Dragon's Back: Hong Kong's Most Famous Beginner Hike


Essential Dragon's Back Hike Details

  • District: Hong Kong Island
  • Duration: Just under 2 hours back to To Tei Wan bus stop. Just under 2.5 hours to Big Wave Bay
  • Distance: 5.8km back to To Tei Wan bus stop. 7.5km to Big Wave Bay
  • Highest Elevation: 284 meters
  • Difficulty: 1.5/5
  • Facilities: Public toilets at the start point. Make sure to bring food and water.

Why Hike Dragon's Back

Selected as the world's 8th best hiking trail by CNN in 2022, Dragon's Back (龍脊) is one of Hong Kong's most scenic and famed hikes. Perhaps the best thing about Dragon's Back is that people of all ages and skill levels can attempt it. Having hiked this trail several times over the years, I've seen young kids and grandparents having a grand time while overlooking blue ocean waters and stunning green mountains during this gentle route.

That being said, there is some climbing with the occasional short, steep section. Still, there's nothing particularly technical about this hike. If you feel overwhelmed and claustrophobic being surrounded by so many high rises in the city, the open, endless views out across the South China Sea may be exactly what you need!

Try to go on a weekday if you can. This trail is pretty crowded on weekends.

No matter when you visit, ending in Shek O is just icing on the cake as it's one of Hong Kong's most laid-back and chill neighborhoods. You'll be treated to awesome beaches, outdoor eateries, quaint architecture and not a single high rise in sight!

Google Route Map

Dragon's Back Hike

How to Get to the Dragon's Back Hike Start Point

Getting to the start of the Dragon's Back hike is super simple.

  1. Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station
  2. Get the number 9 bus from outside exit A2 and get off at the To Tei Wan stop
  3. There’s also a red minibus that goes past To Tei Wan from the indoor bus terminus next to exit A2. Double confirm with the driver by showing them this: ( 土地灣 )
  4. Alternatively, on weekends, you can get the X9 bus from Central. Get off at the To Tei Wan stop

Quick Dragon's Back Hike Route Summary

  1. Get the number 9 bus from Shau Kei Wan MTR station and get off at To Tei Wan
  2. Follow the Dragon's Back sign and begin climbing
  3. At the pavilion, follow the Hong Kong Trail sign. There's also a Dragon's Back sign pointing in the same direction
  4. You'll reach the first viewpoint of Shek O and the ocean a few minutes later
  5. Look for the dirt trail to your right and explore it for less-crowded views
  6. Return back and continue toward the Dragon's Back ridge
  7. You'll undulate over a few peaks before arriving at Shek O Peak, which is the tallest summit on the ridge
  8. About 10 minutes later, you'll begin to descend
  9. At the bottom of the stairs, follow the sign left to To Tei Wan. Go right toward Tai Tam Gap if you want to reach Big Wave Bay
  10. Follow the trail and you'll arrive back at the pavilion (same one from step 3)
  11. Head back down to the bus stop
  12. Take the same bus (number 9) to Shek O or cross the road and take the number 9 bus back to Shau Kei Wan

The First Ascent is the Toughest (But It's Not that Tough)

From To Tei Wan bus stop, you'll be able to begin your climb immediately. The trail starts off as rocky steps and will get your heart rate up almost instantly.

However, the stairs will eventually turn into natural, dirt paths and you'll even pass through stunning bamboo groves that let in dappled rays of sunlight for a mystical feel.

5-10 minutes later, you'll get awesome views of Tai Tam Bay and Tai Tam Reservoir. If you find that foliage is blocking your view, there are a few rocks around that you can climb for a bit more height and a better vantage point.

Stick to the trail and ignore the 'Picnic Site' sign that points left (unless you fancy a picnic 10 minutes into your hike). A few minutes later, you'll see a set of wooden stairs to your right. That's another viewing point for Tai Tam.

Final Push to the First Summit

It's only a few additional minutes of hiking and climbing from the Tai Tam viewpoint to the first summit. Look out for the pavilion and signs that will point the way to the first summit.

