Ma On Shan Hike: An Adventurous Trek to Sai Kung

January 28, 2021


Climbing Ma On Shan peak is a fantastic challenge for hikers in Hong Kong. An adventurous, steep, rocky trail with stunning 360-degree views from several peaks, this trail will get your heart racing! In this guide, I'll show you how to hike from Ma On Shan to Sai Kung by way of two notable Hong Kong peaks - the Hunch Backs and Ma On Shan.

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Preparing to Climb Ma On Shan

Ma On Shan Peak, sometimes called Saddle Peak for the shape of the ridgeline, is tied for the 10th highest peak in Hong Kong at 702 m / 2,303 ft. It's located in Eastern New Territories in Hong Kong's Ma On Shan Country Park.

Although there are a variety of ways to climb it, I'll be showing you the route starting in Ma On Shan at the Heng On MTR Station and ending in Sai Kung Town. Along the way, you'll also scale the Hunch Backs, Hong Kong's 12th tallest peak at 677 m / 2,221 ft.

Hunch Backs and Ma On Shan Peaks

The Hunch Backs in the foreground with Ma On Shan behind it.

The route is ~12-km / 7.5-mi long, gains over 700 m / 2,300 ft in elevation, and takes approximately 5 hours to complete. 

View in Ma On Shan Country Park

One of the many lookout points on this hike. See Tai Mo Shan - tallest peak - off in the distance?

Pro Tip:  If you take a taxi from the MTR and begin the hike at the Ma On Shan Country Park BBQ site, the hike is only 8.4-km / 5.2 mi long and ~500 m / 1,640 ft of elevation gain.

Who Should Hike It?

Because of the steepness and the difficult terrain, I recommend this Ma On Shan trail for experienced hikers. It's a challenging hike that requires a decent level of fitness for the climbs, plus hiking shoes with a good grip. 

Rocky climb in Ma On Shan Country Park

A good trial run or practice hike would be the High Junk Peak Hike in Clear Water Bay Country Park. They are similar in that they have a couple steep peak climbs and areas with rock scrambles. However, the Ma On Shan hike is much steeper and has twice as much elevation gain. 

Want the elevation gain without the difficult terrain? Check out the Tai Mo Shan Hike!

When to Hike It?

Since this is a difficult hike with many spots that don't have shade, I'd recommend hiking it on a cooler day with low humidity. Even hiking it during the winter (70°F / 21°C), I was sweating profusely! 

As far as weekend vs. weekday, we hiked up on a gorgeous Saturday and it was okay. Were there were more people on the trail than I would've liked? Absolutely. But it wasn't as crowded as some of the trails I've hiked on the weekend, such as Dragon's Back or Mount High West

Items for Your Hike

Although you probably have a gear list for hiking, these are things I'd like to highlight:

  • Hiking/Trail Shoes: This one is an absolute must! Don't hike this in sandals or running shoes without grip and traction. Ankle support is a bonus! The slippery rocks, dust or mud, make the trail hazardous if you don't have proper footwear. 
  • WATER and snacks: It's a tough climb so be sure to bring lots of water. You'll also want to re-fuel along the way.
  • Wet wipes: Usually I just bring hand sanitizer but I wish I'd had wet wipes before eating my granola bar since my hands were super dusty from climbing. Had to sacrifice some drinking water instead! 
  • Sunscreen: Much of the trail is in direct sunlight. Even in the winter, my face got burned (because I never take my own advice to wear sunscreen).

Getting to Ma On Shan Country Park

To get to Ma On Shan Country Park from where we live on Hong Kong Island, we took the MTR. The route involved several transfers and it took roughly an hour and 20 minutes to get to our final stop in Ma On Shan town. 

Although we chose to get off at the Heng On Station (Tuen Ma Line), exit B, you could go to the terminus - Ma On Shan station. The walk is roughly the same distance from either station.

New to Hong Kong? Check out this Guide to Using Public Transportation.

