Waking up to blue skies in Hong Kong meant only one thing – time to hike Lion Rock. I’d seen the photos online but like most, had been treated to foggy views for days and was itching to get into the mountains. As beautiful as you are Hong Kong, there’s only so many days of cloud a girl can handle.
Lion Rock is located on the mainland, opposite Hong Kong island, and as the name suggests is a structure of rocks that resemble a lion. Original, I would have loved Simba’s rock, maybe next time Hong Kong? It emerges up above the skyscrapers of Kowloon and on a clear day you can make out hikers attempting to summit the lion’s back. It’s a relatively simple hike and can be completed in under 4 hours with a pair of trainers and a camera for all those cityscape views. Tempted? Then find out how to get up close and personal with this infamous lion…
GETTING TO LION ROCK
Getting there from Hong Kong island couldn’t be easier, simply hop on the MTR (Hong Kong’s tube) and exit at Won Tai Sin station on the green line. Check the transport map here before you leave. Follow the Sha Tin Pass Road up and around until you reach Fat Jong Temple. If you are interested in Buddhist culture consider adding the temple to your itinerary here. Then keep following the Sha Tin Pass Road right up the hill and eventually you will reach the trail head labelled Lion Rock Country Park.
Warning: this is probably the steepest part of the hike and you haven’t technically started it yet! However, keep going! I promise it gets easier and is totally worth it!
However, if you are inclined to more time in bed and less time hiking, grab a taxi from the station and ask it to drop you off at ‘Lion Rock Country Park,’ or the ‘trailhead for Lion Rock.’ Although half the fun is navigating the back streets and getting a glimpse of the sights and smells of Kowloon.
HIKING LION ROCK
So you have finally reached the archway labelled ‘Lion Rock Country Park,’ well done, it’s just going to get better from here! By this time you will have done about 40minutes of uphill walking and be in need of a rest stop (and well-earned snack!) so make sure you re-energise before setting off for the true hike.
The trail itself is pretty self-explanatory with signs directing you to the peak. Along the path there are numerous viewpoints which cannot be missed! Take some snacks with you, pick your favourite lunch spot and fill up your memory card.
Depending on how long you stopped for those insta-worthy photos, it should take roughly 1 hour to reach the peak. Congratulations! You’ve made it, but don’t stop there! Keep following the trail to the right and along the lion’s back (I mean you can’t hike Lion Rock without climbing the lion’s head itself?!) Soak up that blue sky and the view either side of the lion’s back. There’s a ton of photo opportunities here – just pick your angle!
Looking across on the Kowloon side you will be able to see Hong Kong Island and its incredible skyline. Lion Rock is the 52nd highest mountain in Hong Kong and from the top you can understand just how many towering peaks surround the region opposite. Dragon’s Back can be seen in the distance over on Hong Kong Island so if you are an obsessive hiker like me, definitely add that to your trip itinerary!
On a really clear day, look West – you will be able to see across to Lantau Island where the Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and Disneyland Hong Kong to name a few. Looking out towards the East, you should be able to make out Sai Kung East Country Park and its neighbouring islands. This spot is where you can expect to find Maldives-style beaches, however reaching them proves to be slightly trickier than navigating up Lion Rock. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend taking the time to investigate hiking to Ham Tin Beach and experiencing a secret side to Hong Kong.
GETTING BACK DOWN
When you have refilled on water and snacks, retrace your steps back down the peak. Descending you have two options: either follow the exact path you came up on OR take a right when you reach the path split – labelled Sha Tin Pass Road. Both get you home safe and sound, but the one to the right is slightly more direct (although it’s concrete staircase so I wouldn’t recommend coming up this way…unless intense stair climbs are your thing!)
Side Note: If you are a hiking pro you can continue the trail to the Kowloon Reservoir although this makes for a longer day plus finding transport back from a different end point. Read more about it here.
BEFORE YOU GO
Before you begin your Lion Rock adventure make sure you:
- Bring plenty of snacks and water – if you’re anything like me food is planned first and activities fit around my eating schedule. Priorities right?
- Bring sun cream. Even on cooler days top up on sun cream – UV rays strong in Hong Kong and deceivingly cool temperatures can still result in sun burn! Thanks Mum.
- Have an octopus card – these bad boys = easy access to ALL transport in Hong Kong, I’m talking MTR, buses, trams and ferries so it’s a must when it comes to navigating the city for hikes. Find out about octopus here
- Tell someone your route – as a frequent solo traveller and obsessive mountain-hiker I always make sure I tell someone local where I’m going (Airbnb Host, Hotel or Hostel Reception) AND always message my Mum my mountain plan. That way they know if I haven’t returned by dinner time, it’s time to call mountain rescue! My best friend was once air lifted off a mountain so I make sure I’m super sensible when it comes to solo travel (don’t worry she’s laughing now!)
- Familiarise yourself with Hong Kong hiking safety
Okay Mum! We’ve got it, we need to be prepared. In all seriousness, do check the weather forecast before you hike. You are looking for a big yellow sun rather than Hong Kong common clouds.
My friend completed exactly the same hike a week later and her view couldn’t have been more different. She ascended into smog and was met with cloud at every single view point – still enjoyed the hike but couldn’t see past the path! So if your only in Hong Kong for a short amount of time make sure you schedule Lion Rock for a clear day, I promise you won’t regret it! When the smog finally lifts, views over Hong Kong are simply incredible and with such easy transport links there’s really no excuse not to climb that lion!
I’d love to hear your experience of hiking in Hong Kong – are you planning on trying Dragon’s Back too? Or maybe escaping the bustle for Ham Tin Beach?
We hope that this article has inspired you to hike Lion Rock. If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Sarah Bryant
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