China: Hiking Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail

Hiking in Hong Kong

A Practical Guide to Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 1 Violet Hill Hike
A glimpse of Hong Kong from Violet Hill

Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail is one of the region’s three long distance trails. The 78 kilometer route is broken into 10 stages ranging from 5 to 15 kilometers each.  I hiked the wilson trail two stages at a time over the course of 5 weekends in late 2016 and early 2017.  While the Maclehose trail tends to hit the peaks, the Wilson trail crosses ridges and passes making a point of staying inside of 8 different country parks for the majority of its distance. Here is what I found helpful to know.

Stage 1 – The Twins and Violet Hill

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance and elevation: 4.8 kilometers (5.5km including the walk to transit). Cumulative elevation gain of 631 meters spread over two large climbs  of 300+ meters and one smaller climb.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 1
Though just a few short kilometers from the city, The Wilson Trail feels remote and wild
Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 1 - The Twins Hike
Stage 1 of the Wilson Trail climbs high into the hills of Hong Kong Island

 

Getting There: From Exchange Square take bus 6 or 6A to the Wilson Trail Stop – the buses have a display screen that shows the stop name in both English and Chinese.

Getting Home: At the trail’s end turn left and walk approximately 1km to Wong Nai Chung Gap to catch a bus back to Central.

Worth it? Yes.  This is one of the toughest sections of the Wilson trail made difficult by two long, relentless climbs of more than 300 meters each.  Though challenging, you will not regret the effort.

 

Stage 2 – Gardine’s Lookout

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Distance and elevation: 6.6 Kilometers (closer to 8km with transportation links) Cumulative elevation gain: about 350 meters spread over two climbs.

Getting There: Stage 2 begins across the road from stage one.  Take bus 6 to Wong Nai Chung Gap. Head uphill to Parkview. As you enter through the Wilson Trail archway, immediately take the stairs that head upwards on your right.

Getting Home: Toward the end of the trail you will run into the Quarry Bay Jogging Trail.  Head to your right toward Sir Cecil’s ride and then right again along the Tree Walk. The trail drops you in a development across from the Tai Koo MTR station.  Don’t worry too much if you get lost on the recreational trails at the bottom – each one drops you fairly near an MTR station in the Quarry Bay area.

Worth it? Yes. Though nowhere near the challenge presented by stage one, there are a few lovely views and the last part of stage two is through a lovely forest where you might even see some wild boar.

 

Stage 3 – Devil’s Peak and Black Hill

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation: 9.3  Kilometers with about 300 meters cumulative elevation gate over two short climbs (Devil’s Peak Devil’s Peak 222m and Black Hill 304m).

Devil's Peak Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 3
The abandoned military fortifications near the top of Devil’s Peak
Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 3
Steps leading up Black Hill – Wilson Trail Stage 3

Getting There:  From the MTR Yau Tong station, follow Lei Yue Mun east. Turn left at the roundabout and then immediately right, up the signed road to the Chinese Protestant Cemetery. Where the road levels out look for a Wilson Trail Information board and take the steps up to the left.

Getting Home: Buses and minibuses run from the trail’s end at Clear Water Bay Road to the MTR Choi Hung station.

Worth it? No.  Not unless you are looking for an easy hill-running trail.  While there are a few spots with nice views, this trail tends to ramble with only moderate views of East Kowloon to make it even remotely memorable.

Cemetery in Hong Kong
This view of the Chinese Protestant Cemetary is one of the more interesting vistas along Wilson Trail Stage 3

 

Stage 4 – An Old Forest and Tate’s Cairn

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance and Elevation: 8 kilometers (closer to 10 with the walk to the MTR at the end). Cumulative elevation gain: nearly 600 meters – almost all in one long, steep climb.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 4
The view from Tate’s Cairn

Getting There: Take MTR to Choi Hung station – exit C2. Then take Minibus 1A (Sai Kung). Get off just past a Shell service station after a steep climb (Tseng Lan Shue). Follow the arrows through the village.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 4
For 3 kilometers, the trail follows an old, stone path through a dense forest where moss grows on the rocks and the dense tree-cover shades the forest floor

Getting Home: There are no buses at Sha Tin pass and it is another 2 kilometers down hill to the Wong Tai Sin MTR. You can follow Sha Tin Pass Road all the way down to the Wong Tai Sin MTR stop.  If you don’t want to walk the road, there are stairs that go down to a hillside temple and then down further to  Tsz Oi Court apartments. Turn right on Tsz Wan Shan Road and left on Shatin Pass Road.

