Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail Difficulty ★★★★☆ Start here: Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital, Tsuen Wan (39M from Tsuen Wan MTR). End here: Tai Tong Barbecue Area, Yuen Long. What makes it special? This is called an ancient trail for a reason. In the past the route was a vital artery connecting the 18 villages of Shap Pat Heung in Yuen Long, and the market town of Tsuen Wan. Every day villagers would haul their goods over the mountain to Tsuen Wan to trade. That came to an end with the completion of Castle Peak Road in the 1930s, but the trail remains and it’s a lesser-known jewel. Tsing Ma and Ting Kau bridges as seen from Shek Lung Kung (Photo: Rico Lam Chi-chung) The trail: This route runs over the length of Tai Lam Country Park: It’s a steep and tiring 200m-plus climb from the starting point to the top of Shek Lung Kung, which sits 400m above sea level. However, from that point onwards it’s mostly downhill. About halfway along, the trail meets Stage 10 of the MacLehose Trail at Tin Fu Tsai, home to a campsite, bubbling stream and wooden bridge. If you can’t quite manage the full trek to Yuen Long, then you can always turn aside here and head south to Sham Tseng instead, where you can treat yourself to the famous roast goose at Chan Kee Roasted Goose (63 Castle Peak Rd., Sham Tseng, 2491-0722). This route takes about three hours. Otherwise, press on to the end. But be warned: from the Tai Tong barbecue site finishing point it’s another 1.5 kilometers down to Kiu Hing Road, where you can catch a bus home. Look out for: The spectacular view over Tsing Yi harbor from the summit of Shek Lung Kung, which offers fantastic panoramas of Tsing Ma and Ting Kau bridges. Kap Lung Ancient and Forest Trail Difficulty ★★☆☆☆ Start here: Route Twisk (Take KMB bus 51 from Tsuen Wan to the Country Park stop). End here: Where you started. What makes it special? The ancient trail is quiet, secluded and you get a real sense of history while treading those well-worn granite steps. Got groves like Jagger. More or less (Photo: Andy Linn) The trail: The Kap Lung Ancient Trail and the Kap Lung Forest Trail are actually two paths which run in a rough loop on the western face of Tai Mo Shan, making them an ideal circular hike. It’s also straightforward, shaded and fairly flat, making it good for those new to hiking. Get off at the Country Park stop (it’s Hong Kong’s highest bus stop) and head down the trail, which splits into the Ancient and Forest trails after about 400m. Stay right on the Ancient trail, which is another of the once well-trodden paths between the villages of the New Territories and the market town of Tsuen Wan. The trail is still paved with the stones which farmers used to make the road easier, although that means it can get slippery after it rains. After about 2km you’ll hit Lui Kung Tin village. Turn left and make time to stop off for a bowl of ginger milk at the Farm Milk dairy (78 Lui Kung Tin, Kap Lung Village, 2832-9218), before merging onto the Forest Trail, which is (as you’d expect) a tree-lined trail with some beautiful canopies. Look out for: The section of the Ancient Trail with two stone paths running side-by-side: one recently built by the government, and the other by villagers many, many years ago. And with a stream running alongside much of the trail, it’s a prime spot for butterfly-watching. Wilson Trail Sections 9 & 10 Difficulty ★★★★★ Start here: Section 9 starts at the top of Cloudy Hill, meaning you’ll have to do part of Stage 8 of the Wilson Trail to get to it. Take a taxi to Tai Po Tau Drive from Tai Po Market MTR. Alternatively, skip the first mountain by getting a minibus to Hok Tau Reservoir from Fanling Station. End here: Nam Chung village. What makes it special? The final two stages of the Wilson Trail wind to the far east and north of the New Territories, offering fantastic views of the landscape at its most beautifully rugged best. They’re also difficult trails, making them lesser-trodden by mere mortals. Nam Chung and Starling Inlet as seen from the Edward Youde Pavilion. ( Photo: Michael McDonough ) The trail: Coming down from Cloudy Hill, the trail rises into the ridges of the Pat Sin Leng (“Ridge of the Eight Immortals”) Country Park. You’ll come to the tiny, charming Hok Tau Reservoir, and then it’s back up through a pine forest, up and up and up to the Pat Sin Leng mountain range. The trail heads east along the ridge, taking on the peaks of the eight immortals one at a time. On a good day the views are incredible, and the series of mountain ridges seem to fold themselves on each other. The water of Plover Cove Reservoir shimmers on one side, with the skyscrapers of Shenzhen on the other. Stage 10 starts at the far east of the Pat Sin Leng range, and it’s downhill from here. The route turns northwest, overlooking Starling Inlet towards Sha Tau Kok and cutting through a series of abandoned villages before coming down into Nam Chung. From the end of the trail it’s another 2km to Luk Keng Road, from which minibuses run to Fanling MTR Station. Look out for: Beautiful views all around, abandoned villages to explore, a profusion of wildlife and the ex-Russian aircraft carrier Minsk, now permanently docked in Starling Inlet in the form of the Shenzhen theme park Minsk World. The Twins and Violet Hill (aka Wilson Trail Sections 1 & 2) Difficulty ★★★★☆ Start here: Stanley Gap Road, by the bus stop (6, 6A or 260 from Central). End here: Kornhill Mansions, Quarry Bay. What makes it special? Alright, it might not be the best-kept secret, but this hike is a completely different way to experience the island. You’ll leave the busy market streets of Stanley far behind and realize that there is wilderness—and complete tranquility—on this hectic slab of land. A view and a half from Jardine’s Lookout The trail: The Wilson Trail is a 78km, 10-stage route that traverses Hong Kong, and the