Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Tung Ma To is a remote jungle stream with cold clear pools, thick subtropical overgrowth and an impressive 40 metre cascade. After passing through multiple waterfalls you find yourself scaling up the northern face of Ma On Shan, along a steep and narrow rocky route that makes your heart race. This hike is BEST EXPERIENCED after numerous days of heavy rain. Bring a dry bag and commit fully, you won't be disappointed. Certainly not for those with vertigo.
Hike Location: New Territories, Ma On Shan
Hike Difficulty: Difficult (8/10) - read 'Blog Difficulty Ratings Explained' on home page
Hike Length: 6 hours
Hike Distance: ~14km
Elevation Gain: ~900m
Tip: Bring torches for hiking down Ma On Shan after the stream.
Disclaimer: Once you reach the top of Ma On Shan you then need to make your way back down to civilisation. This is roughly an extra 5km in all directions and can be tiring after a full day in the stream, however, it is totally worth the adventure. Just make sure you bring plenty of snacks and water.
This hike begins on the Northern side of Ma On Shan in a small village called Tai Tung Wo Liu. The most direct route to reach the village is via MTR to Wu Kai Sha and then a taxi. The photos below are from the short road that connects the village to the main road (Sai Sha Road).
Once you pass the tall coniferous trees, take the right turn and head towards the apartment block furthest on the right.
Follow the track leading behind the property and take the small concrete steps that head down into the greenery.
As soon as you cross the man-made dam structure, there is an overgrown path to the left which takes you to a narrow road.
Walk to the end of the road and you'll find the first of many ribbons. This is where the trail really begins...
It can be quite tricky to navigate this bit of forest as there are so many different paths heading in all directions. We found that the WHITE RIBBONS led us into the main stream. There is another small overgrown tributary nearby that will lead you nowhere. I advise you take your time finding the right way at this early stage.
Once you hear running water and can see another small dam in front of you, take a right through the viny trees and you'll see the riverbed beginning to open up.
If the water level is up to your knees at this point (photo of me, below) then the pools and falls to come will be a good size. If deeper, then prepare for something special.
Water collections pipes will lead you to this remote jungle pool.
Stay in the stream until you arrive at the first junction (photo below). You want to follow the stream to the left, however, this is done by first climbing up and in-between where the two streams meet, and then turning left.
You'll know you've gone the right way once you start to see an opening in the trees accompanied by the roar of a 40m cascade.
This is EASILY one of the most impressive waterfalls in Hong Kong. It reminds me of the types of waterfalls you get throughout the tropical Hawaiian Islands.
When you're ready, follow the ribbons to the left of the pool. The route takes you on a climb with ropes, bringing you to the very top of the waterfall. Be extremely cautious once you reach the top, it could be quite easy to slip here.
The top of the waterfall makes for a great lunch spot. It's a pretty surreal feeling sitting at the top of something so powerful. When ready, continue up the stream and you'll soon see the next series of pools and falls.
Super clean and clear water in these pools...
Continue to follow the stream and you'll come to the next important junction (photo below). Take the left turn (look for the green spray-painted rock). I plan to explore the right stream on another occasion but I'm sure both lead to the top of Ma On Shan.
More tropical-looking waterfalls. There is a route to bypass this one on the right, or you can attempt to traverse up it.
When you reach the waterfall in the photo below (there are actually two waterfalls here with a pool separating them, but it's hard to make out from the photo), you need to climb up the rocks on the left side. You will then find yourself scaling up a steep, slanted hillside. Use tree roots as hand holds. There are plenty of ribbons around, all directing you upwards. Just be careful of loose rocks for anyone climbing behind you. The path is more obvious at the top when it begins to flatten out slightly.
At this point the riverbed will likely be quite dry, unless you're really lucky. Continue to follow it up, taking a right when the stream divides again. You'll eventually reach a large rock wall. This is where the stream finishes and the climbing begins.
Walk left along the base of the rock wall (wall on your right) and you will find ribbons marking the start of the climb (photos below).
This is where it gets real steep.
If you find your way to this view point then you're on the right path.
The river system continues to your left whilst you traverse up the steep and narrow path. There are some ropes and ribbons in the stream, but personally I think it is too steep, slippery and dangerous to climb.
Finally you will come across a bamboo archway, unless it has been destroyed by a storm and washed away (it was there June 2021). Go through it. This marks the end of the steep climb.
Ribbons lead you off to the left. You'll now be walking along a path that is parallel to the ridge line of Ma On Shan but lower down. After the small rope crossing in the photo below, walk for a further 10 minutes and you'll reach one last junction.
At the junction you should be able to look out through a hole in the trees and see part of Sai Kung. Opposite this lookout is the path that leads you directly up to the top of Ma On Shan.
Follow it up through the clouds and long grass for about 30 minutes until you reach the ridgeline route. Turn left and walk for another 5 minutes and you'll finally reach the trig point marking the highest point on Ma On Shan!
You now have a few options for getting back down to civilisation. As I mentioned at the start of the blog, you will find yourself in an inconvenient position, with all nearest public transport options being roughly 5km away from you. Here are my suggested routes for getting down:
1) Head towards Ma On Shan Tsuen Road via The Hunch Backs hiking trail (+ 4km). This is the route we took and can be followed on the map below, click here to learn how to download the map.
2) Head towards Ma On Shan Tsuen Road via the Minery Inner Ridge (+ 3km), but slightly more expensive taxi.
3) Head towards Sai Kung following my blog: Ma On Shan to Sai Kung Ridge Trail (+ 5km). This is a super scenic route if you have the energy and daylight.
Hope you enjoy this big ol' day of waterfalls, climbing, peaks and ridgelines!
See the route I took on the MAP below (green dot is the starting point) and download the KML file to see the route in Google Earth 3D. Watch my KML tutorials for downloading the map on both laptop and mobile.
Below is a screenshot from the Google Earth KML file.