Lantau Island is surprising because of its size and general emptiness. It also has high mountains like Tai Mo Shan near Kowloon, but you can hike to the top of them, and you can’t hike to the top of Tai Mo Shan. Lantau Peak is the second highest peak in Hong Kong, and depending on how you go up, it can be an easy hike climbing the stairs. Sunset Peak is a more scenic peak that is near it to the east closer to Mui Wo. The camping sites are free, and one is very big and has good facilities. Mui Wo has a ferry pier that makes getting to the hiking trails and campsites easy. From the bus station next to the pier, there are regular buses going all over the island. The area of Lantau near Mui Wo is a great place for long hikes and tent camping. For long hikes, the Lantau Trail is recommended.
It is difficult to walk off the main trails in most of Lantau Island because the hills are steep and the vegetation is thick, and squatter huts and legal buildings block the way. An exception to this is the area immediately above Discovery Bay walking northeast. The land there is very dry for some reason and is reminiscent of a high desert area in the US. So, going off the main developed trails can be really fun there, and you can explore some hilly territory.
Also read Hiking Sunset Mountain on Lantau Island.
Otherwise, for access to cool areas like the campgrounds around Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, it is best to take the Lantau Trail. The Lantau Trail opened in 1984, and it is now a Hong Kong hiker favorite. The Lantau Trail is a well traveled trail with half kilometer marker posts (posts about every ? of a mile), benches, maps, bathrooms, fire pits, picnic tables, tent camping areas, and access to the peaks or the wonderful scenery along the southern shore of the island. There are two Lantau Trail branches that start at Mui O because the whole Lantau Trail is a circuit. One branch starts from Mui Wo and goes east and more north into the high hills towards Ngong Ping and Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak. The other starts from Mui Wo and branches south and goes along the coast facing hillsides overlooking the shore. So you can see some wonderful beaches and go visit them on the southern route. The trail goes to the interesting native fishing town of Tai O on the west coast of the island that was known mainly for the houses on stilts and the seafood restaurants. It might be a good place to have a meal. The 70 kilometer or so trail system is circular, and it starts and finishes in Mui Wo. At each turning, route signs give clear instructions about directions, place names, and the distances and times for hiking between various places.
To get into good hiking areas on Lantau Island from Tsim Sha Tsui, the easiest way is to take the ferry from the ferry terminal in Central District and go to the little town of Mui Wo. There are two ferries available. The more expensive fast ferry costs about 27 HKD on weekdays and about 41 on Sundays and takes only half an hour. The slower ferry that takes about an hour leaves from the same dock and costs about 13 HKD on weekdays and higher on weekends and public holidays.
Once in Mui Wo, you can either directly walk to the Lantau Trail from the ferry terminal or take a quick bus ride to various places where you can hike at such as Pui O or Lantau Peak or many other places. You can decide where you want to go and get a trail map, and then decide what bus to take. There is a bus station in front of the ferry pier with buses that leave about every half hour to various places. The bus drivers have a definite schedule that is listed at the station, and they keep to it well, but a good rule of thumb is that buses to the various places leave about every half an hour. The bus fares are somewhat cheap. The on Bus No. 1 to Tai O on the far west of the island costs about 11 HKD during weekdays or 18 HKD during weekends and holidays. The price depends on the distance traveled..
To get to Lantau Peak by bus, you can take Bus No. 2. From the big Ngong Ping bus station that is most of the ways up the mountain, you can follow the signs that point to the hiking trail that is about a kilometer or a mile from the bus stop. Once there, the climb up is mostly on steps that people carved in the rock or made by placing boulders and big rocks in place. These steps are uneven and irregular, and the footing may be dangerous when wet. If you decide to climb up the peak, check on the weather because the valley funnels the wind so that it blows strongly near the top of the peak during a storm. The path near the peak has some loose rock people have to watch their step on. The Lantau Peak trail intersects the path from Ngong Ping near the top of the peak. Most people probably can climb the path from the entrance to the path to the top in an hour. There is no hut or pavilion along the path between Ngong Ping and the top for shelter, so check on the weather.
If you want to walk up the Lantau Trail from Mui Wo, there are two ways. One way is to simply walk up South Lantau Road. After walking along the side of the road on a sidewalk, within about 3 kilometers or two miles, you’ll get to Upper Nam Shan campsite with a ranger station and bathrooms, and then Lower Nam Shan campsite that allows tent camping and is quite big and well furnished with a cold shower, bathrooms, and about 60 or so individual camping sites. Each site has a picnic table made of cement or wood and a fire pit, and there are additional benches scattered around in many of the sites. The place is quite big and is as decked out as a public campground in the US, but notices warn that the spring water isn’t potable. However, experienced people say it is OK. If you want, you can boil it. There is not fee for the sites. A drawback to the campgrounds is that most of it is close enough to the road that the traffic is too noisy. But a great thing about the campgrounds are the strange birds that hoot and chirp at dawn. Along the way on this road route are .5 kilometer markers telling you the distance you traveled. Some people like to ride bikes up Nam Shan hill on this road. They are available for rent for about 150 HKD per day in Mui Wo, but should be returned by 7 or 8. The Lantau Turn turns north off the road near the Upper Nam Shan campground.
Though the road route has beautiful scenery including views of and Mui Wo and its beach, walking on the sidewalk puts you next to traffic. The recommended route goes along the coast from Mui Wo to a picnic ground above the southern coast between Mui Wo and Pui O. Following this section of the Lantau Trail, you can get to the tent campground mentioned above along a side trail that connects the two branches of the Lantau Trail, and then go further up into the high hills or follow the southern section along the coast.
To get to the southern Lantau Trail branch trail head from the Mui Wo ferry pier, walk immediately left along Silvermine Bay past a McDonalds. Follow the bay around a little scenic inlet. For some reason, Silvermine Bay is quite beautiful. The water changes color from indigo to green to blue depending on the light. Follow the road around, and the Lantau Trail meets at a point near the tip of the inlet. Walk along that above a Water Treatment Plant. And continue going along it along the southern coast of the island towards the tiny town of Pui O. If possible, it is good to get a map. Some people camp on the beach at Pui O.
While hiking and camping, you’ll hear birds. There is an amazing species of bird in southern China that makes a loud hooting sound at dawn. The sound seems amazingly loud, so people might think it is a kind of monkey. There is another kind of bird that makes an amazing jackhammer chatter as it flies interspersed with some sweet notes of birdsong. That is unusual too. You may hear a lot of other birds chirp and sing too.
China Highlights can help you design a hiking tour to Lantua Peak and other places in Hong Kong, or just see our Hong Kong Tours.