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Your ultimate guide to hiking Kam Shan Country Park

By Beverly Ngai 11 June 2021

Header image courtesy of @jessica_lkw (via Instagram)

Home to four scenic reservoirs, a string of wartime relics, and a thriving macaque population, Kam Shan Country Park may only be a fraction of the size of its neighbouring Tai Mo Shan and Lion Rock Country Park, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to scenery, history, and forestry interests. There are a number of trails that weave through the country park, generally falling on the easier end of the hiking spectrum. If you need a little help planning your excursion, here’s our ultimate guide to hiking around this monkey kingdom!

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Overview & fast facts

Nestled in the northern outskirts of Kowloon, never too far from urban conveniences, Kam Shan Country Park is no stranger to families and busy city dwellers. One of the oldest country parks in Hong Kong, this 3.37-square-kilometre pocket of teeming woodland is fully furnished with barbecue sites, picnic tables, and a handful of well-established, easy-going trails, making for a pleasurable, low-stakes escape into nature—given a baseline tolerance for primates.

Living up to its endearing nickname “Monkey Hill,” there are approximately 1,800 macaques that call Kam Shan Country Park home—that’s nearly 85 percent of the wild monkey population in Hong Kong! It is widely speculated that these monkeys are the offspring of pets that were released into the wild in the early twentieth century. As adorable as these furry-faced creatures may seem, excessive human feeding has made them notoriously feisty and prone to snatch food from unwary visitors, so do stay alert at all times!

Monkey business aside, a plethora of scenic and historical attractions are also found around the country park, so choose your trail depending on your interests. Concentrated in the northern part of the park is a cluster of notable military ruins left from the Second World War, when the region was made a key defence stronghold against Japanese invasion. While the majority of the forts were destroyed, a smattering of relatively intact trenches, tunnels, and pillboxes still stand in the country park as reminders of the city’s scarred, bloody past.

Down south is a group of picturesque reservoirs comprising Shek Lei Pui Reservoir, Kowloon Byewash Reservoir, Kowloon Reception Reservoir, and Kowloon Reservoir. The latter of which dates back to 1910 and was the first reservoir to be built on the Kowloon Peninsula. With five waterwork structures listed as declared monuments, the site is a must-visit for history buffs!

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Photo: Richard Wong (via Facebook)
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Kam Shan Country Park Tree Walk

Botanist and horticulturalists alike will find their bliss along the short and sweet Kam Shan Country Park Tree Walk. Bookended by Kowloon Reservoir on the north and Kowloon Reception Reservoir on the south, this gentle 850-metre jaunt is the easiest option on the list and requires little more than half an hour or so to complete, but it can be easily combined with other trails for a longer excursion.

As per the name of the walk, the main highlight is the vibrant display of native and exotic flora species, many of which are hard to find elsewhere in Hong Kong, such as Brisbane box, Australian eucalyptus, and paper-bark trees. To help you learn as you go, there are also useful information boards along the route dedicated to notable plant species.

To get to the trailhead, hop on bus 72 or 81 and get off at Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop. Cross the road and veer left onto Golden Hill Road, which winds into Kam Shan Country Park. The initial stretch of this road skirts along the southeastern boundary of Kowloon Reservoir, bringing you right to the entrance of Kam Shan Tree Walk in around 10 minutes. There’s a pavilion and a big signboard at the start of the trail, so you can’t miss it!

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Kam Shan Family Walk

This short, one-kilometre trail cuts right through the densely forested terrain of Kam Shan Country Park, offering a pleasantly shaded stroll that is especially welcome during the hot summer months.

Going steadily uphill along a segment of Wilson Trail Section 6, the trek demands slightly more effort than Kam Shan Tree Walk, but is easy enough that it can be tackled by all members of the family. Plus, the incredible biodiversity will sufficiently distract you from your labours. The woodsy trail covers everything from monkeys and butterflies to rare plants and flowers!

