Hong Kong is home to 7.5 million inhabitants and more skyscrapers than any other city in the world. It might seem surprising then that Hong Kong has some outstanding hiking trails to offer – with sensational views of its iconic skyline and scenic green islands.

In this article, we explain just what it is that makes hiking in Hong Kong so special. We discuss the main FAQs and give our top five tips for the best hikes.

  1. What does a typical day hiking in Hong Kong look like?
  2. How are Hong Kong’ hiking trails?
  3. When is the best time of year to travel to Hong Kong?
  4. The best hikes in Hong Kong
  5. Hike #1: A circular trail in Victoria Peak
  6. Hike #2: Over the Dragon’s Back
  7. Hike #3: Lion Rock
  8. Hike #4: The MacLehose Trail
  9. Hike #5: A dream hike on Lamma Island
  10. Further activities in Hong Kong
  11. A rather expensive affair
  12. Conclusion: If you’re in Hong Kong, take your hiking boots with you.

There’s probably nowhere else in the world with such a fascinating mix of lively urban settings and beautiful natural areas so close together. The Chinese metropolis might be dominated by skyscrapers, but it’s built in hilly terrain with mainly green, wooded mountains up to 950 metres high. It’s surrounded by the sea on three sides and has a spectacular coastline with views over the numerous islands.

The city centre runs from the Kowloon Peninsula to Hong Kong Island. You can set out hiking directly behind the skyscrapers both on the island and the peninsula. There are a large number of signposted – and mostly paved – hiking trails that make their way up into the surrounding green hills and often lead to secluded beaches. In addition, Hong Kong’s neighbouring islands offer outstanding hiking.

The hills offer spectacular views back over the city’s skyscrapers. It’s this unique combination of nature, city and sea that makes Hong Kong so special.

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1. What does a typical day hiking in Hong Kong look like?

For our week-long hiking trip to Hong Kong, we stayed in two hotels in the centre of town on Hong Kong Island. Because we wanted to make the most of this bustling Asian metropolis with its downtown lights, extensive shopping and dynamic restaurants – from dim sum to Dior.

Most mornings we headed out on the underground. Hong Kong has an excellent public transport system. Even the more remote hiking areas are easy to reach by train, bus or ferry. In general, all our walks started within thirty minutes to two hours of the city centre.

And wherever we ended up, there was always a bus to bring us back. It doesn’t take long to reach the next bus stop and then you’re back in town before you know it!

The view from Lion Rock over Hong Kong with a pair of outstretched feet

The perfect footwear for Hong Kong or similar trips: HANWAG Rotpunkt Low GTX

A lightweight hiking shoe with full functionality and a distinctive design for outdoor and city use. The new HANWAG Rotpunkt Low GTX is at home on both the trails and around town. Its smooth leather upper offers a good combination of flexibility up and down steps and support on stoney terrain. Underfoot, the Vibram sole offers grip on soft and slippery ground, yet ensures good roll-off on harder surfaces, such as tarmac. With climbing lacing right that runs right down to the toe for a precise and supportive fit. And its breathable Gore-Tex membrane provides reliable weather protection – for example, during tropical downpours in the hills surrounding Hong Kong.

Find out more

2. How are Hong Kong’ hiking trails?

Hong Kong has an excellent network of hiking trails. The paths are signposted in both Chinese and English. At the start, end and intersections, there is normally a map and often a clean and tidy public toilet.

Many of Hong Kong’s trails are paved to protect them from erosion during the rainy summers and typhoons. On the steeper slopes, you will find lots of steps. Hiking in Hong Kong means lots of ascent and descent. In places where the paths and steps are not paved, the underground is muddy with tree roots that can often be slippery when wet.

Although the trails are often steep, there are few places where they are exposed. However, being sure footed is always an advantage. A head for heights is rarely required, apart from certain areas such as ‘Suicide Cliff’ (nomen est omen).

