The Dragon’s Back is Hong Kong’s most famous hiking trail and was once named by TIME magazine as the best urban hike in Asia.
Hong Kong is renowned for its skyscrapers, urban sprawl and work-hard-play-hard lifestyle. So people are often surprised to discover that in actual fact around 38% of the land surrounding Hong Kong has been designated as Country Park.
You don’t have to travel far out of the city to see these expanses of greenery – and more excitingly, within these country parks are hundreds of kilometres of well signposted hiking trails. In fact, hiking is one of the Hong Kong residents’ favourite pastimes.
The Dragon’s Back is one of the best introductions to hiking in Hong Kong. It is a relatively easy hike, with fabulous views – and it ends on a beach. What more could you ask for?
The 2-hour Dragon’s Back hike is otherwise known as Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail – a 50km trail that traverses Hong Kong Island through five country parks. It is a relatively easy Hong Kong hike for kids (children aged 5 or 6 and up should be able to manage it), and offers spectacular views of Hong Kong’s Southside along the route.
Caveat: I hike the Dragon’s Back on a regular basis, but have yet to take my kids (aged 3 and 5) although I know plenty of people who do take their kids.
Start the Dragon’s Back hike along Shek O Road, just a 20-minute drive from Central Hong Kong. Either take a taxi or you can take no.9 bus from Shau Kei Wan MTR station, and stop at the bus stop at To Tei Wan Village. The entrance to the Dragon’s Back is right at the bus stop and is highlighted with a large sign and map.
The first ascent from the bus stop to the Dragon’s Back is the hardest, and will probably get your heart pumping. You will be going uphill for about 200m, up steps and a rocky pathway. The good thing is, once you reach the top of here, you are immediately greeted with a fabulous view over Shek O Beach – and you know it gets easier from here.
From this viewpoint, it is an easy ramble along the undulating spinal ridge of the mountain, which gives the ‘Dragon’s Back’ its name. Take the time to enjoy the views to your right over Shek O and to your left over Tai Tam Bay.
The trail takes you through shady bamboo forests – keep a look out for the large Golden Orb-Weaver spiders spinning their webs at the side of the trail during the summer months, and large Black Kite hawks circling above you.
There is one final steep ascent to reach Shek O Peak – at 284metres, this is the highest point of the Dragon’s Back hike and rewards you with views in all directions. Take a look down over Big Wave Way Beach – this is where you are going to end your hike!
From here it is all downhill, and unfortunately the best of the views are behind you as you descend through the trees. When you reach the bottom of the Dragon’s Back section, follow the signs to Big Wave Bay – it’s about another 40-minutes, firstly along a wide road, then along a forest path through the trees. (If you want to cut your hike short, you could choose to follow signs to Shek O Road and jump on a bus or hail a taxi from here. But this will mean that you miss out on finishing on the beach.)
The Hong Kong Trail finishes in Big Wave Bay. Wander through the village houses and follow signs to the beach, where you can rehydrate to the sound of the crashing waves. There’s a small café on the beach here serving a good selection of refreshments, and you can hire boogie boards and surf boards from the nearby shops.
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This is probably Hong Kong’s most popular hiking trail. If you don’t want to get stuck behind crowds of people, either come mid-week, or set off hiking before 9am on the weekend.
Bring water! Especially if you are hiking in the warmer months, it will be hot and sweaty work. I never go hiking in Hong Kong without my Camelbak.
Wear sensible walking shoes or trainers – flip flops aren’t really going to cut it on this hike.
Hong Kong weather is changeable – bring both a waterproof jacket and suncream.
Hiking the Dragon’s Back featured in our article 10 Uniquely Hong Kong Experiences. Read more here!