At 957 metres above sea level, Tai Mo Shan is Hong Kong’s tallest peak. Tai Mo Shan (大帽山, literally “Big Hat Mountain”) towers over the city and is visible from almost every part of Hong Kong, as long as it’s not covered in clouds.
Situated in the centre of the New Territories and Tai Mo Shan Country Park, Tai Mo Shan forms part of the Guan Fu Mountain Range with numerous sub-peaks surrounding its summit.
And similar to Tate’s Cairn or Mount Parker, Tai Mo Shan’s summit is also occupied by a Hong Kong Observatory weather radar station. This just means that there is a motorable road to its summit.
The access provided by the road makes Tai Mo Shan extremely popular with casual and serious hikers, cyclists, and just about anyone who wants to come here to enjoy the panoramic views of Hong Kong or swim in the clouds!
Tai Mo Shan Hike
Let me preface this section by stating there are numerous hiking trails to the top of Tai Mo Shan. One popular route is via Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls on the north side. If you plan to take this route, just be sure to budget plenty of time to enjoy the views from Tai Mo Shan as well as the four waterfalls along the way.
This route is popularly referred to as the Tai Mo Shan Waterfall Hike and you even can book a group hike on this route.
There is another popular route from Chuen Lung Village via the Heung Shek Path and Miu Ko Toi (a subpeak of Tai Mo Shan). There are a few smaller waterfalls on this route too. But the main attraction on this route is the local dumpling restaurants in Chuen Lung Village.
Many hikers choose to start or end their hike with some delicious dumplings!
You can also hike to Tai Mo Shan peak from Shing Mun Reservoir’s Pineapple Dam, from Tsuen Wan, or from Tai Po via Lead Mine Pass.
However, the most popular hiking route is from the Tai Mo Shan Visitor’s Centre, next to the Rotary Club Campsite on Route Twisk (Tsuen Kam Au).
This short hiking route on Maclehose Trail Section 8 is relatively easy, making it a crowd favourite. And this is the route we will focus on in this post.
And here’s a quick highlight reel of the hike.
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Tai Mo Shan Hike Difficulty
Other than the steps at the start, the hike to Tai Mo Shan from Route Twisk is relatively easy, making it a family-friendly hike. And that’s why it’s our recommended route for anyone who wants to hike to Hong Kong’s tallest peak.
However, there is a shortcut to the weather radar station from the north viewing point that can make this seemingly easy hike challenging! But of course, the shortcut is optional.
The Tai Mo Shan Hike starts from the Tai Mo Shan Country Park bus stop on Route Twisk in Tsuen Kam Au. The starting point is already 470 metres above sea level.
There is only one bus that stops at this bus stop, and that is KMB bus number 51. This bus plies on a circular route between Nina Tower (Tsuen Wan) and Sheung Tsuen.
It’s easiest to board the bus at the Nina Tower Bus Terminus opposite the Tsuen Wan West MTR Station (Tuen Ma Line) or on Tai Ho Road North outside the Tsuen Wan MTR Station (Tsuen Wan Line).
Once at the Tai Mo Shan Country Park bus stop, cross the road and find the steps behind the bus stop on the opposite side.
To the Visitor Centre
Once on the steps behind the bus stop, simply follow the signs to the “Visitor Centre”.
The Tai Mo Shan Visitor’s Centre is a short 150-metre walk from the bus stop. At the end of the steps is the snacks store at the Visitor Centre.
You can also reach the Tai Mo Shan Visitor Centre by taxi. Technically, you could take a taxi to right below Tai Mo Shan, but then that’s hardly a hike.
If you want to buy some snacks, drinks, or fill up your water bottle, do it at the snack store. Toilets are also located at the back.
But to continue hiking to Tai Mo Shan, walk through the corridor on the left (towards the toilets) and to the back of the snack store.
Locate the sign for the Tai Mo Shan Picnic Site and Maclehose Trail to continue the hike.
Although the Tai Mo Shan Hike is relatively easy, the section of the Maclehose Trail after the Visitor Centre is the only challenging part of the hike. And if I am being honest, it is the only part that feels like a hike.
However, if you prefer inclines to steps, you can always walk the Tai Mo Shan Road. Just keep in mind that the road is for vehicles.
The steps on Maclehose Trail
From behind the Tai Mo Shan Visitor Centre, the trail briefly meanders before starting its ascent on steps.
Although the steps are shaded, they can be challenging. The initial section of the steps is relatively steep, so it helps to go slow.
