Header image courtesy of @yyywilde (via Instagram)
Perseverance, grit, and determination—the “Lion Rock spirit” resonates like a beating drum when you’re climbing up the 495-metre monolith dwarfing over Kowloon. Touting a dramatic lion-shaped outcrop that sits regally at its summit, Lion Rock is one of the most quintessential hikes in Hong Kong.
As befits the grandeur of its peculiarly shaped rock, the journey up Lion Rock is one that requires a good level of strength and stamina, taking you through heaps of steep steps and rocky terrain—but once you make it to the top, the panoramic city views truly speak for themselves. Follow our guide to hiking this classic trail and put your strength to the test!
Hong Kong’s mountainous landscape is hardly deprived of bizarre rock formations, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one of more prestige and notoriety than Lion Rock. Wedged snugly between Tai Wai and Kowloon in Lion Rock Country Park, this prized 140-million-years-old granite outcrop has evolved over history to become not only a striking geological attraction, but also an enduring emblem of the city as a whole and its people.
This is in part thanks to the 1970s hit TVB drama series “Below the Lion Rock” and its eponymous theme song, which chronicles the lives of working-class Hong Kong citizens during an era when the city was striving to lift itself out of poverty. Though decades have passed since the TV show aired, its legacy of Hong Kong’s can-do attitude has lived on, permanently memorialised by the rock that it famously references.
Owing to the sprawling network of intersecting trails in the country park, there are numerous permutations of hiking routes for Lion Rock, covering varying lengths and different start and endpoints. One of the more frequently trotted routes is a five-kilometre trek starting from Lok Fu and concluding in Wong Tai Sin.
Fast trekkers may be able to complete the hike in under three hours, but we recommend allowing yourself four hours to fully enjoy the spectacular area. Given its popularity, the trail is very well-established and sign-posed, making navigation a cinch.
The physical challenge, however, is a whole other story. The endless stairs and steep elevation will give your glutes and thighs a slow, sweet burn—the kind that promises muscle aches and soreness the next day—but you’ll hardly be complaining when you’re standing like a proper champ at the top, witnessing wide, breath-taking panoramas of Kowloon and New Territories.
Distance: 5.3 kilometres approx.
Difficulty: Intermediate to difficult
Total ascent: 460 metres approx.
Total time: 3 to 4 hours approx.
The start of the hike begins near the entrance of Lion Rock Country Park on Chuk Yuen Road, which can be reached by a 20-minute-walk from Lok Fu MTR station through Wong Tau Hom. As you’ll be twisting and turning your way through a largely residential area, getting to the hike is not exactly straight-forward. Luckily, you’ll have the head of the Lion Rock as your guiding North Star, ensuring that you’re going in the right general direction.
Located just a few steps outside the entrance gate of the country park, the trailhead is hard to miss, with a detailed map board situated by the defined, railing-lined stairs welcoming you into the park’s woodsy embrace.
The green handrail is there to accompany you for the first few minutes of the hike—just to offer an initial boost of confidence—before soon disappearing and leaving you to your own devices. As you make your way up, the well-paved, concrete steps and gentle slopes eventually give way to uneven, rocky paths and dirt tracks.
While the trail gets progressively more rugged, the surrounding forestry stays pretty consistent for the first half of the hike. Skirting closely along the southern periphery of Lion Rock Country Park, the track never plunges too deep into the forest, so you’ll find yourself lightly shaded by slim, sparse trees most of the time. This allows you to peer through the spaces between the foliage to catch sight of the imposing Lion Rock looming overhead!
One kilometre into the hike, you’ll emerge at your first lookout point which comes in the form of an open, flat boulder platform, large enough to simultaneously fit a group of 15 to 20. Extending a few metres from the side of the trail, the platform gives you a good view of the Kowloon skyline, with the gleaming ICC building standing in the centre of your field of vision.
The halfway point is marked by the Reunification Pavilion and a four-way intersection leading to Lion Rock, Amah Rock, Beacon Hill, and Wong Tau Hom respectively. There is not a lot of views to speak of at this pavilion, but it’s a nice, shaded spot to rest your weary legs and chug some water. Once you’re ready, turn right to advance up Lion Rock.
Expect the trial to get considerably steeper and rougher as you continue to gain elevation—you may need to enlist the help of your arms or a friend to haul you up some big steps and squeeze between narrow boulders. There’s nothing too technical here, but a sense of caution is nonetheless called for, especially if you’re a novice hiker.
Adding to the thrill are the views that become increasingly more dramatic and expansive as the trees start to thin out. Take advantage of the resting spots along the way to soak in the vistas and fill your camera roll!
A marathon of steps and some light scrambling later, you will (finally) arrive at the crowning ridge of the hilltop, which comprises three peaks that form the head, back, and tail of the “lion,” separated by two small dips in between.
The three peaks offer jaw-dropping views from slightly different vantage points, encompassing eastern New Territories and almost all of Kowloon. The summit is perinatally packed with snap-happy hikers on the weekends, but if you manage to visit on a quiet weekday, the smattering of giant boulders offer some good sitting spots where you can chill out and indulge in a little sunbathing!
After making your way across the lion’s “back,” and thoroughly basking in the glory of your high-altitude achievement, it’s time to descend back to the lowlands. Compared to the battle of an uphill trek, the trip downhill is a fairly easy one, with no awkward clambering or precarious-looking steps. Continuing forward on the main trail, you’ll reach a forked junction around 0.5 kilometres down from the summit.
Here, you can take the faster route and turn right, following the steps straight down to Sha Tin Pass Road near Temple Hill Fat Jong Temple. Alternatively, if you fancy a more in-depth exploration of the country park, turn left towards Sha Tin Pass. This will allow you to explore a few more pavilions and a barbecue site before eventually spitting you back out at the northern end of Sha Tin Pass Road, tacking on an additional kilometre to your trekking expedition.
Once you hit the paved, concrete road, it’s just an easy, sloped walk back to civilisation. Simply follow along Sha Tin Pass Road all the way to the roundabout at the end, where you will be greeted by Wong Tai Sin MTR station from across the street. It will take you around 20 minutes to reach the MTR station, but there are also multiple bus stops along the way to help you get to wherever you’re headed!