Hike Hong Kong’s Kowloon hills for stunning views north and south, and options for getting back to civilisation
- Kowloon Peak and nearby summits afford grandstand views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island and, on clear days, Stonecutters Bridge, with Sai Kung to the east
- To drop down from the heights, opt for an easy stroll or some strenuous hikes in wild places that are rare so close to an urban centre
A natural barrier to the north of urban Hong Kong, the Kowloon hills make for fine hiking with excellent views – although getting to them on foot may seem daunting. Happily, a road up to and along the eastern ridge enables easy access to the heights, with their challenging hikes and easy strolls.
The narrow, winding Fei Ngo Shan Road climbs the hillside from Clear Water Bay Road and reaches the crest of the hills to the north of Kowloon Peak. Passengers alight from their vehicle here to expansive vistas from the Kowloon Peak Viewing Point.
The slope drops away from here to the fringes of urban Kowloon, beyond which lie Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. If the air is clear, the twin supports of Stonecutters Bridge can be seen prominently to the west of Kowloon. Standing here, you’re high enough to look down on Lion Rock, which has an angular profile and does not look much like any kind of animal.
A short flight of stone steps leads to a flat grassy area – another Kowloon Peak Viewing Point, this one facing eastward across Marina Cove to the Sai Kung Peninsula and the islands beyond. Here, at 544 metres (1,785ft) above sea level, you’re just eight metres lower than Hong Kong Island’s highest point, the summit of Victoria Peak, with options for climbing a little higher.
From near the base of the steps, a slender path leads south through grass and trees. It drops a little before a short, steep ascent of Middle Hill, also known as Elephant Hill. The trail undulates along a slender ridge, with expansive views over north Kowloon and the hills to the east, Sai Kung to the west.
This is a wild place, the sounds of the city having been reduced to a gentle hum, the stillness broken only by the swifts – swallow-like birds that catch insects in flight – that swoop and twist along the ridge line.
The summit of Kowloon Peak, at 602 metres, is the site of a television broadcasting station. Hikers clamber up and down a trail that runs between here and Clear Water Bay Road, but that is a steep route and there have been so many accidents – including fatalities – along one rocky stretch that it has been dubbed Suicide Cliff. Those of a nervous disposition may prefer to walk down by using one of the flights of rough steps leading west, or east, from the ridge.
Alternatively, head back to the roadside viewing point, from where there are several hiking options, such as a trail towards Buffalo Hill, Ngong Ping and Ma On Shan, in the east.
Strollers, rather than hikers, may choose to follow Fei Ngo Shan Road as it angles gently down the south-facing slope of the Kowloon hills. The occasional passing car shouldn’t disrupt the tranquillity – bird call and the buzzing of crickets fill the air – as the city is laid out in all its glory below.
Short side trails lead to slightly higher vantage points, with views west and north, to Ma On Shan and Tai Mo Shan. Scramble up a low hilltop near the weather station atop Tate’s Cairn and you can see the outlines of Lion Rock and peaks at the western end of the Kowloon hills range, perhaps with the airport visible in the distance.
The road reaches a junction, with a turn off to the left, Jat’s Incline, that goes down to Choi Hung. Keep straight on, and the road is now Shatin Pass Road, with one-way traffic coming towards you rather than from behind. As the road drops nearer to Kowloon, apartment blocks loom larger, and traffic sounds become more distinct.
At last it reaches Sha Tin Pass, and abruptly leaves the hills, dropping to near Wong Tai Sin. The walk down the road from this point isn’t particularly interesting, but there are alternatives.
A path high on the slope south of the pass drops down through the grounds of Kwun Yam Temple – although this is no spiritual retreat smelling of incense, its serene monks deep in contemplation, but rather a building or two holding hundreds of funeral urns, deserted and spooky.
Maps show a valley with a stream leading north from Sha Tin Pass to the outskirts of Sha Tin. A path, signposted to Shui Chuen O Estate, runs alongside, making for an easy walk.
At first, the stream is so narrow it can be stepped across. Boosted by tributaries, though, it quickly grows as it descends the valley, tumbling over a succession of picturesque cascades.
Although sometimes hidden among woodland, the stream is never far from the path and, before reaching Shui Chuen O, it pools in a couple of places, providing an ideal opportunity to cool off after a hot day’s hiking.