Header image courtesy of @finlay.mcrae (via Instagram)
Hong Kong has some of the most interesting geographical formations in Asia, caused by ancient volcanic activity, and boy, do Hongkongers love their rocks. Bonus points if the rock in question resembles an animal or something from a Chinese myth after intense weathering, and they are then adorably nicknamed... which brings us to Rhino Rock in Stanley, a well-loved, rhino-shaped boulder that sits on the southside of Stanley that many locals brave the slippery hillside to get to. We went to see the rhino for ourselves, and it did not disappoint. If you want to see it for yourself, here’s your guide to how to get to Rhino Rock!
Getting to Rhino Rock is less of a hike and more of a rock-climbing, bush-whacking adventure along a picturesque coast. The trail itself is short, only a one-kilometre round-trip hike along the side of Tai Tam Tau on the south end of Stanley. You can tack on a warm-up walk from Stanley Market for a bonus leg burn-out if you’d like, but the entrance point at Stanley Barracks is easily accessible by bus. It only takes half an hour from start to finish, but with all the breathtaking views this trail offers, you could easily spend an hour or more taking photos.
There is no summit to be conquered on this trail, as the highest point is the Che Pau Teng trigonometric marker at about 200 metres above sea level. Once you make it out of the bamboo forest, beautiful panoramic views of Tung Tau Wan out to Tai Tam Bay await you. The trail is steep and treacherous at points, rocky and sandy with no grip, so be sure to wear proper shoes.
Though the mountainside is pleasantly shaded in certain areas, adequate sun protection is definitely needed while you venture about the boulders. If you wear a hat, you’ll be protected from the low-flying eagles that circle the bay as well. All in all, a quick and easy workout for hikers of all levels.
Distance: 1 kilometre approx. 5 kilometres total if you walk to and from Stanley Market
Total ascent: 200 metres approx.
Total time: 1 hour approx. including photo-taking time. 2 hours approx. if you walk to and from Stanley Market
The starting point of the Rhino Rock trail is at Stanley Fort. The fort is located inside the Stanley Barracks, an active military base, but the bus stops right outside the gate. There are two buses that’ll take you straight to Stanley Fort bus stop, or you can walk from Stanley town. You could also take a taxi there, but they are hard to come by on the way back.
Parts of Wong Ma Kok Road do not have sidewalks, so keep a keen eye and ear out for incoming buses and cars as you trek up the road.
If you’re starting the hike from Stanley Market, you will come across touristy market stalls, historical landmarks, luxury housing estates, as well as gorgeous yet quiet beaches. The first historical landmark you’ll see is Pat Kan Uk village. Pat Kan Uk is a row of eight terrace houses, home to local elders even to this day. They were originally built to relocate farming residents displaced by barrack development before the Sino-Japanese War. Overlooking Stanley Back Beach, a small but idyllic beach, you’ll find old folks watching the sea with their mates, dogs happily splashing about, and perhaps a few dragon boats or kayaks.
Be careful when you’re walking along Wong Ma Kok Road, as you’ll be sharing most of the road itself with passing cars and buses, as well as motorcyclists who enjoy the uninterrupted twists and turns of this stretch of road. The Stanley Military Cemetery is also located along Wong Ma Kok Road, as Commonwealth soldiers were buried here from the nearby barracks. It’s well-maintained and peaceful for those who’d like to pay their respects.
When you get to the Stanley Fort bus stop, you’ll notice that the former British Armed Forces base is now the heavily guarded home to the Hong Kong garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Ground Force. The actual fort is located inside the 128-hectare army base, and the Stanley Battery Gun Emplacement that still sits within is listed as a Grade I historic building. Impressive.
To the left of the barracks are a flight of steps that lead around the base and up to Che Pau Teng. The stairs aren’t very well maintained, with planks missing and roots of the surrounding forest overgrown and intertwined with them, so watch your step. After about 10 minutes, you’ll reach the white trigonometric marker of Che Pau Teng. Turn to your right, where a faded ribbon tied around a branch by some very helpful hikers signal the entrance to the trail through a dense bamboo forest.
Keep following through the bushes and soon it will open up for you to catch your first glimpse of the sea. The water here is a brilliant turquoise and seems to stretch out for miles. When you approach this clearing, head right.
You may lose track of the ribbons along the path, but thankfully “getting lost” on this trail just means you’re a couple of meters off from the main path to Rhino Rock, and that you might have to climb a couple of rocks or swat some branches out of your face. There are so many little viewpoints along the way to get your fill of snaps for the gram, and you’ll even get to sneak a peek into the army base as you hike along.
The most treacherous part of this trail is the section where the descent to the Rhino Rock cuts through a tight route through some massive boulders. Do your best “James-Franco-from-128-Days” impression here, but be courteous to other hikers passing by too. After another five minutes, you’ll get to a little clearing of relatively flat rocks, and the Rhino Rock will be on your left.
The best part about Rhino Rock is that it requires absolutely no imagination to really see the animal it’s meant to resemble. The ridges and holes beaten by rain and wind into the rock truly do resemble the features of a giant rhinoceros.
If you, unfortunately, venture to Rhino Rock on a busy day, it may be necessary to queue up to even climb the rhino head for that epic photo. You can climb the rock by walking around to the backside of the “head” where there is a tree with a small rope to help you up. Take care when you’re climbing—even though it’s not a steep drop from the horn, you’ll be landing on solid rock and a long sandy slope with only more rocks to break your fall.
Get your fill of pictures here, where on a clear day, you can see into the Stanley Prison yard and Hong Kong Museum of Correctional Services at Tung Tau Wan, and out into the bay. The rocks are flat enough that you can even set up a picnic, or just rest your legs for a bit. When you’re ready to head back, retrace your steps, following the ribbons, and back out to Stanley Fort bus stop. Hop on bus 6A or 14 to get back to town and treat yourself to a sundowner at Stanley Plaza, or stop at St Stephen’s Beach along the way to soak up some more rays.