Header image courtesy of @dictik (via Shutterstock)
Typically, the start of a new year would see flocks of folks at the gym, trying to kick off new beginnings with yearly resolutions of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, we have had to face a different kind of new year, and we are adjusting to the new normal with no access to gyms. Then again, who says you need fancy equipment to get fit? There’s no need to keep your resolutions on hold— just build up your muscles and stamina on Hong Kong’s many hiking trails without an expensive gym membership! We’re back with another hiking guide—there are just too many mountains to conquer (and we are glad for it during the pandemic period). Follow us as we tackle Needle Hill, between Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin.
Needle Hill, known as Cham Shan (針山) in Cantonese, gets its name from its sharp, needle-like tip. Sandwiched between Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin, it takes pride in being the third-sharpest peak in Hong Kong and it very much resembles Sharp Peak in Sai Kung and Twin Peaks near Stanley. Hiking Needle Hill involves a lot of stairs upwards and down, so we suggest bringing an ample amount of water and energy-boosting snacks (maybe a hat, too). You are also likely to encounter monkeys during this hike, so we suggest keeping your snacks (especially bananas) away from these smart and sneaky fellas.
Distance: 12 kilometres approx.
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
Total ascent: 532 metres approx.
Total time: 4 hours approx.
The starting point of this hike is Shing Mun Reservoir near Tsuen Wan. The trail then transcends into MacLehose Trail 7 to reach Needle Hill. Our hike will end at Lead Mine Pass in Sha Tin and will not be extending to Grass Hill.
Alternatively, there are several bus routes that will take you to Lei Muk Shue bus terminus, and then from there, you can take bus 82 to reach Shing Mun Reservoir. Buses you can take include 36 from Tai Wo Hau, 36M from Kwai Fong, 36A from Mei Foo, and 36B from Lai Chi Kok.
Whichever bus you take, they do not take you to the main dam at Shing Mun Reservoir (unless you decided to cab it and the cabbie was nice enough to drop you right to your starting point!), but no worries, just continue walking along Shing Mun Road. You will stumble upon the only washroom on your way before tackling this hike, so be wise and use this opportunity folks (it’s that or heading to the bushes when nature calls). It’s a nice, brisk walk with the reservoir to your left, and well, monkeys to your... basically everywhere. Just be sure to keep your snacks away and do not tamper with the monkeys!
Walk past the barbeque site and at the end of the main dam of the Shing Mun Reservoir, you will come across a triple junction. Here, you will see a flight of stairs signposting MacLehose Trail Section Seven—this is our official starting point. Go easy and take your time going up the (seemingly never-ending) stairs, as they sure are steep and you are exposed to the sun throughout. After climbing up a decent amount of stairs, you’ll see Needle Hill peeking out to your right, and much of Sha Tin right below.
The stairs eventually level out to a flat path for a bit before the final ascent to the top of Needle Hill. You may have to slightly clamber your way to the top—perhaps a walking stick will come in handy. From the summit, you are greeted with stunning views of Shing Mun Reservoir with a backdrop of Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin. On a clear day, you can spot the majestic Lion Rock, too. As the top of Needle Hill is rather sharp, there is not much space to gather around and sit to admire the views. On a busy day, you may have to get going pretty soon so as to avoid the summit from overcrowding (Hong Kong problems?).
Sure, the stairs uphill may be hellish, but the tricky part is actually in going downhill (take care of your knees when doing so). At times, the slope can be a bit steep and slippery, so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes when venturing to this sharp peak. Luckily, this slope does eventually turn to an asphalt surface with concrete stairs—it’s just the initial descent from the summit is the difficult part. This is the Shing Mun Forest Track and both sides are lined with beautiful trees.
You can choose to extend your hike to Grass Hill, but be sure to check that you still have enough water and snacks left before deciding on that. Grass Hill stands at a higher elevation, offering wider views of western New Territories, and the ascent is more gradual and less strenuous compared to Needle Hill. If you want to call it a day, simply continue down the path pointing to Sha Tin Town—you will see a ribbon tied to a tree to help indicate that you are on the right path to exit.
At the end of the stairs, turn right first and then left, and you’ll reach Yau Oi Tsuen. You will see a small path with green metal fences—follow along this path until you reach Sha Tin Railway Station. From here on, you can commute to other parts of the city and continue your day (or head home and nap!).