Ma On Shan hike is one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in the New Territories of Hong Kong. The mountain got its name because of the saddle-shaped peaks (Ma On literally means horse saddle) and is one of the top 10 highest mountains in HK.
There are many ways to hike Ma On Shan in Hong Kong. I really like the point-to-point trail that starts in Ma On Shan Country Park, which will take you up a series of peaks of Tiu Shau Ngam, The Hunch Backs and descend into Sai Kung via Pyramid Hill and Ngong Ping plateau. At the latter part of the trail, you will also hike part of MacLehose Trail Section 4 and Ma On Shan Country Trail.
I’ll show you exactly how to hike these mountains in Ma On Shan Country Park and enjoy a day of trekking on one of the best hiking trails in Hong Kong.
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What you need to know before starting the Ma On Shan hike
Before you visit Ma On Shan Country park, take a look at my Hong Kong solo travel guide and get an overview of HK first.
And here are a few additional tips for the Ma On Shan hike:
- The best time to hike Ma On Shan Country Park is late autumn, winter and early spring. The trail is exposed the entire way, and it is quite challenging, so I would not recommend hiking during summer.
- Parts of the trail are quite steep and slippery. Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes. It might also be a good idea to bring a pair of hiking gloves, especially if you don’t have any hiking poles.
- Make sure to bring enough water for a few hours of hiking.
- Get an Octopus Card, a rechargeable smartcard for taking public transportation and use it for taking the MTR to the start of the Ma On Shan trail and taking the minibus from Sai Kung. It costs $100HKD, but you can use $50 stored value and get your $50HKD refundable deposit when you leave HK.
How to hike from Ma On Shan to Sai Kung
The Ma On Shan hike starts in Ma On Shan Country Park, and goes straight up Tiu Shau Ngam to The Hunch Backs, crosses the saddle part of Ma On Shan and descends toward Sai Kung via Pyramid Hill and Ngong Ping Viewing Point. The final descent will take you through MacLehose Trail Section 4 and Ma On Shan Country Trail.
- Difficulty: intermediate to advanced
- Duration: 4.5 hours
- Distance: 7km
- What to bring: hiking shoes, sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen), water, snacks, smartphone (for taking photos and navigation), gloves
How to get to the start of the Ma On Shan hiking trail
First, you have to take the MTR to Ma On Shan Station. Then you can walk or take the village minibus to the start of the Ma On Shan hike, which is in Ma On Shan Country Park.
1. Walk to Ma On Shan Country Park
Walking to Ma On Shan Country Park, where the hiking trail starts, is possible. The path crosses Ma On Shan town and goes uphill near the park (see route). It is a 45-minute walk. Not a fun or glamorous walk. So if you can, take the minibus and save your energy for the actual hiking trail.
2. Take village minibus NR84 to Ma On Shan Country Park
At Ma On Shan MTR Station, take Exit B, which brings you directly into MOSTown, a shopping mall. Find an escalator that will take you to the ground floor. Look for the minibus stop for NR84, which is at the perimeter of the bus terminal on On Luk Street.
The village minibus NR84 is a residential bus, which means villagers have priority over visitors. Plus, this is a popular bus route for the Ma On Shan hiking trail, which means the minibus queue starts early. Make sure to go earlier because the minibus only has a capacity for 28 passengers. I caught the 9:30 am minibus but was there at 9:00 am to ensure I could get on the bus.
- Village minibus NR84: from Sunshine City (On Luk Street) to Ma On Shan Country Park (near the BBQ site on Google Maps, 5th stop)
- Time: 20 minutes (8:00 am, 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 1:00 pm, 5:30 pm, 7:00 pm)
- Cost: $7HKD (use Octopus card)
Look for the trail entrance at Ma On Shan Country Park
Once you get off the minibus, you will be in the parking lot of Ma On Shan Country Park.
Then look for a walking path that will lead you to the start of the Ma On Shan Family Walk.
Hike up Ma On Shan Family Walk
Ma On Shan Family Walk consists of a gradual stairway that will lead you to a pavilion and a viewing platform. It is not very difficult to get to the viewing platform.
Near the viewing platform, you will see a warning sign. This is the start of a steep hike up to Tiu Shau Ngam. Walk past the “danger” sign. You are going the right way.
Hike up the steep slopes of Tiu Shau Ngam
Tiu Shau Ngam is a series of mountains with a steep hiking trail that will lead you to The Hunch Backs, which is at the highest point, the western ridge.
And the hike up Tiu Shau Ngam is pretty difficult. The hiking trail is either a muddy path or a steep stairway where you may need to use your hands to balance yourself and climb up the steep slope. This is where your gloves come in handy.
There is a rope on the latter part of the climb at one point, but it has been since removed. But you can still climb up without the rope. Just take your time and climb at a steady pace.
Panoramic views from Tiu Shau Ngam
At the first peak of Tiu Shau Ngam, you can see unobstructed views of Ma On Shan (the town), Sha Tin area, Shing Mun River and Tolo Habour. The view is quite impressive at this peak but keep climbing up, the views get better!
Trek up to The Hunch Backs of the Ma On Shan Hike
While you are hiking up Tiu Shau Ngam, you can see the saddle-shaped mountain while looking towards the trail. Picture this: the tail is The Hunch Backs (the peak on the left) and Ma On Shan is the head (the peak on the right). Can you see it?
And when you look back towards where you started, you can see the series of peaks of Tiu Shau Ngam.
Hike on the mountain ridge from The Hunch Backs to the Ma On Shan peak
At the top of The Hunch Backs summit, you can see a narrow hiking trail on the mountain ridge that crosses the horse-saddle mountain. At 677m above sea level, this is quite an impressive view.
