12 January 2020
Pat Sin Leng Main Ridge from the southern end of the trail. Photo: Wild Hong Kong
Pat Sin Leng Main Ridge from the southern end of the trail. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

A lakeside walk through Hok Tau and beyond

If you fancy exploring a natural world that not too many folk in Hong Kong know about, then grab a chance for a trip to Hok Tau Reservoir.

Located in the innermost depths of Pat Sin Leng Country Park, it is a region that is as much unknown as it is remote.

However, the area is easily accessible via public transport and?totally worth the effort to visit. Nestled among rolling hills and serving as a gateway to the northern parts of Pat Sin Leng Country Park, Hok Tau is truly rural.

Life there moves at a different pace. The locals’ relaxed disposition?rubs off quickly and once there you won’t be in a rush to leave. From there one can venture into the higher peaks of Pat Sin Leng and discover hidden gems that lie within.

The simplest way to get there (other than driving) is to head to the northern New Territories on the MTR East Rail Line before disembarking at Fanling Station. From there, one can catch the 52B minibus that departs roughly every 20 minutes.

Hop off the bus at Hok Tau Wai and make your way to the T-junction on the road. Continue along the sealed road in a southerly direction following signs for Hok Tau Reservoir.

Walking is easy going on a sealed access road. The imposing ranges of Pat Sin Leng become ever nearer and before you know it you’re in among the rocky peaks.

After a steep climb, one reaches a dam wall and the impressive panorama of the lake held behind is unveiled. From this point onwards the adventure begins in earnest.

Hang a right and climb the stairs following signs for the “Hok Tau Family Walk”. One is quickly rewarded with stunning views across the lake below and mountains above.

The well-maintained dirt path then delves under the forest canopy, into a realm where light fights its way through the lush vegetation, emerging in ethereal rays. Every now and then, a glimpse can be caught through the undergrowth of the surrounding hills. Keep an eye out for some of the delightful wildlife, especially on quieter weekdays.

There are a couple of ways to circumnavigate the reservoir: the simple way and the adventurous way. The simple way is to keep turning left and follow the well-signposted Family Trail, which just takes over an hour to complete.

Or, follow the signs for “Sha Lo Tung” to go deeper into a genuinely remote portion of the terrain. This route can take up to three hours, depending on your speed and navigation skills.?The land flattens out as you pass by abandoned Hakka settlements, mountain vistas and multiple streams.

But make sure to then take all left turns at junctions in the path if you wish to return to Hok Tau.?There is the option to continue south over Cloudy Hill and back to Tai Po, but I recommend heading back to Hok Tau Reservoir.

Back at the reservoir, one either rejoins or continues along the Family Trail beside the lake. This final leg of the loop is particularly pleasant, walking along a flat paved surface under large shady trees that cloak the water’s edge. It is most definitely worth it to have a breather down here, soak up the tranquil atmosphere and capture relaxing views across the water.

It’s perfectly feasible to walk the lakeside loop in a clockwise direction, but the anticlockwise adventure makes for the best experience and simplest navigation.

Once back at the dam wall, retrace your steps down the valley to Hok Tau village. Return travel from Hok Tau Wai is fairly simple. More or less the same way as when you came in.

However, it is probably worth catching a taxi back to the main highway near Fanling if possible to avoid waiting for a minibus.

This far-flung corner of Hong Kong has an incredible amount on offer for those who enjoy venturing into the wild; a day trip here serves up an insight into Hong Kong’s past and the full scope of its landscape.

Escaping to Hok Tau provides a peaceful retreat for those wishing to find space for reflection or satisfy a wanderlust.

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Views over Hok Tau Reservoir at the northern end of the loop. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

The peaks beckon as you enter the country park from Hok Tau Village. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

There are plenty of signposts along the route to guide hikers. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

The long hike is rewarded with this sight of incredible tranquility. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

Stone steps in an abandoned Hakka settlement. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

Light fights to get through the dense vegetation. Photo: Wild Hong Kong

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