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#852Basics: 5 hiking trails in North & West New Territories under three hours

By Catharina Cheung 9 April 2020 | Last Updated 12 December 2020

Header image courtesy of @sammilees (via Instagram)

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’ve recently recommended quick hikes on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side that you can complete in roughly two to three hours, so here are some quick hikes that can be found in New Territories. Because there’s so much ground to cover in NT, the hikes in this article will be mostly located in the northern and western districts—look out for the guide to follow that will cover eastern New Territories soon. Meanwhile, lace up your shoes, fill up your bottle, and head out!

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Ng Tung Chai

Nestled in Lam Tsuen Valley, the Ng Tung Chai hike is perfect for when the weather gets hot because the route will bring you past several scenic waterfalls where you can take dips as needed. A quick swim after each uphill section makes for such a great way to cool off, not to mention you’ll be stunned by the raw natural beauty that Hong Kong has.

From Tai Wo MTR station, hop on bus 64K towards Yuen Long and alight at Ng Tung Chai. Follow the road leading into Ng Tung Chai Village, and once you pass through the houses, there’ll be clear signs for Ng Tung Chai Waterfall. From there, it’s a simple matter of following the path, which will bring you past the Man Tak Yuen Temple, then a mini waterfall. Don’t get too distracted by this one, as there are better sights ahead!

The hike proper begins when the paved path becomes more rugged terrain made up of uneven steps and inclines. The first waterfall is Bottom Fall, followed by Middle Fall, Main Fall, and lastly Scatter Fall. The path from Middle Fall to Main Fall is extremely narrow and steep, and you might come across hikers coming down the opposite direction, so be careful. Going up to Scatter Fall is a bit of a challenge as the path is short but very steep, and requires some climbing over large rocks. It’s all good fun though, and the pretty scenery more than makes up for the burn in your limbs!

Stairs next to Scatter Fall will lead up to a flat path, where you will continue right until you reach a flight of steps going down. These will lead you back to the mini waterfall near the temple at the beginning. This gem of a hike will take approximately three hours to complete, though if you stop for photos and dips in each location—and why would you not want to?—it could take a while longer. Do bring gloves for the rock scrambling, and possibly a change of clothes. Click here to read our full guide for hiking to Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls.

Tai Mo Shan

Standing at 957 metres, Tai Mo Shan is nearly twice as high as Victoria Peak and is Hong Kong’s tallest mountain. There are several routes that thread their way up this mountain, but we’ve chosen to highlight one of the quickest and most easily accessible ones.

From Tsuen Wan MTR station, catch bus 51 to the Tai Mo Shan Country Park, where there’s a Visitor Centre at the junction of Tai Mo Shan Road and Route Twisk—interestingly, the name for this route comes from the acronym for “Tsuen Wan into Shek Kong.” You’ll pass by the Rotary Club campsite, and from there simply follow Tai Mo Shan Road all the way up to the weather station at the summit, making a detour about halfway through to the lookout point. Alternatively, you can just follow the Maclehose Trail (Stage Eight), which will spit you out at Tai Mo Shan Road Top Car Park.

You’ll have sweeping views over Yuen Long; see if you can also spot the Shek Kong Airfield. From the top, you’ll be surrounded by lots of grassy slopes that can make for very dramatic photos. Head back down the same way to finish your journey, and pat yourself on the back for making it up the tallest peak in Hong Kong! The entire journey should take you slightly over a couple of hours, but if you have more time to spare, you can always combine the previous Ng Tung Chai hike with Tai Mo Shan and kill two birds with one stone; here’s a detailed guide on the longer hike.

Kam Shan

Also known colloquially as Monkey Mountain, Kam Shan is home to the majority of Hong Kong’s primate population. Combined with the fact that this is a leisurely hike you can easily finish in a relatively short amount of time, Kam Shan makes for the perfect location for a weekend family outing.

Take Exit A at Lai Chi Kok MTR station, then take bus 72 and alight at Shek Lei Pui Reservoir, where you can enter the Kam Shan Country Park along Golden Hill Road. To be perfectly honest, this is more of a walk than a proper hike as you’ll mostly be on paved roads making your way around the reservoir.

