Header image courtesy of Minghong (via Wikimedia Commons)
Originally published by Rory Mackay. Last updated by Tommy Yu.
If you fancy veering off the beaten track and discovering the untouched parts of Hong Kong that boast natural beauty and overgrown charm, then look no further. Step out of the bustling city and you will discover a bountiful array of wild places to explore in Hong Kong—some remote, and some more accessible. Unleash your inner explorer, dig out your hiking boots, and feast your eyes on the wildest hikes in Hong Kong and the most beautiful views around.
Venture into the wilds of Sai Kung for the East Dam, a great launchpad from which to mount an adventurous expedition. Coming in, the excursion around the azure waters of the High Island Reservoir, whether on foot or on wheels, makes for a scenic introduction.
Upon your arrival at the East Dam, you can venture in a couple of directions; either head down the slope to the dam wall and Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark beyond, or follow the Maclehose Trail northwards. Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark is rugged and truly wild. Littered with islands, caves, and hexagonal rock formations, there are many opportunities for intrepid folks to enjoy some fishing, climbing, and cliff jumping.
Following the Maclehose Trail in the opposite direction, you can explore the soft sands of Long Ke Wan, arguably the most idyllic beach Hong Kong has to offer, as well as some extraordinary hiking routes over to Sai Wan and beyond.
Wild factor: ★★★★☆
Good for: Beaches, cliff jumping, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing
How to get there: Having reached Sai Kung, hop in a cab out to the East Dam of the High Island Reservoir for around $100. If you ask the driver to head towards Long Ke, you will know you are at the dam because you will reach the end of the road.
Returning from the East Dam, a taxi is, again, the best option instead of walking. From Sai Wan, one can hike up to the road or take a boat back to Sai Kung. If hiking back, remember to call for a taxi in advance, as mobile reception in that area can be a bit hit-or-miss.
Many spots in Hong Kong feel far removed from the city, but are, in fact, just around the corner or over the hill from town. And then there are those rare confines that are genuinely far removed from civilisation, such as the southern tip of Lantau Island. Venture to this enclave and you will be rewarded with a journey back in time! An untarnished landscape bursting with deserted beaches, fertile valleys, and lush jungles is lying in wait.
Wild factor: ★★★★☆
Good for: Beaches, hiking, history
How to get there: Catch either bus 11 from Tung Chung Station Bus Terminus or bus 1 from Mui Wo Ferry Pier to Tai O. Keep an eye out for Shek Pik Reservoir and disembark at the first bus stop immediately after crossing the dam wall.
Lap up the beautiful sight of Shek Pik Reservoir and Lantau Peak behind before turning away and following the Lantau Trail south. If hiking 15 to 17 kilometres sounds like biting off more than you can chew, there is the option to hike either end of the trail as a shorter return from Shek Pik or Tai O to Fan Lau or Man Cheung Po and Yi O, respectively.
If you fancy exploring a natural world that most folks do not know about within Hong Kong, then a day trip to Luk Keng could be in order. Located within the innermost depths of the Pat Sin Leng Country Park, it is a region that is as much unknown as it is remote. However, the area is easily accessible via public transport and totally worth the effort to reach.
Nestled among rolling hills and the gateway to the northern parts of Pat Sin Leng Country Park, Luk Keng is as rural as it gets. Life moves at a different pace here, with perhaps the most relaxed locals in the city. It rubs off quickly and once there, you certainly will not be in a rush to leave. From there, one can venture into the higher peaks of Pat Sin Leng and discover hidden gems that lie within, namely, the Ping Nam Stream. You will encounter a challenging route upstream with many dramatic cascades and pools along the way to take in. With the danger of slippery rocks in the wet, we recommend the use of a guide.
Wild factor: ★★★☆☆
Good for: Cliff jumping, river walks, waterfalls
How to get there: Make your way to Fanling Station (Exit A) and hop on bus 78K. After 20 or so minutes, get off at Nam Chung and cross the main road, looking for Luk Keng Road.
Walk for 20 minutes and you will reach a small village. Make a right here onto South Bay Road and keep going until you meet a small reservoir dam wall. Find the goat track on the right-hand side, bypass the dam, and you will arrive at Ping Nam Stream. On the way back, keep an eye out for minibus 56K. You can ride this all the way back to the MTR.
I think this could be regarded as Hong Kong’s most remote mountain, and the areas surrounding the mount are simply stunning. Although Sharp Peak is not massively tall, standing at 468 metres, it is a very prominent hill and easy on the eye. Its unspoilt views from the summit are among the finest in the land, and it is a steep and dramatic final ascent to the summit, but well worth the effort on a fine day.
It is a top-draw route deserving of top-draw conditions, so save this one for the best weather available (clear skies with high visibility). Get up there for sunrise or sunset if you can. However, be warned that this wild route is a tough one in the hot summer months!
Wild factor: ★★★★★
Good for: Beaches, hiking, mountain climbing
How to get there: From Sai Kung Town Hall, take bus NR29 or pay around $100 for a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion. Walk for an hour to reach Sai Wan and then a further hour in a northerly direction along the beaches of eastern Sai Kung Country Park. Dominating the landscape, Sharp Peak will often be in view.
For the simplest way to ascend, take the direct route up the mountain ridge from the northern end of Tai Long Beach. Heading down, there are a few options route-wise, either returning via Sai Wan or following the Maclehose Trail Section 2 towards Wong Shek Pier and catching a bus from Pak Tam Road.
Hidden away within the depths of Lantau Island is the Yellow Dragon Gorge, a secluded oasis away from all the hustle and bustle. Boulder by boulder, you can venture upstream into a vertical landscape. Surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls, the adventure culminates at the end of the gorge, where three massive cascades fall down onto you from high above. Be aware that this route is of a technical nature, requiring jumping between stones on the river and bouldering in places to reach the upper waterfalls. Going with a guide is recommended.
Wild factor: ★★★★☆
Good for: River walks, waterfalls
How to get there: Make your way to Tung Chung Station. From there, walk through the estates of Tung Chung to Wong Lung Hang Road. Follow the paved road all the way to the end and find the river on your left. Venture as far upstream as you dare.
If you want to explore these wild areas with a trained professional by your side, check out Wild Hong Kong for guided tours to all of the above locations.