The steps become the steepest next to a brief clearing from where you get the first views of Tsuen Wan and Tsing Yi.
Continue on the trail as it briefly flattens before approaching the next flight of steps.
One thing to note on this section of the trail is several hidden clearings on the sides. If you spot one, feel free to check out the views. But remember, there are much better views ahead!
At the end of the steps and the short incline that follows, there is a small clearing.
Step onto the small cluster of rocks on the left to get your views of Kai Kung Leng, Yuen Long, Shenzhen, and pretty much the entire northeastern New Territories of Hong Kong.
To Tai Mo Shan Picnic Site No. 3
From this clearing, the Tai Mo Shan Hike is nothing short of spectacular, especially on a clear day!
To start with, the Maclehose Trail becomes more or less flat. And without a canopy of trees, the trail maintains views of Tai Mo Shan at all times.
This section of the trail also has quite a few large rocks formations and lookout points. Feel free to climb the rocks, explore the area and enjoy the views.
And before you know it, the flat trail ends next to steps going downhill. From these steps, it’s hard not to admire the size of Hong Kong’s tallest mountain right in front.
Walk down the steps to reach Tai Mo Shan Picnic Site No. 3. The Maclehose Trail continues through the picnic site. But we recommend continuing the next section of the hike on the Tai Mo Shan Road.
To Wo Tong Kong
As you shift from the trail to the road, watch out for vehicles approaching from both sides.
I think the photographer in me found this short stretch of road after the picnic site to be extremely photogenic.
The uphill road leading up to Tai Mo Shan felt like a perfectly framed picture.
At the end of the incline, Maclehose Trail continues through the trees on the right. However, instead of taking the trail, stay on the road.
At the next bend is a small mound, which is the summit of Wo Tong Kong, one of the sub-peaks of Tai Mo Shan. Climb the mound to reach Tai Mo Shan Country Park Viewing Point (North) and the Tai Mo Shan Picnic Site No. 4.
Tai Mo Shan Lookout
At 702 metres, Wo Tong Kong is the location for the Tai Mo Shan Country Park Viewing Point (North) and the Tai Mo Shan Picnic Site No. 4.
This location is also more simply referred to as the Tai Mo Shan Lookout.
From here you can enjoy sweeping panoramic views from Yuen Long to Tai To Yan, with Shenzhen in the background.
There is another lookout point on the opposite side of the road with views to the west.
But for me, this lookout offers the most striking view of Kai Kung Leng (Rooster Ridge), the volcanic crest with a velvet texture. Don’t let the hill fool you but Kai Kung Leng Hike is surprisingly challenging!
Take a break and enjoy the views from what I would imagine is Hong Kong’s highest and most scenic picnic spot!
To the barrier gate
From the Tai Mo Shan Lookout return to the Tai Mo Shan Road and continue walking uphill. There’s an abandoned structure behind the lookout that you can peek into.
At the last car park, the road splits in two. The road on the right heads down to Sze Lok Yuen and the YHA Sze Lok Yuen Tai Mo Shan Youth Hostel.
However, to continue to Tai Mo Shan, turn left and walk past the barrier gate. Only authorized vehicles are allowed beyond this point.
The steep shortcut to the summit (optional)
Just around the corner after the barrier gate, is an unmarked trail to the top of Tai Mo Shan. The easiest way to spot it is to look for the clearing directly opposite the M152 trail marker.
Although the shortcut is relatively easy to follow, it is very steep. It covers a distance of 530 metres as it ascends from 735 metres to 935 metres. And once on the top, it’s another 280 metres to reach the front of Tai Mo Shan.
The shortcut is also quite scenic as it passes a few large and colourful rock formations and silver grass along the way.
However, if you were to continue walking on Tai Mo Shan Road to the summit, the distance is approximately 1.7 km vs. 820 metres via the shortcut to the same spot.
The easy but longer option is to stay on the road. The short but challenging option is to take the shortcut. Or you can mix and match – go up one way and come down the other.
We wouldn’t recommend what we did, which is to ascend via the Tai Mo Shan Road and descend via the shortcut. Because of its steep nature, it’s easier to climb up than to come down via the shortcut.
Tai Mo Shan Road to the summit
For now, we’ll stay on the Tai Mo Shan Road and highlight some shortcuts from here to the summit. And if you prefer keeping this hike as simple as possible, stick to the road.
From the barrier gate, the Tai Mo Shan Road ascends at a gentle incline. The initial section has the hill on one side and trees on the other. So, it doesn’t offer much in terms of views.
