The hike from Ap Lei Chau to Ap Lei Pai, via Mount Johnston (Yuk Kwai Shan), fascinates me for one reason. And that’s because it feels like an “island-hopping” hike. Think about it, you go from a large island (Hong Kong Island), to a small island (Ap Lei Chau), and then to an even smaller island (Ap Lei Pai)! Sure, the hike only starts from Ap Lei Chau, and ends at Ap Lei Pai. But I still like the mental image of an island-hopping hike.
That aside, the Ap Lei Chau to Ap Lei Pai Hike is perfect if you’re looking for a short but challenging hike on Hong Kong Island. And in return it offers incredible views of Lamma Island, Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau, Stanley, and of course the sea all around.
The Hike in Numbers and Visualised
The hike is best summed up as a steep incline, followed by a steep decline, a sandbar, and finally crossing an island to get to the lighthouse. And it’s that initial steepness that makes it challenging.
It’s also the reason why there are warning signs on either side of Mount Johnston. The hiking trail traversing the hill is extremely steep, and not for everyone! In fact, the slope facing Ap Lei Pai, with its jagged rocks, is also quite treacherous.
But fortunately the hike to Ap Lei Pai is quite short. So the challenge posed by Mount Johnston is also short-lived.
- Proper hiking shoes.
- Gloves (not necessary, but will be helpful).
- Umbrella, cap, anything to protect you from the sun as there is no shade along the way.
- Plenty of water.
Here’s a quick tour of the hike to get you excited.
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Now, let’s talk about each of these sections in detail, so that you know what to expect before you set off on the Ap Lei Pai Hike.
The starting point for the Ap Lei Pai hike is Lei Tung in Ap Lei Chau. There are plenty of ways to get here, but the easiest is by MTR to the Lei Tung Station on the South Island Line. At the MTR Station, take Exit B towards the bus stop, and exit on the McDonald’s side.
Of course, you can also take buses 96, 97, or 98 to arrive at the McDonald’s at Lei Tung Estate.
The entrance for this hike is hidden from plain sight. Opposite the bus-stop are two yellow booths. Walk in-between them, and follow the path till you see the steps. You may need to jump over a divider. This is the starting point to hike up Mount Johnston.
Steep Climb Up Mount Johnston
The climb up Mount Johnston is short, but very steep!
Once you arrive at the steps behind the yellow booths, continue on this trail as it runs along the wired fence of Ap Lei Chau Service Reservoir Playground. Soon, the trail turns left and you’re presented with two paths in front of you, along with a warning sign. It’s good to mentally prepare yourself at this stage to start the climb.
And as for the two paths, it doesn’t matter which one you take. They both run parallel, all the way to the top.
This section is perhaps the toughest part of the hike. Make sure you go slow, grab onto the rope, or a sturdy tree or branches. We were often using our hands to pull ourselves up.
On your way up, look back down to appreciate the steepness of this slope because in no time you’ll be above the residential towers behind you. And before you know it, you’ve reached the top of Mount Johnston.
Views from Mount Johnston
From on top of Mount Johnston you get sweeping views of Lamma Island to your right, and Ap Lei Chau and Aberdeen to your left. If you walk slightly ahead, you can admire stunning views of Ap Lei Pai and the sandbar that connects the two islands.
Keep in mind that if you’re hiking up here during the day that there is no shade on top of Mount Johnston. In fact, there is no shade anywhere along this hike. So make sure that you’re prepared to deal with the sun.
Just before you descend from Mount Johnston there is an interesting story about World War 2, that involves Ap Lei Chau, inscribed on a rock. I won’t post any spoilers here, but be sure to read it while you’re there.
Steep Slope Down Mount Johnston
After that steep uphill climb, you’re probably looking forward to that hike downhill. I would agree with you, except the hike downhill isn’t that easy either.
As you walk towards Ap Lei Pai, the first half of the descent is fairly straightforward. As you descend, the views of Ap Lei Pai and the sea really open up. It begins to feel like a relaxing coastal hike.
But soon you’ll arrive at a point from where that gradual descent becomes a very steep descent! And to add to the difficulty, the trail now is made up almost entirely of sharp rocks. My advice for this stage is to go slow. Grab the rope, and gently make your way down to the tombolo.
Tombolo between Ap Lei Chau and Ap Lei Pai
A short tombolo, or sandbar, connects Ap Lei Pai to Ap Lei Chau. When you finally arrive here, be sure to glance back and admire that steep slope that you just came down. Now imagine climbing that back up. You could do that if you’re up for a challenge. Or continue reading till the end to find out how else to end this hike.
In the meantime, walk across the sandbar to the rocks on the other side, and continue on your hike to Ap Lei Pai. Don’t mind the trash on either side.
Ap Lei Pai
Ap Lei Pai is a small, uninhabited island attached to Ap Lei Chau. Crossing the island shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes at a comfortable pace.
There are no jarring surprises on Ap Lei Pai. No steep slopes, just a plain hiking trail that makes its way through the bushes.
Mount Johnston Lighthouse
At the other end of Ap Lei Pai is the Mount Johnston Lighthouse. This small, white lighthouse is a popular spot for photographers and Instagramers alike. The rocky cliffs are also fairly popular for fishing.
Sit here and admire the container-ships that pass by, or the boats that enter the Aberdeen Channel.
Or you can do something a bit more adventurous and walk around the side to find the hidden, natural pool. Although I did see a few crabs, I believe the pool is safe for swimming. It fills up with sea water every time the waves wash over.
Finish the hike
There are essentially two ways to finish the Ap Lei Chau to Ap Lei Pai Hike.
- You can trace your steps back from where you came, or
- You can take a sampan (small boat) to Aberdeen Pier.
There is a small pier next to the Mount Johnston Lighthouse where the sampan arrives. A one-way trip should cost HK$ 50 per head.
However, keep in mind that the sampan doesn’t have a regular schedule, and there’s no guarantee that it will show up. From what we could tell is that it makes trips back and forth from Aberbeen to Ap Lei Pai, every 30 odd minutes.
We were extremely fortunate to catch the last sampan for the day at 6:30 PM. The sampan-lady screamed at everyone at the lighthouse to make sure that they knew it was her last trip for the day.
The number for the sampan is 92378915, in case you need it.
Hike to Ap Lei Pai via Mount Johnston
Personally, I think the best time for this hike is late afternoon, early evening. That’s when the sun stays behind your back as you hike towards Ap Lei Pai.
During our hike we also learned that the Mount Johnston Lighthouse is a popular spot for watching the sunset. We left behind quite a few photographers and sunset lovers at the lighthouse when we boarded the sampan. I would imagine the views of the sunset to be quite beautiful even from Mount Johnston.
Anyway, we hope you found our guide to the Mount Johnston and Ap Lei Pai Hike useful. Please feel free to leave a comment, or share this post on the social media channel of your choice.