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MacLehose Trail: hike one of the world's 20 dream trails

National Geographic
  • Written by National Geographic
MacLehose Trail (Stages 1 & 2)

Photo Credit: Tugo Cheng

Average hiking time: 5 hours | Distance: About 16 km | Difficulty: Very Difficult

The crown jewel of Hong Kong’s amazing network of hiking trails, the 100-kilometre-long MacLehose Trail — named after Hong Kong’s longest-serving colonial governor — is a true test of stamina and one of the best ways to enjoy the stunning scenery of the New Territories.


The route begins along the east coast, hugging the coastline of the Sai Kung peninsula, before heading up over some of Hong Kong’s highest peaks. The 10-section trail takes in no fewer than eight of the city’s country parks before winding to an end near the reservoirs of Tuen Mun in the west.


Most people choose to experience the MacLehose Trail — named by National Geographic as one of the world’s 20 ‘dream trails’ — by tackling Sections 1 & 2, where you can enjoy magnificent coastal scenery. The trail takes in High Island Reservoir and some of the geological wonders near East Dam. Further along you will hit the beach at Long Ke and then climb up to Sai Wan Shan for some great photo opportunities. The wonderful views continue as you descend to more scenic beaches at Sai Wan and Ham Tin Wan.


Completing these sections of the trail requires a certain level of fitness and determination, but you will be well rewarded!

High Island Reservoir East Dam

Photo Credit: Tugo Cheng

Stop 1: High Island Reservoir East Dam

High Island Reservoir was built in the 1970s across a narrow channel. It‘s worth taking a look: although it’s a man-made structure, it still blends in with the impressive geology of its surroundings. The area near the East Dam is also the gateway to the many treasures of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. East Dam is the best site to view the amazing hexagonal volcanic rock columns formed over 140 million years ago.

There are village stores in Sai Wan and Ham Tin, but their opening hours are irregular.
Hexagonal Rock Columns

Photo Credit: Matthieu Paley

Stop 2: Hexagonal Rock Columns

Walking along the High Island Geo Trail, you’ll pass by the magnificent 100-metre-tall hexagonal rock columns that dominate the area near the East Dam. You shouldn’t miss these geological wonders up close, and the trail offers some of the best vantage points. We also recommend checking out the large sea cave and Po Pin Chau, which is a sea stack further down the coast. As an interesting side note:  ‘Po Pin' means 'riven' or 'split' in Cantonese.

Trail condition
Trail condition

This is a long route without much shelter; with much uphill and downhill trekking over varied terrain.

Long Ke, Sai Wan Shan & Chui Tung Au

Photo Credit: Chestor Choy

Stop 3: Long Ke, Sai Wan Shan & Chui Tung Au

Take the trail to Long Ke, a white sand beach with emerald waters. Next, there is a challenging climb up Sai Wan Shan. At 314 metres, it offers photo-perfect beach vistas. You can exit the trail at Chui Tung Au by heading for Sai Wan Pavilion, where you can take minibus NR29 back to Sai Kung Town.

Avoid climbing rocks and keep away from eroded surfaces.
Sai Wan, Ham Tin & Chek Keng

Photo Credit: Wandering Photography

Stop 4: Sai Wan, Ham Tin & Chek Keng

Along the trail, you’ll soon reach the scenic beaches of Sai Wan and Ham Tin. Further along, you’ll pass through the hidden 200-year-old village of Chek Keng on a serene inlet. Keep going until you reach Pak Tam Au, where you can see Ko Tong Hau and Wong Shek Pier in the distance. This is the end of Section Two of the MacLehose Trail.

Trip idea
Trip idea
For more information on Hong Kong’s geological history, visit the Geopark Visitor Centre in Sai Kung Town.
See more… Biu Tsim Kok
See more… Biu Tsim Kok
The new trail and lookout at Biu Tsim Kok offers a spectacular view over the pristine white-sand beach at Long Ke Wan and over the South China Sea.

Getting to East Dam:

  • From MTR Diamond Hill Station Exit C2, take bus 92 to Sai Kung Town, then taxi to East Dam.

  • From MTR Hang Hau Station Exit B1, take green minibus 101M to Sai Kung Town, then taxi to East Dam.

Leaving from Park Tam Au:

  • Take bus 94 to Sai Kung Town.

Information in this article is subject to change without advance notice. Please contact the relevant product or service providers for enquiries.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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