Header image courtesy of @kylauf (via Instagram)
With all the apples in the barrel being punished for the presence of a few rotten ones, it looks like we’re all going to have to lie low and be more stringent on ourselves with social distancing once again. Still, no one wants to go back to the hellish situation of being cooped up in our tiny apartments, so the best way to keep both your sanity and the Covid-19 guidelines intact is probably to embark on an underrated hike that tends to be overlooked. Act first after reading our guide to Tsz Wan Shan (Temple Hill) to truly beat the crowds!
Due to the proximity to its famous neighbours Lion Rock and Suicide Cliff, the hidden gem of Tsz Wan Shan can easily be overlooked. This is a great alternative hike to go on in the area because there are likely to be less crowds and the view is still as stunning. If you’ve always wanted to climb Lion Rock but seen the hike as daunting, then Tsz Wan Shan is your answer because it offers very similar views with a bit less effort involved.
This hill is also referred to as Temple Hill, because technically, Tsz Wan Shan is the Cantonese name for the area below the hill as well. The Tsz Wan Shan trail is located within the Ma On Shan Country Park, and intersects with the MacLehose Trail, sections 4 and 5 of the Wilson Trail, as well as the Sha Tin Pass, so if you have energy to spare, there are lots of options for extending the hike.
Be warned though—there are a lot of stairs to tackle on the ascent, so this will well and truly be leg day (a blessing since gyms are closed!). We guarantee the views from the top will more than make up for it though, so lace up those trainers and get started.
Distance: 4 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 488 metres approx.
Total time: 3 hours approx.
There are a few ways to get to the beginning of the Tsz Wa Shan (Temple Hill) hike, which also happen to be how most people would start the hike up to Lion Rock.
Do note that choosing this second route will extend your journey by about two kilometres and a good hour more, and it’s relentlessly uphill the whole way, so only go for it if you have extra calories to burn or enough energy to spare.
The half-way point is marked by the Fat Jong Temple, and from there on out, you’ll have to look out for cars while walking along Sha Tin Pass Road. Whichever way you choose, you will eventually end up at Tsz Chuk Pavilion.
If you took bus 3C, start from Tsz Wan Shan (North) Bus Terminus, located right next to the multi-storey carpark for Tsz Oi Court. Head up the flight of stairs at the back of the bus terminus, and stick to your left, following a few sections of stairs up the hill until you emerge on Sha Tin Pass Road, near Tsz Chuk Pavilion. You’ll encounter some small temples and shrines on the way, so these will break up the monotony a little.
Nearby, a pretty flight of stairs at the bend on Sha Tin Pass Road will bring you up to the Lion’s Pavilion, and Sha Tin Pass Road is right behind it. At this intersection, you will blessedly find public toilets and a shop selling food, snacks, and drinks, so take a break before beginning the Temple Hill hike proper.
The trailhead on Sha Tin Pass Road is not well-signposted or even immediately discernible. Look out for a pole bearing signs that point to Shap Yi Wat Village and Mau Tat Village, behind which is a little set of stairs leading up into the trees. This is the start of the trail that will lead you up Temple Hill.
There is but one thing to do for this part of the hike, which is also the most difficult to conquer: just climb! The stairs might feel like they will never end as you make your way up to the Tsz Wan Shan Radio Broadcast Centre, but there are some small sitting areas interspersed along the way, so keep an easy pace and take breaks. Once you get high enough, the foliage opens up to the city view below, and you’ll probably forget all about the ache in your thighs.
There is a viewing platform at the end of the stairs which will grant you the best views over Wong Tai Sin, Diamond Hill, San Po Kong, and the rest of the city stretching out into the distance. There is apparently also a hidden spot if you scramble up the slope behind this flat viewing platform which offers a slightly higher and more panoramic view without barriers in the way, but it is not signposted and probably quite steep, so do be careful if you choose to go up.
From here, the trail to the peak of Temple Hill is your usual dirt path hike and none too difficult as you make your way to the white-coloured TV transmission station in the distance. Walk around the fenced compound until you get to the main entrance; here, you’ll be facing north, with views of Kowloon Peak, Tate’s Cairn, and Sha Tin.
To return, simply take the obvious paved road which will eventually lead you down to Kwun Ping Road and back onto Sha Tin Pass Road. You can choose to turn right and continue along it as it runs all the way back to Fat Jong Temple, or cross the road and take the trail next to the stop sign going downhill.
We prefer going this second way as it is a scenic little path heading down to Tsz Wan Shan Road, with the foliage occasionally opening up to views of the city. It is also not too steep and easy to follow—the only bit that may be confusing is having to turn right at a junction of sorts where a smaller trail branches off to the left. Both will eventually lead to the same place, but the bigger path on the right is quicker; you’ll know you’ve made the correct turning if you see an old tree with lots of hanging roots right after the junction.
Eventually, the trail will spit you out at Tsz Ching Estate, and you can pat yourself on the back for having absorbed some of the nearby Lion Rock spirit and conquering the flights of stairs up Temple Hill. Next time: Lion Rock itself!