Header image courtesy of @fungyuying (via Instagram)
Between the unrelenting heat and oppressive humidity, trekking Hong Kong’s hilly terrain in the summer is a treacherous affair that avid hikers and nature lovers know all too well. Fortunately, our city’s lush countryside hides some easy, shaded trails that allow you to enjoy the outdoors and get your steps in without having to risk getting a heatstroke.
Abutting a smattering of traditional Hakka villages in Plover Cove Country Park, Wu Kau Shan Country Trail offers a trifecta of easy strolling, ample tree coverage, and watery streams, making it the perfect summer hike. So lace up your sneakers and follow along—here is your guide to hiking the Wu Kau Shan Country Trail.
A stronghold of the Hakkas since the early Qing dynasty, Wu Kau Tang comprises a close-knit rural community of walled villages in the western foothills of Plover Cove Country Park, towered by the neighbouring Tiu Tang Lung. While part of the original village settlement has been either modernised or altogether abandoned, a smattering of traditional tile-roofed architecture and ancestral halls remain as testament to the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Formerly known for its bountiful population of turtles, Wu Kau Tang was originally named “Wu Kwai Tin” (烏龜田)—“Turtle Farm”—but the moniker was deemed too crude and later changed to the similarly sounding “Wu Kau Tang.” Although the area is no longer marked by the heavy presence of shelled reptiles, it is nonetheless an ecological haven, supporting over 160 species of trees, and a host of butterflies, dragonflies, and amphibians.
Just as the verdant woodland and natural water sources are a magnet to small animals and insects, they are equally appealing to hikers looking to beat the heat. Established as a designated trail to explore the vibrant area, Wu Kau Tang Country Trail runs parallel to a hill stream for an easy 2.6 kilometres, starting from the Wu Kau Tang Village and climbing up a small hill that oversees the beautiful country park. The entire trail can be completed in around an hour and requires minimal skills—ideal for families with children and pets!
Distance: 2.6 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 196 metres approx.
Total time: 1 hour approx.
Despite its remote location, Wu Kau Tang is not difficult to reach per se, thanks to the direct minibus serving the area. From Tai Po, minibus 20R will take you all the way into Wu Kau Tang Village, right where the hike begins.
Although the minibus essentially takes you to the trailhead, it would be a shame not to spend some time exploring the nearby Hakka villages and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere before setting off on your trek.
Standing before a swath of deserted grassy farmlands and grey-tilted structures, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported to a simpler time of agricultural self-sufficiency. As you weave through the labyrinth of village thoroughfares, here’s a sombre piece of history to keep in mind: Even this isolated pocket of countryside life has not managed to fully escape the insidious tendrils of wartime violence.
During the Second World War, Wu Kau Tang was used as an important base for the Hong Kong-Kowloon Brigade and the area came under attack by the Japanese military in December 1941. To commemorate the villagers who sacrificed their lives, a small garden and a stone memorial was built next to the entrance of Wu Kau Tang Road.
After sight-seeing around the history-steeped villages, begin your hike on the railing-lined concrete path from the minibus stop. In just a few minutes, you will hit your first junction, upon which a left turn on the stone walkway will veer you away from the residential hamlet and into forested terrain.
The first kilometre eases you into the elevation, consisting of mostly level paths with a few punchy bursts of stairs just to get your blood flowing. Blanketed by a canopy of bamboo trees and soothed by the zen-inducing sound of trickling streams, you can truly let go of distractions and enjoy some quality time in the depths of nature.
Another forked junction awaits around half an hour into the trail. Turn left following the sign for Kong Ha Yau to continue on Wu Kau Tang Country Trail. The other path switches you onto Tiu Tang Lung Path towards Lai Chi Wo—a picturesque, albeit lung-busting trek best saved for ambitious hikers on a cooler day!
The next leg of the trail will make you work a bit, but trust that your reward is just around the corner! After climbing up several steep flights of stairs, you will reach the summit at the Wu Kau Tang Fire Lookout, where you can feast your eyes on the azure waters of Starling Inlet, Luk Keng, and the undulating ranges of Plover Cove Country Park! This section of the path breaks free of the woods and opens up to allow for more expansive outlooks.
Once you have had your fill of scenery, proceed on the dirt path to make your descent. On the way down, you will have the option of extending your journey by turning onto Kam Lung Ridge. This will eventually connect you to Luk Keng, another traditional Hakka village and popular site to see military relics.
Otherwise, simply stick to the main path and exit the trail on Bride’s Pool Road near the Kong Ha Au Barbecue Site. From there, a 10-minute walk down Bride’s Pool Road will bring you back to Wu Kau Tang, where you can return to the city by the same minibus you came on.