Make sure to follow the sign pointing to the 'Hong Kong Trail'. There's also a sign just next to it that says 'Dragon's Back'. Both signs point in the same direction, so follow whichever one of them you see first.

Stay on the trail, push through a few more stairs and you'll soon be at the first summit, drinking in those sweet coastal views!

The Reality of the First Summit

As with many things in life, reality is often a bit more disappointing than what the pictures show online.

If you find that the first viewpoint is packed with people, there's a wooden post and a dirt trail immediately to your right.

Head in that direction for some space and even better views!

Optional Detour for Better Views at the First Summit

There are several viewpoints after you head right, so be sure to explore thoroughly.

Some of the best views are close to the edge of cliffs, so do your best to not get too close. You'll still get your epic photo if you're a few paces away from the edge.

There was also a cluster of rocks further up from the rest of the viewpoints. I decided to climb them and was rewarded with really stellar views of the undulating ridge that gives Dragon's Back its name and also got fabulous views of Shek O at the same time!

Retrace your steps when you're done exploring and enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Hiking to Shek O Peak

Once you're back at the first (crowded) viewpoint, take the path toward the Dragon's Back Ridge. It's the path directly opposite to the optional right path that leads to the less-crowded viewpoints. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top of Shek O Peak from here.

You might wish it took longer than just 20 minutes to Shek O Peak because this section of the hike is truly magnificent.

The trail is mostly open (which can be brutal in the summer if you don't have a hat or sun protection) and lets you bask in the ethereal epicness of the ocean stretching out to the horizon.

If you're lucky, you'll even spot some paragliders along the way.

It's impossible to get lost here, so just follow the path, take your time and enjoy the views!

You'll be ascending to Shek O Peak in no time!

Shek O Peak and Shek O Peak Viewpoint

Just before your big ascent up Shek O Peak, you'll see some wooden posts joined together with rope (image above). This is the Shek O Peak Viewpoint. It has another really epic view that you won't want to miss (even if it's crowded).

After that, continue your climb up to the top of Shek O Peak, which is the highest point on the Dragon's Back Ridge. It also has one of the nicest viewpoints.

A Few More Peaks and Surprises

The remaining few peaks are gentle and easy to navigate. There's only one path to follow, so you can take your time.

Look out for Big Wave Bay and High Junk Peak on your right. On your left, you'll get views of some other iconic Hong Kong Island hikes like Tai Tam, Jardine's Lookout and Mount Parker.

Begin Descending

When you start descending, the views pretty much end and you'll be navigating dirt trails and rocky steps. Mind your footing and take your time to avoid rolling an ankle or tripping.

Before long, you'll see a few signs. Head towards To Tei Wan if you want to loop back to the bus stop. Otherwise, head towards Tai Tam Gap for Big Wave Bay.

Back to To Tei Wan Bus Stop

The route back is mostly flat after following the sign toward To Tei Wan. You'll get really close-up views of Tai Tam as you make your way back to the pavilion near the start of the hike.

It takes about 30 minutes from the turn to reach the pavilion.

At the pavilion, follow the sign pointing to Shek O Road and you'll be back at the bus stop in a few minutes.

Alternative Route: Big Wave Bay

If you opt to head right and follow the sign to Tai Tam Gap, you can end your hike in Big Wave Bay.

This is a great surfing spot and is also a lot more secluded than Shek O. Basically, if you're looking to unwind after your hike and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, this might be the route for you.

The trail will connect with Hong Kong Trail Section 8, which you can follow all the way to Big Wave Bay. This route is slightly longer and takes just over 2 hours to complete from the same start point at To Tei Wan.

Follow the map above to avoid getting lost.

There's a red minibus that heads back from Big Wave Bay and will take you to Shau Kei Wan MTR station.

Bus to Shek O Or Back to Shau Kei Wan

If you want to head back to Shau Kei Wan MTR station, cross the road (carefully) and take the number 9 bus going in the opposite direction.

Or, you can take the number 9 bus to Shek O from the bus stop right next to the public toilets at the end of the hike.