Cross over the dam, and as you make your way to the top of Monkey Mountain, the Kam Shan Family Trail makes for a pleasant detour that you can take. You could also extend your exercise and continue along the MacLehose Trail, which will bring you to Shing Mun Reservoir and back in an extra four kilometres. Staying on the main trail will eventually bring you in a loop right back to Golden Hill Road.

Obviously, the big attraction here is the rhesus macaques that roam around the mountain. Though cute, these cheeky monkeys have no fear of humans and will not hesitate to approach, especially if it thinks you have food, so don’t root around your backpack too much in case they get the wrong idea. It should go without saying as well, but don’t actually feed them either; there’s a hefty fine in place should you get caught. Lastly, eye contact and showing your teeth are both signs of aggression to monkeys, so be aware of your body language as well. That said, the monkeys are funny creatures and incredibly photogenic, so have fun!

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Pat Sin Leng

The rather poetically named “Ridge of Eight Deities” is one of Hong Kong’s epic hikes, winding its way along the ridgeline of several mountains. Those who detest stairs with a passion should probably give this hike a miss as there are quite a lot of steps to tackle. On the other hand, if you do make the journey out, your eyes will be opened to a completely different Hong Kong. Remember that beacon lighting scene in The Return of the King? Hiking Pat Sin Leng kind of has that vibe as you’re able to see ahead to the rest of the mountain range as you walk along!

From Fanling MTR station, take minibus 52B and alight at Hok Tau Wai Pavilion, then start your hike at the trail near the Hok Tau Campsite. You’ll be making your way past Hok Tau Reservoir until you reach the marker for the Hok Tau Reservoir Family Walk. Pass through the arch, following this walk for a short distance before branching off onto the Wilson Trail Section 9. There’ll be plenty of signs pointing to Pat Sin Leng, so it’s very straightforward direction-wise.

You’ll then encounter a section of stairs, so be prepared for a good burn in your muscles. Keep forging ahead until you reach the Pat Sin Ridge; there’ll be a point where you dramatically turn a corner and see the entire undulating ridgeline laid out before you—a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight!

Follow the trail as it winds up and down the hills and dips until you reach a trigonometric marker signalling the highest point along the ridge. On a clear day, the views are magnificent on both sides; when it’s foggy the mood changes to become mysterious and slightly ethereal. The challenge lies in the stairs going up each summit, but the good news is you can probably skip leg day for a week after this hike.

At the endpoint, you’ll have uninterrupted views out to Plover Cover and the greater Sai Kung area. From here you can follow the main trail down to Tai Po; we hear there is an older trail that could cut the return distance in half, but the going is more difficult with some bouldering required, so be careful if you do decide to take on this extra adventure. The entire hike should take approximately three hours to complete.

Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve

Situated between Tai Po and Sha Tin, Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve contains one of the most mature secondary forests in Hong Kong, so it’s well worth a visit. From Tai Po Market MTR station, get minibus 28K to the Chung Tsai Yuen stop. You’ll zoom a little ways past the entrance to Tai Po Kau Park before pulling up to the stop, so walk back along the road to get to the start of the hike.

Following signs for the Tai Po Kau Forest Walk, stay on the paved road. When you’re within the nature reserve, there will be signs indicating that the Forest Walk is split into four routes: the Red, Blue, Brown, and Yellow Walks. Red will take approximately an hour and a half to complete, Blue approximately two hours, followed by Brown at three hours, then Yellow coming in at three and a half hours in total. All the trails are well-signposted and easy to follow, and once you’re within the forest shade, the temperature cools to a more comfortable degree. You will also likely come across some streams with running water that you will want to splash onto your neck before moving on.

Interestingly, this forest is home to many of Hong Kong’s wildlife. Because many of these creatures are elusive and nocturnal, you can join a guided night walk that can bring you sightings of the red muntjac or barking deer, porcupines, wild boars, owls, and if you’re extremely lucky, even the leopard cat. The mountain streams in the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve are also natural habitats for amphibians such as Hong Kong Newts and various species of frogs, including Romer’s Tree Frog, which is endemic to Hong Kong.

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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.