Who knew that a city which is known for its urban density, dynamic financial and technological prowess, and extravagant nightlife is also home to one of the best walking trails in Asia and on earth? The Dragon's Back Trail on Hong Kong Island is actually just one section of the longer 50 kilometer Hong Kong Trail (part 8) but is certainly one of if not the most popular section, due in part to its manageable 8.5 kilometer length making it accessible for a larger audience.
Without a doubt, the main reason for embarking on the Dragon's Back Trail is to enjoy the clash of urban and natural landscapes. Its name comes from the fact that it runs along the backbone of some of Hong Kong’s most well situated mountains, weaving hikers along what seems to be the back of a dragon. This means that along the entirety of the trail, you will see breathtaking views of the city, both its city side and its magnificent green side reminding that indeed Hong Kong is a Pacific island.
At the end of the trail is Shek O village and beach, a fine way to reward yourself after a long day of walking whether under the sun or clouds depending on the season. The village is a charming escape from the heart of the city and the seafood restaurants are always popular with the locals. Finally, you will surely want to take a dip in the ocean at the beach before taking a bus back to Hong Kong city.
Although the Dragon's Back Trail is known as an urban hike, there is simply nothing urban about it. This is where you come to get away from it all and take in the southern mountains of Hong Kong in all their glory. The nature is unspoiled and especially on a clear day, there are few hikes in the world that compare so the views found here which include Shek O Peak and village, Tai Long Wan, Big Wave Bay, Stanley, Tai Tam, the Red Hill peninsula, and the sparkling blue South China Sea. On the way you will pass groves of bamboo and woodland, while the tune in the background is sung by chirping birds. Later you will see hillsides with azaleas and rose myrtle among other delightful flora.
The walk is not for beginners or those with physical issues, but it is a rather light mountain walk by most regards. Even a non-hiker can easily enjoy the trail.
For the adventurous, there are also options at Dragon's Back to paraglide. There are various operators at each ends of the trail.
6 hours is the recommended amount of time to allot for this day hike. This includes walking at a moderate pace and stops for photos and breaks.
A kite can be a fun item to bring along since the winds at the top of the mountain ridge make it an ideal site to fly.
The difficulty of the trek can also depend on the weather. In the hot and humid Hong Kong summers, be sure to bring plenty of water to replenish yourself. As well, the sun can be overbearingly hot and scorching, so sun protection in the form of preventative clothing and lotions are vital. In fact, even on cloudy days the UV levels can be very high so sunscreen is always recommended as well as a hat.
In the winter (November to March), a light jacket or sweater should be brought since it is chillier than usual. In the wet season (April to October), rain gear is very important; some parts of the trail can get very muddy and slippery so be wary during this time.
Of course, since the Dragon's Back Trail is a place for walking and hiking, a good pair of comfortable and durable shoes will be indispensable. Generally hiking boots are not needed, simply a solid pair of sneakers. Casual shoes or open toe sandals, for example, are not ideal options since there are some rocky areas that may be dangerous for exposed feet.