Feeling energetic? The definitive guide to Hong Kong's best running trails

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 January, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 12:08pm

For outdoors types who love nothing more than a brisk morning run, Hong Kong is a haven. No matter where you are in the city, within minutes you can be surrounded by greenery, jogging steadily along country paths, puffing your way up mountains or taking in hidden green spaces.

For the last 10 weeks, on the run-up (excuse the pun) to the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, the Post has been highlighting the top running spots around the city, from the wild trails of Yuen Long to the stunning scenery of Clearwater Bay. Here we pull together all of these pieces to bring you a definitive guide to running hotspots across the Hong Kong.

LAMMA ISLAND

Almost paradise. With gentle hills, beaches and tucked away villages, it's a wonder that many more runners are not exploring the quiet footpaths of Lamma. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

One of Hong Kong’s lesser known running havens, Lamma Island is the perfect place for a morning run, with trails that pass by deserted beaches and climb gentle slopes.

Though many trails are paved, there are also a few dirt paths. The less populated side of the island, Sok Kwu Wan, offers peaceful journeys through beautiful old villages that take you back in time.

The views at sunset and sunrise are unmatched.

In the hot and humid summer, runners can cool down in the waters of the myriad beaches. However, this is also the season when dense spider webs appear in the foliage, making the main dirt trail on Lamma (from the wind turbine to Sok Kwu Wan) impossible to navigate from May to October.

Those who like to test their mettle could attempt to run the 353-metre-high Mount Stenhouse.

A good route goes from Yung Shue Wan, past the turbine, to Sok Kwu Wan village, then on to Mo Tat Wan and Tung O before climbing up to the radio tower. Then go back down the route you came, but heading back to Yung Shue Wan via the Youth Camp.

As a reward after the run, there are popsicles from local stands and tasty eats from a vegetarian café.


DISCOVERY BAY

Runaway success. There are many keen runners and marathoners in Discovery Bay to inspire you to go the extra mile. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Discovery Bay is teeming with runners, triathletes, cyclists and ultramarathoners, so you’ll be in good company. It is home to elite runner Thomas Kiprotich and the challenging Discovery Bay 10km Run for Charity is held here each year.

It is a great place to run from, and around, as there are many quiet roads. A couple of steep routes out of Discovery Bay give you access to the rest of amazing Lantau.

The easier option is to take the concrete trail through the old village of Nim Shue Wan and drop down onto Mui Wo beach. From there you can hit the Lantau Trail, and find many options.

Another way is to head up Tigers Head (Lo Fu Tao) and run along a beautiful track with stunning views towards the Olympic Trail. From there you can join Mui Wo on the south side of the island, or head to Pak Mong and the north side of the island and into Tung Chung.

You can also go back to Discovery Bay past the Trappist Haven Monastery.

There is a bit of everything: steep trails, technical sections, stairs, lovely views, a beach, and a steep, downhill concrete trail to blast home.


NORTH POINT / ISLAND EAST

Best of both worlds. North Point trails (pictured here is Braemer Hill) may be just minutes from Hong Kong's urban bustle but give you a feeling of having escaped the city. Photo: Nora Tam

Island East trails somehow strike a balance between proximity to urban areas and providing an escape from the hustle and bustle.

From North Point, you can head up Mount Parker Road for a long, ambling climb. If you’re after some hilly terrain, Mount Butler, Jardine’s Lookout and Violet Hill.

The Twins offer a great workout and incredible views – there’s always an eagle or kite lazily circling the peaks.

Take the jogging track from Po Luen Path and the trail to Kornhill for an easy, flat run. There are so many different routes for every mood.

One worthy route starts from a small park, up 512 steps through the Pacific Palisades, past a school and on to the Po Luen path. Still climbing, the concrete stairs lead to a flat jogging trail that leads to Sir Cecil’s Ride.

It starts climbing again at the Wilson Trail. Take a left up the stairs towards Siu Ma Shan, follow the trail and turn left at the T-junction to Mount Butler (Pat Na Shan), where you can soak in the scenery before a quick descent to Mount Parker Road.

You are spoilt for choice from here: a run up towards the observatory, down the Boa Vista trail, or straight down Mount Parker road to Quarry Bay.

For the latter, take the path to Kornhill, towards the tail of Wilson Trail Section 2, through the estate and ending at Kings Road.

If you’re in Quarry Bay on a Sunday, it’s worth a trip to Island East for the markets for something delicious to eat.


