do, see, and eat, and is committed to finding the perfect foundation that will withstand Hong Kong’s heat. She is also an aspiring polyglot, a firm advocate for feminist and LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.

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