- Sai Kung & Clearwater Bay
- Sai Kung West
- Lantau & Neighbouring Islands
- Lantau East
Central New Territories (NW & NE NT Maps)
- Tai Mo Shan

DISCLAIMER: Stream trekking can be dangerous and accidents may result in serious injury or even death. You should not undertake any of the routes suggested on this site unless under the supervision of trained and experienced hikers.

HELP KEEP THE STREAMS CLEAN: Each time you stream trek, try to take out as much rubbish as you can.




Key & instructions to the stream trekking guide



Key to maps






Using the stream trekking guide


This site gathers stream trekking routes into main areas of about 5 to 20 routes per area. The idea being that the hiking party can either do one stream as a stand alone hike or do several routes in an area or link several routes in areas bordering each other.

Maps


The stream trekking route maps should be used with the Countryside Series Maps or other maps of a similar scale and detail. The UTM grid square numbers, peak names and urban areas will help you align stream trekking map to the maps you have. If you don't know how to use UTM grid references, do the lesson in the Map Skills section of this site, How do I accurately record a location?

Stream Descriptors


On this site we use two systems for recording and grading streams. These are:
1) Grades at a glance - a 5 part alpha-numerical grade for quick reference.
2) Full record - a full account of the grades of the stream and almost anything else you would want to know about the stream.


1) Grades at a glance


On this website we use a glancing grade system which I've pinched and adapted from the American Canyoneering System and the Yosemite Climbing decimal system. Our system grades the streams in five ways:
Physical difficulty 1 to 5 with 5 being the most difficult.
You can read the full record explanation for how physical difficulty is assessed further down. On certain grade 5 streams you may note that a Yosemite decimal climbing grade is given (e.g. 5.8): this tells you what the hardest climbing move on the route is. Remember this move has to be done trad style.
Route-finding difficulty: E - Easy, T - Tricky, D - Difficult.
The difficulty of finding the entrance and exit to this stream route as well as navigating it. I'll explain how this is decided later on.
Average flow of water or current: L - Low; M - Medium; H - High.
Note this is the annual average. There can be a huge variation in waterflow especially in the rainy summer season. I'll describe what this means further down.
Duration I, II, III, IV or V
I - a warm up, 10 minutes to 1 hour; II - a quarter day, 1 to 3 hours; III - a half day, 2 to 4 hours; IV - a full day, 3 to 7 hours; V - a long day / multi-day, 4 to 10 hours or more.
The duration times run from a fast speed which could be accomplished by a small group of fit, experienced trekkers in good weather with few stops to a slow speed which would likely be done by a large group of hikers of mixed ability with frequent stops.
Note that the duration given DOES NOT INCLUDE the walk-in and the walk-out and only the estimated length of time for that route.
Recommendation
How much fun it is. x to xxxxx with 5xs being the best. Perhaps, this is the most important grade. Think of the little xs standing for eXcellence or little kisses - how much you love that stream. I'll explain my criteria for deciding how good a stream is below. Sometimes the xs are written as stars like this asterix here: "*", similar to the fun-factor "*" given by climbers for climbing routes.

Thus a stream route and its grade at a glance can be written:

4E L III xxx

This would mean a difficult stream, which can be easily navigated, is not suitable for beginners, with - on average - a low flow of water; takes about half a day - around 3 to 7 hours depending on weather and the size and strength of the hiking party; and is worth doing.

Note: We sometimes use plus (+) or minus (–) signs to modify the grades (i.e. “very” and “quite”)

We can then put that together with the UTM grid references for the start and end of the stream, for example HE042659 (start) to HE057647 (finish). For experienced trekkers this will probably be enough information for the route.
See if you can tell me which famous stream route this is:

HE042659 - HE057647: 4T M IV xxxxx

At times a stream may end long before you reach a trail or road and will thus entail a long bushwhack. This is shown with the trail / road exit in brackets.


