Updated: May 1
Upper Tai Yuen Stream consists of a succession of impressive waterfalls and begins at the southern base of Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. This is another favourite of mine and is up there with HK's hardest hikes. I've put together this blog so that you can experience one of HK's most adventurous river systems and tick off its highest peak all within one day.
Hike Location: New Territories, Tai Mo Shan Area
Hike Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Hike Length: 7-8 Hours
Hike Incline: approx. 950m
Full Disclosure: Towards the end of the stream section there is a 20m rope climb (photo 33, below). The climb requires a descent amount of upper body strength, but not necessarily prior climbing experiences. There may also be an alternative route up without use of the rope, although I did not search for one so I can't guarantee this.
This hike begins near the Yuen Yuen Institute in the Tsuen Wan District, New Territories. The nearest MTR station is Tsuen Wan. From there, ask a taxi driver to take you to the Institute, on Lo Wai Road. Once dropped off outside, walk down the road for less than a minute until you see the Buddhist temple on your left, then walk North alongside the temple. In the channel to your right will be the last trickle of Tai Yuen Stream, but don't worry, the water level at this point does not in any way reflect what lies ahead.
Avoid crossing the first bridge, but continue along the road until you come to a second bridge (photo 5). Cross this one and begin to make your way through the rock pit to your left until you reach the first small pool (photo 7).
Here you need to follow the trodden path to the right and then continue along the river bed for another 30 minutes or so, passing over the waterfall in photo 8, until you reach the catch-water and a large dam. This is where the trail gets interesting.
Climb up the steep steps and head to the left side of the dam. Now edge your way along the slanted rock face until you're in the river bed again. Once in the river bed, FOLLOW THE STREAM ON THE RIGHT.
From here on you simply stay with the stream. Some of the mini waterfalls in this part of the stream system may challenge you, but are all climbable. Prepare to get wet and take care.
Before long, the stream gets wider and you'll be surrounded by fresh-water collection pipes. Continue left when you reach the mini manmade reservoir (photo 18).
The next landmark is a bridge where the Lung Mun County-Trail crosses the stream. I'd say the bridge is about 1/3rd of the way up the stream system, but maybe only 1/4 of the hike if you're aiming for the peak of Tai Mo Shan. Depending on your river scrambling abilities, it may take up to 2 hours to reach this bridge from the start of the trail.
When you're ready for the next section, get back in the stream and carry on as before. If you haven't already committed to getting wet, now is probably the time. Twenty minutes or so and the thick tree canopy will open up to succession of larger falls.
When you reach the largest and steepest fall (photo 27) there is a path that takes you through the bamboo, up the right-hand side of the fall. The waterfall itself is probably too risky to climb, especially after rain.
After the largest of the waterfalls there are still many other rock formations and smaller falls to navigate, including a 20m rope climb towards the end of the stream system (photo 33). The rope climb is probably the most challenging part of this trail and requires a decent amount of upper body strength, but should still be manageable for the average hiker. The rope takes you around the steep waterfall I'm climbing in photo 32.
The double waterfall in photo 36 is one of the final falls you come across before another country trail intersects the stream system. Once you reach that trail take a left (photo 37), and follow the path for 10 more minutes.
Look for orange ribbons on your right, marking the start of a lightly trodden trail to the top of Tai Mo Shan. If unsure where to turn off, you can look at the exact route I took by downloading the Google Earth KML file, or you can refer to the AllTrails app which has the path marked on the map.
Eventually you'll reach a road that leads to the top of Tai Mo Shan (it should take approx. 1 hour to reach this road).
You now have a few options:
1) follow the road to the top
2) follow the route we took to the top, which was more off-piste and through the bush
3) skip the peak and take the road back down to Route Twisk, where you can grab a taxi or bus back to Tsuen Wan MTR.
We walked off-piste to the top and then took the road back down. This isn't necessary but if you're a bit of a perfectionist and want to push on to the tallest point in Hong Kong after an adventurous stream-system hike, then it's an extra 30 minutes of hiking. Enjoy the trail!
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.