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Take a Hike: How to hike the historic Mount Davis Path

By Beverly Ngai 22 July 2021

Header image courtesy of @ltcatcher (via Instagram)

Once an important artillery base for the British forces, Mount Davis is now a lush playground for intrepid hikers looking to soak up some waterfront views and explore the lingering vestiges of the city’s wartime past. While the trail is short, easy-going, and accessible from the urban areas of Hong Kong Island, the sprawl of century-old military relics and the area’s unsavoury history lend an eerie, mystical atmosphere that both allures and chills to the bone! So grab a friend to hold on to and get ready for a history-filled adventure following our hiking guide to the Mount Davis Path.

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Overview & fast facts

Named after the second governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Francis Davis, Mount Davis is a 269-metre hill sitting in the secluded westernmost corner of Hong Kong Island. The British were long cognisant of the mountain’s strategic geographical location as a front-line coastal defence for the western districts, and thus proceeded to make it the headquarters of the Western Fire Command, as well as establish an artillery battery on the hill in 1911.

During the Second World War, a series of guerrilla skirmishes took place on Mount Davis, and the battery was heavily shelled by the Japanese. Unable to hold their position against enemy forces, the British troops were forced to abandon the site, destroying all of its weaponry as they left. Since then, the surviving fragments of the former military stronghold has been left to nature’s re-fashioning and explorers’ discovery.

A gentle, hour-long hike following a nicely paved path will take you through a string of ruinous gun placements, bomb shelters, and storage structures, some swallowed up by vines and overgrown trees, while others are just intact enough for you to venture into—if you so dare. For those who get easily creeped out, rest assured that the stunning, open sea views at the summit will help you shake off the spooky shivers!

Distance: 4 kilometres approx.

Difficulty: Beginner 

Total ascent: 223 metres approx.

Total time: 2 hours approx.

How to get there

The start of the hike begins on Mount Davis Path, located directly opposite the Hong Kong campus of The University of Chicago. From Kennedy Town Station, you can get there either by a 20-minute walk along Victoria Road or by taking minibus 58, 58A, 54, 58A, 43M, or 971, which would effectively cut your commute time by half.

Upon alighting on Victoria Road, you’ll see the trailhead of Mount Davis Path to your left, breaking off from the main road and sloping up into the woods. The path is clearly marked and located right across from the giant white school campus, so there’s no getting it wrong!

From Kennedy Town:
  1. Take the Island line to Kennedy Town Station.
  2. Catch minibus 58, 58A, 54, 58A, 43M, or 971 to the Mount Davis Path bus stop.
  3. Locate Mount Davis Path right across from the university campus.
  4. The sloped path marks the start of the hike.

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Photo: @wegothere_hk (via Instagram)

The hike

Following along a wide, paved road, Mount Davis Path is simple to navigate. You’ll find that much of the route is dappled with shade from overhead trees, providing welcome relief from the sun and making for an easy summer hike!

Starting from the western entrance of Mount Davis Path, you’ll hit the first junction in around five minutes. Turn left and follow the bright red sign pointing to the Jockey Club Mount Davis Youth Hostel. This will lead you to the war relics and up to the summit, while the other path skirts along the southern periphery of the mountain, eventually spitting you back out on Pok Fu Lam Road.

As you advance forward, the trail progresses at a slow and steady incline, snaking its way through a couple of switchback curves. Enthralling with its historic atmosphere, the uphill journey is punctuated by numerous dilapidated military structures, including ammunition stores, accommodation buildings, and guardrooms. You’ll have to keep an eagle eye out to spot them all, as some of them are camouflaged and hidden off to the side!

Given the decaying state of the old buildings, it can be hard to make out what each structure is, but that makes it all the more intriguing for history enthusiasts! Feel free to spend some time wandering around and trying to decipher what the concrete slabs were formerly used for. That said, you won’t be completely at a loss. There are interpretive panels in front of the more intact structures, like the gun emplacement sites and major forts, which will provide you with a brief glimpse into the history of the Mount Davis Battery.

Funnily enough, one point of fascination along the way is a toilet facility. But not just any toilet—a trench latrine used by soldiers back in the 1940s, with the concrete dividers and pits still clearly visible and in place! And if the sight of a toilet wakes up your biological needs, then you’ll be relieved to hear that there is also a modern portable toilet situated right beside its historical counterpart.

If you are feeling adventurous, there are also a handful of small side trails for you to explore, cutting through the depths of the mountain and bypassing some more obscure structures. Otherwise, continue on the main trail and you’ll reach the summit in around an hour. 

The final leg of the ascent is marked by the Jockey Club Mount Davis Youth Hostel, an understated, white building overlooking some of the best ocean scenery in Hong Kong. After this point, the trail follows a steep 45-degree slope straight to the peak, with the option of either stairs or a paved road to lead you up.

Photo: @mitty.fit (via Instagram)

At the top of the staircase, you will be greeted by a cluster of old military forts, beautiful views stretching from Victoria Harbour to Tsing Yi Bridge, as well as a lovely sitting-out area with a pavilion, a small playground, and ample space to roam around. Take your time exploring the nooks and crannies of the plateaued grassy peak!

If the weather permits, we recommend rolling out a blanket on the expansive lawn and enjoying a relaxing picnic. Occasionally, you’ll also find people pitching tents and camping at this serene spot.

To return, simply retrace your steps and double back to the trailhead. Once you are on Victoria Road again, you can leave by minibus 54S, 54, 58, 58A, or 1. Any of these buses will take you back to Kennedy Town

Alternatively, linger a little longer and check out the nearby Jubilee Battery as well. Located at the foot of Mount Davis just below the university campus, the coastal artillery ground boasts three historic gun emplacements and phenomenal sunset views over the harbour. We can think of no better way to conclude your journey than by watching the golden sun sink into the sparkling sea!

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Beverly Ngai

Junior editor

A wanderer, chronic overthinker, and baking enthusiast, Beverly spent much of her childhood in the United States before moving to Hong Kong at age 11 and making the sparkling city her home. In her natural habitat, she can be found baking up a storm in her kitchen, journalling at a café, or scrolling through OpenRice deciding on her next meal.

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