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#852Basics: 5 hiking trails in Kowloon under three hours

By Catharina Cheung 3 April 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—as long as you’re being responsible about it.

We recommended quick hikes on Hong Kong Island last week, so here are some on Kowloon side that you can complete in roughly two to three hours as well. We’ll be straight with you, these are a bit more challenging than the Island ones, so don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen and bring lots of water! And please, please don’t litter or leave your masks along the trails...

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Devil’s Peak

Since you’re already going to be out and about, you might as well make your hike a bit educational as well. Devil’s Peak is actually an area of historical interest in Hong Kong. Once occupied by pirates during the Ming dynasty—the most famous of whom was Cheng Lin Cheong—this tactical and practical selection by the pirates commanded a favourable view over the Lei Yue Mun straits, classified as one of the 16 major sea passages during the time.

For the same strategic reasons, the British later commandeered the area and built military stations, including two gun batteries named Gough and Pottinger. Devil’s Peak became part of the Gin Drinkers’ Line, a defensive line across Hong Kong’s natural geological ridges against the Japanese invasion. The ruins of Pottinger Battery have mostly been reclaimed by vegetation, but Gough Battery, a smaller outpost, and a redoubt on the summit of Devil’s Peak are still visible today.

The terrain on Devil’s Peak is very easy, so this is a family-friendly hike. At Yau Tong MTR station, head towards the Lei Yue Mun Estate, then go uphill towards the Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery. The entrance to the Wilson Trail will be to your left, and from there it’s a simple matter of following signs up to Devil’s Peak.

About 350 metres in, you’ll want to go off-trail to the right and follow the signs for Devil’s Peak Fortifications, which will bring you up to the ruins of Gough Battery. When you’re done pretending to be Indiana Jones, head back down the same way and rejoin the Wilson Trail, heading right to continue on to the peak.

The redoubt at the top offers great views of Junk Bay, LOHAS Park, and across Victoria Harbour to the Hong Kong skyline. To end the hike, you can return the way you came, or head across the fortification to a little ladder that will lead you to a muddy dirt path downhill. When you get to a platform level, simply follow directions back to Yau Tong.

The whole hike should take just about two hours to complete, depending on how long you decide to spend exploring the ruins. You’ll want to take pictures so make sure you pack a portable battery for this hike!

Lion Rock

Lion Rock holds a dear place in the hearts of Hongkongers for being a symbol of hard-working perseverance in the face of difficulty. We’ve even had a hit song and a TVB drama series written with the Lion Rock Spirit in mind. Take heart during these trying times and develop some Lion Rock attitude as well with this hike!

Though considered a quick hike, Lion Rock is not really a very easy one, with a lot of steep uphill sections and stairs to tackle, but the views and the feeling of tackling this iconic landmark will be worth it. From Wong Tai Sin MTR station, make your way to Fat Jong Temple on Sha Tin Pass Road. You could start the hike by walking there, but it’s a 20-minute steep incline, so we prefer cabbing to the temple or taking minibus 18M from Exit E to Sha Tin Pass Estate, across the temple. Don’t worry, you’re not cheating because the incline continues—this is simply the furthest that public transport will take you.

Continue along Sha Tin Pass Road as it winds uphill, and contemplate the Lion Rock spirit of endurance as you persevere until you reach the entrance of Lion Rock Country Park, which is technically the trailhead of the hike. If you’re breaking down at this point because you’re already out of breath and the hike has only just started, take a break here and hang in there. As you go up the stairs in the Country Park, you’ll be treated to lovely views of Kowloon which should distract you from the burn in your legs.

You’ll reach flat terrain after the stairs, with views of Sha Tin and Tai Wai to the right. There’ll likely be monkeys hanging around, but don’t worry, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them (just be sensible and don’t whip out the trail mix or granola bars here). The final ascent to Lion Rock Peak consists of steps all the way, so take it at your own pace and know that some of the most spectacular views of Hong Kong awaits you.

Lion Rock is on the mountainous ridge separating Kowloon from the New Territories, so you have Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on one side, and New Territories on the other. It’s also technically made of three peaks: think of them as the butt, the back, and the head of the lion. The peak you’ll be on after the steps is the lion’s butt, and it’s relatively easy to go from one peak to another, dipping up and down the trenches between them until you reach the lion’s head.

To end the hike, go back the way you came until you reach the section of flat terrain. Halfway along, there’ll be a path with a signpost for Sha Tin Pass Estate. Follow it for stairs that will bring you all the way down the mountain, where you will emerge near the Fat Jong Temple and the Sha Tin Pass Pump House. Of course, this is also a shortcut of sorts for starting the hike up; it all depends on if you think stairs or slopes are easier to tackle. The full hikes takes just over two hours to complete, and because of how strenuous it can be, be sure to bring plenty of water.