TSIM SHA TSUI

A secret oasis. At the heart of busy Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Park provides a much-needed breather. Photo: May Tse

Is there even a decent running route in such a crowded and polluted area? It would be easy to say no.

But there is a running enclave, offering tranquil scenes and greenery: Kowloon Park. Situated in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, it’s a large green park with tall trees that flank running tracks, which extend all the way up to the harbourfront.

The views from here are dazzling. On one side, there’s the beautifully lit-up Hong Kong Island, and on the other, you see the towering ICC.

Start from Park Lane, ran up the stairs to Kowloon Park and then headed straight to the undulating running track. From there, run all the way to the end of the harbourfront to get a glimpse of Hong Kong Island and West Kowloon.

Retrace the path to the running track, doing several laps, before heading back to Kimberley Street. The entire run is around 12km.

If you run early at Kowloon Park, you will find determined grandpas and grandmas showing up for their tai chi practice, come rain, sunshine or thunderstorm. There is also a CrossFit group that shows up on Tuesdays.

Another popular running route is a long, flat stretch along the Star Ferry harbourfront that extends all the way to Hung Hom via The Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Space Museum.

If the run doesn’t take your breath away, then the panoramic view of Hong Kong Island will.


SHEUNG WAN

Surprise sunsets. Beyond the pollution and hectic streets, Sheung Wan actually has a plethora of great trails to explore. Photo: Rachel Jacqueline

At first glance, Sheung Wan is no runner’s paradise: full of cars, people and narrow streets, and unavoidable pollution. But it has more to offer than it seems.

There are plenty of options, from flat to hilly, roads to trails, concrete stairs to dirt slopes. And the best part is – if you live there – you can be out of your house and be back and showered in under an hour.

For a flat road run, take the easy 5-kilometre lap along the harbourfront. For longer and more quad-pumping runs (which typify what it’s like to run on Hong Kong Island), head towards the Mid-Levels, coiling back and forth along Caine, Robinson and Conduit roads and out to Bowen Road.

The highlight is the 50km Hong Kong Trail in the middle of the island, starting at The Peak. From Sheung Wan, you can run up to the Morning Trail from Hatton Road.

For a well-rounded workout, take the stairs of Pound Lane, then onto Bonham Road, before winding up Breezy Path to Conduit Road. From there, head to Pik Shan Path – a quiet and unusually flat path that begins behind the public toilet block on Po Shan Road – before ending at Queen Mary Hospital.

On the way back the same route, you can take a diversion up through a waterfall, with a rendezvous at The Peak before snaking down Pik Shan Path, and back to the bustling streets and charming cafes of Sheung Wan.


CLEAR WATER BAY

Blown away. At every turn, runners will be rewarded with gorgeous views from Clear Water Bay. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Whether it’s day or night, Clear Water Bay’s running trails and scenic vistas never fail to dazzle.

With its rising popularity, however, it’s best to catch it in the mornings before 8.30am to avoid the army of hikers and mountain bikers, and in springtime, try to dodge the spider webs.

For a muscle-burning start, head from Clear Water Bay Road through Tai Hang Tun Country Park to the roundabout near Silverstrand Beach.

Follow Tai Au Mun Road to Tai Miu Au, where the trail hugs the coastline and offers great sea views. When you get to Tai Miu Au you can really practice your hill running by going down Poi Toi O Chuen Road to the seafood restaurants and then turning around and running back up.

Or you can follow the signs to the Tin Hau temple and run down the steps past the ancient rock carvings. Here you’ll be rewarded with more views of the ocean and some open space for shuttle sprints.

Challenge yourself at the High Junk Peak Country Trail, featuring soft wooded trails mixed with a few technical boulder fields, and an option to head up the 273-metre Tin Ha Shan Peak.

Again, the trail opens out into some marvellous views of Victoria Harbour towards Chai Wan, or the Ninepin islands (Kwo Chau Islands). The paths in Clear Water Bay often criss-cross with roads.

Don a head torch and run the trail at night; on a clear evening the sunsets across Victoria Harbour are spectacular.


TUNG CHUNG

Take a peak. It would be a shame to miss out on Tung Chung's hills, some of which can be rather punishing. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Tung Chung is a gateway to routes on Lantau Island, which has the best trail running in Hong Kong.

Follow Lo Fu Tau, Dog’s Tooth Ridge, Lantau Peak, or up to Ngong Ping, and then Tai O. There's also a popular route to Dragon House at the airport.