3. When is the best time of year to travel to Hong Kong?

Generally speaking, you can hike in Hong Kong all year round. It lies at the same latitude as Mexico City. However, for a hiking trip, it’s worth informing yourself about the climate of Hong Kong.

In summer, average temperatures often rise to over 30 degrees. The climate can be very humid, which means you might find that you perspire a lot when hiking. In addition, it rains most in the summer season. Nevertheless, the sea is pleasant and inviting for a refreshing dip en route.

We travelled to Hong Kong to hike in January. December and January are the driest months of the year. However, temperatures generally only reach around 17 degrees. We had one day of rain. One the other days, the weather was a bit misty, with smog, though mainly in the city centre.

4. The best hikes in Hong Kong

Our 5 hikes at a glance.
Hello, Hong Kong! Victoria Peak makes a great starting point to get an overview of the city.

Hike #1: A circular trail in Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak is the highest mountain (552 metres) on Hong Kong Island. The green, wooded hill rises literally right next to the city centre. Therefore, it offers spectacular views over the nearby skyline, the deep streets between the high-rise buildings and of Victoria Harbour, the narrow natural inlet between the island and the northern part of the city.

It’s not possible to stand right on the top of Victoria Peak because of the radio station and satellite dishes. Nevertheless, the small path that leads around the summit is the ideal viewpoint to get your first impression of the city. This also means that it’s a popular tourist spot, especially on the weekends. We hiked up the paved trail in the evening and enjoyed fantastic views back down over the lights of the city.

  • Hike description and GPS file

    • Route: The route starts and finishes at Peak Tower, a viewing platform with an adjacent shopping centre. The circular trail heads clockwise up through wooded slopes with occasional views of the southern side of Hong Kong Island. On the way back in, the northern side has plenty of view points to stop and look down over the city centre.
    • Trail length: ca. 3.5 km
    • Time: ca. 1-1.5 h
    • Height difference: ca. 50 m
    • Level of difficulty: easy
    • Starting point (for Google Maps): Peak Tower, 128 Peak Rd, The Peak, Hong Kong
    • Directions: Many visitors chose to take the ‘Peak Tram’ from the city centre, the 130-year-old funicular railway is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. For a less expensive option with less queuing, the number 15 bus runs straight from the city centre to Peak Tower.

    Download GPX file

Hike #2: Over the Dragon’s Back

The Dragon’s Back is a chain of green hills on Hong Kong Island. Situated slightly further away from the city centre, it lies on the Shek O peninsula. The majority of the route runs under shady, tree-lined trails, which makes it particularly popular in summer. From the top of the ridge, where there are fewer trees, you have wonderful views over the sea. If it weren’t for the skyscrapers on the horizon, it would be easy to forget that you are in Hong Kong. The hike ends at Big Wave Bay, a sandy beach that – as its name suggests – is popular with surfers.

  • Hike description

    • Route: From the bus stop, follow the signposted trail that leads uphill. From the highest point, the 284-Shek O Peak, you can already see the sandy bays on the other side. The trail curls and winds its way over the hills down to Big Wave Bay, where some of the cafés even remain open in winter during the week. At the southern end of the bay is a minibus that takes us back to town.
    • Trail length: ca. 8.5 km
    • Time: ca. 3 h
    • Height difference: ca. 300 m
    • Level of difficulty: medium
    • Starting point: Bus stop to To Tei Wan, Shek O Road, Hong Kong. On Google Maps, the place is also called ‘Junction of Hong Kong Trail Sec. 7 & Sec. 8’
    • Directions: Bus number 9 to Shek O runs directly from the city to the start of the trail. To get back, you can either return by the number 9 again or take a minibus from Big Wave Bay.

    Link to map

Hike #3: Lion Rock

Lion Rock is Hong Kong’s local mountain, as it were. It’s part of a chain of hills that starts immediately behind the high-rise towers of Kowloon. From the summit, you look straight back down into the city streets and over Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Admittedly, this hike is all about the views. The trail itself is pretty unspectacular. But it’s well worth it for what you get to see. The steep steps on the way up are hard going though. We linked up the Lion Rock hike with the rest of the chain and took the bus to and from the route without problem.