Overview of the Ma On Shan Peak Hike to Sai Kung

The Ma On Shan Peak Hike from Heng On MTR to Sai Kung town is roughly 12-km / 7.5-mi long and gains over 700 m / 2,300 ft in elevation. The hike took us roughly 5 hours to complete with stops for snacks and photos.

Elevation Note: I use Google Maps to estimate elevation for my hiking guides. However, the elevation Google has listed for Ma On Shan peak is incorrect, which throws off my estimates. Since you descend a bit after the Hunch Backs before climbing back up Ma On Shan, the total elevation gained on this hike is probably closer to 800 m / 2,624 ft. 

Throughout several steep, rocky ascents, you'll be in awe of the incredible views the higher you go. Along the way to Ma On Shan Peak, you'll first climb the Hunch Backs (677 m / 2,221 ft). At each summit, you'll have plenty of gorgeous photo opportunities.

Ma On Shan Hike Map on beckyexploring.com

CLICK HERE TO OPEN IN GOOGLE MAPS

Getting from Heng On Station to Ma On Shan Country Park

At Heng On Station, take exit B towards the Chinese YMCA College. From there, you'll head past the Ma On Shan Recreation Ground and towards the mountains. There's a nice walking and bike path that leads the way back to the park area.

Walking in Heng On towards Ma On Shan

Looking at the challenge ahead!

Once you're in the park, you'll see a small path on your left with a guard rail across it. Take that turn and head up to Ma On Shan Tsuen Road. 

Pro Tip: In the park, Google will try to take you on the path after the one with the guard rail which shows up as stairs on the map. Those are private maintenance stairs though, so be sure to turn left at the first road.  

At the traffic circle, head to the right up the hill. This is the road that will take you up to Ma On Shan Country Park BBQ Site.

Since Ma On Shan Tsuen Road is accessible for cars, if you want to shave a bit off your hike, you could take a taxi up to the BBQ site. Taking a taxi up cuts off ~3.5 km / 2.2 mi of distance, 250 m /820 ft of incline, plus ~50 minutes of time. 

Starting on the Ma On Shan Family Walk

Enter the Ma On Shan Country Park BBQ Site as soon as you reach it. In the back left corner, you'll find the trail entrance - an archway for the Ma On Shan Family Walk. 

Becky at Ma On Shan Family Trail

The Ma On Shan Family Walk is a gentle loop trail (750 m / 0.5 mi) from the BBQ site. It ascends gradually up stone stairs and you'll break off from it about midway through it.

Ma On Shan Family Walk

You'll know you've reached your trail when you see the danger sign and the barriers in front of it. 

Ma On Shan trail via Hunch Backs in Hong Kong

Climbing to Ma On Shan Peak

After turning off the Family Walk, the trail immediately increases in difficulty. It's a rocky and steep trail. Since it hasn't rained in a while, the area was quite dusty when we hiked it (January 2021). But, I can imagine the trail would be slick and muddy during rainy season.  

Trail to Hunch Backs

Despite the warnings, a lot of people hike this trail, so you can follow it easily. However in parts, it's so narrow it feels like you're hacking through the jungle. I had several scrapes and bruises on my legs from branches and rocks afterwards. Granted, I'm kind of clumsy so this is not unusual. 

Climbing to Hunch Backs in Hong Kong

Almost at the top? Not even close!

As you climb, it always seems like you're almost at the top. But then you get to the top of one hill, and you see the next one in front of you! And the trail doesn't get easier as you go either.

Final climb to Hunch Backs in HK

Looking towards the Hunch Backs and Ma On Shan... why are we going down?!

In the past, there was a rope to help navigate some of the steeper sections leading up to the Hunch Backs. But that is no longer the case. I saw some of the old hooks and even an old frayed rope attached in one location. Let's just say, I wouldn't trust it in its current condition with my safety!

Rocky Trail to Ma On Shan

Putting into practice all those leg lunge workouts!

The Hunch Backs

After scaling multiple hills, finally we reached the top of the Hunch Backs (Ngau Ngak Shan). The Hunch Backs is the 12th highest peak in Hong Kong at 677 m / 2,221 ft, just behind Ma On Shan which is tied for the 10th highest. 

