It ain’t the biggest, but it’s the best
Nothing beats Lion Rock
Let’s cut to the chase, when we talk about Hong Kong hill views, nothing beats Lion Rock. There are those that are taller. There are those that are closer to the “action”. But for spectacular 360° views, smack in the centre of everything, Lion Rock is the best of the lot.
Located in the middle of the range of hills that separate Kowloon from the New Territories, seen from the right angle, Lion Rock really does look like a lion, seated sphinx-like watching over Kowloon. Anywhere to the east of the rock itself, particularly around Wong Tai Sin, the shape of its profile can be seen, paws outstretched, head held high, its back sloping down the other side.
At 495 metres in height, it is far from the tallest of the Hong Kong hills (it ranks a lowly 52nd on the list), but its position is perfect. From the summit, the Kowloon peninsula stretches out beneath, beyond which, almost the entire length of Hong Kong island can be seen, from Sai Wan in the west, to Tai Koo Shing in the east. On the clearest of days, it is even possible to see the islands to the south of Hong Kong between the hills, as well as the Tsing Yi bridge and Lantau, out beyond the sea.
A view in every direction
Looking south, you get a sense of Hong Kong’s natural setting in a way you just don’t get from on the ground. All the way from Kowloon Peak, round to Beacon Hill in the east, it’s as if the whole of the Kowloon urban area is contained within a vast bowl in which the daily hum of the city takes place. There are no trees or surrounding hills to spoil the scene, just you and the view, abstracted from the chaos below.
Turning to face north, the mountains and reservoirs of the New Territories can be seen. Tai Mo Shan, Kam Sham and Ma On Shan are visible. You can see Sha Tin and Tai Wai. You can almost see Sai Kung. Nowhere in Hong Kong do you get such a large scale view of the territory. You can spot the districts and name the roads, you can pick out the buildings and skyscrapers. In short, you can see almost everything.
But it’s not only the views that make Lion Rock great. Located in Lion Rock Country Park at the crossroads of numerous trails, Lion Rock is accessible from almost every direction and can be made the focus of many a hike in the area. Stage 5 of the Maclehose Trail skirts around the peak before continuing up and over Beacon Hill, while Stage 5 of the Wilson Trail offers access to the summit via a short but strenuous diversion.
It is also only a short distance from another of Hong Kong’s famous geological features, Mong Fu Shek (望夫石), or Amah Rock. And while the extra hike to Lion Rock is certainly more challenging than that to the first, it is possible to walk from one to the other without too much trouble.
How to get to Lion Rock
Located between northern Kowloon and the southern New Territories, Lion Rock is easily accessible by public transport. From Tai Wai, Wong Tai Sin, or even Kowloon Tong, it is only a short walk or bus ride to the start of any of the trails up to the top. The main access routes to Lion Rock are as follows:
If I’m heading up for the sunset, my usual route to the top is via the path that leads from beside Lion Rock Park off Chuk Yuen Road. It can be pretty testing on a hot day, but there is a pavilion halfway up (after about half an hour of climbing) where you can have a rest. Heading left at the pavilion will send you up to Beacon Hill on Maclehose Trail Stage 5. For Lion Rock, take the largest path heading off to the right.
The best way to get there is to take green mini Bus 72 Bus 73 from the Festival Walk bus terminus (Kowloon Tong station exit C1). Bus 72 can also be taken from Plaza Hollywood outside Diamond Hill station on Fung Tak Road.
There is also a path that leads from Sha Tin Pass Road next to Fat Jong Temple. This is probably the quickest route up, but it certainly isn’t easy on the legs. Get there via mini bus 19, 19M or 72 from Plaza Hollywood (Diamond Hill exit C2). Or, take the same mini bus 73 from Route 1 and stay on until Fat Jong Temple.
Bus 116 is a good one to take if you’re coming from Hong Kong Island and don’t want to take the MTR. It goes all the way to Hammer Hill Road, where you can get off and jump on 19 or 19M.
Route 3 is more of a hike than a direct route to Lion Rock. But if you are coming from Tai Wai, there is a trail that starts on Lion Rock Tunnel Road at the entrance to Lion Rock Country Park. From Hong Kong Island, take bus 170 or 182 and get off after the tunnel toll plaza. See my Amah Rock post for more details.
Lion Rock Hikes
There are many hikes that could be done in and around Lion Rock Country Park, but seeing as though a trip to Lion Rock is best done around sunset, here are two shortish hikes that leave Lion Rock itself as the highlight of your visit.
Hike 1: Tai Wai to Wong Tai Sin (via Amah Rock and Lion Rock)
This hike is very much as Route 3 above. Beginning at Lion Rock Tunnel Road, the trail passes several barbeque sites before crossing Stage 5 of the Wilson Trail and continuing up to Amah Rock (30 mins). Following the trail round, Lion Rock can be reached in another 30 minutes or so by following the signposts.
There are several routes down depending how you are doing for time. The best way, especially if it is dark, would be to take Route 1 mentioned above, that is, walk back in the direction of Beacon Hill until you reach the pavilion, then follow the path down to Chuk Yuen Road.
If you still have time and want to extend your hike, you can rejoin Stage 5 of the Maclehose Trail before carrying on in the other direction towards Kowloon Peak. You can then take several routes down to Sha Tin Pass Road from where you can catch a bus back to civilization.
Hike 2: Sha Tin Pass Road to Lion Rock
You can start this hike at one of several places along Sha Tin Pass Road. The shortest route is to start at the path beside Fat Jong Temple as in Route 2 above. For a longer hike, continue up Sha Tin Pass Road to the Lion Pavilion and the starting point of Stage 5 of both the Wilson and Maclehose Trails. You can then follow the Maclehose Trail Stage 5 up to Lion Rock.
Coming down, follow the path down to Chuk Yuen Road as in Hike 1. Or, extend the hike another 90 minutes or so by going up to Beacon Hill, then on to Kowloon Reservoir, and taking the bus back from there. The views aren’t as spectacular as at Lion Rock, and it’s a long old walk down from Beacon Hill, but if it’s the hike rather than the views you’re after, this is a good one. You can take bus 81 back to Nathan Road.