North Heaven's Gate is one of the less well-known hikes up to Lantau Peak, but by no means deserves less credit - it is easily one of the most adventurous trails on offer in Hong Kong. This rugged route takes you from Shek Mun Kap village to the top of Lantau, covering more than 1100m of elevation (despite the peak standing at only 934m) as you transverse up and down the mountain's rocky cliffside before making a final ascent. Those with vertigo may struggle with this one.
Hike Location: Lantau Island, Tung Chung
Hike Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Hike Length: 5 hours
Hike Distance: approx. 10km
Elevation Gain: approx. 1100m
This trail begins just behind Tung Chung on Lantau Island, in a small village called Shek Mun Kap. A taxi from Tung Chung MTR to Shek Mun Kap public toilet is relatively cheap and is the most direct route to reach the start of the hike. There are also numerous buses that leave from Fu Tung Plaza that head in the right direction.
Once at Shek Mun Kap public toilet, follow Shek Mun Kap Road up to Lo Hon Monastery (same direction as Ngong Ping).
At the end of the road you continue in the same direct along Tai Tong Tsai Country Trail and pass Fa Hong Monastery. Keep following the signs towards Ngong Ping.
After Fa Hong monastery you'll pass a small shrine and then a green wall, this wall marks the beginning of the off-piste section. Here comes the incline...
The ribboned track will become very steep after a while, requiring the use of ropes and tree routes to pull yourself up.
After approx. 30 minutes you'll come across an early panoramic view point overlooking the village, mountains and dense shrubbery that you've just ascended from.
The trail then continues behind this outcrop of rocks and you'll notice there are more ropes. If it's rained during the week then you'll likely find the ropes very helpful.
Keep moving up along the rugged rocky hillside, passing through a small bamboo forest, and eventually Lo Hon Tower will come into view.
The tower of rock can be climbed on the left side, although it is just a viewing point and you'll have to climb back down the same route up. The climb is short but exciting and there are ropes and bolts to aid. The first time I did this hike was during strong winds and high cloud cover which made the ropes absolutely necessary, but if its a calm day you may not need to use them. The views from on top of the tower are insane.
Here's a video of me climbing up the tower in the winds and clouds on my first attempt of this hike...
And one more from the top of the tower...
The trail continues to the right of Lo Hon Tower, where you can find an epic cave that looks out over Tung Chung. This is an ideal lunch spot.
At this point you have numerous options for reaching Lantau Peak, but to reach North Heaven's Gate you need to turn right when looking out from the cave and follow the precarious-looking rock river down into the gulley. The scenery here is unreal, so go slow and take it all in. This is wild Hong Kong at its best.
Shortly you will reach a junction of ribbons, at which you need to take another right turn. This is where it gets steep again and requires some basic climbing skills.
Follow the ribbons up until you reach a narrow rope/chain crossing. Take lots of care here as the rocks drop off steeply. This is potentially the most dangerous part of the hike but it should be manageable for most outdoorsy people. Those with vertigo may struggle here.
Once you reach the other side of the crossing, continue your ascent up the mountain though the tall grass and boulders.
The grass will finally lead you to North Heaven's Gate which is ultimately just the gap between the two peaks of the mountain. If it's not cloudy then expect to be rewarded with lush views of South Lantau and Shek Pik Reservoir. You then need to follow the trail left and make one final ascent to reach Lantau Peak.
From Lantau Peak you can follow the Lantau Trail either down the steps to Ngong Ping ( < 1 hour, but lots of steps) or towards Pak Kung Au bus stop on Tung Chung Road (> 1 hour, but a more gradual decent). Enjoy!
See the route I took on the MAP below and download the KML file to see the route in Google Earth 3D. The KML file is compatible with both desktop and mobile but will only run if you have the Google Earth app downloaded on your device.
Below is a screenshot from the Google Earth KML file.
NB: When I classify a hike as 'Difficult', I'm suggesting that someone with an above average level of fitness should be prepared for something adventurous and potentially challenging.
To date, none of the Ventureon Hong Kong Trails have been too difficult or dangerous to complete. Rocks in Hong Kong's waterfall systems tend to have good grip, but this can change close to the streams and in heavy rain. Hikes with drop-offs and muddy trails require a heightened level of concentration, especially during the rainy months. If you are unsure, then choose a day with good weather. Always proceed with caution. You know your own limits best.