Header image courtesy of @tszblog (via Instagram)
It’s no secret that Ma On Shan Country Park is home to an extraordinary collection of hiking trails, but if you’ve already conquered the oft-trekked Pyramid Hill and Wilson Trail Stage 4, then perhaps it’s time to explore one of the lesser-known hills! Among them, the scenic West Buffalo Hill should be at the very top of your bucket list. Sure, it’s a steep and leg-burning haul, but the payoff is worth it for the wealth of scenic highlights it has to offer, ranging from stunning rocky outcrops to picturesque silvergrass fields! If you’re keen for a challenge (and some Insta-worthy photos to show off), follow along and we’ll show you how to hike West Buffalo Hill.
Before you get the wrong idea—no, you probably won’t encounter any bovines on this trail (though they are actually a common sight in other parts of Ma On Shan and the nearby Sai Kung). West Buffalo Hill takes its name from its location, lying on the west of—you guessed it—Buffalo Hill, which boasts a rocky peak resembling a buffalo’s head. The two connected buffalo peaks nestled in Ma On Shan Country Park are often tackled in one go, as they are in a reasonably short distance from each other and nearly identical in height, clocking in at just over 600 metres. But of course, you could just as well call it a day after reaching the summit of West Buffalo Hill.
With the starting point of the hike at the backyard of Siu Lek Yuen—a sprawling residential area in Sha Tin, West Buffalo Hill is accessible yet packs a big punch on the scenery front. Its main draws are definitely the silvergrass fields and uniquely shaped boulders and crags—including the famous rock window that will have all the Instagrammers out there going cuckoo—but you can also look forward to expansive 360-degree views overlooking northeastern New Territories and beyond!
The route going up to West Buffalo Hill is approximately 3.9 kilometres long and will take close to two hours to arrive at the climax, so it’s best to reserve around four hours for the round trip—especially if you plan on taking your time to absorb the many beautiful sights. And unless you are a seasoned hiker, you may also need to stop frequently for breaks. While this hike is not the most demanding that we’ve covered, it’s not for the faint of heart either. Prepare for seemingly endless flights of steps and a few slippery sections that require careful manoeuvring. You’ll definitely want to strap on some hiking shoes with good traction and grab a sturdy trekking stick to help you along the way!
Distance: 3.9 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 531 metres approx.
Total time: 4 hours approx.
To start the hike, you will first need to get to Wong Nai Tau Bus Terminus, which is nestled in a suburban village on the eastern side of Sha Tin. There are plenty of buses that will bring you to here, including 82K, 83K, 83X, and 86, as well as several minibuses, such as 806A, 65K, and 65A. Truth be told, your best bet is to check Google Maps for the quickest route from your location, but a popular and relatively accessible option is to start from Sha Tin Central Bus Terminus, just minutes away from the MTR station.
Just to get your legs warmed up for the real work yet to come, the initial section of the hike starts with a fairly gentle ascent, with a well-paved, concrete path flanked with stones, lush shrubbery and trees on either side. After 10 minutes, you will see a map board and a sign next to it that points to Shek Nga Pui—this marks the beginning of a gruelling series of inclines! The winding path is mixed between dirt and rocky steps, with a few narrow spots along steep sides that will require your full and undivided attention to avoid tripping.
Eventually, you will come across a junction where you can turn left on an uphill side trail that goes straight to West Buffalo Hill. Only marked by a ceramic brick on the ground and a ribbon, the path is pretty inconspicuous so keep your eyes peeled! If you miss it, you may have to take the long way up passing through Shek Nga Pui.
Up until here, the trail traverses dense woodland, so shade is guaranteed; but—for better or for worse—that won’t last for long. A little before the halfway point, you break free from towering trees and continue the rest of your way up under the open sky. There will still be plenty of foliage around—mostly that of the low and shrub-like variety that may require some bushwhacking to get through. The good news is that the scenery really starts to ramp up in the second half of your ascent. Soon after emerging from the trees, you will arrive at your first lookout point on a giant, bladed rock. Pause to rest, recharge, and snap some photos of the endless, undulating landmasses.
Navigating the remainder of the trail should be relatively easy, as the peak of West Buffalo Hill will be in full view, but hiking it will feel the complete opposite. As you get closer and closer to your destination, you’ll find that the inclines get steeper and the terrains sandier. Clambering on all fours might not be necessary but do mind your steps and watch out for loose ground that may crumble under your feet!
If you visit during the autumn or winter, the final leg of your climb will be punctuated by lovely patches of silvergrass meadows for your viewing and photo-taking pleasure. These fields of swaying beauties grow as tall as a person and have an ethereal presence will make you instantly forget about the pain in your legs. So dive right in and frolic to your heart’s delight—you will feel as though you have entered a dreamscape of sorts!
While silvergrass is seasonal, one attraction that can be appreciated year-round is the magnificent collection of geological wonders. Right before you hit the summit, there will be a narrow, grainy path that descends to a scattering of rocky outcrops. It’s definitely worth taking a detour here, if only just for an obligatory photo at the jutting rock window! Don’t get too excited that you forget to exercise caution though, as this nook a bit difficult to get to and you will want to hold on to the rope on the side!
After exploring the rocky cluster and filling your camera roll with photos, return back up the main path and power through one last steep knoll to reach the top of West Buffalo Hill. You will know that you have finally conquered this beast of a hill when you see the triangulation pillar (and probably a fellow hiker posing for a photo on top of it). The views that greet you here are utterly spectacular—offering sweeping panoramas of Sha Tin and Sai Kung, and even stretching as far as Clear Water Bay Peninsula on a clear day.
From here, the options are plenty. Ambitious hikers can continue on to the adjacent Buffalo Hill and make a loop back to Wong Nai Tau via Shek Nga Shan or cut through Ma On Shan Country Park and trek towards Pak Shan Wan in Sai Kung (we reckon a celebratory seafood feast is in order after such an intense workout). However, if your legs are starting to feel like lead, maybe it’s time to make your journey back to civilisation.
The most straightforward way of return is by the same route you came. Be warned though, the descent can be a killer on the joints and quite precarious given to the steep and narrow sandy paths, so have your hiking stick handy to aid your balance! Once you’ve made it back to Wong Nai Tau, simply head to the bus terminal and catch bus 83X back to Sha Tin Central or one of the minibuses going to Kowloon if that is more convenient for you.