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5 trails for virgins on Hong Kong Island
Hiking virgins, that is. Easy access, so-so difficulty levels; perfect for first-time ramblers
Hong Kong Island is wonderfully compact and these five hikes, all within a 30-minute taxi ride from Central -- and one accessible by foot from Central -- are short but sweet and the views are stunning.
Hatton Road to Peak via Pinewood Battery and Lugard Road
Hong Kong's perfect morning stroll for dog owners. Walk this and you'll be rewarded with a wonderful al fresco breakfast at the charming stonehouse restaurant, The Peak Lookout, whose outdoor terrace allows for dogs. They even have a menu of doggie treats. You can either take a taxi to where Hatton Road meets Kotewall Road near University of Hong Kong or, if you are starting in Central, take the urban hike up Central Escalator to Conduit Road and walk along Conduit Road until it hits Kotewall Road and follow it until Hatton Road. Follow Hatton Road up. Follow signs to Pinewood Battery. Here you'll find remnants of old forts built as part of the island's coastal defense in 1903. It was designed to protect ships passing through Victoria Harbour. It would make a great site at night for telling scary stories. From Pinewood Battery, it's a steep flight of steps back up to where Lugard Road meets Harlech Road. At the junction, turn left and follow signs to the Peak. Lugard Road is fairly flat, making for a nice leisurely stroll to breakfast or perhaps just an ice cream at Haagen Dazs. From Hatton Road, allowing for some play time at Pinewood Battery, it shouldn't take more than an hour and a half to get to the Peak.
Pokfulam Reservoir Road to Peak following Hong Kong Trail Section 1 or Peak Trail
Horse lovers will enjoy a pre-hike poke around the Hong Kong Jockey Club Public Riding School at the foot of Pokfulam Reservoir Road before heading up past the reservoir towards the Peak. At the Reservoir, you can either choose to follow the Hong Kong Trail on the left up to the peak or the Peak Trail on the right. Both will get you to Peak Galleria and The Peak Lookout. Nature lovers will want to stay on the Hong Kong Trail throughout (as opposed to continuing on Harlech Road), ending on Lugard Road. This is also the Native Tree Walk and is dotted with information plaques along the way introducing the various flora within the dense forest providing a cooling shade on both sides of the road. From the peak, either take the Peak Tram down to Central or walk down via Old Peak and Albany Roads. It should take between an hour and a half to two hours up to the Peak from the riding stables, depending on the trail. From the Peak down to Central is around 45 minutes.
Parkview to Stanley over Violet Hill & The Twins
A zippy, compact and incredibly scenic interval workout spread across three peaks. Without any rest time along the way, this 4.8km hike takes around an hour and a half. Start from the marker below the entrance to Parkview Residences so that you can reward your efforts with refreshments in Stanley, whether it's a sit-down meal at any one of the restaurants that open up onto Stanley Main Street with views of the water, a cool cup of gelato from Gina's Gelato, a good old-fashioned cupcake or an assorment of teeth-rotting American candy from Saffron Bakery.
Violet Hill is the first peak, and a relatively tame one to scale. But then, in the distance, you can just make out the steps that dot the steep climb up the first of the Twin peaks ahead that lead down to Stanley Gap. Not to worry, it's only 1,000 steps up the first peak. Consider this the meat of your workout. Break it up into 200 to 250-step increments for great interval training. After this, the second peak feels like a cool down. Make sure you take time to take in the amazing views along the way of Repulse Bay, Tai Tam Reservoir and eventurally Chung Hom Kok and Stanley.
On the way down the second twin, there's even a lookout point with a panoramic photograph indicating landmarks in view. Once you exit the trail at Stanley Gap, it's a treacherous 10-minute walk or even quicker run down to Stanley. Much of it is on a windy vehicular road with no sidewalk, where double-decker buses and minibuses speed by. Or you could, of course, just hop on the bus that stops at the trail exit if you can do without the extra adrenaline rush after the endorphin high.
Wong Nai Chung Gap to Lover's Rock on Bowen Road
A bit of a loaded date walk that ends at a shrine that blesses worshippers with happy unions. This is a relatively flat and easy walk on paved roads, so no danger of the "I hate you" angry stares might get from your partner half-way up the Twins. From Wong Nai Chung Gap, follow Black's Link all the way down to Wan Chai Gap or follow along section 4 of the Hong Kong Trail further along onto Middle Gap and follow Middle Gap down to Wan Chai Gap, where you then head right onto Bowen Road till you hit the lovely Lover's Rock. All in all, a leisurely paced two-hour stroll with stunning views of sea and old colonial homes.
Mount Collinson to Shek O Road over Dragon's Back
In terms of vistas, Dragon's Back is the highlight of Hong Kong Island. Entering Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail from Mount Collinson makes this hike easier than starting from Shek O Road and ending in Big Wave Bay. Up the first peak -- Wan Cham Shan -- you will see Dragon's Back, the ridgetop path that leads to Shek O peak. There isn't much shade along Dragon's Back, so you get a panoramic view of Mount Collinson, Stanley and Shek O. Once on Shek O Road, take a taxi or bus to Shek O Village for a light bite at Black Sheep (on weekends it's open from 1.30pm till late) or check out the surfers at Big Wave Bay. A great two-hour hike into sunset.
For maps and detailed descriptions of hiking trails with public transport access information, visit the Country and Marine Parks Authority's bi-lingual Nature Touch website: www.hkwalkers.net.
A couple of books worth checking out are Pete Spurrier's "The Serious Hiker's Guide to Hong Kong" published by FormAsia Books and David Pickerell's "Historical Hong Kong Hikes" published by Asia City Publishing.