Or take a scenic run along the seafront to Sunny Bay.

It would be sacrilegious to avoid the hills, especially Sunset Peak, Hong Kong’s third-highest peak at 869 metres.

Start at the bridge behind Caribbean Coast and make your way straight up Por Kai Shan.

It's punishing until you reach the main trail to Sunset Peak that runs from Pak Mong village - but watch out for some hideous and unnecessary stairs.

There are also the bonus views of Lantau Peak and the sea beyond Tung Chung as you negotiate some of the best single track in Hong Kong.

The halfway mark, and turnaround point, is the trig point on Sunset Peak - the "real" Sunset Peak that most hikers bypass as they continue down to Pak Kung Au. Coming back on the same route, this run takes about two and a half hours.


TAI PO

Greener pastures. You're spoilt for choice when it comes to Tai Po's trails, such as this one from Yim Tin Tsai towards Ma Shi Chau. Photo: Jeanette Wang

Though it's home to high-rise apartments and industrial estates, Tai Po is still very green.

For trail runs, go along the Tai Po River to reach the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve where there’s a plethora of trails. In the other direction, a 10-minute jog will take you to the trailhead at Chung Nga Road near Pinehill Village that joins the Wilson Trail and rises steeply to the 440-metre high Cloudy Hill.

At the peak of Cloudy Hill, savour a panaromic view of northeastern Hong Kong. Then follow the downhill path towards Sha Lo Tung.

Hundreds of steps take you down to a T-junction. Take a right to get onto a road that descends towards Fung Yuen, which will bring you to Ting Kok Road.

If you’d rather stick to flat roads for the whole run, you have many options: go by the Tai Po waterfront along Tolo Highway that stretches about 10km to Sha Tin; in the opposite direction towards Sam Mun Tsai, through the Yim Tin Tsai graveyard to the little islet of Ma Shi Chau; or on the footpath by Lam Tsuen River towards Tai Wo station.

The downside to running on the road is that your default soundtrack is rumbling traffic.


YUEN LONG

Just go wild. Full of uncharted territory for runners, the paths are full of hidden natural gems. Pictured here is the Mai Po nature reserve. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The trails here are very wild – there are few main trails, but a plethora of short cuts, secret paths and hidden waterfalls with natural pools. It’s essential to bring a map and plan your route ahead.

Kau King Shan contains very rough and technical trails with beautiful views. It’s also very quiet and devoid of people.

Around Lam Tei Irrigation Reservoir, behind Lingnan University, there is a 5km running loop.

For steep hill training, there is Kai Kung Leng, the highest mountain in Yuen Long at 585 metres.

There are lots of road-running routes around here, too, including a 17km road loop around Tin Shiu Wai and a 1.5km loop around Yuen Long Park. It suddenly gets crowded if you head to the Yuen Long Sports Ground for track runners.

You can also take the easy 12km stretch of the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail, which connects Yuen Long and Tsuen Wan.

If you feel like running in the mountains, you should be properly prepared with a map, food and water, and you should run with other people.

Almost uncharted, runners will find themselves surprised by the many gems – some great views and natural pools.


TSING YI/ TSUEN WAN

Training ground. Country parks are a great option for a varied workout, such as the trails through Kam Shan Country Park (above). Photo: Nora Tam

These areas are simply built for training, making them a runner’s dream.

The most simple and comfortable jaunt is from the Tsing Yi Sports Ground to Tsuen Wan Harbour, with ocean vistas providing a serene backdrop.

Part of the route, spanning about 800 metres, is along Tsing Yi North bridge (Tsing Tsuen Road), which skirts traffic so you may opt to run here in the evenings when there are fewer cars.

There is a path along the Tsuen Wan Harbour, which runs in front of the Tsuen Wan West MTR station and parallel to Hoi Hing Road. At the end, turn around and come back.

This route is commonly used as a tempo or recovery run for running groups in the area.

Tucked away on the waterfront, Tsing Yi Sports Ground is another great place to train. The track is well kept and quite new.

For more of a nature run, there is about 5km of trails along the Tsing Yi Nature Trails, which run through the dense foliage of Shek Wan and Kam Chuk Kok.

There are also options in the country parks over the bridge in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chun. Shing Mun Reservoir and Kam Shan Country Park have the popular MacLehose Trail running through them.


Adapted from the Post's Home Run series, featuring stories from local runners