Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

While I wouldn’t consider myself to be an diehard hiker, I would consider myself a cautious enthusiast.

Together, Julie and I have enjoyed the tropical hikes in St. Kitts and Nevis, braved the wind and rain in the Lake District, and been surprised by the organization of the trails in Italy. Though, if I am being honest, we are not normally the most prepared hikers around. We usually forget to bring enough water, are improperly dressed, or make ill advised footwear decisions.

We still love it despite our own shortcomings.

I have read about some amazing hikes in Hong Kong, a destination that is not normally associated with open space and nature trails. Yet outside of its urban core, most of Hong Kong is uninhabited, thanks to its mountainous terrain. Julie’s work brought us to Hong Kong for a long weekend (just a short 60 minute ferry from our home in Shekou) and while she was stuck at a work conference, I decided to hike.

The most obvious place to start was the Dragon’s Back Hike, a relatively short hike (approx. 2.5 hours) that is easily accessible by public transit and is conveniently located on Hong Kong Island. While the idea of a longer, more remote walk in the northern New Territories area is also intriguing, the extreme heat and humidity made the thought of an all day event rather unpleasant.

Dragon’s Back Hike

The Basics: About a 2.5-3 hour round trip hike (including to/from the MTR) starting from Chai Wan MTR station and returning to Shau Kei Wan MTR.

Difficulty: The hike does begin with a seemingly endless flight of stairs, almost 300 in total. However, the peak elevation is only about 275m, so it is mostly flat after the initial stair climbing.

Best Time to Go: Mornings are best before the most intense heat sets in (at least this time of year). Also, the trail can be busy on the weekends, so weekdays are best.

Facilities: There are no water fountains or restroom facilities on the trail, so come prepared.

Dragon’s Back Hike Trail Directions

The trail begins near the Chai Wan MTR station, the very last stop on the Island Line on the far east side of Hong Kong Island. It is 12 stops (and about 25 minutes) from Central Station.

Side Note: There is a station called Wan Chai on the Island Line, so don’t get it confused with Chai Wan. If you want to go out to dinner, get off at Wan Chai. If you want to go hiking, go to Chai Wan.

Exit the Chai Wan station at Exit A, which will deposit you in a mall. Walk straight ahead and you will quickly see the exit from the mall onto an elevated pedestrian walkway. Continue straight on the walkway, crossing the massive intersection below. Once across, take the stairs down to street level and walk towards Youth Square, the large, modern glass structure that dominates the traffic roundabout (there are signs for the building as well). Walk along Wan Tsui Road, passing to the left side of the Youth Square building. After one block, make a left onto Lin Shing Road.

This will begin your gradual ascent. Head straight until the road dead ends at the entrance to the Cape Collinson Cemetery. Continue through the entrance gate. You will notice a long set of stairs on the left side. Take these stairs and begin climbing up into the cemetery.

Side Note: I was struck by this cemetery. It’s basically vertical, tiered, and I completely forgot to pull out my camera to capture it.

At the top of the stairs, you will meet up once again with the cemetery road. Continue to your left up the steep road as it snakes up the hill. At the top is a large circular drive and a set of stairs to your far right. That’s right, more stairs.

At the top of those stairs (last ones, I swear!) you emerge at a small clearing with a parking lot to the right. Head towards the parking lot where you will see the first trail signs pointing towards Tai Tam Gap. Follow in that direction along the paved road. After about 10 minutes, you will encounter the Dragon’s Back Hike entrance on the left, marked with clear signage.

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Side Note: For reference, here is a Google Map of the walk from Chai Wan MTR to the Dragon’s Back Hike entrance. It took me about 30 minutes to get from the MTR station to the trail entrance. The stairs are brutal, but that is pretty much the end of any significant climbing.

The Dragon’s Back trail begins through dense vegetation (plenty of shade!) with periodic views over the lush, rolling landscape of Hong Kong Island. The trail path is clear and well marked, so there is no concern about accidentally getting off the path or ending up on another trail.

Eventually, you’ll emerge at the top of the peak with its panoramic views of the area. The last third of the hike is along the ridge, plenty of opportunity to stop for pictures and to take in the landscape. You can see small pockets of skyscrapers in the distance, but it feels remote.

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back Hike in Hong Kong

The descent brings you through a lush bamboo jungle. Eventually, the path dumps you out at the bottom of a hill, near Shek-O road. Head to your left and you will see the road. Directly across the street is the #9 bus stop, which will take you back to the MTR. It is the only bus that operates at this stop.

Buses take the same Octopus Card you use on the MTR, so just swipe your card when you get on the bus. The bus stop sign clearly marks which direction the bus is going, so there is no fear of heading in the wrong direction. The sign says “to Shau Kei Wan,” the nearest MTR station. To make it even easier, Shau Kei Wan is the final destination for the #9 bus, so no need to be concerned about getting off at the right stop. The ride is about 20 minutes and the entrance to the Shau Kei Wan MTR station is directly in front of you after exiting the bus.

Side Note: If you have some spare time, you can take the #9 bus in the other direction, towards Shek-O beach. It is the final destination for the bus in that direction and you can enjoy beach time or an al fresco lunch at one of the beachside cafes. Just make sure to pack a towel and bathing suit!

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Overall, this is a pretty amazing hike that is so conveniently located for visitors. This probably explains its popularity on the weekends, when the trail is known to be full of hikers. I completed the hike on a Monday, and I saw no more than a few dozen people over the span of 3 hours.

