Header image courtesy of @wood_kong (via Instagram)
Shek Pik Reservoir on Lantau Island was constructed in 1959 as a way to combat the issue of water shortage that arose with a rapid spike in population. This vaguely triangular-shaped body of water lies within the Lantau South Country Park, and is Hong Kong’s third-largest reservoir. Initially known as Shek Pik Valley, this area was inhabited from as early as the Song dynasty by people who farmed salt.
Nowadays, Shek Pik is more commonly associated with the nearby Shek Pik Prison, the maximum-security facility where mid- to long-sentence prisoners are held, including activists Benny Tai and Joshua Wong. This is definitely not one of Lantau’s most challenging trails, so grab the family and head out following this guide!
The Shek Pik Country Trail winds along the southeastern perimeter of the reservoir before turning up into the mountains, running all the way to the Wisdom Path in Ngong Ping. If you’re used to long-distance hiking or are feeling particularly energetic, you can always continue on to the Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail, which will lead all the way back into Tung Chung, making this a round-trip journey on foot. The Shek Pik Country Trail is also the entry point to the Kau Nga Ling trails.
While this hike does grant some panoramas of the reservoir’s waters and surrounding mountains, a good part of it actually goes through thickly forested areas with not much scenery to speak of. That said, it still makes for a pleasant hike that is not too strenuous, with interesting attractions at both the starting and ending points. It is, of course, also possible to do this trail backwards, starting from Ngong Ping and ending at Shek Pik Reservoir instead.
Distance: 5.5 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 400 metres
Total time: Two hours approx.
From Tung Chung MTR station, hop onto buses 1, 2, 23, or 11A, and alight at Shek Pik Police Stand. You’ll find yourself on the southern tip of the Shek Pik Reservoir, with views of the entire water catchment on one side of the road, and overlooking the Shek Pik Prison compounds on the other side of the dam.
Before you start the hike proper, you can always choose to make a slight detour to view the Shek Pik ancient rock carving located between the prison and Lantau Trail Section 9. Research indicates that this geometric pattern of squarish circles is a remnant from the Bronze Age some 3,000 years ago, and it has been a declared monument since 1979.
Back on the main road, head east down South Lantau Road, past the water tower, and take the left turning into the country park, where the start of the Shek Pik Country Trail is at the crossroads.
The initial part of the hike is where most of the difficulty lies as the journey begins with a series of stairs. Even though they extend upwards for about a kilometre, these are not too steep nor tough to tackle—besides, it’s always easier to get the climbing out of the way before you start getting tired. Most of the stairs are well-paved so you don’t have to worry about uneven footing, but they are also rather narrow and may require some shuffling should you encounter other hikers coming down. Should you need a break, there is usually enough space to stand on the dirt path just off the steps so you don’t block other hikers.
Once you’ve forged past the stair-climbing, the rest of the hike is mostly shaded and flat, with occasional glimpses out onto the waters of the reservoir below. Depending on whether it has rained recently, you may also come across little streams that feed into Shek Pik Reservoir. Not long into the hike past the stairs, take the left fork at the crossroads; the right will take you up Kau Nga Ling, and while it is also possible to end at the same finish point of the Wisdom Path, this is a tougher hike without reservoir views.
You’ll soon come across lookout points, where you can get views across most, if not all, of the reservoir. Carefully make your way out onto the rocks on the very edge of the slopes for the best views. The teal blues of the water sandwiched between the verdant greenery of the hilly slopes make for a lovely sight, especially when the sun’s rays illuminate the area just right. Inclines are few and far between in this main section of the hike, so take the easy opportunity to just enjoy strolling through nature.
At some point, you will pass by a tall cliff face extending straight up; this is known as the Wilt Wall Corridor and makes for an imposing sight. Soon after this landmark, you will come across a trail branching off to the right; stay on the left course unless you want to go up West Dog’s Teeth and Kau Nga Ling. After this point, the trail turns further inland and there will be no more views of Shek Pik Reservoir.
The rest of the hike is a simple matter of keeping on the trail until you eventually glimpse the famous Big Buddha, which the Shek Pik Country Trail brings you up on from the statue’s rear, right-hand side. Don’t forget to try to achieve some Zen and walk along the underrated Wisdom Path, which consists of 38 wooden pillars inscribed with the Heart Sutra, arranged in an infinity loop.
The Tian Tan Buddha itself closes at 5 pm, so if you want to explore the attractions of Po Lin Monastery and Ngong Ping village after your hike, make sure you begin your journey with plenty of time to spare. To leave, you can either take a bus or the Ngong Ping 360 cable car back into Tung Chung.