Hunch Backs overlooking Three Fathoms Cove

Once you crest the peak of the Hunch Backs, you get an amazing view of the blue waters of Three Fathoms Cove in northern Sai Kung. Not to mention, you can finally see the ridge across to Ma On Shan Peak clearly. 

Ridge leading to Ma On Shan Peak 2

Ridgeline to Ma On Shan

If you're afraid of heights, this ridgeline might be difficult for you. Actually, this entire hike would probably be a bit scary! 

View looking down on trail to Ma On Shan Peak

On certain sections, the ridgeline is narrow with drops on both sides. If people are coming the other direction, it's tough to squeeze past. Especially when others decide to stop in the middle of the path for lunch! 

Final Push to Ma On Shan Peak

But once across the ridge, you'll have (yet another) steep climb up to Ma On Shan Peak. I was so full of dust by the time I reached the top! Kept using my hands to climb then wiping them on my pants. But I noticed I wasn't the only one!

Rocky climb to Ma On Shan Peak

Had a lot of ankle turning on this trail with the uneven, rocky terrain.

Once you arrive at the peak, you'll have epic 360-degree views! On a clear day, you can see all the way to the High Island Reservoir East Dam in Sai Kung East Country Park.

Becky at Ma On Shan Peak

MADE IT!! My face would have been 10x redder if it had been summer!

Plus, you can easily see the rest of your trail winding along the hills below you. Enjoy the views for as long as you want, then it's time for the steep climb down!

The day we hiked this trail, it was pretty windy and a bit crowded up at Ma On Shan peak. Had to hang on tight to my phone as I took a million photos and videos. Certainly felt refreshing though after that tough climb!

Ridge on Ma On Shan Peak

Initial descent from Ma On Shan

Just as the climb up to Ma On Shan is steep and rocky, expect a similar challenge on the way down. Hopefully your legs haven't fully turned to jelly by the time you reach the peak. If they have, take a snack break before climbing down. And don't be afraid to hang on!

Climbing down Ma On Shan Peak

After dropping more than 100 m / 330 ft in ~0.4 km / 0.25 mi, you'll join the MacLehose Trail, Sec. 4. Keep going straight when you meet up with it.

View of Ma On Shan Peak - south side

Looking back up at Ma On Shan and the steep trail down - it's much rockier and less forested on this side.

To Pyramid Hill or Not to Pyramid Hill

The MacLehose Trail, sec. 4 is a wonderful break for the legs. A nice, gentle trail which winds along the ridges overlooking the beautiful waters of Sai Kung as well as the town. 

MacLehose Trail sec 4 above Sai Kung

Looking at our trail and other hikers on the ridge ahead.

After the ridge, you'll see a peak rise up in front of you - this is Pyramid Hill. It's another steep, rocky trail leading straight up a mountain. To get to the Ngong Ping Viewing Point, you can a) climb up and over Pyramid Hill or b) continue on the MacLehose Trail, sec. 4 around the peak. 

Pyramid Hill in Hong Kong

Like this group, we stopped to consider our options.

Since we'd already taken on the Hunch Backs and Ma On Shan that day, we chose option b and skipped Pyramid Hill.

Another factor influencing our choice was restaurants closing at 6pm due to COVID restrictions. We wanted to make sure we had time for dinner in Sai Kung before the trip back to Hong Kong Island!

Ngong Ping Viewing Point

On the MacLehose Trail, sec. 4, it was an easy and gradual downhill trail to the Ngong Ping Viewing Point. This viewpoint is a wide, open space that's perfect for picnicking, flying kites, and apparently paragliding. It was quite busy on the Saturday that we visited. 

Pyramid Hill and Ngong Ping Viewing Point

The other side of Pyramid Hill

A short walk away, there's also a campground and toilets according to the signage. We didn't actually walk back to see them. 