Worth it? Yes.  Once you get through the village (just follow the painted arrows), the trail passes through a truly stunning forest where vines hang from trees and moss hangs from rocks, where the air smells fresh and cool, and where the sounds of birds and brooks cleanse the mind of city cares.  The second half of the trail involves a steep 500 meter climb up Tate’s Cairn. At the top, though, the view is amazing.

Stage 5 – Shatin Pass, Amah Rock, and Kowloon Reservoir

Difficulty: Easy

Distance and Elevation: 7.5 Kilometers (10 with the climb from Wong Tai Sin MTR to Sha Tin Pass). After descending from Shatin pass, the trail is flat.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 5
After descending from the heights of Sha Tin Pass, the Wilson Trail follows a water catchment for 5 kilometers

Getting There: Take the MTR to Wong Tai Sin station. When you exit work your way north and east to Sha Tin Pass Road.  You can follow the road to Sha Tin Pass or you can cut up the steps on the re-inforced slope behind the housing estates.  All paths on this slope eventually lead to Sha Tin pass. Turn onto the side road past the restaurant and restrooms and bear left at the fork – do not take the trail to Lion Head Rock but continue along the road until you see signs for the Wilson Trail.

Getting Home: At the end of stage 5 you can catch bus 81 to the MTR Prince Edward station.

Worth it? No. The first three kilometers of the trail are pleasant enough but then the trail follows a paved, flat, water catchment for 5 kilometers.  Some of the views are pretty, and there are Monkeys everywhere (DON’T FEED THEM!). It is a long walk for very little reward.

Stage 6 – Kowloon Reservoir Kam Shan valley and Shing Mun Reservoir

Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

Distance and Elevation: 5.6 Kilometers (7km with the walk to the bus stop at the end).  Cumulative Elevation Gain: around 350 meters.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 6
Though some sections of Wilson Trail Stage 6 are steep, the climb is usually quite gentle

Getting There: Wong Tai Sin MTR – follow Shatin pass Road up the hill for about Kilometer.  Near the Sha Tin Pass estate, you will see trails that allow you to climb steps through a forest (instead of following the road.

Getting Home: Follow the road (to the left) around the reservoir and you will come to a Bus Stop.  Mini Bus 81 takes you to the Tsuen Wan MTR station.

Worth it? Yes. The climb is mostly gentle with only occaisional steep sections. Most of the trail is forested making this the perfect location for a shady summertime hike. It is a bit on the short side, though – so it is a good one to do in combination with either stage 5 or stage 7.

 

Stage 7: Shing Mun Reservoire and Lead Mine Pass

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Distance and Elevation: 10 kilometers (between 12 and 14 including public transit connection).  There is one steady climb up about 200 meters to the Lead Mine Pass. Other than that the trail is mostly level.

 

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 7
Shing Mun Réservoir is one of 41 different waterworks structures constructed in Hong Kong before World War 2
Transportation to the Shing Mun Reservoir
Lines for the 82 minibus can get long. I waited in this question for nearly 30 minutes

Getting There: Take MTR to Tsuen Wan and then catch minibus 82 from the corner of Shiu Wo Street (about 80 meters from the MTR station).

Getting Home: There is a minibus stop at the bottom of the trail. Minibus No. 23K or 275R will take you to the Tai Po Market MTR Station.  To go on, you will need to navigate pedestrian trails through town or take a taxi across Tai Po.

Worth it? Yes. This is one of the few Wilson Trail hikes I would recommend to families.  The first five kilometers of trail circle the reservoire on a beautiful dirt track with occasional ups and downs.  The next three Kilometers climb steadily along a road up to the Lead Mine Pass.  This part of the trail passes through dense forest crisscrossed by gurgling streams .  The incline is steady but never too steep. The final two kilometers of trail run down an old stone path.  This is the most technical part of the trail and is a welcome relief from the jogging path and the road.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 7 Shing Mun Reservoir
The majority of Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail Stage 7 ski is along a quiet forest path that skirts the edges of the Shing Mun Reservoir

 

Stage 8: Cloudy Hill

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance and Elevation:  about 10 Kilometers from the Tai Wo MTR Station to the Hok Tau Reservoir (This distance cuts part of the city walk of stage 8 and adds the descent from Cloudy Hill which is technically part of stage 9).  The official Distance of Stage 8 (from Yuen Tun Ha to the summit of Cloudy hill) is 9km. You will then need to descend Cloudy hill adding an additional 3km regardless of direction. The trail has a cumulative elevation gain of about 500 meters.

