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#852Basics: 7 hiking trails on Hong Kong Island under two hours

By Catharina Cheung 26 March 2020

It’s a damn shame to stay cooped up indoors when we can see the weather gradually getting nicer. While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stopper in a lot of social plans, there’s nothing stopping you from nipping out for a brisk walk and some fresh air. Here are some quick hikes that you can finish in more or less two hours, so you can get outdoors for a quick breather before hurrying back home. (No, not including Dragon’s Back.)

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Photo credit: @daveihk
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Red Incense Burner Summit

This hike is also referred to as Hung Heung Lo Fung and offers some spectacular viewpoints of the island. You can take minibus 25 from Causeway Bay to its final stop of Braemar Hill and start hiking from there, but starting from the Mount Butler area will bring you past more viewpoints to enjoy.

Catch bus 24M from Admiralty and alight at Mount Butler Block C and D, where the trail begins. It’s a simple matter of following Mount Butler Road for a kilometre or so, and then the small trail up towards Red Incense Burner Summit. The key to making this hike enjoyable is to veer off the path whenever possible because the gaps in the foliage will give you great views of the city below. Clamber out onto the rock platforms and take it all in before continuing on.

Red Incense Burner Summit has nice boulders with the city in the background, framed by trees and foliage, which makes for very pretty pictures, while the Braemar Hill Viewpoint is slightly higher up, just a short trek away. Once you’re done at Red Incense Burner, it is only a five-minute downhill walk to the bus stops next to St Joan of Arc Secondary School. The whole hike should only take about an hour, but you’ll want to spend more time looking for viewpoints and admiring the beauty of the city.

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Rhino Rock

Rhino Rock is one of the easiest hikes in Hong Kong, only about one kilometre from the trailhead. There isn’t much of an incline apart from the beginning section, and you could even make the trip and back in approximately half an hour if you don’t stop at the rock—but what would be the fun in that?

Make your way to the Stanley Fort bus stop—bus 6A will take you there from Central—and take the stairs next to the fort’s security booth. The steps are followed by an incline, the only “tough” part of the hike, but it isn’t long. When you get to a white marker in a clearing, veer off the path into the bushes to the right, east of where the white summit marker points to. Emerge through the bushes to be greeted by beautiful views of the sea. From here, you’ll encounter some very basic bouldering at certain points, but it’s all fun with lots of viewpoints to discover.

The rock itself really does resemble a rhinoceros, complete with wrinkles and a horn to boot. You can climb up the rhino from the back and gaze out to sea before making the trip back to the fort trailhead. Because of how short this hike is, we wouldn’t recommend going all the way to southside just to do it, but if you’re in Stanley anyway, then this would make for a nice detour.

Photo credit: @etc_xoxo
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Jardine’s Lookout

This trail is easy to tackle and yields one of the island’s best views of Hong Kong. There are signposts and a well-defined path all along the way, so there is no chance of you getting lost—characteristics that make this hike perfect for beginners or newcomers to the city.

The journey begins at the Wilson Trail Parkview trailhead on Tai Tam Reservoir Road, right near the Parkview residence and with a huge sign; you can’t miss it. A range of buses and minibuses will take you to the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park stop. From there, head up Tai Tam Reservoir Road, stopping by Wong Nai Chung Reservoir for the ducks, swans, and terrapins before continuing up to the Wilson Trail.

There are some stairs and a slight incline to tackle, but the path is well-paved and couldn’t be easier to follow. You’ll also pass by the Osborn Memorial before reaching the Jardine’s Lookout viewpoint. The views are spectacular here, with Victoria Harbour, the sprawling city, and all of Central’s most iconic buildings in one frame. You can venture onto a wild trail to the left of the official viewing area, where there is clearing about 50 metres in that can offer photo opportunities without foliage in the way.

