The MacLehose Trail – Hiking in Hong Kong

The MacLehose Trail – Hiking in Hong Kong

We were in Hong Kong & Macau during November – December 2011 as part of my IIMA PGPX exchange program with the China University of Hong Kong. While Googling around for interesting places to visit in and around Hong Kong, I came across the MacLehose Trail. Though the complete trail was out of question due to paucity of time (The entire trail is around 100kms long), we planned to cover at least one or two sections of the trail and we went for this Trek / Walk on Sunday, the 28th of November 2011.

Wikipedia says "The MacLehose Trail opened on 26 October 1979, is a hiking trail that crosses much of the Hong Kong New Territories, starting from Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung, in the east to Tuen Mun in the west in the territory of Hong Kong. The whole trail is 100 kilometers long, marked by distance posts at 500m intervals along the path. It is named after Crawford Murray MacLehose, the longest serving governor of Hong Kong, who established the Country Parks and was himself an enthusiastic hiker. The trail passes through a variety of natural and beautiful scenery.

The New Territories, through which the MacLehose Trail runs, covers the majority of the SAR’s land area. Here is Hong Kong’s most varied – and finest – countryside. The east coast, where the Trail begins, is deeply indented and wild. The central mountains, which the MacLehose Trail crosses, include many of Hong Kong’s highest peaks. And the western part, where the Trail winds to its end, has impressive valley reservoirs."

We would start at the Sai Kung East Country park and walk till the High Island Reservoir East Dam. A distance of around 10 kilometers.

How to get there?

Take bus no. 94 at Sai Kung Market or no. 96R at Diamond Hill MTR station (operates on weekends and public holidays only). Get off after Pak Tam Chung and walk along Tai Mong Tsai Road to the junction ahead. Turn into Man Yee Road of Sai Kung on the right and walk on for about 9 km to the High Island Reservoir East Dam.

We had picked up some brochures at the Airport on arrival, which have us directions on the buses to catch to reach the starting point of one of the sections of the trail. Started off at a leisurely pace by around 11.00am and took the bus out of town…


The Cityscape was soon replaced by the countryside as we moved out of Hong Kong…


Somewhere along the way, came across a bunch of para gliders…


Passed through a few villages, changed buses and continued on…


After some initial language problems, we did manage to find a friendly policeman who guided us to the MacLehose trail starting point…


This section of the trail is along the edge of a couple of lakes, reservoirs and some very beautiful countryside…


The trail is marked and sign-posted at regular intervals…


A coastguard helicopter engaged in some exercises in one of the reservoirs…



In the distance we could see some water skiers in the back-waters of the valley reservoirs (or probably back-waters of the sea)…


@ 18x optical zoom !


The scenic mountains…






We could also see a few fishing villages on the coastline below…





Surprisingly, we came across very few birds along this trail, this was the only one I could spot !



Rare polygonal volcanic rock columns near the High Island reservoir…





The web site says :

"High Island Reservoir is one of Hong Kong’s most popular geological sites, and home to our most spectacular rock wonder. Here, volcanic rock composes neat arrays of giant polygonal joint columns along the shore. Amongst these the hexagonal rock columns are most typical examples. Catching your eyes with striking angular facets, these giants are rare natural prodigies and invaluable geo-tourism resources that draw great interest.

Around High Island Reservoir, especially the East Dam, you can observe the most typical hexagonal columnar joints from different angles. There is also a chance to examine the rock composition and structure at close range.

Looking down from the East Dam rock cliff, you have a clear view of buckles in the hexagonal columnar joints. Judging by the s-shape section, we know the rock columns buckled under gravity before it could cool down completely and solidify, and thus the scene we see today. With such evidence, it is easy to trace the formation of volcanic extrusive rock.

At the observation point for the hexagonal columnar joints, you can also find outcropped basic lamprophyre veins. Lamprophyre is a dark dyke comprising mainly biotite, amphibolite, augite and light minerals like plagioclase and orthoclase. It is usually in vein attitude and wide distribution.

Po Pin Chau just off the East Dam is another interesting place to see extraordinary formations. This is where you find giant stacks that emerged when a complete hill was slashed into two by natural forces. It is undoubtedly a fine example amongst similar geo attractions. Geology enthusiasts will certainly cherish the opportunity to see towering rock stacks and fascinating hexagonal joints. Maritime explorers will find Po Pin Chau intriguing and unforgettable.

After admiring nature’s exquisite works, don’t forget to see High Island Reservoir, the impressive man-made wonder. This water storage facility is the biggest in Hong Kong. It is also a water project of key importance. The dramatic East Dam and West Dam are great attractions in their own right. The seafront is protected by concrete dolosse units. Functional as it is visually appealing, this cofferdam attracts many visitors."




A sea-stack…


"The High Island Reservoir is a water storage facility built in the 1970’s by the Hong Kong Government. The project exposed various rock sections near the East Dam, which provides an ideal location for observing Hong Kong’s unique hexagonal volcanic columns at close range. Here one can also appreciate geological features such as faults, folds, twisted columns and dyke intrusions."

Concrete structures piled up to prevent the sea waves from damaging the dam structure….


The Sea Cave near the reservoir…

It was almost 6.45pm by the time we were ready to head-back home. That’s when we discovered that finding transportation back from the dam to the nearest bus-stop was not such an easy proposition. Some of the other trekkers who had come to the dam site had already arranged for cabs to pick them up from this location. The taxi services who could send cabs to this area were all fully booked and we contemplated having to walk back through the trail in the dark (We were carrying a couple of torches though).

Luckily we came across a French couple who had called in for a cab and agreed to share the fare. Reached the nearest village and caught the bus back to Hong Kong.


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