Suicide Cliff

Despite its frankly terrifying name, Suicide Cliff is so named not because there have been many suicide cases here, but because of a dramatic outcrop with a steep drop that has famously been pictured in an award-winning photo for the National Geographic photography competition.

From Exit D1 of Kwun Tong MTR station, take minibus 47 to its final stop of Lee Hang House. Make your way to Clear Water Bay Road, then cross at a V-junction and head onto Fei Ngo Shan Road. If you’d rather not walk it, minibus 1A from Choi Hung MTR station will take you to Fei Ngo Shan Road as well. The trailhead is hidden in plain sight after the first left, as a rocky path of uneven stairs—if you see a residential building and start getting confused, you’re in the right place, as the trail starts right before its entrance.

You’ll need to get through some vegetation and scramble among the rocks a little, and there will be ropes along the way to help haul yourself up the ascent. Gloves will be a useful addition on this hike. Once you’re out in the open without trees for shade, you’ll see city views below; it might be a good idea to pick out a nice spot here and have some refreshments before continuing up.

Suicide Cliff is to the left of the main trail and pretty hard to miss. Feel free to make your way out to the rock platform for the famous photo, but be aware that there are probably a bunch of people also awaiting their turn. Pro tip: Shots look the best when you’ve got a tripod set up on the trail, aiming out onto the outcrop. Be careful if you do clamber out onto Suicide Cliff; although the rock is wide, it’s also sloped so, for the love of God, no crazy poses here!

You can end the hike going back the way you came, or continue on to Kowloon Peak. The full hike will take two hours, not including the time you’ll no doubt spend taking photos. It’ll be roughly an extra 20 minutes if you decide to continue on to Kowloon Peak before turning back, though we’ve classed that as a hike all its own: see below.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Photo credit: @tarojoseph

Kowloon Peak

Also known as Fei Ngo Shan, the summit of Kowloon Peak is further elevated than Suicide Cliff, affording better panoramic views of Hong Kong. This hike starts much the same as Suicide Cliff: Make your way onto Fei Ngo Shan Road, either on foot or by minibus. Ignore the path on the left that leads to the trailhead for Suicide Cliff and continue up the road until you get to a stone with the numbers 328 painted on in red, marking the entrance to a rough uphill path.

Mind your footing as you make your way up the rough rocky stairs. Once you’ve climbed high enough, you can look back for views over Hebe Haven (or Pak Sha Wan) in Sai Kung. At the top of the ridge, follow the path on the left leading to the transmission tower. A flight of stairs next to it will get you to Kowloon’s highest point, with a black and white summit marker. Here you’ll have a full view over the east side of Kowloon.

Make your way back down to the helipad, taking the trail to its top left, then the rocky stairs to the right of the trail, essentially retracing your way back down to Fei Ngo Shan Road. Mind you don’t get distracted and miss the stairs because then you’d be starting another hike to Elephant Mountain! You’ll know from making your way up, but the stairs are long, so be careful about loose rocks and rods in the way of your footing.

This hike is the longest on the list, taking close to three hours to complete, but it will bring you some iconic panoramic vistas and ignite your sense of adventure with all the climbing, scrambling, and bushwhacking you’ll be doing.

Photo credit: @addy_photography_hk

Garden Hill

For those of you who have been scrolling through this list and wincing all the way at the thought of strenuous activity (“Devils? Lions? Scrambling? Suicide?”), Garden Hill is a great way for you to get out and about without breaking a sweat. This is really more of an urban walk, popular with school kids on their dates and night photographers capturing the glittering city.

Take Exit D2 at Sham Shui Po MTR station and walk along Kweilin Street towards Mei Ho House. Garden Hill is behind this building and takes its name from the Garden Bakery at the foot of the hill. Towards the back of the building near Mei Ho House, there are stairs that will take you up Garden Hill.

The ascent is only about a 10-minute walk, and you will arrive at a large landing perfect for admiring the view below and taking photos. If you go at night, you’ll have a great view of the brightly lit Yen Chow Street extending into the distance; the best view for this is from the left side of the platform.

You must expect to share the space with photography enthusiasts, but that’s a small price to pay for having such an easily accessible place to escape to with great views of Kowloon. We’d recommend timing it so you can see the sunset, and then enjoy the night views of the city lights as well.

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys 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 LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.

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