If you’re not hiking in Hong Kong then you’re missing out on one of the true pleasures of living here. There are a huge variety of trails for all abilities spread throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories, and the outlaying islands. Best of all is that you don’t need much to get started. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind.
1. You don’t need to go to Sai Kung or any other far away location in order to take a great hike. Sure, Sai Kung is beautiful*, but so are places on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau, and Lamma. You don’t need to make it as difficult as possible just to take a hike. In fact, an open secret is that nearly all of Hong Kong is blessed with amazing hiking trails – you just need to look around! Chances are you will find something close by and convenient. Remember – the more difficult you make getting to your destination, the less likely it is that you’ll actually go.
2. You don’t need fancy equipment, specialized shoes, or accessories. You just need weather-appropriate clothing and a comfortable pair of shoes. Sun block and mosquito repellent might also be a good idea, depending on where you will be hiking.
In most cases, depending on the terrain, shorts and a blended shirt are all you need. Look for the “dry-fit” kind that is actually just polyester-blend clothing, as it will dry much more quickly than 100% cotton. You shouldn’t be wearing regular cotton t-shirts as they will get wet and stay wet, leaving your body uncomfortable.
You don’t need an expensive name-brand hiking outfit either. Many of the sample stores in Wanchai and Sham Shui Po have a great selection of comfortable hiking clothing at deep discounts!
3. You don’t need a special water system / backpack such as a Camelbak. Many people have the urge to get all the tricked-out equipment, but it’s completely unnecessary. Camelbak’s are bags that have a water bladder built into a backpack, with straws connected for easy access. The problem with them is that since they are stored, often you won’t know exactly how much water you have consumed, making it difficult to ration properly. On longer hikes it can be dangerous if you don’t calculate correctly. To start out with, just grab a bottle of water and you’ll be fine!
4. You don’t need to go for super long four-hour plus hikes. A two hour hike is plenty in the hot weather, and you won’t need to carry as much water with you, or have the hike take over a precious full day.
5. Pick an appropriate hike! Are you with elderly people, young children, pets or unfit friends? Don’t pick an Everest-like climb, or an excessively long trail. Pick something manageable, or with short intervals, so that you will be able to exit conveniently in case you need to. (Just today I had to help two groups of people who didn’t know where they were, or how long it would take to get back to civilization – it was around one hour in both cases, which can be dangerous!) ALSO, don’t rely on strangers for directions! Study your route before you go. People you encounter might not give you accurate information, or they might be at a totally different fitness level than you.
A good idea is to select an appropriate hike for the weakest person in your group. Remember that hiking is supposed to be fun! It’s not enjoyable for you to have to wait excessively, or for your partners to have to struggle just to finish.
To locate good hikes, check out the links section at the end for free hiking guides, free apps, and other resources. There are also several good books about hikes in Hong Kong that you can find at local bookstores.
If you’re just starting out, take an easier route. Don’t try to go for a marathon hike with people who never walk.
Bonus tip – you don’t need to wake up at 7am on a weekend in order to go hiking. Particularly now that the weather is hot, you can take a great hike and start in late afternoon, when the temperature is starting to cool down.
Extra bonus tip – drink water BEFORE you go hiking. Think of your body like a car. It’s better to start a trip on a full tank of gas than have to make major stops along the way. If you’re fully hydrated before you start, you’ll only need to maintain your hydration, rather than fight to bring yourself up to a normal level while expending reserves at the same time.
Below are a few Hong Kong hiking links. There are actually many decent hiking websites for you to get free info. You can also download the free “Inside Guide to Hikes and Walks” by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. There’s even an awesome app for Hong Kong hikes!
(*If you really must go hiking in Sai Kung, here’s one of the most amazing places to visit!) 😉
Also check out our post about Hong Kong’s top 3 romantic walks!