Getting There: Take the MTR to Tai Wo station Exit A or B. You will need a map to find the trail the Hike Hong Kong blog has a good one. Alternately,  you can go backwards beginning from the easier-to-find Hok Tau Reservoir and ending at Tai Wo Station.

Getting Home: At Hok Tau Reservoir, turn left on the road and follow it down hill for about 1.5 kilometers until you reach a bus shelter. Take the mini bus to the Fanling MTR station. If you are walking the other direction,

Worth it? No. mostly because of all the city walking one must do before reaching the trail. Cloudy Hill is nice enough, but the rest of the walk is forgettable, even frustrating.

 

Stage 9: Pat Sin Leng – the Eight Peaks of the Immortals

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance and Elevation: 11km – 8km if you begin from from Hok Tau Reservoir (it is a 1.5 kilometer walk from the bus stop below the reservoir).  Cumulative elevation gain is 1200 meters with the greatest single gain is just over 500 meters.

Hong Kong's Wilson Trail Stage 9
Even in the fog – the sheer drop-off from the ridge-top is breathtaking

Getting There: Take the MTR to the Fanling station and then take the Hok Tau Minibus.  When we were there, none of the minibuses said “Hok Tau” so we simply asked people in each of the bus lines.  The minibus stop is about 1.5 kilometers from the Hok Tau reservoir. Continue up the road until you come to the reservoir.

Getting Home: Sections 9 and 10 blend together in a way that makes them difficult to hike separately.  There is no transportation access at the start point to section 10. If you don’t wish to do section 10, you can take the Tai Mei Tuk trail and then take Bus 75K  from Tai Mei Tuk to  Taipo Market MTR station.

Worth it? Absolutely.  This is a tough walk, but is one of my all time favorite Hong Kong Hikes.  On a clear day you will have some spectacular views from the peaks, and even on a cloudy or foggy day, the wisps of cloud blowing up the steep slopes and across the trail are thrilling.

Stage 10: A Northern New Territories Forest Walk

Difficulty: Easy if you are continuing from section 9. Moderate if you are hiking the other direction or if you are joining the trail from Bride’s Pool or  Tai Mei Tuk

Distance and Elevation: From from the end of stage 9, the trail is 7 kilometers long (with an additional 2km walk to public transit at the end).  It is 7.5km if you begin at Bride’s Pool and 9 km if you begin at Tai Mei Tuk.   The trail is almost entirely down hill from the end of Stage 10.  There is a 320 Meter climb if you begin at Tai Mei Tuk or at Bride’s Pool.

Wilson Trail stage 10 Forest
Stage 10 of the Wilson Trail follows an old stone trail through a forest complete with abandoned villages

Getting There:  The easiest way to begin stage 10 is to continue on from stage 9.  If you want to do Stage 10 by itself, then take the MTR to Tai Po Market station and then take bus 75K to Tai Mei Tuk.  If you wish to begin at Bride’s pool you can take a taxi from Tai Mei Tuk.

Wilson Trail Stage 10 view
One last view on Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail Stage 10

Getting Home: Continue down the road from the end point of the Wilson Trail for two kilometers until you come to Luk Keng Road.  Mini bus 56K goes to Fanling MTR station.

Worth It? Yes. Like stage 7, this section would be great for families. Most of the trail follows an old stone mule track through an old forest. Abandoned buildings add ambience to an already beautiful setting.  If you are carrying on from stage 9, the gentle descent is a pleasant change from the succession of peaks you just climbed.  The climb from Bride’s pool, though not strenuous, will make a good challenge for young walkers.

Some Useful Links

Enjoy Hiking is Hong Kong’s official trail guide. The website gives exact (official) distances, good transportation information, and provides trail descriptions for each section of trail.

christl.hk though rudimentary in it’s appearance there is some very useful information here including more realistic distances, precise transit instructions, and elevation profiles for each section of the trail.

bluebalu offers more first hand account blog style information about the different sections of the Wilson Trail. This is especially helpful on the sections that require some city walking (specifically 3 and 8).

the end of Hong Kong's Wilson Trail
The 78 Kilometer Wilson Trail ends at a cement notice at the end of Stage 10

Happy Hiking!

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