Dragon's Back - one of Hong Kong's most famous hikes - is a perfect introduction to the Hong Kong hiking scene. It's a rite of passage for anyone living in Hong Kong. But if you're visiting and can find a way to work it into your itinerary, you won't regret it! One of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong, it's relatively easy and offers incredible views of the South side of Hong Kong Island. Plus, if you choose to hike to Big Wave Bay, you can relax on the beach and cool off in the sea! In this post, I'll share all you need to know to hike Dragon's Back to Big Wave Bay for a day of nature-filled fun!
Preparing to Hike Dragon's Back
The Dragon's Back hike is a meandering ridge trail located in Shek O Country Park in southeastern Hong Kong Island. It's part of the Hong Kong Trail (section 8). Since you can take a bus to the starting point, you miss most of the elevation gain that gets you up to the ridge. This makes the hike much easier than a lot of the peak hikes in Hong Kong.
Pro Tip: Although the hike is easy, most of it is a dirt trail. It's a good idea to wear hiking boots or sneakers with good grip - especially if it's been raining. When damp, the rocks on the trail become slippery.
Who Should Hike It?
Because the hike is relatively easy, most people should be able to hike Dragon's Back without a problem. The trail does have a few hills though as it undulates across the ridge (which resembles a dragon's back, as the name would suggest!). Finishing at Big Wave Bay, you'll end the hike with a steep downhill section with a lot of stairs.
Looking for a more challenging hike? Check out my post on hiking Mui Wo to Pui O Beach!
When to Hike It?
This trail is great throughout the year. But whenever you go, it's best to pick a warm, sunny day with clear (non-polluted) skies. Since the views are one of the reasons to go - you don't want them obstructed by smog! Many months in Hong Kong (~May-Oct) can be brutally hot and humid. Since this hike doesn't have steep inclines, it can be a good hike in these months if you can handle the heat. Plus, you end at a beach so you can cool off!
Since Dragon's Back is very popular, it's best to get as early of a start as you can manage. By mid-day, the queue for the bus to the trailhead is LONG. The first time we did this hike, we waited for 3 or more buses to fill up and depart before we got on one! You may have noticed from other posts that I'm not typically an early riser....
Recently we hiked it with a group and started around 10am on a cloudy day. The line for the bus was much shorter and we got on the first one.
Items for Your Hike
You probably have your own list of things to bring when you go hiking, but here are a few of my recommendations for this particular hike.
Getting to Dragon's Back Trailhead
The easiest (and cheapest) way to get to the Dragon's Back trailhead is to take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station (exit A3). Walk straight until you see signs for Shek O or bus number 9. If you're going on a weekend, expect to wait in line for the bus.
The bus ride to the trailhead is ~20 minutes. Get off at the To Tei Wan stop. Your bus should announce the stop or show it on the front monitor. I can usually tell it's my stop when everyone else on the bus gets off!
You could take a taxi to the trailhead instead, but that would be much more expensive.
New to Hong Kong? Check out this Guide to Using Public Transportation in Hong Kong!
Dragon's Back Hike
This is a map of the route that we've taken to hike this trail. Later in the post, I'll mention alternate (shorter) routes, but they're not shown with the dotted blue line. You can see those trails on Google maps though. Adjust your own walking directions to reflect the way you want to go if you choose a shorter route than this one.
Starting the Hike
At the To Tei Wan bus stop, you'll see the trailhead for the Dragon's Back hike. Answer nature's call at the surprisingly nice, solar-powered toilets. (The one I used had toilet paper, soap, & running water - all the amenities!). Then, start your hike up the hill.
For the first ~700 m (.4 mi) of the hike, you'll climb gradually uphill until you reach the Dragon's Back ridge trail.
The total climb for this part is ~80 m (262 ft). We were hiking amidst many large groups with for this first part. As you climb, people tend to spread out as they (or you) stop at viewpoints.
Hiking the Ridge
On the Dragon's Back trail, you'll meander your way across the ridge. Since the trail undulates with the ridge, you'll have a mix of uphill and downhill sections along the trail.
