Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) is an easy hiking trail along the southern coast of Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), a small rocky island in Tolo Harbour in the Tai Po District of Hong Kong.
The island literally means “horse dung island” in Cantonese. It doesn’t sound appealing but Ma Shi Chau is actually quite special because it has sedimentary rocks that were formed 280 million years ago. These are the second oldest rocks in the region.
In 1999, Ma Shi Chau, along with Yim Tin Tsai (鹽田仔) and several other islands form the Ma Shi Chau Special Area (馬屎洲特別地區), which became a Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. And all of these islands are under statutory protection.
But anyone can hike across Yim Tin Tsai and Ma Shi Chau to see the colourful rocks and views of the mountain ranges in the area. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how you can hike Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail on your own.
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What you need to know before hiking in Ma Chi Chau Special Area
Before you start hiking in Ma Shi Chau Special Area, take a look at my Hong Kong solo travel guide and get an overview of HK first.
Here are a few additional tips for the Ma Shi Chau hike:
- The best time for hiking to Ma Shi Chau is late autumn, winter and early spring. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun, so I would not recommend hiking during the height of summer.
- Bring enough water for a few hours of hiking.
- Also, bring sunscreen and other sun protection.
- The trail is relatively easy. You can get away with wearing regular sneakers.
- Get an Octopus Card, a rechargeable smartcard for taking public transportation and use it for taking the minibus to and from Ma Shi Chau. It costs $100HKD, but you can use $50 stored value and get your $50HKD refundable deposit when you leave HK.
How to hike Ma Shi Chau Special Area
The best way to start hiking Ma Shi Chau Special Area is by taking minibus 20K and starting the hike from the last stop in Sam Mun Tsai.
From the bus stop, walk across Yim Tin Tsai Island, then walk across the tombolo to Ma Shi Chau. Follow the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail, which wraps around the south perimeter of the peninsula, to the Ma Shi Chau Viewing Point, the most eastern point of the peninsula. Then backtrack the entire way back to the bus stop.
Click on “more options” on the top left corner of Google Maps and the map will open in your browser or in the app on your smartphone.
- Difficulty: easy
- Duration: 3.5 hours
- Distance: 7km
- What to bring: sneakers, sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen), water, snacks, smartphone (for taking photos and navigation)
How to get to the start of the hiking trail to Ma Shi Chau Special Area
From anywhere in Hong Kong, take the MTR to Tai Po Market Station. Find Exit A3, walk through the underground and turn left at the end. Then when you walk back up, find the bus stop for minibus 20K and take it to the last stop.
- Minibus 20K: from Tai Po Market Station to Sam Mun Tsai Stop
- Time: 25 minutes (3-15 minutes)
- Cost: $6.40HKD (use Octopus card)
- Check: 16Seats website for minibus 20K for more information
Alight at the last stop at Sam Mun Tsai San Tseun
When you alight at the last stop on the minibus 20k route, you will arrive at Sam Mun Tsai San Tsuen.
The small village sits on the north tip of Yim Tin Tsai Island. Looking west of the village, you can see fishing boats in the Shuen Wan Typhoon Shelter.
A few local restaurants are serving fresh seafood in Sam Mun Tsai. But for now, follow the paved road next to the local eatery and keep right.
Meander through Sam Mun Tsai San Tseun
Follow the narrow paved path with the railing. It will bring you to a residential neighbourhood with a series of paths. Walk down the stairway and walk south towards the trees. Google Maps doesn’t exactly show all the paths within the area, but as long as you walk south toward the trees, you’re on the right track.
Soon after, you will see a sign that points to 馬屎洲, which means you are on the right path to Ma Shi Chau.
Follow the paved path on Yim Tin Tsai Island
From this point forward, there is only one way to Ma Shi Chau. All you have to do is walk up and down a few flights of stairs and follow the paved path.
Look around occasionally, especially when the views open up along the trail. To the east, you can start to see the small body of water between Yim Tin Tsai and Ma Shi Chau. This is part of Plover Cove. And you can even see the northern part of Ma Shi Chau Island.
Walk through the hilly cemetery in Yim Tin Tsai
A big part of Yim Tin Tsai Island is used as a cemetery for residents of Sam Mun Tsai. It may seem a bit creepy walking through the hillside cemetery, but it’s not so bad.
Follow the trail and keep left. The path will lead you to a resting pavilion. To continue, follow the path next to the pavilion.
See views from Yim Tin Tsai Island
Even though you may not enjoy walking through the hillside cemetery, the views along the hiking trail on Yim Tin Tsai Island are amazing!
When the views open up on the southeast side, you can see across Tolo Harbour, the residential neighbourhood of Ma On Shan and the mountain range of Ma On Shan Country Park. There are several challenging hikes in that area, including the Ma On Shan to Sai Kung hike.
And there is a large mountain range on the north side which you cannot miss. It is part of the Pat Sin Leng Country Park. There is a way to hike across the entire ridge to the Eight Immortal Peaks on the east side of the mountain range.
Descend Yim Tin Tsai Island to the tombolo of Ma Shi Chau
Walk down a flight of stairs as you descend the island of Yim Tin Tsai.
