Header images courtesy of @lucypresser and @uncoveringcities
“Leg day is every day” if you’re keen to conquer a hike that’ll have your legs shaking before you even get to the top. The hike in question is, of course, the infamous Violet Hill and Twin Peaks double (triple?) whammy in the scenic Tai Tam Country Park, also known as the toughest hike on Hong Kong Island. If you thought the stairs going up to Mount High West was tough on the knees, wait until you tackle the three summits on this hike. Get your gear on, and let’s get it done!
The Violet Hill and Twin Peaks hike is as challenging as it is rewarding. Starting at Parkview, the trail takes you through section 1 of the Wilson Trail along Tai Tam Country Park in southern Hong Kong Island, with views of Victoria Harbour, Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, and Stanley along the way. This is definitely a trek, measuring about five kilometres from start to finish, and clocking in at two hours if you’re an avid hiker and don’t need breaks, or three to four hours if you’re stopping to smell the flowers and soak in the gorgeous sights.
There are three rigorous ascents on the Violet Hill and Twin Peaks hike. The first, at Violet Hill, sits at 433 metres above sea level, allowing for a bird’s eye view looking back towards the Hong Kong skyline and Wong Nai Chung Reservoir. Up ahead are the Tai Tam Reservoirs, as well as the daunting Twin Peaks. As in its name, there are two mountaintops to conquer in the second part of this hike, with the Northern Twin at 363 metres and the taller Southern twin at 386 metres high. The Twins offer panoramic views of the Stanley peninsula, and is perfect for those sunset snaps. Though Violet Hill is taller than The Twins, it feels much easier in comparison without the steep steps.
There's a reason this is commonly acknowledged as the most difficult hike on Hong Kong Island, so we would recommend the Violet Hill and Twins hike for a solid intermediate hiker. That said, its tough title really only refers to its steep incline and arduous flights of close to 3,000 stairs, so if you’re a beginner looking for a challenge, this hike is still definitely doable. Expert hikers, of course, will have no trouble at all! Section 1 of the Wilson Trail is very well-maintained, with clear defined paths and even stairs, so as long as you’ve got a proper kit on you’ll be a-ok. We’d recommend hikers stock up on snacks and water (two to three litres will get you through a hot day on this trail) before embarking on this adventure, but there is a supermarket inside the Parkview residential complex if some last-minute shopping needs to be done. There is also a public toilet near Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park.
Distance: 5 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 430 metres approx.
Total time: 2.5 to 3 hours
You can opt to begin your hike from Stanley, but for the purposes of this hiking guide, we’d advise hikers to start at Parkview, which is slightly easier and prettier along the way. When you get to Parkview, there are two starting points you can choose from, the one at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park being more challenging and resulting in a double twin peaks hike. We’re not here to torture you, so take the easier, but still scenic Wilson Trail starting point.
There are also parking lots around Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park, as well as near the Wilson Trail section 1 starting point adjacent to Parkview, should you choose to drive. Taxi drivers on Hong Kong Island are quite familiar with this hike as well, and should be able to take you directly to the starting point.
Hiking Violet Hill and The Twins will take you up up and away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island, but first you must tackle your first set of steps leading up from Tai Tam Reservoir Road. It’s a straightforward half-hour walk through a dense bush forest, with the Hong Kong skyline unfolding behind you. Violet Hill is named for the rare and protected species of flower, the Hong Kong iris (iris speculatrix), that can be found blooming on the pristine hillside from late January to early February. When you’re done soaking in the skyscrapers that seem to stretch on for miles along our skyline at the top of Violet Hill, continue on to the quick descent to Tze Kong Bridge.
The descent to Tze Kong Bridge is gradual, and offers some gentle respite before you take on the 1,200 unrelenting concrete steps that lead you straight up to the Northern Twin of the Twin Peaks. As you go down the winding steps, you’ll notice that you’ve left the views of the city behind, and are welcomed instead with peaceful views of the lush Tai Tam Reservoir and Country Park and the intimidating steep climb to the Twins ahead. Watch out for loose rocks in this dirt path section! Before you get to Tze Kong Bridge, you might be able to spot Repulse Bay peaking over the ridge on your right.
Serving as the midway point between Violet Hill and The Twins, you’ll find heaps of hikers resting at Tze Kong Bridge at Repulse Bay Gap, a short paved footbridge over a bubbling brook that leads into the Reservoir. There is an exit here to Repulse Bay if you’re only looking for a quick workout, but mama didn’t raise a quitter, so get your stretches done at this rest stop, because we’re about to give the stair machine at the gym a run for its money with the infamous Thousand Steps up to The Twins.
After crossing Tze Kong Bridge, follow the signpost to the right towards Stanley Gap Road. While the steps are adequately shaded, you’re going to run out of breath quickly while tackling the relentless 1,200 steps going up to the first Twin. Fortunately, you won’t be alone, and there are spots to the side of the manicured concrete staircase to catch your breath. The steps gradually open up to the (thankfully) relatively flat Northern Twin summit, at 363 metres. The flat trail then follows along the ridge to the Southern Twin, with a quick dip in between as you descend and ascend again. The steps may not seem like the stairway to heaven now, but the Southern Twin offers much more spectacular views as your reward, and you’re already three quarters of the way to the finish line.
On the way down to the Southern Twin, you can stop by the observation deck for a quick break and a photo-op of your idyllic surroundings. This respite is brief. They’re not called the “Terrible Twins” for no reason: Another long steep flight of steps awaits your summit to the Southern Twin. It’s quite a rush looking back and seeing the top of Violet Hill and how far you’ve come though. It’s a bit anticlimactic at the top of the second Twin, as the promised spectacular views aren’t in sight yet, but you will be able to spot the hill range of Dragon’s Back and Mount Parker towards the east.
Then you’ll get a true sense of accomplishment, as well as a second wave of adrenaline, as you venture on to the ridge that opens up to the descent towards Stanley. Here, the hike looks out to the Stanley Peninsula, where the azure sky and sea seem to meet along the coast. Many hikers choose to take on this hike in the afternoon so as to catch the panoramic sunset down Stanley. You won’t even mind the final flight of steps heading down to Stanley Gap Road with this truly blissful sight. As you descend from The Twin Peaks, you’ll also be able to spot the quiet St. Stephen’s Beach and its busier cousin Stanley Main Beach. Congratulations, you’ve done it, you’ve tackled Violet Hill and The Twins!
Finish the hike where the stairs end on Stanley Gap Road, marked by the sign for Tai Tam Country Park. You can carry on walking to Stanley, but beware that there’s no sidewalk for parts of this road. There are also several buses you can take back to civilisation if you cross the road, such as bus 6 back to Central and Wanchai, or bus 73 to Aberdeen. There’s also the occasional taxi passing by that you can hail. If you’re headed into Stanley for lunch or a sundowner, stay on the same side of the road and catch buses 6, 6A, 73, or 260 into Stanley town.
P.S. Feeling like an extra burnout? Check out the Rhino Rock formation on the other side of Stanley through Stanley Market!