Ngong Ping Viewing Point in Sai Kung

Ngong Ping to Sai Kung

After leaving the Ngong Ping Viewing Point, you'll come to a large intersection of trails. Turn left on the Ma On Shan Country Trail towards Tai Shui Tseng. 

The last portion of the hike is an easy and gradual downhill on stone stairs. We pretended to be trail runners and jogged down most of them which helped us make up some time. The trail ends just north of Sai Kung in Tai Shui Tseng village.

Ma On Shan Country Trail to Sai Kung

Continue walking straight down through the village on Pak Kong Au Road and you'll come to Hiram's Highway - the main road in Sai Kung. At this point, you can stay and explore Sai Kung for a bit or catch a bus/minibus back to the MTR.

Bus / Minibus from Sai Kung to MTR

If you'd like to catch a minibus out of Sai Kung, cross the highway to get to the bus stops. Some of the bus and minibus options from Sai Kung to MTR stations include: 

  • 92 Bus to Diamond Hill Station (Kwun Tong and Tuen Ma Phase 1 lines) 
  • 792M Bus to Tseung Kwan O Station (Tseung Kwan O Line)
  • 1A Green Minibus to Choi Hung Station (Kwun Tong Line)
  • 101M Green Minibus to Hang Hau Station (Tseung Kwan O Line)

Pro Tip: On the weekend, be prepared for a lot of traffic heading out of Sai Kung at the end of the day. Also, the buses may be full unless you catch them at the terminus in Sai Kung town.

Sai Kung Getaway

If you're not quite ready to head home, why not stay in Sai Kung? This charming seaside town has great restaurants, cute shops, and plenty of beautiful hikes nearby.

Places to Stay in Sai Kung

Sai Kung is a residential area so you won't find many hotels. So if you'd like to stay in Sai Kung, it's also a good idea to check out vacation rental sites like Airbnb or VRBO for accommodation options. 

Though I haven't stayed in these accommodations, I've found a couple places that I would consider booking if I were planning a weekend getaway in Sai Kung.

This stylish and cozy 2-bedroom apartment in the heart of Sai Kung town would be perfect for a family or a couple to stay. Steps away from shops, restaurants, as well as the beach in Sai Kung - it's incredibly convenient for a Hong Kong weekend retreat. 

Sai Kung Hong Kong

Photo courtesy of VRBO

Plus, it's pet-friendly so you can bring your favorite hiking companion along with you!

The Pier Hotel is located just south of Sai Kung town in Hebe Haven, or Pak Sha Wan - a tranquil harbor which is home to several yacht clubs. Its spot right on the waterfront provides beautiful views from the chic and modern guest rooms. This hotel is a great jumping off point for exploring Sai Kung's many excellent restaurants, local hikes, and beautiful beaches. 

If you're looking to relax at the hotel, the rooftop pool (summer only) and on-site fitness center are excellent amenities to enhance your stay.

The Pier Hotel Room Sai Kung Hong Kong

Photo courtesy of Booking.com

Craft Beer in Sai Kung

Even if you don't want to stay the night, I recommend grabbing a bite to eat in Sai Kung before heading home. You'll no doubt be hungry after that incredible workout!

We always grab a craft beer and a bite to eat at Momentai. It's the perfect way to reward yourself after a big hike! 

Quesadilla and craft beer at Momentai in Sai Kung

Looking for more craft beer in Hong Kong? Check out some of my favorite craft beer bars!

Other Hikes in Sai Kung You Might Enjoy

Final Thoughts

A challenging hike with an awesome 360-degree views as a reward, the Ma On Shan hike via the Hunch Backs is a perfect adventure for Hong Kong hikers. It's also an outdoor workout designed to make you feel worthy of that craft beer at the end!

Happy hiking!


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Ma On Shan Hike - Tips for Adventurous Hong Kong Hike
Ma On Shan Hike - Adventurous Trek to Sai Kung
Guide to Hiking Ma On Shan
  • It’s funny that you call 21 degrees winter. We call that summer in Ireland. There seems to be no end to great hikes in Hong Kong. Your photos and words guided this one brilliantly.

