The Dragon’s Back Hike is one of the most popular trails in Hong Kong due to its impressive coastal views seen from the ridge-line but also because it is one of the less intense routes in the region. Dragon’s Back Trail gives hikers outstanding, scenic views without too much incline and climbing. The trail is suitable for families, amateur hikers and all tourists looking for an adventure.
DRAGON’S BACK HIKE: COMPLETE GUIDE
In this blog post, I’ll share everything you need to know about the Tai To Yan hike including where it is, how to get there and when it’s best to visit.
DRAGON’S BACK HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike from Shek-O to Big Wave Bay via Dragon’s Back is 8.5km. If you are like me and make a detour to Pottinger Peak at the end of the hike, your distance will extend closer to 12km. You can do the route along the Dragon’s Back ridge without the visit to Big Wave Bay, which is just 5-kilometers.
- Hike Duration: Shek-O to Big Wave Bay via Dragon’s Back is about a 3.5-hour expedition including a few stops. There isn’t too much incline so you get to make some pretty quick ground.
- Hike Difficulty: The hike is known as one of the easier, more accessible trails in Hong Kong. With only a couple hundred meters of incline throughout the 8.5-kilometers
- Hike Incline: The total incline of the hike was only 250m from Shek-O to Big Wave Bay but if you head up to Pottinger Peak aswell like me it was actually 390m of an incline in total.
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HOW TO GET TO DRAGON’S BACK HIKE (SHEK-O START POINT)
The Dragon’s Back hike is one of the easiest hikes to navigate because it is so damn popular. You pretty much just follow the crowd. The general route for the hike starts at Shek-O. There is a big sign at the trailhead and it’s where the bus stops. It’s likely half your bus will get off and all be dressed ready to hike.
To get there you will need to catch the train to Shau Kei Wan MTR Station and then take the number 9 minibus for about half an hour and eventually get off at To Tei Wan bus stop.
The hike can either finish at Big Wave Bay, Pottinger Peak or Shek-O country park so you will need to plan accordingly but all have bus connections at the finish points.
I’ve included my GPX hiking route below, which shows my route from Shek-O, along the Dragon’s Back, and finally finishing at Pottinger Peak. If you want to download it for your device you can do so by Clicking Here.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE DRAGON’S BACK TRAIL IN HONG KONG
It was a sunny December morning when I decided to head out to the Dragon’s Back Hike. I’d forgotten it was a Sunday, so I had unintentionally signed myself up to deal with the crowds of tourists and locals alike that flock to this ridge-line.
After doing the hike, I can only imagine it is the lack of incline that is so attractive about the hike as there are many other equally scenic trails I’ve hiked in Hong Kong with no crowds. Somehow it has become the most popular easy hiking trail in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it was beautiful but crowded.
The bus stop at the train station had a line of about forty people waiting to get on. Most were dressed in hiking gear and it was at that point, which I figured out it was Sunday. We were now part of the crowd, which was unusual for me.
The bus dropped us at the trailhead and we let the hoards go ahead and slowly meandered our way up the dusty path. You can expect crowds on the trail but it doesn’t ruin the experience. I always enjoy seeing others out enjoying nature for themselves and like to look at it that way rather than they are ruining the serenity for me. These are natural attractions for us all to enjoy!
The hike begins with a rocky path that leads to a few nice viewpoints over Tai Tam Bay and the Stanley Peninsula. Despite being popular, this hike is actually quite nice for photography with lots of viewpoints, butterflies, a dense forest at times and coast on either side of the ridge.
After just 1.5 kilometers arrived the first major viewpoint, which is made of lots of little rocky outcrops along the sloping cliff. We spent about an hour exploring here, flying the drone and just chilling. We were in no rush and it’s the best way to do Dragon’s Back with all the viewpoints and places to stop along the way.
The blue water and incredible coastline may be no news to the locals but will surprise many tourists. It’s not what you think of when Hong Kong comes to mind!
Once you leave this first viewpoint, you are now walking down the ridge. You are now hiking along the Dragon’s Back. The path stays on the ridge for quite some time, occasionally a viewpoint will open up but the view remains relatively the same the whole way down the ridge until you start to the dropdown. It’s a beautiful contrast of lush green trees and bushes against the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean.
Keep an eye out for butterflies along this part of the trail. There were hundreds when we visited in December and they seemed to be in mating season.
The trail now heads down towards the left and you deviate away from the ridge-line. The hike is now heading down towards Shek-O if you wish to finish up or you can continue on towards Big Wave Bay. The great views are over for a bit as you are inside the forest now but I do suggest you keep going to either Big Wave Bay or Pottinger Peak as I did.
We actually made the decision quite late and the sun was already fading. We were on our way to Big Wave Bay, but then I saw Pottinger Peak on the map and thought it could be cool to be at a peak instead of a beach for golden hour and sunset. So, off we set climbing a couple of hundred extra meters up the hill to find the peak. While the actual peak has no viewpoint and is just a radio tower hidden in the trees, there were lots of great views from little clearings and spots along the way.
I took these photos on my camera while running up the hill chasing the last light of the day.
Once I was at Pottinger Peak, I decided to throw my drone up and shoot the sun setting over the Dragon’s Back and also get a great view of Big Wave Bay from the sky. The sunset was a nice one and I managed to get a few good shots that show the ridgeline quite nicely.
We now had a 2.5km walk down to either Big Wave Bay or 2.5km to Siu Sai Wan. It was pretty much dark so we headed down to Siu Sai Wan and then caught the bus back to Central. Below is a photo of Pema, just before we walked back down to Siu Sai Wan in the dark. Overall it was a great hike and I encourage you to head up to Pottinger Peak for the sunset as it was pretty glorious and the highlight of the whole hike… along with the butterflies.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE DRAGON’S BACK TRAIL
- Difficulty Level: The Dragon’s Back trail is considered a moderately easy hike suitable for hikers of various skill levels. The well-marked path and gentle gradients make it accessible to both beginners and experienced hikers.
- Scenic Views: Prepare to be amazed by the stunning panoramic views along the trail. As you hike the ridge, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of Hong Kong’s coastline, lush hills, and even the city skyline in the distance. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
- Trail Length and Duration: The Dragon’s Back hike spans approximately 8.5 kilometers in distance. The average duration for completing the trail is around 2-3 hours, depending on your pace and the time spent admiring the views. It’s advisable to start early to avoid the midday heat and crowds.
- Transport and Access: To reach the starting point of the trail, you can take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan and then either a bus or taxi to To Tei Wan. Bus routes 9 or 9A are commonly used for this purpose. Remember to check the bus schedules in advance for a smooth journey.
- Optional Beach Visit: The Dragon’s Back hike conveniently ends near Big Wave Bay, a picturesque beach known for its surf-friendly waves. After completing the hike, you can unwind on the sandy shores, take a refreshing dip, or even try your hand at surfing if you’re up for it.
By keeping these key points in mind, you can make the most of your Dragon’s Back hike, enjoying the scenic beauty and capturing lasting memories of Hong Kong’s natural landscapes.
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