  • Hike description and GPS file

    • Route: Leaving the bus stop, follow the quiet Shatin Pass Road. On the left at a bend in the road, you’ll see the trail that leads up through the trees to the Unicorn Ridge. The path here consists of compact, well-trodden earth with washed-out steps. At about halfway, the trail opens to give views to the north to the New Territories. Later on, the path branches off to the left and leads up over a longer section of steep steps to a rise before the actual summit. From here onwards, Hong Kong lies literally at your feet. The main summit (495 metres) is not far off, where an even more spectacular view awaits. Despite the rather cloudy weather, from the summit we could see right over to Hong Kong Island and far out to sea. And yet you can still hear the distant murmur of the city’s roaring traffic far down below. Nature and megacities don’t get closer than this. We cross the summit and head down the steep descent. From the Handover Pavilion, the path is paved. The lower you go, the higher the tower blocks become. Back down amongst the skyscrapers Google Maps takes us to the next bus stop. And back downtown.
    • Trail length: ca. 5.2 km
    • Time: ca. 2.5 h
    • Height difference: ca. 400 m
    • Level of difficulty: medium
    • Starting point: Fat Jong Temple on the Shatin Pass Road.
    • Directions: Take the small bus (there are several different lines) to stop at Tsz Wan Shan Road; Outside Wo Tin House; Shatin Pass Estate.

    Download GPX file

Hike #4: The MacLehose Trail

Believe it or not, there is a long-distance hiking trail in Hong Kong. The MacLehose Trail is named after the former governor of Hong Kong who was a passionate hiker. It runs 100 kilometres in five sections from Sai Kung Country Park through the hills along the northern edge of the city to the western edge of the ‘New Territories’ – the third main area of Hong Kong, alongside Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. We decided to do section two of the trail as a day hike; it takes in Hong Kong’s most beautiful beaches.

  • Hike description and GPS file

    • Route: Starting out from the Sai Wan Pavilion, the paved trail leads uphill and downhill and gives fine views over High Island Reservoir. The dammed lake has created a wooded area with scenic, fjord-like charm. The first beach, Sai Wan, is not far on. It’s even possible to camp here on the beach. A coastal path leads on over to the next two beautiful beaches: Ham Tin and Tai Wan. After dropping into a beach café for refreshments, we continue to follow the MacLehose Trail from Ham Tin up into the green hills. Here there are no buildings, no cars, nothing – it’s like some kind of subtropical wilderness. At Check Keng the path reaches the coast again. One hour later, this section of MacLehose Trail meets a country road. And the next bus stop is just three minutes away. We have to wait just five minutes for the next bus to come. It takes us through the small fishing village of Sai Kung and then on to the next station for the Hong Kong underground.
    • Trail length: ca. 12 km
    • Time: ca. 4 h
    • Height difference: ca. 450 m
    • Level of difficulty: medium; the trail is fully paved
    • Starting point: Sai Van Pavilion.
    • Directions: Cars restricted in Sai Kung Country Park. We decided to take a taxi from Sai Kung to Sai Van Pavilion (ca. 15 euros). In total, it took us about 2.5 hours to get here from the city centre.

    Download GPX file

Hike #5: A dream hike on Lamma Island

Today, we’re not taking the bus or underground to go hiking in Hong Kong, but travelling by ferry.

Lamma Island lies south-west of Hong Kong Island. As Hong Kong’s third-largest island (13.5 km2), its highest mountain is 353 metre high. Lamma is sparsely populated and has an abundance of idyllic natural scenery – that’s if you can ignore the coal-fired power station on the western side of the island. This proves easy for us. The plan is to hike up Ling Kok Shan – a 250-metre mountain on the eastern side of the island.

