Eric Ho treks the trails of Sai Kung to find the 12 best hikes.
As temperatures start to cool, there’s no better time to get out and explore Sai Kung’s vast array of hiking trails. To celebrate our love for Sai Kung and the nature which surrounds it, we’ve created the most comprehensive local hiking guide – The Sai Kung & Clearwater Bay Hiking Guide. We walked hundreds of kilometres spanning every trail in the area to bring you the best 12 hikes of Sai Kung.
With the help of hiking experts, life-long local residents, WWF-Hong Kong and many more; we were able to bring the hikes to life through beautiful photography, Sai Kung history, local legends and a guide to some of the wildlife you may encounter along the way. Here’s a sneak peak at one of the trails in The Sai Kung & Clearwater Bay Hiking Guide…
Three Fathoms Cove
Take minibus 7 from Sai Kung town and alight at Pak Sha O Youth Hostel, which was opened in 1985 in an abandoned village school. The old classrooms, which have been transformed into a kitchen, common room and dormitory blocks, make a good base from which to explore the country park.
From the hostel, walk 100 metres along Hoi Ha Road until you reach a signposted path to Pak Sha O. It’s a short walk to Pak Sha O, a restored Hakka village that feels lost in time. There are no longer any Hakka villagers living here; they left when the construction of the High Island Reservoir cut off the village’s water supply, ending its farming activities. The abandoned village seemed destined to crumble into disrepair, like so many others in Hong Kong’s rural areas, but its idyllic charms caught the eye of a group of expats who spent years renovating the traditional buildings and restoring the ancestral hall.
During the first section of the hike, the trail gradually rises in altitude. You need to be aware of two forks in the road. The first comes as you approach Nam Shan Tung: take the path towards Lai Chi Chong. At the second fork, take the path to Sham Chung.
At this point the hike becomes more challenging as the concrete paths are replaced by dirt trails that meander around large boulders, squeeze through a narrow gully and over streams. Cross a small valley leading up towards She Shek Au. Take care in wet conditions as the trail and rocks can be slippery and there is a possibility of flash floods near the streams.
The going becomes easier on the descent into Sham Chung, passing eerie abandoned houses. Unlike Pak Sha O, Sham Chung village did not attract any rescuers when its inhabitants left to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and many of the buildings are being reclaimed by nature.
Up ahead the greenery opens up, revealing a large expanse of grassland and a small lake surrounded by wooded hills. On warmer days, groups of families and friends dot the grass, and kids ride bikes or kick balls in what must be one of the finest picnic spots in Hong Kong.
You don’t have to bring your own food. A couple of houses near the lake operate as simple restaurants on weekends and holidays, when villagers return to sell drinks and noodles to hikers. Don’t expect any bargains, however: a bottle of Coke set us back $26.
Sham Chung may be beautiful, but it is a far cry from its natural state. When the village was thriving, much of the land was converted to paddy fields. Once the villagers left, the forgotten fields transformed into a wetland teeming with wildlife, including rare animals like the brown fish owl and the Hong Kong paradise fish.
Cross the meadow and follow the concrete path towards the pier, where a ferry calls twice a day on its way to Ma Liu Shui or Wong Shek Pier. Hop aboard if you’ve had enough, but the best is yet to come.
The next section follows the coast of Three Fathoms Cove, skirting the rocky foreshore, mangroves and an area of abandoned farmland. Where the path runs next to the mangrove, look for crabs scurrying between the roots and jittery mudskippers keeping their eyes above water.
At Yung Shue O village, the path turns into a single-track road. At the T-junction, turn right past the public toilet and continue along a catchwater, but take care as there are no pavements and, although the road is quiet, there are occasional cars. It’s a flat, shady walk, passing barbecue sites with fabulous views of the bay and its fish farms – particularly photogenic at golden hour as the sun dips behind Ma On Shan and the water turns amber – and up a final steep incline to Sai Sha Road.
From here, you can catch bus 99 or 299X to Sai Kung Pier, or make a detour to see Hong Kong’s only ancient astronomical observatory. To find the old stone tower, turn right towards the car park, cross the road and walk up the steps under a wooden gateway marked Shui Long Wo. As well as the tower there are picnic tables, old stone terraces and a moon gate. This miniature replica of the Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory (built during the Yuan dynasty in eastern Dengfeng County, Henan), provides a gorgeous view back over Three Fathoms Cove.
How to get there
From Sai Kung Pier, take minibus 7 to the country park, alighting at Pak Sha O Youth Hostel, on Hoi Ha Road, a few stops before the end of the route
Cars may not enter the country park without a permit, so if you’re planning to drive it is simpler to take a 25 minute taxi ride from Sai Kung town.
Craving more awesome hikes?
Discover all 12 hikes and the history of Sai Kung with our Sai Kung & Clearwater Bay Hiking Guide. Order your copy at hongkongliving.com/shop with the promo code sk10 to enjoy 10 percent off your purchase. Limited time only.