When you first reach the trail on the ridge, you'll see Shek O Beach and Village in front of you.
A couple sights that surprised me the first time I hiked this trail - 1) a huge golf course - part of the Shek O Country Club; 2) Paragliders! The paragliders take off right from the trail... just run right off the cliff! Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it, but also makes me want to try it....
As you hike over the final ridges, Big Wave Bay will come into view on the right side. That's where you're headed (if you're following my route)!
Finishing Dragon's Back
The ridge portion of the trail is ~1.5 km (.9 mi), then you'll start heading downhill. After hiking ~2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the To Tei Wan bus stop, you'll reach a fork in the path. Depending on how much time you have and how you're feeling, you have several ways to continue the hike:
A) Go right to continue on Hong Kong Trail section 8 towards Big Wave Bay. This is the option we picked for our hike and the route shown on the map.
B) Go left, then at the next fork, go right. This will take you out to the main road close to the La Nai Wan bus stop. Here you'll catch the no. 9 bus. Total hike: 3.2 km (2 mi).
C) Go left, then at next fork, go left. This will take you in a loop back around to the trail where you started hiking up to the ridge. You'll reconnect with the original trail and turn right to go back down to the To Tei Wan bus stop to catch the no. 9 bus. Total hike: 5.1 km (3.2 mi).
Hong Kong Trail Sec. 8
Both times we've hiked Dragon's Back, we've decided to finish at Big Wave Bay Beach. So, we chose option A.
Though this part of the trail doesn't offer the scenic views that the ridge trail does, it's a nice easy walk through dense forest. After 2.3 km (1.4 mi) on this trail, you'll reach another fork in the path. (Plus, another toilet stop!) Again, you have options:
A) Go right to continue towards Big Wave Bay. This was our choice.
B) Go left to head towards the main road. You can catch the no. 9 bus at Cape Collinson bus stop.
Trail to Big Wave Bay
Choosing option A again, we continued along the paved path. On a clear day, you can catch glimpses of the eastern side of the island over the trees.
After 1.3 km (.8 mi) on this road, it'll turn into a path again and shortly after, you'll see a sign for Big Wave Bay. Turn right to head down those stairs towards Big Wave Bay. From the turn off, it was ~1.6 km (1 mi) downhill to Big Wave Bay Beach.
If we'd gone straight on Pottinger Peak Country Trail, we would have been slightly longer and we'd have entered Big Wave Bay Beach a different way. We'll have to try that next time! I think you might get better views of the eastern neighborhoods of Hong Kong Island from that trail.
Looking for other Hong Kong hiking ideas? Check out my post about hiking on Lamma Island!
Big Wave Bay Beach
Once you get to Big Wave Bay Beach, grab a spot on the beach! If you didn't bring a towel or blanket to sit on, you can rent a beach chair. The beach is also equipped with toilets and changing rooms, plus outdoor showers to rinse off the sand.
If you're hungry, head to one of the restuarants or grab a hot dog from the vendor grilling them on the side of the road. I was so hungry when we got to Big Wave Bay that I immediately bought a hot dog. It was delicious - with some kind of sweet glaze on the outside!
On our last visit, we stopped at a really cute coffee shop on the walk down to the beach. But mostly, we sat out on the beach and relaxed with some beers. You can even get Hong Kong Beer Co.'s Big Wave Bay IPA or their Dragon's Back Pale Ale!
Looking for another Hong Kong beach hike? Try Hiking to Ham Tin Beach in Sai Kung!
Getting Back to MTR from Big Wave Bay
When you're ready to head home, walk back up the main road in Big Wave Bay. You'll come to the bus station at the top of the hill. Catch the red minibus back to the Shau Kei Wan MTR station.
The bus will leave once it's full so just get on and grab a seat. You'll pay when you leave the bus - HK $13 per person. Be sure to have small bills or coins as the bus only accepts cash!
Just like that, you'll be back on the MTR feeling like you're in a city again!
Find more hikes in Hong Kong and abroad on the Hiking Guides page!