Updated: Jan 7
This hike will be the most adventurous version of The Peak you've ever done. Everyone who knows Hong Kong is familiar with Victoria Peak and has probably heard of the 500+ steps from the pavilion to High West. The popularity of this trail amongst families and dog walkers made me search for a much more adventurous route up, and being based in Pok Fu Lam, I've had plenty of opportunities to tackle High West from all angles. For much of this one, you will not believe that Asia's most iconic city skyline is just 2km away.
So if you're looking for adventure but fancy sunset on High West overlooking Hong Kong's famous Victoria Harbour, then I'd highly recommend this blog. Starting from Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, this little-known route takes you directly to the bottom of High West's famed steps, via a series of mini waterfalls. And then, instead of retreating from High West for a civilised late-sunset drink on the Peak (always an option), the blog takes you down the west-side of the mountain. If there has been heavy rain then the trail is particularly fun (staying dry will be unavoidable and you'll likely finish with mud up to the knees). If you're hiking in the dry season then the trail is a lot easier (but still fun).
Hike Location: Hong Kong Island, Pok Fu Lam Reservoir
Hike Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Hike Length: 3 Hours
High Distance: approx. 5km
Hike Incline: approx. 500m
TIPS: Requires some scrambling and depending on the amount of rainfall you might get wet so I advise taking a dry bag.
This is what the start of the trail looks like (photo 1). You need to head to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road and begin by walking up the small hill past the horse-riding stables, until the reservoir is on your right and you see the trail head. Follow the paved road for 5 minutes until you reach a passing point in the road (photo 3). Turn off left here, this is where the adventure loop begins.
First you will be following a series of mini waterfalls up the stream system until you reach a dirt track. This will take roughly 30 minutes, depending on your scrambling abilities and the water flow. This is the trickiest part of the hike and you'll likely be tested by the tallest waterfall (photos 5+6).
After scaling it, either climbing directly up-and-over, or more safely, up the left side where there are branches to hold on to, you'll find a slanted rock face and more mini waterfalls. The vegetation is quite wild and overgrown here, but as long as you follow the stream upwards, you can't get lost.
Continue along the river bed until you reach the dirt path. Once the path is in front of you, follow it right (East) until you reach a signpost on your left (photo 10). It should take 5 minutes from where you leave the stream until you see the signpost.
Now you'll be going off-piste again along a slightly trodden trail with the odd ribbon here and there. You are likely to see wild-boar footprints in the mud on this path, so keep an eye out and you may want to carry a stick. Follow the narrow trail all the way up until you reach an outcrop of rock with a spectacular view over the tree canopy. Then continue through the bush until you reach the bottom of the steps to High West. This should take 1 hour, max.
Spend some time at the top of High West taking in the views. I usually pack some cold beers for this bit.
When you can pull yourself away from the views, you need to keep walking in the same direction as you arrived, past the trig point and information board, and head to the most western point of High West. Here you will begin your descent via the only visible route. I'd start descending whilst the sun is still setting since this part of the trail continues to offer great sunset views across the water and needs a torch after dark.
Continue descending steeply along the narrow and mostly overgrown trail, until you reach a pavilion. Take the paved steps on the left and you will eventually come to Hatton Road. Go right along Hatton Road for 5-10 minutes until you reach the start of the final off-piste section on your left: a path that disappears into the trees. It's hard to spot so I've tied two orange ribbons to the tree where you need to turn off (photo 28). Refer to my map.
Follow the path straight down, if you see ropes and little white number tags attached to trees (photo 29) then you're on the right path. Eventually you'll reach a fence straight out of Jurassic Park. Follow the fence to the left (fence is on your right) until you corner it and find yourself on paved steps heading down (photo 33).
Instructions to reach the main road: Hop the small maintenance gate (photo 34). Follow the concrete walkway left for 10 minutes. Take a right when you reach the dam (photo 36). Cross the wooden plank. Down the first set off maintenance steps. Go right for 10 meters. Then take the next set of steep maintenance steps down to Pok Fu Lam Road. You'll appear out of nowhere and if anyone is walking by they'll give you a very intrigued look.
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.