Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Lo Fu Tau, or “Tiger’s Head” in English, is a rocky outcrop that overlooks the (mostly expat) residential community of Discovery Bay (DB) in eastern Lantau. When looking down towards DB from a certain vantage point, like in the photos above and below, the outcrop resembles the back of a tiger’s head, complete with golden ‘fur’ (tall dry grasses) in the right season, hence the name. Actually, it could be any orange/yellow furry creature with two small ears, but tigers are lucky in Chinese culture, so a tiger’s head it is!
The summit, which lies a little above the actual tiger’s head, stands at 465m and has a viewing platform with visual guides on either side to identify the surrounding landmarks. From there, you can descend to DB via the tiger’s head, the reservoir, or the ridge that extends towards the DB tunnel. Alternatively, you can take the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail to A Po Long, an intersection point with a rest pavilion (and nothing more) on the Hong Kong Olympic Trail, which branches left to Mui Wo and right to Pak Mong (and Tung Chung).
For those looking to do a short but challenging scenic hike up in the hills, Lo Fu Tau fits the bill perfectly. The route I take is 4.6km and takes me less than two hours to complete (longer if it’s warm out, or if you add many rest stops and photo ops!): around one hour up and 45 minutes down to the main DB Plaza. Sometimes I see trail runners speeding past me and wonder how the hell they do it, but I take comfort in the fact that I’m also not the slowest. Indeed, there have been times when I have been the overtaker, which never ceases to make me feel like a pro. :p
You get good elevation and excellent views with Lo Fu Tau. The descent via the tiger’s head is a pretty steep one, so proper footwear with good grip is strongly advised. The entire trail up in the hills is unpaved and natural, and I have slipped and landed on my butt a few times during the steep descent, but not since I bought my trail shoes (and with more practice, of course), so I would know, lol. On a clear day, you can see all of DB, nearby Peng Chau and Disneyland, even West Kowloon and Central, plus the North Lantau Highway and airport at Chek Lap Kok on the other side, and Mui Wo from the summit. Nice!
Click on any photo in the gallery below to enlarge it and enter slideshow mode (better image quality via PC than mobile for some reason). All photographs were personally taken by me and are accordingly copyrighted. Thank you!
There are a few different ways up to Lo Fu Tau from within Discovery Bay. In terms of my preferred route, I like to start at the far end of DB for maximum distance and optimal views, so near the DB tunnel, descending via the tiger’s head and DB Lookout, and finishing back at the main DB Plaza as follows (approximate duration times included):
- Take a bus or walk to Greenbelt Court / NeoHorizon and head up the path behind the two buildings. This is a bit of an arduous climb over rocks of various sizes and heights, and can take around 15 minutes.
- Once up on the hills by the electrical posts, turn left. Don’t turn right, unless you plan on going to Sunny Bay or Disneyland!
- Follow the trail up to the big rock (another 15 minutes), then over and up again to the top of Lo Fu Tau (30 minutes). Note the unofficial ‘sword-testing’ stone (vertically split boulder) to your right before the final ascent.
- Continue straight through the viewing platform down the steep, unofficial ‘path’ overlooking DB below, which will eventually take you to a paved footpath and clearing area (30 minutes). Note: On the way down not far from the top is the actual tiger’s head, with a short path leading out to the end (and down over the head, where it connects with the regular path, should you prefer – this is pretty steep and rocky).
- Once on the paved footpath by the clearing area, turn left to go to the DB Lookout pagoda for a rest stop and more views.
- Head down the trail to the right of the pagoda’s navigation signpost.
- Follow the path, stairs and roads back down to the main DB Plaza (15 minutes from the pagoda).
Variations include turning right at #5 to the road and following that down to the plaza, or heading in the opposite direction at #4 and taking the easy-to-miss trail on the left (*after* the small clump of trees/shrubs, not the one before; see the photo below). The latter option bypasses the steep descent, but is a tad overgrown in parts, and takes you down to the reservoir and road (turn left on the road to head down to the plaza; the DB Lookout is in the same direction).
There are a few other variations, but I don’t want to overly complicate things, so always stick to the main path and avoid any unmentioned trail offshoots, unless you are already familiar with them and know where they go or are feeling particularly adventurous!
Start Point: Path behind Greenbelt Court and NeoHorizon, near the DB tunnel (alternative ways up include the nearby path between Greenfield and Greenish Courts, or the path near the DB Lookout pagoda, which in turn can be accessed via Discovery Valley Road or by a couple of other paths)
End Point: DB Plaza, via the DB Lookout pagoda
Distance, Duration & Difficulty: 4.6km in about 1 hour 45 minutes at a moderate pace, even longer if it’s warm out or if you stop for lots of breaks or photos, of medium-high difficulty, going up to a height of 465m (elevation gain around 380m)
Trail Surface: The main ascent and descent is rocky and uneven, while in between is all dirt; from the DB Lookout pagoda the path is dirt, becoming paved later on
Environment: Typical grassy hillside, cut back from the trail, no undergrowth or trees, so also no shade; one Taiwan Kukri Snake, a Common/Oriental Rat Snake (or maybe a King Cobra??) and one Giant Centipede sighted as of the last update!
Challenges: Fairly steep descent that can be hard on the knees (and toes, if wearing the wrong shoes); initial ascent is also rather steep and involves climbing up a path strewn with rocks of various heights/sizes
Don’t Miss: Great views along the way on both sides and at the peak, ‘sword-testing’ stone, the actual tiger’s head (plus lone grave at the tip), DB Lookout, DB Plaza (for a fresh fruit juice from the little shop near Fusion and general rest and relaxation!)
For further information, see also:
- Visit Discovery Bay (visitor’s guide)
- Hiking & Leisure Walks (heading to or from DB)
- CNN Travel: Short guide to the surprisingly lovable Discovery Bay
- Wikipedia: Discovery Bay