Urban Jungle: Hiking in Hong Kong
Plan a trip to Hong Kong and you’ll likely picture yourself somewhere in Wan Chai after nightfall, navigating its towering malls, crowded restaurants and neon signs.
What not many know, is that etched into the soaring mountains and volcanic headlands of Hong Kong are 300 kilometres of hiking paths split into four major treks: the MacLehose, Wilson, Lantau and Hong Kong trails, each offering a different experience of the vibrant city.
Steve Pheby, a British expat and director of amateur club Hong Kong Hikers, runs five or six hikes a week and also hosts guided adventure trips. He has seen a notable spike in interest in outdoor activities in recent years, where visitors and residents alike are searching for an easy, affordable and convenient way to become more active. “You can walk to an MTR [Hong Kong’s transit system] station and, within 10 minutes, you’re on a dirt trail in the forest. I’ve been around the world and there’s nowhere quite like this.”
HIKE BY NIGHT
Swap cocktail hour for a quick trip up the mountain and revel in the breathtaking views of the city after-dark. Pheby leads a group on a two-hour urban trek that traverses sections of the Hong Kong and Wilson trails. It starts in the heart of Wan Chai and skirts around the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir, before ascending the leafy Wilson Trail to Jardine’s Lookout. There, at an elevation of some 430 metres the trail opens to a panoramic view of North Point and Central, revealing the city’s skyline in shimmering white and gold. “There’s the air of adventure”, says Pheby, “the moon is out, you have your headlamps on, you might see geckos or hear owls and deer in the dark – all this adds a degree of excitement.”
FROM THE PEAK TO THE BEACH
One of the best (and the most popular) beginner hikes is the half-day Dragon’s Back trail. To get there from Central, take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan, then hop on a number 9 bus to To Tei Wan on the southern fringe of Hong Kong Island. The hour-long trip will take you straight to the foot of Shek O Peak.
Dragon’s Back begins as a steep uphill trek, but as the climb levels out and the summit comes into view, you’ll find yourself on the narrow ridge of the dragon’s spine, marveling at the views on either side of the path. On a clear day, the sheer drop gives way to the gentle surf of Shek O Beach, where paragliders flit above the emerald sea. At the end of the walk, cool off with a swim at Big Wave Bay or head to the village of Shek O, where tiny barbecue stands, such as Sai Jai Thai Store, fire up rows of smoky meat skewers that go down a treat alongside a well-earned beer.
A more advanced but equally scenic hike is on Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island. The steep seven-kilometre walk up Sunset Peak is perfect for those looking for a physical challenge. Climb and you shall reap the rewards, with unfettered views of sea, coast and islands waiting for those who reach the peak.
HISTORIC HONG KONG
History buffs who take the Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail at the Peak in the CBD, can walk the same path touched by Japanese air raids during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. Alternatively, check out the collection of colonial structures on the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail, or immerse yourself in the local culture with a trip to the 400-year-old former Hakka settlement – accessed via the Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail. The site, previously at risk of complete abandonment, is currently being revitalised by local historians, environmentalists and hobby farmers. Guided tours operate every Sunday, through the local village of Yau Kee for a traditional Hakka experience.
Hakka Home at Lai Chi Wo (guided Tours) - Lai Chi Wo, New Territories; www.facebook.com/hakkahomelcw
Hong Kong Hikers - 5 Tai Mong Tsai Rd, New Territories; www.hongkonghikers.com
Sai Jai Thai Store - 784b Shek O village Rd, Hong Kong Island
Yau Kee - Lai Chi Wo, New Territories; +852 9558 7787
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