Header images courtesy of @outnabout_photos and @hayashihk (via Instagram)
There are a million reasons we are drawn to hiking—de-stressing from the office life, fresh air in the middle of a pandemic, or just a quick adventure into the greener side of a skyscraper-laden city. Right in the backyard of the New Territories is a trail that combines the best of all hiking trails, offering beautiful scenery, variety in climbing spots, and enough of a physical challenge to ensure an excellent’s night sleep. Arm yourself with sunscreen, water, and a snack, and get ready to tackle this beast of a hike from Ma On Shan to Tai Shui Tseng!
This hike may be one of our more physically demanding routes, but the breathtaking views have consistently made it a popular spot for hikers. It provides a bird’s-eye view of the New Territories and a rare opportunity to be surrounded by vegetation and nature in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city life. Ngong Ping is perfect for a family picnic, to let your dogs run around, or to simply watch paragliders take off!
However, this hike is definitely not your Sunday stroll. We recommend bringing a pair of gloves (professional hiking or cheap nylon ones) for safety, hygiene, and cleanliness, as this hike requires gripping rocks, branches, and trunks for balance. Wear a sturdy pair of hiking shoes (or athletic shoes at the very least) to provide grip when descending sharp but sandy paths and are flexible enough to find footholds when clambering up rock faces.
This trail is not only physically demanding, but it’s also not as well marked as more popular routes such as Dragon’s Back. Helpful hikers have drawn arrows on rocks at different junctions to provide a guide in which path to take, so keep an eye out for those. This trail is also a popular route for hiking groups, as it trails into smaller, alternative paths. Avoid relying on the ribbons, as these routes should be reserved for more experience hikers and climbers.
Considering the ascent of this hike (700 metres), it is recommended that you avoid attempting this hike during the summer, or to wait until later in the day. However, as difficult as this trail is, with all the additional concerns, it will all seem worth it when you catch your first glimpse from the top of the mountain! Tai Shui Tseng village also feeds into Sai Kung, where you’ll have plenty of tasty options for a post-hike meal.
Distance: 7.7 km approx.
Ascent: 700 metres
Time: 5.5 hours approx.
The hike from Ma On Shan to Tai Shui Tseng starts at Ma On Shan BBQ Site, which is a short bus ride away from Ma On Shan Station. You could also opt to start your hike all the way from Ma On Shan Station, or skip ahead to Ngong Ping by taking the minibus all the way to the last stop.
If you want to skip straight to Ngong Ping, ride minibus NR84 until the last stop!
We’ve broken this hiking guide up to match the different sections of the hike from Ma On Shan to Tai Shui Tseng. Please take your time to catch your breath and enjoy the view! After you first arrive at the BBQ site, there are two entrances labelled “Ma On Shan Family Walk” adjacent to each other. Both entrances will take you to the start of the hike, which is next to the Ma On Shan Family Walk Viewing Platform.
The start to your hike is not the most obvious route as the path is not paved like easier hikes and is situated behind the roped-off area of the viewing platform. Behind the “danger sign” will be a small opening, leading into an upwards path carved with stones that will take you on a slight climb. There is a plastic rope for some assistance, but try not to rely on it too much. You’ll arrive at a small flat area with a second “danger sign” with the trail continuing as a steep climb behind it. Anticipate having to use your hands for stability!
At the top, follow the flat path on the right that leads into another climb, before you arrive at the first viewing point. Stop for a break and take in the views of Tai Shui Hang and Wu Kai Sha, and across the water to Tai Po, Science Park, and Kau To San.
The next section of the hike will offer some shade as you clamber upwards with excellent tree trunks and branches for stability and guide. This will lead into a rock face at almost 180 degrees, with a nylon rope provided for assistance. (Try not to put your whole weight on the rope though!) At the top, you will arrive at a fork in the road, in which you will head to the right. The path to the left has been labelled by a friendly hiker as the path to Tiu Sauu Ngam. However, you will take the path to the right to continue onto Ma On Shan.
Continue on the path before arriving at a fork in the road. Take the path to the left which will open up with your arrival at the Hunch Back (Ngau Ngak Saan), or the “butt” of the horse of Ma On Shan!
The entirety of the Ma On Shan can be broken into three main sections—The Hunch Back (Ngau Ngak Saan), also referred to as the “tail;” the “saddle” (“On”), with the area below referred to as the West Horse Belly; and the main apex of Ma On Shan, referred to as the “head.” Head down from the Hunch Back to continue across the “saddle” to continue onto Ma On Shan, which is marked with a black and white marker. It’s the perfect spot to rest, drink some water, and snap a quick pic! You’ll get an amazing view of the rest of your hike as well!
There will be a “bring your litter home” sign that directly faces the path you will continue on. As the ground is very sandy and dusty, take your time with your descent, and feel free to sit and shuffle down as needed.
Eventually, the path evens out and perpendicularly intersects with Section 4 of the MacLehose hiking trail. The sign will be facing away from you, so if you turn to face it (and therefore, are facing where you just came from), head to your left. If you don't turn to face the sign and keep your back to where you just came from, head to your right. At the next junction marked with a MacLehose sign, continue to your left, which will offer a pretty wide and easy path to follow.
This will bring you to a viewing point that overlooks Sai Kung, Ngong Ping, and brings you to the base of Pyramic Hill (Dai Gum Zhong). You might even catch of a glimpse of paragliders setting off from Ngong Ping! The apex of Pyramid Hill offers pretty spectacular views but is extremely steep to ascend and descent, with a very narrow path. Hikers have the option to proceed up Pyramid Hill, after which they can descent into Ngong Ping, or take the junction to the right which will allow them to loop around the peak.
You’ll reach a rest area with covered seating, in which you can proceed to the right towards Hang On Estate, or continue to the left to loop to Ngong Ping, which is a beautiful flat area perfect for picnics, paragliding, and family hiking trips. It offers a breath-taking view of Sai Kung and has a viewing platform map that labels different mountains and monuments.
There are normally camping grounds but due to social distancing measures, the signage is taped over. To exit into Tai Shui Tseng, continue walking away from where you came from to the end of Ngong Ping, which leads into a fairly obvious path that ends at a junction with a map. If you turn to face the map and road markers for Tai Shui Tseng and Mau Ping.
After that, it’s stairs all the way down until you reach Tai Shui Tseng! It’s a nice, paved walk down that takes you through a bamboo grove and offers shade from the sun. Friendly villages and hikers have graffitied general directions to reach Sai Kung. There’s a stop for minibus 3 on Tan Cheung Road with a covered waiting area, but you can continue past and walk into Sai Kung, where’s plenty to explore!