Sweet Gum Woods – sounds like something out of a fairy tale! And it really is! Because come winter, these woods in Tai Tong (in Tai Lam Country Park), Hong Kong transform themselves into something truly magical, and breathtaking.
The leaves on the sweet gum trees (sometimes mistakenly referred to as maple leaves) change colour to different shades of yellow, orange, and red. And as the trees that surround them continue to stay green, this contrast of colours is truly a beautiful sight to behold!
In fact, this is your only chance to experience “autumn colours” in Hong Kong!
How To Get To The Sweet Gum Woods
There are a few options to get to Tai Tong to see the red leaves.
Public Transport – Bus K66 from Long Ping
- Take the West Rail Line to Long Ping Station.
- Take Exit B2, and then take MTR Bus K66. Previously the bus stop was on Wang Tat Road, but recently the stop has changed to Ma Wang Road. During peak season, the bus has a leaf sign in front. Or if you’re lost, simply ask anyone for the “maple leaf” bus.
- Alight at Tai Tong Shan Road, and walk uphill for about 2.64 km, or 40 minutes to reach the Sweet Gum Woods (instructions below).
During the season when the leaves turn red, the K66 bus plies directly between Long Ping MTR and Tai Tong Shan Road on Sundays and public holidays. It also drops you at the roundabout, which saves you about 500 m of walking.
The bus operates between 10:30 and 16:00 for the Tai Tong bound service, and from 13:00 to 19:00 for the Long Ping Station bound service with a frequency of 15 minutes.
Public Transport – Red Minibus
You can also get there by red minibus. The minibus departs from Hung Min Court in Yuen Long and terminates at Tai Tong Shan Road car park, which saves you about 1 kilometre of uphill walking.
You can also take a green taxi to Tai Tong Shan Road car park. It’s probably best to take it from Yuen Long MTR station. The fare should be around HK$ 60.
If you’re driving to the Sweet Gum Woods, you should know that parking is limited at Tai Tong Shan Road car park and it fills up fast.
Best Area To See The Red Leaves in Tai Tong
Assuming you take the K66 bus, you’ll need to walk about 40 minutes from the stop to get to the start of the Sweet Gum Woods. It’s a relatively easy walk, even if it is uphill.
From the bus stop, walk up Tai Tong Shan Road till you reach an outdoor seating area with steps on the left. Take the steps as they’re a shortcut to Tai Lam Country Park.
Just above the park is the Tai Tong Shan car park. Continue walking along Tai Tong Shan Road for approximately 2 km. You might see a couple of sweet gum trees along the way, but don’t worry, the cluster of red leaves is further ahead.
You’ll know when you reach the starting point when you see a sign for the red leaves and a line of portable toilets. This is where Sweet Gum Woods begins.
Below are the map and elevation profile to the starting point of the Sweet Gum Woods, which you can also open in Google Maps.
Sweet Gum Woods
From the starting point, the sweet gum trees are concentrated on either side of the road for the next 400 metres.
You can walk down Tai Tong Shan Road admiring these trees at your own pace. There’s also an elevated path behind the trees on the hillside that you can climb on to take pictures.
Sweet Gum Stand
300 metres into the walk you’ll see the Sweet Gum Stand to your right. It’s an outdoor seating area with a high concentration of red leaves.
It’s an incredibly photogenic spot, so make sure you snap a couple of shots here for your Instagram.
However, my favourite area is at the end. From the Sweet Gum Stand, walk another 100 metres till you reach the final cluster of red leaf trees before the downhill slope.
This cluster is usually less crowded and far more open and picturesque in my opinion.
Here’s a quick updated video showcasing the beauty of the red leaves in Hong Kong. If you like it, please hit that subscribe button below.
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About The Sweet Gum Woods, Tai Lam Country Park
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate, and most trees in the city are evergreens. Deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves annually) are rare, but the sweet gum tree is one of the few that are in the city. The leaves of these trees look a lot like maple tree leaves. And come winter, they too turn a beautiful shade of red before they shed.
Maple Leaves or Sweet Gum Leaves?
I’ve often heard people refer to these trees as maple trees, or call them maple leaves. Although easily confused, these are not maple leaves.
The leaves of a maple tree are quite distinct, but that leaf shape does not belong to maple trees alone. Sycamore, yellow-poplar, and sweet gum trees share a similar broadleaf structure.
I believe the trees in the Sweet Gum Woods are the Liquidambar formosana, or the Chinese sweet gum. They have simple star-shaped leaves with 3 lobes that turn yellow to red in the fall.
Best Time To See The Leaves Change Colour?
The leaves change colour on the sweet gum trees is between November and January. But mid to end December is probably the best time as the leaves turn a bold red colour during this period.
We’ve visited the Sweet Gum Woods over multiple winters now. And personally, we think that the best time to go is in the third or fourth week of December. We once visited the trees during the second week of December and came back not impressed.
Why Do The Leaves Turn Red?
Leaves contain several types of pigments. Chlorophyll, which gives leaves the green colour, carotenoids that provide the yellowish colour, and anthocyanin that lend the red colour. As the weather changes and becomes dry and cool, the chlorophyll decomposes, leaving the yellow and red pigments behind to be seen.
I know that leaves changing colour may not be such a big deal for those who live in northern Europe or North America. But for those living in Hong Kong, it really is a rare sight!
Fall Colours in Hong Kong
I first went to see the red leaves in Tai Tong in 2017. As you can probably tell by now, the photos in this post have been taken over multiple years. But back in 2017, not many knew about, or even visited the Sweet Gum Woods.
More recently, the popularity of the red leaves in Hong Kong has exploded! I really enjoyed having the red leaves to myself back when I first visited. But with the number of visitors growing each year, that seems impossible now.
However, crowded or not, the Sweet Gum Woods is definitely worth a visit!
Bonus: Thousand Islands Lake
The Sweet Gum Woods is located in Tai Lam Country Park, which is also home to the Tai Lam Chung Reservoir, popularly known as the Thousand Islands Lake. The reservoir is another very scenic, very popular, and highly photographed location.
The good news is that if you’ve got time and energy to spare while at the Sweet Gum Woods, you can add the Thousand Islands to your day’s itinerary.
The Reservoir Islands Viewpoint, from where you can see the Thousand Islands, is a 2 km walk from the starting point of the Sweet Gum Woods. In fact, I could easily spot the islands in the reservoir with my drone.
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