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Hiking in Hong Kong – 5 best trails to enjoy with your children

NOW WITH MAPS: Some consider having small children a limiting factor when exploring the city's wilder side. Yet kids love the outdoors, and the exercise and fresh air is good for everyone.

Cheung Sha beach on Lantau.

Ngong Ping

High in the hills of Lantau, Ngong Ping is a tourist hotspot. Give the artificial "village" a miss, and you'll find there's plenty more to enjoy.

Although the Tea Garden has been abandoned, there's still a path through the woods here, where you might see splendid big butterflies. The weird Wisdom Path loops by wooden poles inscribed with calligraphy; scramble above it and you can overlook Shek Pik Reservoir way below, and see the lofty summit of Lantau Peak.

Into the wild: the Wisdom Path at Ngong Ping.

This is great hiking country. For a gentle outing, follow a tree walk, with information posts for any tree geeks in the family. There's a junction from where you can climb a little, then follow part or all the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail around a hill overlooking the Big Buddha to the south, and the airport to the north.

Down the hill, there is a cluster of temples, and you can turn onto the Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail, a hidden gem. The trail crosses streams where you can cool off and check for frogs and fish; a bench gives grandstand views over the airport.

Details: Walk 1: From the Ngong Ping Bus Terminus on Ngong Ping Road take the Ngong Ping Fun Walk south, then east (to the left). Where it branches just past a restaurant, take the right hand branch to Wisdom Path. From Wisdom Path continue north along the Ngong Ping Fun Walk; where the fun walk turns left (road section), instead continue north along the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail, which is a circular walk; at the end of this walk turn right along road section of Ngong Ping Fun Walk to return to bus terminus and Big Buddha.

Walk 2: same as Walk 1 until you reach the road section of Ngong Ping Fun Walk for the first time; instead of taking the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail, turn right onto the Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail. Soon after passing the Po Lin Monastery the trail forks; take the right hand fork down to Tung Chung Road at Pak Kung Au, where there is a bus stop.


Dragon's Back, Big Wave Bay and Shek O

One of Hong Kong's best short hikes heads up and along the spine of the Dragon's Back in the southeast of Hong Kong Island. There are a couple of tiny streams to entertain the smallest kids and uphill and downhill stretches with rough steps and a little scrambling for some adventure.

Top of the world: the Dragon's Back trail near Shek O.
Shek O.

There's only low vegetation on the ridge, which is surprisingly wild for Hong Kong Island, with great views over hills and the South China Sea. The final stretch winds down to Big Wave Bay. When northeast winds blow, Big Wave Bay offers fun in the surf. Shek O has a bigger beach and you can take a nice stroll through the village to the headland which has a footbridge to a scenic islet.

The number 9 bus leaves Shau Kei Wan bus station for Shek O and (at certain times of day) Big Wave Bay. You can also catch a minibus outside Shau Kei Wan MTR exit A3. Get off either bus after the Stanley mini-roundabout; there is a path leading uphill towards the Dragon's Back.

Details: Walk 1: From roundabout at junction of Cape Collinson Road and Shek O Road, follow Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail past the Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre and then south, up on to Dragon’s Back and over Shek O Peak, then back down to Shek O Road above To Tei Wan. Catch a bus or minibus on to Shek O or back to Shau Kei Wan.

Walk 2: In Shek O, take Shek O Village Road (beside Shek O Chinese & Thai Restaurant) through the village to Shek O Headland Picnic Area. From there take the footbridge over to Tai Tau Chau. Retrace steps to restaurant.


Cheung Chau

Walk off the ferry on a weekend or public holiday, and Cheung Chau might seem only fit for playing "sardines". But there's more to the island than appears at first sight.

Beaches on the east coast are key attractions in summer. You first arrive at the largest, Tung Wan, but turn right and there's the smaller and often quieter Kwun Yam Wan. You can hire inflatable rings and rafts for bobbing around in the water, or kayaks and windsurfing boards for more active sports.

The coastal granite and beach on Cheung Chau.

Bypass the village's crowded shops and temples and instead walk south along either coast, or ride a sampan from the public pier, and you'll find coastal trails where you can explore bays and headlands, with few or no buildings in sight.

Cheung Po Tsai Cave is a noted destination in the southwest, but is little more than a cleft through weathered granite. Near it, a small path winds to rocky shores and an inlet you can scramble around to pass a "hanging" rock, and reach Italian Beach.

On the opposite, southeast coast, the "Mini Great Wall" is a trail passing granite tors with names like Human Head Rock and Vase Rock.

Details: Walk 1: From the ferry pier turn right along the harbourfront on Tai Hing Tai Road; where this road ends, turn right along Cheung Chau Sai Tai Road. When it reaches Tsan Tuen Road, turn right. Near the Tin Hau Temple turn left on Cheung Po Tsai Road (signposted Cheung Chau Family Walk) to Po Yue Wan; follow the family walk to a bay (known as Italian Beach), then to the left away from the bay and onto Peak Road West. The family walk continues to the right along Peak Road West, reaching Cheung Chau Peak Road, where the family walk continues to the right. Continue directly along Cheung Chau Peak Road to return to the pier area, or part way along the road follow the family walk off to the right to Nam Tan Wan, then retrace your steps to Cheung Chau Peak Road and return to the pier area.

