If you have a short break in Hong Kong and only have time to do one hike, then head to the Dragon's Back Trail. It's a reasonably easy hike and will show you a side of Hong Kong that few visitors get to see - the beautiful jungly side with sweeping views over the South China Sea.
Getting there - It's easy to get to the Dragon's Back by public transport. Firstly get the MTR to Shau Kei Wan. From here, find the bus station (it's directly outside the exit) and jump on the number 9 bus to Shek O. There's two entries to the Dragon's Back, but we recommend starting at the point on the map below. This way you can add on section 8 of the Hong Kong trail to Big Wave Beach to make the hike longer. Alternatively take a cab from the city, the journey should take around 20 minutes.
Getting Back - If you're going by public transport there are frequent buses along Shek O road. Look out for the number 9 bus to Shau Kei Wan and then get the MTR.
The Trail - The trail is in very good condition and suitable for anyone who can manage several staircases. There are some steepish sections, but this should not put anyone off as they aren't very long.
The Track (including section 8 to Big Wave Beach)
8.11km, 204m elevation, 2 hours 23
Approximately 5km, 1 hr 25 (including breaks), 204m elevation, track in very good condition.
Disclaimer: we did this trail the wrong way round! We started at the end and hiked to the start. Then we went back to the end to do section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail (the crazy things you do to complete a track....). If you only want to walk the Dragon's Back trail itself then you can start from either direction. We enjoyed the extra track that made up section 8 of the HK trail but if you are pushed for time, the Dragon's Back is by far the most beautiful part.
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Going the wrong way...
No matter where you start the trail, the first section is steep! The Shek O Road is a lot lower down than the trail, so the first section is all about getting to the ridge and the trail proper.
In the direction we took, the path quickly turned to a shaded track. After the first kilometre, it flattened out pretty quickly and it was an easy walk through lovely forest. There were also vast numbers of stunning blue butterflies. We walked past streams and through the forests, feeling a long way from the bustle and crowds of downtown Hong Kong.
The whole track is signposted well. After a while on the flat path you turn left and the track begins ascending again. Soon the trees clear for one of the best views of Hong Kong.
The Dragon's Back
It's this part of the trail that demonstrates what I love so much about Hong Kong.
Only a couple of kilometres from one of the busiest and most crowded cities in the world, you are stood in a National Park with million dollar views and hardly anyone else around.
(Disclaimer: we walked this track on a week day, it would not be the same on the weekend).
The ridge is the main reason people come here: sweeping ocean views that go for miles. You can also see glimpses of the city in the distance and some pretty affluent suburbs below. The landscape by the shore was very manicured with some pretty swanky houses and golf courses.
You'll also get glimpses of the beautiful Big Wave Beach and the beaches around Shek O. If you want to stop for some lunch or simply to take in the view, you can rest up on one of the benches up there.
Going down again
Soon the trail starts to go downhill, leading to views south of the island. You carry on for a little while until the trail turns right and the ridge top views disappear and you're back in the forest.
Halfway down the trail you'll come to a clearing and get a glimpse of some gorgeous blue water and apartment buildings at Red Hill. I can only imagine the kind of views you get if you lived there, mind blowing!
Not long after, the trail ends, (well, for everyone walking stage 8 it would be the start) at Shek O road bus shelter. There's quite a lot of passing traffic, so you'll be able to get a bus quite quickly or a taxi.
Hong Kong Trail Section 8 to Big Wave Beach
We added this section on, but as mentioned it isn't nearly as pretty as the Dragon's Back, so this is more for those that want specifically to complete the stage or a bit of extra exercise. It starts on the road and soon changes to a concrete path. The views are covered by trees and fairly dense vegetation.
The track eventually goes into the forest away from the road. When we visited there was some work being done with pipes being laid by the track which detracted from what was otherwise an improvement to the road. Without this work it would likely be very peaceful and the trees give you great cover from the intense sun. The trail goes fairly steeply downhill but is stepped all the way and it's easy terrain.
Approximately 4km, 1 hour, primarily downhill and trail in good condition
Soon you reach the bottom and arrive at the small town by Big Wave Beach. There's a couple of places to get a much needed cold drink after hiking in the high humidity. It's a short walk to the road where you can grab a bus back to the MTR.
The Dragon's Back Trail is a great hike, in fact it must be one of the most beautiful urban walking trails in the world. It's a relatively easy going trail and offers views of Hong Kong you won't get anywhere else. On a sunny day, there are few better places to be in Hong Kong.
As a visitor with limited time in the city the additional section which allows you to complete stage 8 of the Hong Kong trail is probably not necessary. There are so many more beautiful walks in HK. If you take this section it also means you end up further away from the city.
Have you hiked in Hong Kong? What were your thoughts on the trails? We'll definitely be back to this city so let us know any recommends in the comments below.
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Are you going to Hong Kong soon? Would you go hiking on a city break? Let us know in the comments below!