Peak Performance

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Rory Mackay takes a detour from one of the city’s best-known trails.

Victoria Peak, you may have heard of it… Yes, Hong Kong is for many of us our home and long time residents may question the value of me telling you about visiting such a well-known area. However, it is packed full of lesser-known nooks and possesses bountiful options for exploration. I must admit, until recent times ‘The Peak’ was a spot I would only frequent when showing visiting friends around town and I never went there on my own. However, I have recently been hitting the hiking trails of Hong Kong Island more frequently and have been thoroughly impressed with what I have found! With such a plethora of options I’ll keep things simple here, sharing with you my favourite route over The Peak and highlighting a few appealing detours along the way. My optimal route begins in Admiralty, runs over Victoria Peak and finishes in Aberdeen.

Now as a local, I aim to walk the entire way up and over. But of course, there are no rules and if you want to take it easy or you’re short on time, half the route can be done on foot and the other by alternate means of transport. I love starting my adventure in the city and finishing in more tranquil surroundings on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Beginning in Admiralty, head on foot up the hill to Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens (otherwise catch the number 15 bus or a taxi from Queensway to the Peak Galleria, don’t bother queuing for the tram up).

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Passing through the botanical gardens, you immediately escape the hustle and bustle of Central. The gardens contain many interesting bird and marsupial enclosures and I love having a wander around before pressing onwards and upwards. Ascending Old Peak Road, the gradient steps up a notch. The going gets much more physical, but a glance over your shoulder reveals an increasingly expansive view of the skyscrapers, just enough to motivate you to carry on. Once you are above all the housing developments, Old Peak Road transforms into a charming laneway. A smooth surface winding its way through the trees, the shady shelter harbours many native bird species, their calls providing a soothing soundtrack for the final uphill section.

Once at the Peak Tower, there is the option to climb further to the summit of Mount Austin or to do the circular route around The Peak. Both of these I recommend if you want to lose the crowds and enjoy great views. After a stop for ice cream or to reload your water bottle, the more adventurous leg of the walk begins. Heading south, many people head down the trail that leads to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir and Pok Fu Lam Road. This route is pleasant but short, so if you have a bit more time to spare, try heading down Peel Rise towards Aberdeen.

Walk along Peak Road for a couple of hundred meters and over the small arch bridge onto Gough Hill Path – Peel Rise is then a turn down the hill to your right. Peel Rise has a similar vibe to heading up the later stages of Old Peak Road. It is densely forested and offers a relaxing stroll, where the frenetic pace of Hong Kong suddenly feels an exceedingly long way away.

Half an hour or so down and you will find yourself at the end of Peel Rise where you can then turn right and arrive in Aberdeen. However, I recommend turning left and taking a detour to explore the Upper and Lower Aberdeen Reservoirs. This area flies under many people’s radars, yet is incredibly scenic and the large dam wall at the upper reservoir alone is worth the visit.

Back down in Aberdeen and a timely return to civilisation. The whole walk should take between two to five hours depending on your pace and choice of route. There are plenty of dining options here for a post-hike meal, or simply shoot back to wherever you want on a bus or taxi. The MTR opening in Wong Chuk Hang later this year will be a game changer for the area.

This is a versatile itinerary that can satisfy a range of abilities, from families in search of a spot of fresh air to athletic individuals seeking an after work workout. One way or another, heading up Victoria Peak is a must do for anyone spending time in our great city. That magical view from the top never gets old.