Walk 2: From the ferry pier walk straight ahead to Tung Wan beach, then turn right along Cheung Chau Beach Road. By the hospital where the road veers right, take a path to the left to Kwun Yam Wan Beach. Turn left on Kwun Yam Wan Road, then take the Mini Great Wall Trail to the left, past Loaf Rock, to which you can walk down, then back, and on past Human Head Rock to a small headland; retrace your steps to Human Head Rock and turn left along a winding path passing Fa Peng Knoll Block 12. Turn left on Don Bosco Road until you reach Nam Tan Wan, then turn left on Cheung Chau Family Walk, then right along Cheung Chau Peak Road (as on Walk 1) to return to the pier area.

Walk 3: From ferry pier turn left on San Hing Praya Street, which becomes Pak She Praya Road. Take a path to the right next to the Pak Yue Temple Playground to reach the Pak Yue Temple.


The Peak

All too easily dismissed as only for tourists, the Peak has much to enjoy, including stroller-friendly roads and paths. The circuit of the Peak along Lugard and Harlech roads is a classic walk, with outstanding views of harbour and city to the north, greenery and sea to the south. For more of a challenge, take the side trail to a steep flight of steps up High West, with a vantage point atop craggy slopes.

High road: The Peak is a tourist hotspot, but there's no shortage of quiet trails.
Walk up from the Peak Tram station, and you'll come to Victoria Peak Garden, a park nestled in a small valley. This is a top place to relax, playing or picnicking on the grass. The Governor's Walk starts here, making a half circuit of the Peak along which you should encounter few people.

You can leave on foot, too. Northwards, one route leads down through Lung Fu Shan Country Park, with the remains of an old fort, Pinewood Battery, dating from 1905. Stir your imagination by trying to picture the battery coming under attack during the second world war. To the south, Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road is a downhill woodland walk where you can indulge in a spot of stream scrambling.

Details: Walk 1: From the Upper Peak Tram station (Peak Tower) turn north along Lugard Road and follow it round until it joins Harlech Road. For a challenge, take the Harlech Road Fitness Trail that heads south up to the top of High West; retrace your steps to Harlech Road. Continue straight on along Harlech Road to return to Peak Tower.

Walk 2: From Peak Tower walk up Mount Austin Road until you reach Victoria Peak Garden.

Walk 3: Same as Walk 1 until you join Harlech Road. Take a sharp right turn onto Hatton Road, and after about 200 metres turn left onto the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail. Near the top of Lung Fu Shan, where the fitness trail goes down to the right, continue to the summit, then over the other side and down to rejoin Hatton Road. Go left for a few metres, then follow Hatton Road to the right and downhill to Po Shan Road; turn right and follow Po Shan Road until it joins Conduit Road. Turn left on Conduit Road and follow it round to the right until you come to a bus stop outside Imperial Court. 

Walk 4: From Peak Tower turn south along Peak Road for a few metres, then take a shallow right turn onto Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road. Follow the road down past the reservoir to Pok Fu Lam Road.


Hoi Ha and Pak Sha O

Hoi Ha and Pak Sha O are two contrasting villages in the northeast Sai Kung Peninsula, reachable by minibus.

A traditional village house.

The former is in a superb setting, at the south of Hoi Ha Wan, a bay designated as marine park, and most land around it is in country park. The park is noted for its diverse marine life, especially corals. There's even a coral area close inshore, by a small pier around 10 minutes' walk east of the village. Children can pull on a mask and snorkel (take care getting into the water), and see brain and plate-shaped corals, along with colourful fish, sea cucumbers, crabs and more.

There's an old lime kiln, where villagers once baked coral and shells. The small beach is a fair place to swim. Walk west from Hoi Ha, across the mouth of a large stream, to find another stretch of sand where you can admire the area.

About half an hour walk inland is Pak Sha O. Nestled in a wooded valley, this deserves safeguarding as the best remaining Hakka village in Hong Kong, but only the grandest building has official protection. If you want to take a look around the village , be mindful of people living there; and maybe ask how you can help preserve this and other gems of wild Hong Kong, so your children can enjoy them long into the future.

Details: Walk 1: From the end of Hoi Ha Road take the Hoi Ha Nature Trail bearing to the right through Hoi Ha village; continue past a small beach to a pier. Just beyond this is the area of corals visitors can explore by snorkelling. Retrace your steps to Hoi Ha Road.

Walk 2: From the end of Hoi Ha Road turn left (west) on the Hoi Ha Nature Trail; across the mouth of a stream is another small beach. Retrace your steps to Hoi Ha Road.

Walk 3: From just north of Pak Sha O Youth Hostel on Hoi Ha Road, take a path leading west to Pak Sha O village. Retrace your steps to Hoi Ha Road.

Life aquatic: Hoi Ha Wan's clear waters.


Five tips for a happy family hike

Make it about the journey, not simply a walk from one place to another.

Nurture curiosity, look out for flowers, butterflies, birds, snakes (no touching!) and odd rocks.

During summer, avoid walking at midday. Go in the early morning or late afternoon.

Front- and backpack carriers are so much better for flights of steps than trying to struggle around with a stroller.

Fun snacks help maintain energy levels and good moods, and it is vital to drink often when it's hot.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Hong Kong Hikes with kids