Is it possible to say you are a Hongkonger if you’ve never hiked the Dragon’s Back at least once? One of the city’s most popular hikes, this easy-to-moderate trail offers breath-taking views of Shek O, Tai Tam, the outer islands and more, and is easily accessible by public transport.

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Roxanne Dowell/HKFP.

Because it’s so well-loved, hiking during the week is advisable since at the weekends it gets very crowded. But even in mid-week you will rarely be alone on this well-trodden trail.

How to get to Dragon’s Back

The best and easiest way is by MTR to Shau Kei Wan station. Take exit A2 (some say exit A3 is best but taking that exit will confuse you if you’ve never been to Shau Kei Wan) and just outside the A2 exit to your left you’ll find the minibus waiting to take hikers and sunbathers to Dragon’s Back and Shek O. (Look for the minibus with a Dragon’s Back and Shek O sign on the back of it.)

Be sure to have cash on you (HK$8 per person, exact change is preferred) because this minibus does not accept Octopus payments. Pay as you alight but make sure to tell the driver before you board that you’ll be getting off at Dragon’s Back or they will fly past the stop en route to Shek O.

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Roxanne Dowell/HKFP.

Dragon’s Back is part of Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail, and there are three ways to complete it. The first trail is a shorter route, which is a loop (about 5.2 kilometres, which will take around 1.5 hours to complete). The second is similar in length and time to the loop, but it is more of an “S” shape leading back to Shek O Road. The third and longest route leads to Big Wave Bay (about 8.5 kilometres and 2.5 to 3 hours).

The loop and short trail

Once off the bus you’ll see clean and well-maintained bathrooms and steps on the left leading to Dragon’s Back. The trail is clearly signposted, so only those who can’t read or don’t pay attention will get lost. To start, walk up the uneven steps through a beautiful bamboo forest and craggy rocks.

You’ll reach a sitting area at the top – again, signposts will direct you towards Dragon’s Back. Turn right toward the path and eventually you’ll see glorious views of Shek O. There will be several “peaks” along the way, each with views more spectacular than the previous one. It gets quite windy and cool up at the top, and, because the path is not shaded, the fresh air can be a welcome relief. But on a cool day, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket.

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Mark Lehmkuhler, via Flickr CC2.0.

Continue along the route, stopping at each peak to soak in the seascapes, until you reach the top of Dragon’s Back, which will offer photo-worthy panoramic views of Tai Tam west and the Shek O peninsula, and, on a clear day, Lamma Island in the distance and Chai Wan’s cityscape. Once you’re done marvelling at Hong Kong’s beauty, continue along the path and make your way down to another junction.

Here, you have a choice. You can do the “loop” route by turning left toward To Tei Wan. Turn left again at the junction, which will bring you to the trail where you first started. Go right to get to the To Tei Wan bus stop (where you’ll catch bus number 9 to Shau Kei Wan terminal).

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Roxanne Dowell/HKFP.

Or take the route we prefer. Turn right at the junction towards Tai Tam Gap and Shek O Road. The trail here becomes flat, and you’ll walk through a mostly shaded rambling, rocky trail pockmarked by tree roots and stones. If you’re lucky you may see a waterfall or two, depending on how much rain Hong Kong has had recently.

Follow the path until you reach a paved road. This road will lead you down to another junction, where you can either turn right towards Big Wave Bay (2.5 kilometres) or turn left toward Tai Tam Gap and Shek O Road (1/4 kilometre).

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

If you turn left towards Shek O Road, a short distance ahead you will see a set of stairs on the left (again, clearly marked with a signpost that points in the direction of Shek O Road). Take those steps down and at the bottom cross the road and walk to the right to the Shau Kei Wan bus stop. Catch city bus number 9 (this one allows you to use your Octopus) which ends at the Shau Kei Wan bus terminal where you started.

Dragon’s Back. Photo: Roxanne Dowell/HKFP.

Hiking Dragon’s Back to Big Wave Bay

Follow the same instructions heading to Tai Tam Gap and Shek O Road, but at the very last junction, rather than turn left towards Shek O Road, turn right towards Big Wave Bay. This section is a long walk along a mostly flat and shaded path. There will be another junction – turn right towards Big Wave Bay.

Keep an eye out for stunning views of the eastern island. Soon there will be a long set of steps down to the bay – take those to the bottom (pause for more amazing views) and you’ll end at the beach. Cold beverages and snacks await you at various restaurants and cafes.

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Roxanne Dowell

Roxanne Dowell earned a master’s degree in print journalism from Boston University and has been a writer, editor and content creator for more than 20 years. She moved to Hong Kong in 2016 and has been published in various local and international publications and websites.