The hiking trail is not the easiest, but it is the most exhilarating part of the Ma On Shan hike. It goes down and up a few times, and some parts are quite slippery, especially if you don’t have proper hiking shoes. But the views on both sides of the mountain are spectacular! Continue following the trail until you reach Ma On Shan summit.
Views from Ma On Shan: Three Fathoms Cove and Sai Kung
As soon as you descend from The Hunch Backs, you can catch the first glimpse of Three Fathoms Cove, the body of water separating Ma On Shan and Sai Kung West Country Park.
And when you look north, you can see part of the Plover Cove Reservoir, characterized by the connecting islands and a long linear road. There’s an awesome (but challenging) hike there called Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail if you can trek 18km in one day.
Continuing on the horse saddle of the Ma On Shan Hike
As I mentioned earlier, the horse saddle part of the Ma On Shan Mountain is a narrow hiking trail that goes down and up several times across the mountain peaks.
And at the end of the last peak, you will reach Ma On Shan summit at 702m.
Along the way, you will see views of Sai Kung when you look south. And you will see a narrow hiking trail leading you down the mountains. This is MacLehose Trail Section 4. And you will see Pyramid Hill, the pointy mountain at the end of a series of mountain peaks.
Descend Ma On Shan to Pyramid Hill
Definitely take a moment and enjoy the view from the Ma On Shan peak. As soon as you are ready, carefully descend down the steep mountain. Yes, it is quite steep and slippery.
At the bottom of the mountain, turn around and take a look at just high the Ma On Shan summit is.
Continue on MacLehose Trail Section 4, where it will take you to Pyramid Hill.
Hike to Pyramid Hill on Ma On Shan
At 536m, Pyramid Hill has a very distinct shape and form. You can see the cone-shaped mountain from the top of Ma On Shan and Sai Kung.
While it doesn’t seem very difficult because it is not as tall as Ma On Shan, in fact, the Pyramid Hill hike is one of the most challenging mountains in Hong Kong.
When you follow my itinerary and hike from Ma On Shan to Pyramid Hill, the path takes you straight up to the top and straight down on the other side. The descending part is much longer because the trail will lead you to the plateaus of Ngong Ping on Ma On Shan. And in my opinion, hiking down a mountain is much more difficult than going up.
I’ve seen many people slip down, including myself (but I am clumsy). So if you are not an expert hiker, I highly suggest bringing gloves as you may need to use your hands to balance yourself while hiking down Pyramid Hill. Or bring a hiking pole if you have one.
Descend Pyramid Hill to Ngong Ping in Ma On Shan
Make sure to take plenty of breaks along the trail and take in the views of Sai Kung. From any point on the MacLehose Trail, you can see the town of Sai Kung and the islands in the Port Shelter.
And when you are ready to descend from the summit of Pyramid Hill, take your time and slowly hike down to the plateaus of Ngong Ping in Ma On Shan.
The grassy plateau is a popular spot for picnics. During warmer months, many people bring their camping gear and set up their tents for an overnight stay. Plus, Ngong Ping is one of the best spots for paragliding.
Ngong Ping Plateau
As I mentioned earlier, Ngong Ping Plateau is popular for picnics, camping and paragliding. And it is an excellent spot for day-trippers. I saw many hikers taking photos and taking a break at one of the many spots on the plateau.
This is your last chance to take in the views of Sai Kung before descending the mountain. Make sure to take lots of photos!
Descending Ngong Ping Shan via Ma On Shan Country Trail
MacLehose Trail Section 4 is on the southwest side of the plateau areas of Ngong Ping Shan.
When ready, follow the MacLehose Trail Section 4 until you reach the junction. At that point, turn left onto Ma On Shan Country Trail.
The end of Ma On Shan Country Trail
The hike down the mountain takes about 20 minutes or so. Keep walking until you reach Tai Shui Tseng, a small village at the base of the Ma On Shan Country Trail.
Walk to Sai Kung Town
From Tai Shui Tseng, walk down Pak Kong Au Road until you reach Po Lo Che Road’s intersection.
Cross the street, walk down Tan Cheung Road and continue onto Sun King Terrace.
Google Maps doesn’t look like Sun King Terrace will connect to Hiram’s Hwy (main road), but it has a staircase that will lead you to the main avenue. Once you are on Hiram’s Hwy, turn left (or walk northeast), and you’ll reach the town of Sai Kung in 10 minutes.
Finish your hiking day in Sai Kung Town
The town of Sai Kung is an excellent spot for an after-hike snack or meal. There are plenty of cafes and also seafood restaurants if you are hungry.
The best way to get back to the city is by taking either a bus or minibus back to an MTR station.
The fastest way is to hop on Minibus #1 at Sai Kung Pier Public Minibus Terminus which will take you to Choi Hung MTR Station.
- Minibus 1: from Sai Kung Pier Minibus Terminus to Choi Hung MTR Station
- Time: 30 minutes
- Cost: $7HKD (use Octopus card)
- Check: 16seats website for minibus 1 for more info
Are you ready to attempt the Ma On Shan to Sai Kung hike?
Many hiking trails will take you up to Ma On Shan, but I really like the point-to-point hiking trails where I start from one part of the city and finish in another. Plus, I like to pack my hiking day with different sights and challenges, which is why my Ma On Shan hiking itinerary includes Tiu Shau Ngam, The Hunch Backs and Pyramid Hill.
I hope you enjoyed reading my post on hiking Ma On Shan and will try the hike out yourself. If you enjoy challenging hiking trails, check out High Junk Peak, Pat Sin Leng, Kowloon Peak and Suicide Cliff and Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail.
Thank you for reading my Ma On Shan hiking post
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