DRAGON’S BACK HIKE IN HONG KONG
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 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.
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.
TOP 4 PLACES TO STAY IN HONG KONG
Best Value Hotel: Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay – This 4-star hotel in Hong Kong Central is just $73 and looks like a luxury resort worth 4-times that amount.
Best Hostel: Alohas Hostel – For less than $12 USD, you have a great location in a clean and simple hostel.
Best Value Luxury Hotel: Hotel ICON – $140 for a 5-star hotel with an epic pool. Need I say more!
Best Hiking/Adventure Base: Hotel Stage – In Kowloon and right next to lots of epic hikes, a gateway to the hikes in the New Territories. 4-star ultra-modern and a great adventure base.
Want a more detailed breakdown? I wrote the biggest ever guide for where to stay (and why) in Hong Kong! You can check it out here: WHERE TO STAY IN HONG KONG: BEST AREAS & HOTELS
BEST TIME TO HIKE IN HONG KONG
The ‘best’ time to visit Hong Kong will depend on a few factors. The biggest factor will, of course, be the weather. All of these hikes I did were in my month-long stay during December 2019. The weather was quite chilly as it was winter but the sun was still out on at least 60% of the hikes. In the day it was warm most of the time but I always had a jacket for at the summit. The suggest months for hiking in Hong Kong are:
Winter: December to February – Mild weather and pretty comfortable for hiking. Minimal rainfall and still lots of sun during 2/3 of the days. I would suggest the winter after having experienced it myself.
Spring: March to May – Unpredictable weather with some sun and some clouds, Humidity is now rising quite high. Rainfall can happen regularly during the spring.
Summer: June to August – This is not an ideal time to hike in Hong Kong. The humidity is at it’s highest, temperatures can reach 30 degrees daily and rainstorms can be frequent. There are beaches in Hong Kong, more than you would imagine but they aren’t all necessarily close to where you will be based in Hong Kong Central or Kowloon.
Autumn/Fall: September to November – This is rated as the best time to visit Hong Kong. You have nice sunny weather but humidity is at it’s lowest for the year. Rainfall is also low during these months.
PRE-BOOK YOUR 4G SIMCARD FOR HONG KONG (AIRPORT PICKUP)
Before I arrived in Hong Kong, I pre-booked my 4G sim-card for pick-up at the airport. It gives you unlimited data for 5 days of traveling in Hong Kong at 4G speeds. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I walked to the stall, the guy put in my new sim-card and activated it and I was connected from the very first moment. You can Click Here to pre-book your 4G sim-card here and you’ll be surprised it’s actually cheaper to book it in advance.
Book yours now: Pre-Book 5-days Unlimited Data 4G Sim Card
PRE-BOOK YOUR 4G OCTOPUS CARD
You will need to purchase an ‘Octopus Card’ and then you reload it at the machine at the subway station. I pre-ordered my octopus card through Klook, which meant that when I arrived at the airport I simply picked the card up at the Klook counter and caught the train to my accommodation. It saved me from catching an expensive taxi and figuring out the Octopus card later.
You simply scan in at the station you enter and scan out where you exit and the fee is deducted from your card. On the bus, you will pay a fee depending on how much of the route is left and you only scan the card once for a fixed rate. I found moving around in Hong Kong very cheap, efficient and safe.
Click Here to pre-order your Octopus Card with 100 HKD credit loaded onto the card. Pick-up at the airport desk. 100HKD is good for 6-8 train rides and then you can top it up as you go.
Book yours now: HKD 50 Pre-loaded Octopus Card
CHEAPEST AIRPORT PRIVATE TRANSFER SERVICE
The airport in Hong Kong is on Lantau Island, which is about 40-minutes away from Hong Kong Central and 30-minutes away from Kowloon. If you don’t want to bother with public transport, you can book a private transfer that will pick you up at the airport and drop you to your hotel (or vice versa picking you up at your hotel and dropping you to the airport). It’s actually not that expensive and can save you valuable time. The cheapest option is actually the coolest and is in a Tesla car, which is pretty cool. I did this to and from the airport for less than $40.
Book yours now: Hong Kong Airport Transfer in Tesla
KEEP READING! CHECK OUT ALL THE BLOGS FROM MY HONG KONG SERIES
A complete guide to the best things to do: 27 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN HONG KONG
My favorite hikes in Hong Kong: 21 AWESOME HIKES IN HONG KONG
How to plan your Hong Kong trip: 3-DAY HONG KONG ITINERARY FOR ADVENTURE-LOVERS
The biggest ever guide for where to stay in Hong Kong: WHERE TO STAY IN HONG KONG: BEST AREAS & HOTELS
My favorite EASY hikes: 10 EASY HIKING TRAILS IN HONG KONG
The most luxurious places to stay: THE TOP 10 LUXURY HOTELS IN HONG KONG (5-STAR LIST)
The ultimate adventure: EPIC HONG KONG HELICOPTER TOUR FROM THE PENINSULA HOTEL
The toughest overall hike: WEST DOG’S TEETH HIKE ‘HARDEST HIKE IN HONG KONG’
Best waterfall hike: TAI MO SHAN HIKE: THE HIGHEST PEAK IN HONG KONG
ARE THERE HONG KONG HIKING AND TOUR GUIDES?
While I did all of my hikes independently, there are a number of affordable tours that will either take you on a private hike or add you to a group experience. I’m comfortable organizing the route, transport, and logistics for a hike in a new region because I’ve done it hundreds of times but if you prefer to have a local lead you then I can recommend checking out the links below, which offer guided tours of some of the hikes you will find on this list. The website to book through is Klook, which is a trusted platform for booking activities and employs local hiking guides who have tons of experience.
They range from $50-$100 and all the other details can be found by clicking on the links below.
Guided Hike: Lion Rock Hiking Tour
Guided Hike: Dragon’s Back Hiking Tour
Guided Hike: Lantau Peak Sunrise Hike
Guided Hike: Tai Mo Shan Waterfall Hiking Tour