Hong Kong is one of the most hectic cities in the world, but just outside the crazy metropolis you’ll find spectacular rolling landscapes just itching to be explored. Pack plenty of water and snacks, bug spray and sunscreen, a camera, and a swimsuit (most hikes will offer opportunities for a quick dip to cool off!), and hit one of these scenic trails!
Dragon’s Back Ridge
This 5.3-mile (8.5-kilometer) hike along the Dragon’s Back Ridge has been named the world’s best urban walk — if you only go for one hike during your stay, this should be the one. The easy trail follows an undulating ridgeline that tops out at the 284-meter (932-feet) Shek O Peak, a dramatic overlook that provides views worthy of a more strenuous hike. You might even spot paragliders hurling themselves off the ridge to sweep across the sprawling vistas below. After the hike, make your way to Shek O Beach to cool off with dip in the water.
If you consider yourself a mountain climber, then this is a peak you have to bag. At 934 meters (3,064 feet), it’s the second highest in Hong Kong. The climb itself is grueling at times, so make sure to stretch and bring plenty of water and snacks, but the views along the way and at the top are absolutely stunning — sweeping slopes, dramatic vistas, and tranquil beaches in the distance. Then, after the hike, carefully make your way down to one of those beaches for a quick swim and maybe a refreshment or two as reward for your successful summit.
The MacLehose Trail stretches 100 kilometers (62 miles) across the New Territories north of Kowloon. But don’t worry — you don’t have to complete the whole trek if you don’t have the time or stamina. We recommend the first two stages, a stretch of 23 km (14 miles) that traverses rolling hills and offers spectacular tropical ocean views. If you don’t have time for a full day hike, opt instead for stage 5, a scenic section inhabited by wild monkeys. When you see the option to take a detour and climb Lion Rock, do it! You can see all of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island from the summit.
Mui Wo to Pui O
Easy to reach and not too long (9 kilometers; 5.6 miles) or difficult, this beach hike presents a perfect opportunity for a leisurely, yet scenic, half-day hike. The tranquil trail winds through the Lantau South Country Park, a rural park on the southern side of Hong Kong’s largest island. The hike offers serene coastline views and, along the way, you’ll have plenty of time to stop for a swim and refreshments at Mavericks Beach Bar.
Ping Shan Heritage Trail
What the Ping Shan Heritage Trail lacks in natural wonder, it makes up for in historical brilliance. The trail provides a vivid glimpse into the Hong Kong’s past, guiding you past such culturally significant monuments as the six-century-old Tsui Sing Lau pagoda and the Tang ancestral hall, which dates back to the 1300s. The one-mile trail isn’t much of a hike, but it’s a must for any history buffs.
You can reach Po Toi Island by hopping on the Kaito ferry at the Aberdeen Pier or the Stanley Blake Pier. Once there, take this short, circular hike and tour the beautiful island known for its impressive granite rock formations. The hike, which departs from the Po Toi Pier, will bring you right past the island’s many landmarks, including the ornate Ngau Wu Teng Pavilion, Monk Rock and Tortoise Rock (natural granite structures that resemble their namesakes), and the 3,000-year-old rock carvings on a cliff near Nam Tum.
At 869 meters (2,851 feet), Sunset Peak is the third highest in Hong Kong. Situated on Lantau Island, the trail extends seven kilometers (4.3 miles) and includes some difficult ascents. But for those looking to get away from the chaos of the city, this is the ideal hike. Lantau Island is painted green and turquoise, and bathed in a golden light as the sun sets. Its rolling hills and grassy fields will envelop you, making you forget that a bustling metropolis lies just across the bay.
Good news for those worried about this strenuous hike: If you can count, you’ll always know how much longer you have to the finish line — it’s only 1,000 steps to the top. This workout of a climb begins with a gradual ascent to Violet Hill, where you’ll reach the base of a seemingly never-ending staircase. From there, it’s simply one foot in front of the other as you slog your way to the glorious summit. Push through the pain! If you make it to the apex, you’ll be rewarded with views that will take your breath away — if you’re still breathing, that is!
Header image by Hang Ho.