The immediate image most people have of the busy cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong is neon signs hanging off the sides of buildings lining the crowded streets of Mongkok, a city skyline at Tsim Sha Tsui that rivals the best of other cities, and high rise apartment complexes abound.
But thanks to discerning travellers and governmental organisations focusing on promoting the outlying islands and surrounding nature more, these days most people know of the multiple options to head elsewhere for a respite from the hustle of the city.
Hong Kong in particular, boasts some fantastic urban hikes, including Dragon’s Back, Lantau Island, Suicide Cliff, and Lion Rock.
Lion Rock offers great views of a more residential area of Hong Kong, away from the glitzy skyscrapers found in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Hong Kong Island.
One fantastic thing about Hong Kong is how accessible and well-kept it’s hiking trails are, and spending a morning or afternoon hiking is a popular activity these days even for those living and working in the heart of the city.
HOW TO GET TO THE START OF THE LION ROCK TRAIL
From wherever you are in Hong Kong, you’re likely to not be far from an MTR station, which is clean and easy to navigate.
Lion Rock is located somewhere north of Kowloon, and you’ll hop on the MTR and exit Wong Tai Sin station.
From here, you have two options.
You can either walk from the MTR station to Sha Tin Pass Road, where you’ll reach the foot of Fat Jong Temple.
However, this walk is mostly uphill through residential areas which could take up to 20 minutes or half an hour, depending on your level of fitness.
Personally, I don’t quite think this part of the hike is very necessary, as there’s plenty you have to hike up on foot from the temple on, so I’d advise saving the effort and hopping on a minibus just outside the MTR station where 18M can be found.
The minibus system is not actively catered to foreigners, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find answers to your questions if you don’t speak Cantonese. And it seems where buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers might be a little confusing as minibuses technically stop anywhere along their route, and passengers call out to their drivers (in Cantonese) to stop wherever.
I simply showed the Chinese characters of the Fat Jong Temple which the driver understood, and stopped us off where we needed to be along the bus route which was easy and helpful.
From the foot of the temple, we continued walking up Sha Tin Pass Road which was a steep, paved road which you’ll have to stick to the corners of once vehicles roll by.
A 20 minute hike uphill brings you to a gate that says “Lion Rock Country Park.”
It’s from here where the hike actually starts.
The hike at Lion Rock takes about 2 hours up and slightly less to get back down.
The hike is well demarcated, from stone steps to dirt trails, and all along the trail you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of Hong Kong’s built-up urban landscape.
The hike isn’t a continuous uphill though, as the trail follows the peaks and troughs of the hills.
Where the trail diverged though (which I only encountered twice closer to the end of the trail), there are signposts directing you to the peak so it’s nigh on impossible to get lost in the hills.
AT THE PEAK
There are several viewpoints once at the top, and you can take your pick from where you’d like to enjoy the view.
Or perhaps your spot away from the crowds.
From up here, the bustle of the city can be observed from an incredible viewpoint, and if you’re looking to get away from the noise and crowds, which proved to be overwhelming after a view days for me, I’d highly recommend hikes like these to get away from it all.
Plenty of other hikers packed their lunches to enjoy from up here.
HEADING BACK DOWN
Heading back down, there are two options, and the other goes in the direction of housing estates.
Personally, I’d rather head down the way I came up, since the view from the peak was what we came to see, which was now firmly in our memories and SD cards.
The only thing is, back down from Fat Jong Temple, the minibus that dropped us off earlier that day didn’t stop at an actual bus stop, so we headed left into the main street and caught the bus back from there to the MTR station.
WHEN TO GO
Before hiking in Hong Kong, I read up a few guides online and most agreed on avoiding weekend hikes altogether, as hiking has become an incredibly popular activity amongst locals and visitors alike.
We hiked on a Tuesday and along the path, we did pass by a number of hikers. And certainly at the top, we weren’t the only ones who’d made the trek up.
Still, for a city as densely populated as Hong Kong, I didn’t feel like there were too many people up at the viewpoint in comparison to say, Victoria Peak, so I’d go forth and advise on a weekday hike too.
If at all possible, hike on a clear day, as the blue skies and sunshine will make all the colours of the city come to life.
Unfortunately, my entire trip in Hong Kong was completely overcast, so there was no avoiding the clouds.
Still, the views were good, just make sure the city isn’t covered in fog when you do the hike.
If it just rained the night before, I’d advise against doing the hike too.
Some stone steps were a little slippery even when dry, and certain parts of the trail are complete dirt tracks.
If you often need lots of sunscreen, go ahead and slap it on as many parts of the trail are exposed and not covered by any foliage.
Absolutely get an Octopus card no matter how many days you spend in Hong Kong, as you’ll find it comes in incredibly handy for transport and even for certain payment transactions at supermarts and convenience stores.
I’m glad I got round to doing Lion Rock, and it was a perfect different experience to have in Hong Kong.