The entrance for the Kam Shan Family Walk is located just north of Kowloon Reservoir, which can be reached via Golden Hill Road. Enter the paved road through the southern end of the park and continue walking for around 20 minutes until you see a signboard pointing to Kam Shan Family Walk on your right.

More of a detour than anything, the family trail eventually reconnects with Golden Hill Road near the summit of Golden Hill. When you re-emerge on the concrete road, you can opt to either climb your way to the top, or return to your starting point the way you came and explore the reservoirs near the park entrance.

Photo: @willcho (via Instagram)
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Kowloon Group of Reservoirs

If the serenity of watery blues is what you seek, then look no further than this levelled loop route in the southern part of the Kam Shan Country Park. Making its way to all four of the Kowloon Group of Reservoirs, this three-kilometre hike is your best bet if you’re looking to hit all the major checkpoints in the area!

Start the hike from Cheung Yuen Road, which is just a stone’s throw away from Shek Lei Pui Reservoir bus stop. Going in a counter-clockwise direction, the path brings you to the fringes of Kowloon Byewash Reservoir, Kowloon Reception Reservoir, Shek Lei Pui Reservoir, and Kowloon Reservoir, before popping you back out of the country park by way of Golden Hill Road.

The trail is punctuated by historical waterwork structures and some heavily wooded sections, so you never get bored of your surroundings. If you wish to linger on the peaceful waterside scenery, feel free to make a detour on either of the jogging trails running the circumference of Shek Lei Pui Reservoir and Kowloon Reception Reservoir.

While the trail itself is well-paved and relatively flat, with just a few flights of steps, navigation can get a bit tricky. As the route is not well sign-posted, it’s best to plan your walk beforehand! In particular, keep your eyes peeled for the junction going to Kowloon Reception Reservoir.

Just a little down the road after passing Byewash Reservoir Dam and the barbecue site, there will be a long staircase to your right—you’ll need to turn onto this side path and ascend the steps to reach the Kowloon Reception Reservoir.

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Smuggler’s Ridge

Dive into Hong Kong history with this intriguing route spanning from Shing Mun Road to Kowloon Reservoir Dam through Smuggler’s Ridge. Forming a part of Gin Drinker’s Line—a prominent British military defence line used against Japanese invasion in the Second World War—the northern tip of Kam Shan Country Park hosts some of the most intact and well-preserved military relics in the city, including the infamous Shing Mun Redoubt.

The remnants of this former underground citadel include an artillery observation station and four sets of pillboxes, interconnected by a vast network of underground tunnels that were named after famous streets and places in London. To this day, you can still see names like Regent Street, Oxford Street, and Shaftesbury Avenue etched onto the entrance and exits of these passageways!

Covering four kilometres across Shing Mun and Kam Shan Country Park, the trail has just a few steep climbs in the beginning sections and takes around two and a half hours to complete at a leisurely pace. Start by getting to Lei Muk Shue Estate in Tsuen Wan, which is served by a multitude of buses including 46X, 48X, 32, 278X, and 47X.

Upon alighting, head up the stairs on the opposite side of the road and keep to the path towards Shing Mun Reservoir. Once you’ve reached Shing Mun Road, look for the barbecue site and the abutting trailhead for Maclehose Trail Section 6, which marks the start of the hike.

Most of the historical attractions are packed near the beginning of the hike, after which you‘ll head up the 337-metre peak of Smuggler‘s Ridge and enjoy expansive vistas of Shing Mun Gorge. The path eventually meanders its way to Golden Hill Road, from which you can simply follow the straight-forward path down to the southern reaches of the park.

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Beverly Ngai

Junior editor

A wanderer, chronic overthinker, and baking enthusiast, Beverly spent much of her childhood in the United States before moving to Hong Kong at age 11 and making the sparkling city her home. In her natural habitat, she can be found baking up a storm in her kitchen, journalling at a café, or scrolling through OpenRice deciding on her next meal.

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