first two parts are on the island itself, with several jumping off points to have you back in Central in minutes if needs be. Straight off the bat from Stanley, you’re climbing hundreds of stairs, up and over false summit after false summit. Take regular breathers to look back over the Southside’s bays and out to distant Beaufort and Po Toi islands, before the steps wind over the ominously named double peaks—The Twins—and ever onwards and upwards to Violet Hill (433m). The long, steep climb is tempered by the incredible remoteness of the butterfly-laden grassy knolls which skirt the Tai Tam reservoirs. Most of the pleasure comes from looking back on how far you’ve come—your initial steps resemble a mere ant’s trail on the lumpy horizon. You can bail at the end of Stage 1, at Wong Nai Chung, but not to continue on to Quarry Bay seems a bit churlish. The hike up to Jardine’s Lookout (also at 433m) is rewarded with unique angles of the Hong Kong skyline on one side and the woodland of the Tai Tam valley on the other. These views stay with you for rest of the journey—and then it’s an easy MTR ride home. Look out for: Unbelievable views of both sides of the island. Oh, and and trailrunners. These are the people who like to make you feel really and truly incompetent by lapping you on the trail—yes, people run it in both directions in a single session. With their dogs. Plover Cove Country Park to Lai Chi Wo Difficulty ★★☆☆☆ Start here: Tin Sam Village, Wu Kang Tang. (Take Minibus 20C (special service) from Tai Po Market). End here: Where you started. What makes it special? Forget the nearby Bride’s Pool and try this circular hike which takes the abandoned Hakka village of Lai Chi Wo. Lai Chi Wo (Photo: Anne Roberts ) The Trail: From Wu Kau Tang village you head up the Wu Kau Tang Country Trail into the hills, the only serious climb of the entire hike. From the top and it’s a 150m detour to a hill-fire lookout post with great views of Starling Inlet. Then you’ll want to backtrack onto the shelter-free Tiu Tang Lung path down the hill, to Lai Chi Wo near the coast. Lai Chi Wo is a Hakka village that was once the largest walled village in the area, but these days it’s mostly been abandoned. Nonetheless it’s pretty well-maintained, with ancestral halls and a large public square. It’s also home to a “feng shui wood,” said to bring good fortune to the adjoining village. Once you’ve had a good nose-around, continue down Tiu Tang Lung path to Sam A Tsuen, where you can stop off for a bite to eat on weekends. Break off from Tiu Tang Lung path here, heading south along the coast trail by Sam A Wan for some beautiful views of the bay, before eventually looping back west. Look out for: Lai Chi Wo village is worth the time, and other abandoned villages dot the coast. Just make sure to leave enough time to get home afterwards. Before You Go… New to the great outdoors? Gabi Baumgartner is the co-owner of Walk Hong Kong, which offers unique hiking and walking tours all over the SAR. She talks with Kate Springer about the dos and don’ts of Hong Kong trail blazing. DO Clean up “We are accustomed to government employees cleaning up after us in the city, but there is no one to collect your trash in the mountains.” Pack sun protection “You can be surprised with how much exposure you’re getting on a hike—especially when you’re out on a ridge and exposed. Remember to pack sunscreen or a hat.” Plan ahead “Have an idea of what the plan for the day is, and do your research ahead of time. The Hong Kong Survey and Mapping Office has excellent hiking maps available that can be helpful.” Drink lots of water “You need about 1 liter of water for every two hours of hiking on a hot day. People really underestimate that. Remember that there are rarely any water filling stations along the way, so pack accordingly.” Mind the wildlife “I’ve been hiking for the past 18 years and I have only ever seen maybe three or four snakes in my path. If you see one, just stay put and give the snake space and time to leave. As for monkeys, just don’t open your lunch while they’re around or be prepared to lose it. They’re not vicious, but they are clever!” Be friendly “What I really like in Hong Kong is that hikers greet each other, and that’s really nice. It’s kind of like in European villages, where people always say hello as they pass by. So I would encourage people to be friendly as well.” DON'T Wear tight clothes “When it’s hot and humid and your body is getting tired, restrictive clothes will exaggerate the feeling that you’re overheating. It’s better to have clothes that can breathe easily. Personally, I like to have trousers and long sleeves to protect my skin from the sun, as well as from the scratchy bush and hungry mosquitoes.” Worry about toilets “Some people avoid drinking water because they’re concerned about finding a bathroom, but there’s usually a toilet about every two hours or so on most trails.” Hike alone “This is a really important one, especially because some of these hikes that you’re talking about aren’t that popular, so you may not have a person behind you to help you out if you trip or hurt yourself.” Wear bad shoes “You don’t really need to buy hiking boots to hike in Hong Kong, but the soles of your shoes need to have a good grip to help you hold on when you’re walking up or down a slope. Some trainers are entirely flat on the bottom—and that’s no good.” Go at night “It’s not a good idea to hike at night if you are new to a trail. There’s no rule about it, but these areas will really be pitch-dark after sunset. Many trails have more than one way to finish them—which can be confusing by day—and there are no lights to help you during the night.” Walk Hong Kong runs private and group walking tours. Want something a little specialized? The group has a military historian and several ornithologists on hand for more niche ventures. From $450 per person. 9187-8641, www.walkhongkong.com .