If you love the outdoors, then the Dragon’s Back hike is a fantastic excuse to get out from the busy, cramped confines of Central or Kowloon and see the rural side of Hong Kong.

Have you done the Dragon’s Back hike? Share your thoughts and comments below!

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  • September 23, 2017

    You guys sound just like us. We are always unprepared too, forgetting to take enough water is also our speciality! This hike sounds great. I never knew there was good hikes in Hong Kong. Will have to try it next time. Great pictures by the way.

    • September 26, 2017

      We finally have the water part down. I’m sure we’ll forget something though on our next hike.

  • September 23, 2017

    Wow, how gorgeous. I really like the contrast of urban and nature in your photos. We would probably be unprepared like you, if we were active enough to do such a hike. We tend to stick to the smaller, gentler trails.

  • September 23, 2017

    I would definitely love to go hiking there and enjoying the stunning scenery. When’s the best time of the year to visit Hong Kong for hiking?

    • September 26, 2017

      Winter/Spring is the best. Even in mid-September, it was about 30C with intense humidity. Winter time, the hike would be far more comfortable.

  • September 24, 2017

    I too consider myself a cautious hiking enthusiast (fancy title). 🙂 Now the Dragon’s Back Hike would absolutely be one I could get into, in recent months I have found myself falling in love with nature, and seem to be spending a lot of my spare time out in it. The scenery on the hike is beautiful. It’s interesting tho, when I think Hong Kong, hikes and nature don’t come to mind. Better add to my list of walks to complete before I die. 🙂
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    • September 26, 2017

      Hong Kong is full of surprises. I can’t wait to do some of the more remote ones on the neighbouring islands.

  • September 24, 2017

    I wouldn’t have associated Hong Kong with hiking at all! It looks very pretty though and I’m sure it was most enjoyable. Mountains and sea is always the best combination!

  • September 24, 2017

    Hi Drew,

    Looks gorgeous.

    I have been on these types of hikes in Thailand. Pretty brutal with the heat and humidity kicking in, so no need to make it an all day affair. And yes, the endless stairs can add to the intensity of the workout too. Why do these places always seem to have hundreds of stairs LOL?

    Also, always hike during the week in all but the most remote spots. Like anywhere on earth, people come out in droves on weekends when away from the 9-5 gig.

    I am captivated by the raw, natural beauty of Taiwan. So green and pristine.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan
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    • September 26, 2017

      Thanks. Being able to take advantage of mid-week hiking is always a plus.

  • September 25, 2017
    Megan Jerrard

    Wow, I wouldn’t have picked Hong Kong as the stereotypical hiking destination, so it’a awesome to hear that there’s suitable terrain outside of the urban core.

    Dragon’s Back Hike sounds wonderful – thanks for the tip on avoiding the heat and the crowds by doing mornings on a weekday. Definitely some dense vegetation but once it opens up those panoramic views are so stunning! Definitely something I would include on my itinerary as I love the outdoors 🙂

    • September 26, 2017

      There is a shocking number of hikes, especially on some of the smaller islands around Hong Kong. I’m psyched to try some of the longer ones once the weather cools down.

  • September 25, 2017

    I still can’t believe that I am looking at such lush green mountains that are in Hong Kong. I always thought of Hong Kong as a concrete jungle.

    I am not much of a hiker as well, but the Dragon Back hike lasting just under two hours would be good enough for me. The beautiful scenery along the way would make it enjoyable.
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    • September 26, 2017

      Most of Hong Kong is protected land, so where they can build, they have built high and dense. It is nice that so much land will remain open and undeveloped. A welcomed break from city life.

  • September 25, 2017

    Okay, you had me at the waterfall photo! I’m not much of a hiker and I don’t really like insects but I would do this hike to take in the stunning scenery. What a fun trip in Hong Kong. It’s such a contrast from the noisy city. We spent 5 days there and I would have loved to get away from the hustle and bustle for a bit.

    • September 26, 2017

      An escape from the craziness is always nice. And there weren’t too many bugs or insects either, so no major concerns there!

  • September 25, 2017

    You’re right: people don’t associate HK with open spaces, and we were quite surprised to see that there are so many green spaces and hiking trails outside of the hustle and bustle of this metropolis. We didn’t get to hike the Dragon’s Back when we visited HK 2 years ago, but we did spend a whole day hiking in Lantau island, which was also very nice too.
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    • September 26, 2017

      Lantau Island is next on my list. Perhaps when it is not so hot!

  • September 26, 2017

    I’m not much of a hiker myself not do I enjoy it. The name however, Dragon Back sounds amazing. Even though the hike starts with 300 stairs…shishhh. Those pictures are absolutely incredible. Beautiful.

    • October 2, 2017

      the stairs were brutal, but at least the hard part came at the beginning, and not at the end of the hike.

  • September 27, 2017
    Archana Singh

    I did this hike last year. I absolutely loved it. It was so different from the pacy and busy Hong-kong life. Before visiting it I couldn’t have imagined Hong Kong can have such a stretch of greenery and open spaces. Can’t wait to go back.

  • October 15, 2017

    I’ve been to Hong Kong twice and had no idea the hiking was such a must-do! Gorgeous photos.

  • October 18, 2017

    Wow, what a scenic hike! Definitely a must do!
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