And soon after, you’ll see many trees in front of your path. Keep to the right – there is an opening that will lead you to the tombolo, a sandbar connecting Yim Tin Tsai Island and Ma Shi Chau Island.
Start hiking Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail
On the other end of the tombolo is an official sign welcoming you to Ma Shi Chau Island. Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail starts right here.
Take a look at the detailed information board. The dotted red line is the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail. The board also highlighted several observation points along the hiking path.
FYI – during high tides, the entire tombolo is covered. I hiked to Ma Shi Chau around 1 or 2 pm and returned to the tombolo 1.5 hours later. During both times, I was able to walk across the tombolo easily.
So unless you are going super early and late, then definitely check the tide times. Otherwise, you should be able to walk across the tombolo and stay dry.
Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail: trail condition
Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail is an easy trek on the south part of Ma Shi Chau Island. The path goes inland a bit, where there is some shade from the trees. And it occasionally takes you back out to the coast, where you trek across beaches and over different types of rocks.
See different rock formations along Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail
The information board at the beginning of Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail detailed the different types of rock formations, including sandstone, mudstone, quartzite, siltstone and many more.
I’m no geologist, or know enough to identify which rock is which, but I can appreciate these geological wonders’ physical features and vibrant colours.
And besides admiring what Mother Nature created on the island, I really enjoyed the views along the entire length of Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail. To the east is the Plover Cove Reservoir and to the north is a closer look at Pat Sin Leng.
Arrive at the Ma Shi Chau Viewing Point
At the end of the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail, you’ll arrive at the viewing point. There isn’t a specific viewing platform or spot other than a giant rock. Not sure why Google Maps call this the Ma Shi Chau Viewing Point, except it is the most eastern point on Ma Shi Chau island.
But it is clear that this is the end of Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail because there is no path beyond this point. So take it all in – take in the views of the 8 peaks of Pat Sin Leng and Plover Cove Reservoir.
And also take a look at the clear turquoise water. I hardly see water this clear in Hong Kong!
Backtrack the entire way to the minibus stop
When you are ready to hike back, backtrack the entire way to the starting point, which means you are trekking all the way back to the minibus stop in Sam Mun Tsai.
I either read on a travel blog or watched it on youtube that there may be a way to hike up to the peak of Ma Shi Chau. However, I didn’t see a trail on Google Maps and only saw a small opening that looks like the photo below. It looked a bit too dark and hidden to explore on my own, so I decided to backtrack the way instead.
Option to take a small boat to the start of the trail
When you backtrack to the tombolo, a small boat may be docked on the right side waiting for passengers. The little boat can take you to the start of the hiking trail. But to exactly where, I’m not quite sure.
I asked about the price when I approached the small boat at the tombolo. He said it would cost $60HKD per person (which is a lot of money for a short ride). So I started to walk away, then he yelled back and said he would take me back for $50, then $40. I kept walking away. I wasn’t going to pay anything for more than $10. Ha!
If you want to take the small boat, make sure you negotiate a good price before you get on.
But honestly, the walk back isn’t bad at all. There’s a bit of uphill and downhill through Yim Tin Tsai Island. It is exactly the same trail going back to the minibus stop at Sam Mun Tsai.
Are you ready to visit Ma Shi Chau Special Area?
And there you have it. Ma Shi Chau is an interesting island with many rock formations and gorgeous views. It is an easy hiking trail you can do in a few hours and does not require much technical hiking equipment. It is an excellent hike for solo travellers who want to see nature in Hong Kong.
I hope you enjoyed this post and consider adding Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail to your itinerary.
And if you enjoy easy hiking trails, there are many other easy hiking trails in Hong Kong, including Victoria Peak, High West, Red Incense Burner Summit on Braemar Hill, Pineapple Hill, Rhino Rock and the Lamma Island Family Trail on Lamma Island, Trio Beach in Sai Kung and Tsing Yi Nature Trails.
Other HK hikes you might be interested:
- Dragon’s Back Hike: the most popular day hike in HK
- Violet Hill and the Twins: hike over two mountains with over 1,000+ steps
- Pineapple Mountain: the Great Canyon of Hong Kong
- High Junk Peak: one of three sharpest peaks in HK
- Mount Nicholson Hike: see hidden rock statues in the middle of HK Island
- Kowloon Peak and Suicide Cliff: See HK’s most dramatic cliff
- Po Pin Chau: hike around hexagonal rock columns in Sai Kung
- Tung O Ancient Trail: hike the coastal trail in Lantau North Country Park
- Lo Yan Shan hike: hike Chi Ma Wan Country Trail in southern Lantau Island
- Cape Collinson hike: visit an old battery used during WWII on HK Island
- Tsing Yi Peak: hike the three peaks on Tsing Yi Island
- Fan Lau hike: explore the southwest tip of Lantau Island
- Po Toi Island: see Hong Kong’s South Pole
- Tai Tan Country Trail: hike an easy coastal trail in Sai Kung
- Robin’s Nest Hike and Lin Ma Hang Cave: explore northern HK near the Shenzhen border
- Kai Kung Leng: hike the Rooster Ridge in Lam Tsuen Country Park