  • Hike description and GPS file

    • Route: The ferry from town takes 35 minutes from the city centre to reach Sok Kwu Wan – a fishing village on the east coast of Lamma. Leaving the pier behind, you pass a cluster of seafood restaurants in the harbour. It’s clear where we’re going to eat after our hike. As you leave the village, you’ll see a paved trail on the left that leads up into the woody hills. It’s Thursday morning; there’s hardly anyone there. Apart from a ground of happy looking pensioners listening to romantic sounding Chinese music on their mobile phones. When you hit the ridge line, you bear left climbing the steps that lead on up the mountain. The good thing here is that the flatter flora allows you to see all over the side of the mountain, giving you great views of the islands and later on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. By the time you get to the transmitter station on the top of Ling Kok Shan, you’ll be able to see the suburb of Aberdeen and the ‘Hell Raiser’ roller coaster at Ocean Park over the water. We watch as huge container ships sail by – yet another ‘Hong Kong-moment’ full of rich contrast. The granite cliffs behind the transmission station are the perfect spot for lunch with a view. And the gods are smiling on us as the hazy clouds disappear to give us a couple of hours of brilliant sunshine. We climb the long flight of steps in T-shirts, accompanied by a kaleidoscope of vibrant butterflies. At Shek Pai Wan, the beach is deserted. It’s late January and there’s no one here. Beyond the, in places, collapsing houses, the path runs back up over the hill and then down to those seafood restaurants…
    • Trail length: ca. 7 km
    • Time: ca. 3 h
    • Height difference: ca. 380 m
    • Level of difficulty: medium
    • Starting point: Sok Kwu Wan.
    • Directions: The ferry takes 35 minutes (hourly, in the mornings) from Central Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Island.

    Download GPX file

10 Further activities in Hong Kong

Hiking is not the only thing way to actively enjoy nature in Hong Kong:

  • Many of its trails are also open to mountain bikes. Not to mention the dedicated downhill trails. Information and guiding: Mountain Bike Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong and its many beaches make it a surfers’ paradise. TimeOut magazine – also a great source for tips for restaurants and nightlife – mentions the best spots to surf in the city.
  • And the sea caves, bays and beaches at Sai Kung make it a great place to explore by sea kayak or SUP. Here’s a kayaking tip for a trip straight from Sai Kung (with kayak hire too).
  • Hong Kong’s granite cliffs attract climbers from all over the world. The Crag lists over 1,000 sport routes.
Hong Kong is definitely a paradise for foodies. Our author tries a local speciality: fish balls with curry sauce. His verdict: “not bad.”

11 A rather expensive affair

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world. In particular, the shortage of living space and high property prices make the Chinese special economic zone a rather expensive place to live.

Holidaying in Hong Kong is all but cheap too. Especially when it comes to accommodation (hotels cost around GBP 100 / USD 130 per night and upwards for a 4-star double room with breakfast) and restaurants. Public transport costs around GBP 0.8-3.5 / USD 1-4.3 per trip (depending on the length of journey). In general, prices work out similar to, say, Switzerland or the US. In particular when it comes to alcoholic drinks (a pint of craft beer in a music club will set you back about GBP 9.5 / USD 12), tea drinkers will find things less expensive.

When eating out, a good way to save money is to avoid expensive restaurants and go for street food instead. There are plenty of options in Mongkok on the peninsula (Kowloon) and Sai Ying Pun – our favourite area on Hong Kong Island. Chinese cooking is often very meat based. But if you can handle braised duck feet etc, then eating can be relatively inexpensive. Classic Hong Kong recipes from street vendors, such as roasted goose with rice and pak choi, will cost you around GBP 6.5 / USD 8 per portion.

Not just from the surrounding hills, Hong Kong is an impressive city, including when seen from the water.

12 Conclusion: If you’re in Hong Kong, take your hiking boots with you.

Looking for the best possible combination of mega city and outdoor sports? Hong Kong is your perfect destination. We spent a week there and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of night life, day hikes and exciting experiences.

Of course, it’s unjustifiable to fly half the way round the world just to go hiking. However, if you are going to be in Hong Kong, maybe on a stopover, then we recommend spending a few days in this unique and vibrant city of contrasts.

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