Hiking in Hong Kong
The Peak, High West and
the Morning Trail
Explore this area if:
you're after superb city and coastal views
you prefer to stay off wet, muddy or technical terrains
Avoid this area if:
you believe "concrete" and "trail" don't belong in the same sentence
it's the weekend - the area is overrun with locals, dogs and hiking groups
The Peak is one of the top tourist attractions in Hong Kong, and deservedly so. The views stretch out across the densely built-up city, with Victoria Harbour carving its way through the middle of the skyscrapers. On most days of the year you will find this area crowded with locals, tourists and dogs, either getting in their daily exercise or taking Insta-worthy photos of the panoramic sights. There are no "trails" here, as everything is paved, but there are enough hills and stairs around to get a decent workout in. Whether you're looking to burn some calories or have an easy day out, the Peak has something for everyone.
While the "Peak" is not actually the peak of anything (except the tram terminal), Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island (552m). Like the tallest mountain in Hong Kong, Tai Mo Shan, the actual summit is off-limits due to the presence of government installations. Many buildings have occupied the prime position with the finest views over the years, including the former Governor's summer residence, but most have been destroyed in various typhoons. Now there is just a rotunda, surrounded by peaceful gardens that are popular for wedding photos. It's a great spot for a picnic, or to escape from the crowds, but it is nowhere as spectacular as the Peak.
Mount High west
Arguably more impressive than the Peak, Mount High West gives you an almost 360-degree panorama of the city, Lantau Island and Lamma Island. Only slightly lower than Victoria Peak (494m), it is accessed by a quad-burning 570 narrow but sturdy steps straight up the mountain. It can get busy, so expect some close contact with strangers as you overtake each other, and the wind often picks up towards the summit - several times I have almost been blown off the path. But the views, and relative solitude compared to the Peak, are well worth the effort.
The Morning Trail is a 2.8 km paved path running from mid-levels to the Peak. It is popular. Extremely popular. Unless you plan on coming here pre-dawn, you will be weaving your way through hundreds of others getting in their daily exercise. There's a good reason so many flock here every day: it's car-free, lined by tall trees, and gives you a slice of nature close to the city. Expect kids, dogs, and the odd local walking down the path backwards, but also greenery, shade, wild boars, and the occasional porcupine. A detour off the trail takes you to Pinewood Battery, a military site that was involved in the Battle of Hong Kong. It is now littered with ruins of the old site, with interpretive signs to give you an insight into Hong Kong's war history.
In September 2018, the most intense storm Hong Kong has ever seen, Typhoon Mangkhut, hit the region in devastating fashion. Winds of over 200 km/h ripped out over 1,500 trees, leaving many trails obliterated. I ventured up the Morning Trail the day after the storm had passed, to assess the level of destruction. The trail had turned into one long obstacle course. It was possible to reach the top, but not without climbing over fallen trunks, ducking under dense entanglements of branches, and sustaining a few scratches along the way. Below you will find a few before and after photos.
Before Typhoon Mangkhut:
After Typhoon Mangkhut: