In an effort to explore and see more of Hong Kong’s hiking trails, I agreed to go to the Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail with a friend. My only mistake was not doing more research into the trail beforehand, because if I had known what I was getting myself into, I probably wouldn’t have gone before doing some more training first.
I would say that I’m an amateur hiker at best, with a huge distain for anything involving steep climbs. This is not a hike for amateurs. The Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail is 15.5km long (plus an additional 2km on the access road above the dam, more on that later) and begins with a climb to Ma Tau Fung (295m). From there, you follow the ridgeline trail, which inevitably includes more ascents along the way. The trail is clearly marked and it is all pretty straightforward, until you reach a sign that reads:
The section ahead is extremely challenging. It is steep and unsheltered. Do not walk this trail in hot and unstable weather to avoid heat stroke, lightning and severe cold. Those without sufficient equipment, food and water or physically unfit should not attempt this trail. Please retrace your steps.
It can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. Immediately after this sign, you’re basically navigating down a path on the side of a cliff. It’s extremely steep, and the trail is covered with small, loose rocks. The challenge continues throughout the trail, with multiple ascents and descents along the hills surrounding the reservoir. Many sections of the trail are covered in small rocks.
As far as the scenery goes, it’s all quite captivating (at first), but due to the fact that the trail basically traces the edge of the reservoir, the views don’t change much. Also, when you start to get really tired, it’s a little bit disheartening to be able to see exactly just how much further you still need to go—all of this is possible, of course, because there is so little tree cover.
Once you reach the south dam, it’s all paved from there. Continue towards the north dam, passing the spillway of Plover Cove Reservoir, until you reach the eastern end of the main dam. You know you’ve made it when you’re face-to-face with a metal chain link fence—slide through the gate on the right. While this is officially the end of the trail, you still need to walk across the 2km access road above the main dam before you can get to the bus terminus at Tai Mei Tuk. Yay!
Even though we started the hike early-ish, the sun was beginning to set when we were approximately 2 hours away from the end of the trail. Obviously, there are no lights along the path, and we didn’t have a headlamp or flashlight with us. Luckily, we managed to get ourselves out of the woods just as it was really starting to get dark. However, light pollution from the nearby towns made it possible to still be able to see in front of us.
All in all, I’d say that the hike is a true test of endurance. My legs were definitely sore towards the end, and I don’t think I had ever been so happy to see a paved road after hours of walking carefully on dirt and rocks.
How to get there:
From the Tai Po Market MTR Station, take the green minibus 20R (HK$9.7) to Wu Kau Tang—the start of the trail is about 5 minutes away from the minibus stop towards a public car park. Look for the stairs next to a trail map and you’re on your way.
The trail finishes at Tai Mei Tuk. Catch the green minibus 20C (HK$7.3), KMB 275R (HK$10.6) or 75K (HK$5.8) back to Tai Po Market MTR Station and you’re home bound.