Header image courtesy of Andriy Tse (via Shutterstock)
Mountains, peaks, and hills are abundant in Hong Kong—from tableland beauties like Ngong Ping and Pyramid Hill to rising behemoths like Tai Mo Shan, there are landforms of all shapes and sizes that avid hikers can go forth and conquer. Many of us have taken advantage of the travel restrictions to explore Hong Kong’s great outdoors and returned with a veritable portfolio of hiking trails notched on our belts.
However, if you are past quick hikes and intermediate trails, you might want to consider tackling this challenging trio next: the Three Sharp Peaks of Hong Kong. Consisting of Castle Peak, Sharp Peak, and High Junk Peak, here’s what you should know about this group of mountains.
Out of the Three Sharp Peaks, Castle Peak is the tallest of the bunch with an elevation of 583 metres. Notable for being one of only a few mountains in Hong Kong not located inside a country park—of which we have many—Castle Peak casts an imposing shadow on Tuen Mun in the western New Territories. Also known as Tsing Shan (青山) or Pui To Shan (杯渡山), the mountain and its surrounding areas were renamed to Castle Peak during the British colonial era, and the name stuck even after the neighbourhood reverted back to its old name, Tuen Mun, in 1972.
Despite its well-defined apex, the most iconic feature of Castle Peak is the radio tower that juts out of its crest, a beacon that can be spotted from afar as you make your journey to the top. And don’t be fooled by its name, either—although Castle Peak’s Chinese moniker translates to “Green Hill,” the arresting landscape offers more exposed granite than lush nature. As expected, the trail is exposed to the sun almost the entire way, so prepare for your trek accordingly. If you are down for a quaint adventure, one of its sub-peaks, Pineapple Mountain (Por Lo Shan), is also a popular destination for Instagrammers looking to snap a few photos of “Hong Kong’s Grand Canyon.”
History buffs will find much to love about this hike, as Castle Peak is considered to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Hong Kong. Legend has it that an Indian monk named Pui To travelled through the area during the Southern Song dynasty and founded a monastery at the foothills of Castle Peak for practising meditation, thus lending the hill its associated name of Pui To Shan. Centuries passed, and his humble retreat is now the present-day Tsing Shan Monastery, a cluster of Grade I and II historic buildings that are worth visiting for its well-preserved architecture, temples and pagodas, religious statues and scriptures, and picturesque views.
Start your journey in Tuen Mun, where a village path will take you up to the Tsing Shan Monastery Path. Not long after, you’ll emerge from the canopy of trees into more rugged terrain, lined with dirt paths and dotted with loose rocks and boulders. Expect to cross a series of undulating hills, all the while keeping the radio tower in your sights as you shoulder on. It will not be an easy trek, as you will spend around five hours clambering up and down, but the panoramas are second to none and the workout will be sufficiently challenging. You will pass a green pavilion before making the final scramble up to the summit, where views of Tuen Mun, Shenzhen Deep Bay, and the Castle Peak Hinterlands await. Click here to read our full guide to hiking Castle Peak.
Located within the Sai Kung East Country Park, Sharp Peak might not be towering in height—measuring 468 metres to Castle Peak’s 583 metres—but what it lacks in stature it certainly makes up for in difficulty and steepness. Considered the most difficult to summit out of the group, Sharp Peak is easily recognisable from a distance by its distinct shape, rising above Ham Tin Wan’s beaches along the Sai Kung Peninsula.
Hikers are recommended to tackle Sharp Peak only in good weather and with suitable equipment, as the trail is exposed and reports of heat strokes are common. Furthermore, the climb covers large swathes of rocky terrain and paths of loose gravel, so expect to use gloved hands to get up and down the undulant ridges. It is also a lengthy hike, so it’s best to come prepared with enough water and snacks to keep you going.
Experienced hikers wishing to tackle Sharp Peak can start their journey at Pak Tam Au or Sai Wan Pavilion in Sai Kung—Pak Tam Au is considered the easier route. From Pak Tam Au, follow Maclehose Trail Stage 2 until it veers off into bushwhacking territory. Helpful ribbons left by previous adventurers will guide the way. Ascend through a forested trail before breaking out into open grassland, where the real work begins. In addition to its steepness, the path up to Sharp Peak is also well-worn and eroded, so there is an extra level of difficulty to consider.
Once you are at the top, however, you can bask in the glory of having defeated one of Hong Kong’s toughest hikes, and soak up the sweeping vistas of the Sai Kung Peninsula and beyond. Due to the exposed nature of the trail, views will be plentiful throughout the climb, but the summit provides a convenient opportunity to sit, rest, and refuel before making your way down. Click here to read our full guide to hiking Sharp Peak.
Last but certainly not least in the line-up, we have High Junk Peak, which stands at a not-so-shabby 344 metres tall inside the Clear Water Bay Country Park. Its precipitous mountaintop is made up of prehistoric volcanic rocks and dense scrubland, forming a rugged landscape that has been weathered through erosion and the elements. From its peak, hikers can lap up expansive views of Clear Water Bay and Joss House Bay as a visual reward.
Out of the three hikes, High Junk Peak is arguably the easiest to tackle, as it starts off tame and takes you through a shaded bamboo forest before leading you into exposed territory for the final summit. However, unlike most other peaks, the path up to the summit is not well-maintained—climbing over boulders is a must, so proper gear and sustenance need to be prepared in advance, as there are no places for refuelling. It will take around two hours.
Start from Ng Fai Tin, a village outside of Hang Hau, and scale a set of stairs to warm up. Follow the dirt path uphill and make sure to follow the signposts towards Tai Miu when you come across forks in the road, as that will take you to High Junk Peak. After a while of temperate strolling, you will come across a plateau called Sheung Yeung—take your well-deserved break here before tackling the twin peaks of Miu Tsai Tun and High Junk Peak.
High Junk Peak’s little sister Miu Tsai Tun clocks in at 333 metres above sea level, so scaling it will provide ample practice for the upcoming ascent to High Junk Peak. Beware of the trail when heading downhill from Miu Tsai Tun, as it turns into a path of loose gravel and sand, and take care when going uphill to High Junk Peak, as the incline is particularly steep and the trail can be slippery. Click here to read our full guide to hiking High Junk Peak.