It takes roughly an hour to hike from the trailhead to Jardine’s Lookout, with an additional 15-minute uphill walk from the bus stop. Hiking up and back the same way will be three and a half kilometres, but you can also make a thorough hike and continue down the opposite end from the summit.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

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The Peak Circle

If the thought of strenuous exercise is off-putting, then the Peak Circle is perfect. It’s really more of a walk rather than a hike. Simply take Lugard Road next to the Peak Tower and continue along the well-paved path. The way is flat with plenty of trees for shade, and you’ll always come across people walking their cute dogs. You’ll even pass by a waterfall at some point, and obviously, there are also the views of Hong Kong’s amazing cityscape, so this really is a well-rounded walk with much to offer.

Lugard Road eventually connects to Harlech Road and it brings you on a full loop right back to the Peak Tower where you started. It’s a very easy journey that will only take up to an hour and a half, depending on how often you whip out your phone to ‘gram. Of course, you’d have to get up to the Peak first—and could indeed choose to hike it up—but bus 15 or the Peak Tram will take you there as well.

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Pinewood Battery Hike

The beauty of being on The Peak is there are various other trails that you can veer off onto. The Pinewood Battery Hike up Mount High West is one such option. From the Peak Circle circuit, where Lugard Road intersects with Harlech Road, turn onto Hatton Road. Further along this road, you can choose to take the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail, or continue on the road—both options will lead you up Mount High West to the Pinewood Battery.

The old fort was built in the early twentieth century and later destroyed by Japanese bombers in the 1940s; these ruins lie roughly two and a half kilometres away from Victoria Peak. At the top of Mount High West, you’ll be treated to views of Hong Kong’s southside, including Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, and Lamma Island on a clear day.

From here, you can choose to return the way you came, back to the Peak, or continue along Hatton Road and the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail. You’ll pass another historical relic, the Victoria City Boundary Stone, and the road eventually leads down into the Sai Ying Pun and HKU area.

Of course, you can also do the reverse, taking minibus 3 from Central to Kotewall Road, where you can start hiking up Hatton Road, eventually connecting to Harlech Road and ending with some well-deserved food and rest at the Peak.

Photo credit: kpiddy / Tripadvisor
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Wan Chai Green Trail

We like this hike because it is sign-posted particularly well, which means that unless you throw your phone away and fling yourself off-trail into the green unknown, it’s impossible to get confused about the route. Starting from Wan Chai Gap Road, take the steep incline up to Kennedy Road, and simply keep climbing. There will be steps and slopes aplenty, so leg day is accounted for.

The Mid-Levels area is always pretty quiet so enjoy the serenity. At a rest point named Orchid Valley with a pavilion, the Wan Chai Green Trail intersects with the Bowen Road Fitness Trail, but continue heading up until you reach the junction of Peak Road and Stubbs Road, where the trail ends at Wan Chai Gap Park.

This trail should only take roughly an hour at a leisurely pace, and buses 15 and 15B will take you back down into town. If you want to extend the hike, you can continue along Black’s Link, which will take you up Mount Nicholson, eventually merging with Section 4 of the Hong Kong Trail, and you can end the hike with a bit of duck-feeding at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

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Bowen Road Fitness Trail

If you’ve got little ones who won’t leave their scooters or have strollers, then make your way to the Bowen Road Trail. The path is paved with concrete the whole way through, with barely any incline. At just under four kilometres, it is not a long walk at all.

You can either make your way up to Bowen Road and Bowen Drive off of Kennedy Road or start from the other direction, next to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital on Stubbs Road. All along the way, you’ll be able to look down over Central, Wan Chai, and Happy Valley. Because it’s such an easy hike—really more of a stroll—there are always runners, and children will have no issues at all.

There’s a good chance you may come across a wild boar or two, as they have been known to hang around the Bowen Trail after being fed by humans. They have no fear of people and may approach if they think you have food, so it’s a good idea to stay a safe distance away. Going from one end of this trail to the other will take about one and a half hours, so it’s easy enough to loop back again for a bit more exercise. Alternatively, you can go down the steep slope of Wan Chai Gap Road where it intersects at a rest point and head into Wan Chai.

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Raised in Singapore and the UK, Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong. She is enjoying 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 LGBTQ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke or in bookstores searching for new tomes to add to her ever-growing collection.

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