Hong Kong’s hiking trails offer hidden gems beyond shopping and dining ... if you know where to look

Hiking season is here, and convenient public transport to the countryside, coupled with great views, could make the activity the next big tourist thing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 9:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 11:26pm

Amid the weakening economy, the Hong Kong Tourism Board wants to position the city as a top destination for hiking, in a bid to diversify from the long-running image of a beacon for shopping and dining.

Mason Hung, a general manager from the board’s event and product development division , said there was no better time than now – the return of the hiking season between November and March – for visitors to enjoy outdoor activities and discover the hidden beauty of the countryside.

The board has published a guide booklet with detailed information of seven recommended hiking trails and two cycling routes, which are being distributed in hotels and at its information centres.

“Hong Kong has a lot to offer as a travel destination other than shopping,” Hung said, adding a more diversified city was good for luring high quality tourists in the long term.

Among the highlights is the MacLehose Trail, a 100km route spanning Sai Kung and Tuen Mun, which was recently named one of the best hikes in the world by the National Geographic Society.

Another route is the 50km Hong Kong Trail, where section 1 – between The Peak and Pok Fu Lam reservoir – is highly recommended, offering a bird’s eye view of the woodland oases hugged by the concrete jungles on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

Despite limited opportunities to spend money during a hike, Hung said hikers tend to stay longer in the city – usually three to four days – compared to travellers who come just for shopping. Therefore, local hotels, restaurants and retail shops stand to benefit in the long term.

The city’s hiking trails are also great places to take photos for sharing on social media.

Kelvin Yuen Sze-lok , a local university student, won the top prize in the youth division of National Geographic’s International Photo Contest 2015, with pictures taken along such green routes.

Compared with other popular hiking destinations,Yuen said Hong Kong is a much easier place to move around on public transport – it usually takes about one hour or so to get to the starting point of any hiking trail from downtown.

For places like Taiwan and Germany, the urban-rural commute time could stretch to three hours and beyond, he added.

The 20-year-old award winner also gave some tips on how to take gorgeous pictures along the way with smartphones.

Fancy a visual of a pristine mirror-like surface like those taken on the Bolivia salt flats? Yuen recommended placing the camera close to the lake of High Island reservoir, near the East dam along MacLehose Trail section 1, on a windless sunny day.

To capture the sunrise over Victoria Harbour, the best location is near Lugard Road in Central, according to Yuen.

And the best moment to shoot countryside landscapes is one hour before sunset, when the waning soft glow of the sun presents a warm colour.