However, after roughly 800 metres into the walk, the views begin! Each bend on the road showcases a different side of Hong Kong.
Take your time and appreciate the views as you slowly make your way to the summit.
Shortcuts on Tai Mo Shan Road
After about 1.4 km of walking on Tai Mo Shan Road, there are a couple of shortcuts that will save you plenty of walking.
The first shortcut I recommend is when the road is directly below the weather radar. There’s a visible clearing through the bushes to the road above.
When you reach the road above, look for the rock formation at the next bend. Take the shortcut from next to the rocks to the road above.
And finally, when there is no more road between you and the peak of Tai Mo Shan, there is a short trail that runs between the two small structures.
Take this trail to the top of Tai Mo Shan!
The importance of good weather at Tai Mo Shan
Due to its height, Tai Mo Shan is Hong Kong’s most misty area and is often covered in clouds. The temperature is also usually lower than that in most parts of the city.
Now some may prefer to hike among the clouds, but we waited patiently for a clear day. And I must be honest, it was completely worth it for the views.
Another point to keep in mind is that the weather on the summit can change very quickly. When we hiked up, it was cloudy and cold. And when the sun came out, it became pleasant. But every time the cold wind blew, we froze.
And yes, it is normal for temperatures to drop below freezing point at Tai Mo Shan during the winter.
A tip from us – if you’re planning to hike to Tai Mo Shan and the weather changes not to your liking, we recommend pivoting to the Kap Lung Ancient Trail and Forest Trail Hike. It shares the same starting point as Tai Mo Shan and doesn’t need good weather to be enjoyed.
The views from Tai Mo Shan
The joy of Tai Mo Shan isn’t the hike but rather the experience from on top of Hong Kong’s tallest mountain!
Our patience paid off when we hiked on a cold and clear winter’s day. Because from the top of Tai Mo Shan we could see every inch of Hong Kong!
Further south we could see the entirety of Hong Kong Island! And behind it, Lamma Island.
Right below Tai Mo Shan is Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung, and the island of Tsing Yi.
And right at the end, we could see the unmistakable summit of Castle Peak!
As we walked around the fence on the summit, we could also see Ho Pui Reservoir below and of course, the entire Shenzhen skyline.
And finally, the north also has beautiful views of Yuen Long, Kai Kung Leng, and Tai To Yan.
As I said, the views are absolutely stunning and we had the fortune to see the entire length and breadth of Hong Kong from on top of Tai Mo Shan.
Hong Kong’s highest peak
The height of Tai Mo Shan is 957 metres above sea level, but even at the end of the hike, you cannot reach the claimed height. And that’s because the highest point on the hill is located inside the fenced area that belongs to the Hong Kong Observatory.
So, technically the highest access point for us civilians is limited to approximately 945 metres above sea level.
Fortunately, the area in front of the radar station is grassy with lots of rocks to sit on comfortably while you enjoy the views.
Just watch out for all the cow dung!
Ways to descend
Because of the numerous hiking routes to the summit, there are plenty of options to descend Tai Mo Shan.
You can continue on Maclehose Trail Section 8 and descend to Tai Po via Lead Mine Pass. Or head down to Ng Tung Chai via the waterfalls.
If you wish to return the way you came up, you can either take the gentle decline of the Tai Mo Shan Road, or the steep shortcut from the west face of the hill.
To reach the shortcut, walk to the northwest end of the fence and locate the start of the trail.
We ended up taking the shortcut to the barrier gate. And although it was challenging and very slippery coming down this way, it did save us a lot of walking.
Best time to hike
Given how easy it is to access Tai Mo Shan, most people choose to visit either the Viewing Point or the summit to catch the sunset or sunrise.
We decided to stay to catch the golden hour from Tai Mo Shan and it was glorious! And we also noticed that the crowds started building up just before sunset.
And while we were descending, we weren’t too surprised to see that all the hidden viewing points on the trail back to the Visitor Centre were occupied with those wanting to catch the sunset.
Tai Mo Shan also becomes very crowded during new years eve and new years day as hundreds come here to watch the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the new year.
On top of Hong Kong
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the Tai Mo Shan Hike from Route Twisk (Tsuen Kam Au). This is honestly the simplest and shortest route to Hong Kong’s tallest peak.
You can always try a different route to make the hike more challenging. But for most, the joy of Tai Mo Shan is in the panoramic views from the top. The sunsets and the sunrises. And the knowledge in knowing that you’re on top of Hong Kong!
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