    • That’s why I included the temps when I mentioned “winter”. I realized that many readers might imagine much colder temperatures than it actually was. But all a matter of perspective, I guess. Certainly feels much nicer to hike up these peaks in 21 degrees than the low 30s we have here for ~7 months of the year. 🙂

  • Wow! That does look like a challenging hike! I’d be ok going up, but without ropes to help on the descend, I may be scooting on my butt a lot! Nice quesidillas after that gorgeous hike. Food always tastes better after a strenuous workout.

    • Haha it’s definitely not easy! 🙂 Probably wouldn’t have been able to do it at this time last year. But all the hiking I did over the summer plus some intense leg workouts prepared me for the steeper peaks in Hong Kong this winter.

  • What a hike! That looks super challenging but worth it for those views! I’m scared of heights so I can imagine I’d go slower in some spots. Lol. Would definitely want to try this!

    • The Ma On Shan hike is definitely worth it for the views and the adventure as long as your fear of heights isn’t too severe. I imagine it would be challenging on the way down and over the ridge since you’re looking at the drop. Climbing up, as long as you don’t look back, you’re fine!

  • Until I started following your blog, Becky, I had never really associated Hong Kong with hiking. What a revelation! Another fantastic hike here. Certainly looks quite challenging in places and I can see why ropes might be useful too. Worth the challenge though for those views (and a craft beer!).

    • I’m glad I could change your perspective of Hong Kong, Jane. My eyes have been opened since moving here. This year especially I’ve made an effort to take advantage of the hiking trails and realize how much I missed out on the first couple years I lived here!

  • Wow Becky, this is quite a hike! I’d probably have to sit it out. I’m not an experienced hiker, and you’re right about the difficulty of climbing!

    • Thanks for reading, Lisa. You’re right that it’s important to know your own limits and skip a difficult hike. There are plenty of easier trails in Hong Kong that also have beautiful views! And it’s better to skip it than to have an accident on the mountain and need a helicopter rescue (it happens occasionally).

  • I think this may be a bit hard for me but those views are incredible. I think I’d get up but not sure about the descent. A craft beer at the end sounds like a great reward.

    • Thanks for reading, Kasia! I hope you’ll get the chance to come back and explore more of Hong Kong. As I’m finding out, it takes a while to fully explore this amazing city and all its natural beauty as well!

    • Highly recommend a return visit to Hong Kong for some hiking, Jen! It’s amazing what you’ll find when you get off-the-beaten-path here. Some of the longer/more remote hikes like Ma On Shan require an all-day commitment, but there are also many that are convenient to tourist attractions and temples.

  • Wow. Any hike where you have to use your hands to go up, I know would be tough for me (specifically to go DOWN). GOOD ON YOU!!!

    I’ve been on a few hikes where my legs are all bruised and cut up so I feel your pain! Good thing for craft beer at the end 🙂

  • “You’ll know you’ve reached your trail when you see the danger signs and the barriers in front of it”?? That’s when I turn around!! An epic hike with some great views. I’m impressed that you two keep pounding out these difficult hikes one after another.

    • Normally I wouldn’t say to proceed but we knew this one was a well-traveled trail. It’s more of a “proceed at your own risk” as several of the more adventurous hikes in Hong Kong are. 🙂

  • This sounds like a proper workout, Becky. But the view from the top, especially along the ridge-line to Ma On Shan are worth all the trouble, I’m sure. Until I started reading your hiking posts I had no idea what’s possible in such close proximity to the city. When Ellie & I want to do some proper hiking, we always have to travel two to four hours by train to places like the Peak District, Wales, or the Lake District. The rolling hills around London hardly ever exceed 250m altitude haha…

    • Thanks for reading, Stefan! I’m lucky to have so many peaks and trails so close to me in Hong Kong. Plus they’re mostly accessible by public transportation. Your situation in London reminds me of when I lived in DC and we had to drive a couple hours out of the city to get to the mountains.

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