KK257790 - KK263796 (KK265798): 3T L II xx

Or at other times with the nearest trail distance post number is given instead if there are distance posts on that exit trail.

GE969622 - GE969616 (L039): 3+D M II xx-

Important note
The start and end of the streams and their grades are always recorded for a hiking party heading upstream in good weather.

2) Full record


A full record of a stream is given using the following subject boxes. We'll look at each one in detail below. This is for a bit of arm-chair stream trekking when you're bored at work or if your resting an injury. It can also be used by hiking leaders especially if they are looking for streams suitable for the hiking group they plan to lead. The subject boxes should allow you to find the information you are looking for about that particular stream quickly.
If you are interested in contributing to our catalogue of streams or if you think we should add more subject boxes, please get in touch.

STREAM NUMBER:
MAP & COUNTRY PARK:
STREAM NAME:
FROM: (Grid Ref:)
TO: (Grid Ref:)
DIFFICULTY: /5
ROUTING:
DURATION (APPROX.): hours to hours
AVERAGE FLOW OF WATER:
RECOMMENDATION: /5
HEIGHT GAIN (APPROX.):
LENGTH (APPROX.):
COURSE:
ACCESS:
EXIT:
TOTAL HIKING DISTANCE (APPROX:)
TOTAL HIKING TIME REQUIRED (APPROX.):
NOTES:
DATE HIKED, WEATHER & STREAM CONDITIONS:
WRITER:
TAGS:
WEB LINKS:
PHOTO & VIDEO:



STREAM NUMBER:

The number of the stream as shown on the stream trekking map. Lower numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 are the best and/or most popular stream treks in the area. Higher numbers (5, 6, 7, 8 etc.) are more for dedicated stream trekkers who want to do something new.

MAP & PARK:

Which Countryside Series Map you will need to take with you for this stream route and which countryside park it lies in. Not all streams are within a country park so we will give the nearest country park for your reference.

NAME:

The name of the stream as shown on the Countryside Series Map, or given to it by locals or hikers. Streams in Hong Kong are often named by taking the first part of the name of the village or peak at the upper tributaries of the stream and then adding the first part of the name of the village or peak near the mouth of the stream.

For example, the Tai Shing stream that feeds into the Shing Mun reservoir takes its name from the Tai in Tai Mo Shan Peak and from the Shing in name of the old village of Shing Mun.

FROM:

This is the start of the stream course though it may not be the mouth of the stream. Many lower sections of streams no longer exist in Hong Kong or can not be accessed.
A 6-figure or 8-figure grid reference is always given. If you don’t know how to read or write grid references then read the lesson and do the exercises in the Map Skills Section, How do I accurately record my position?.
Remember we record stream routes going upstream: from mouth to tail (lowest elevation to highest elevation).

TO:

The end of the stream course though not always the end of the actual stream. The upper tributaries of many streams are too indistinct to follow. The end of a route is likely to be a trail or road; sometimes a bushwhack is required to reach it.
A 6-figure or 8-figure grid reference is also given.

DIFFICULTY:

How difficult the stream is to do physically for weak beginners, strong beginners and experienced stream trekkers on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most difficult. The 5 part grading system is used by most stream trekking groups in Hong Kong such as hkadventurer. This is our understanding of what each grade means. Some definition of terms first:

A weak beginner
-someone who finds stream trekking or sustained exercise difficult.
A strong beginner
-someone who does regular exercises or sports that require good stamina, balance and coordination and adapts quickly to stream trekking (rock climbers usually fall under this category)
Experienced stream trekker
- someone who has done many stream treks all over Hong Kong in all kinds of weather conditions or anyone who is an experienced canyoneer / gorge walker
- can use a map and compass and/or GPS systems to navigate accurately
- ideally has experience and knowledge of outdoor traditional rock climbing and knows basic rope work such as setting up anchors and abseiling
- has a knowledge of basic first-aid, emergency and rescue procedures


The stream trekking grades are as follows:

1 – Easy:
Can be done by weak beginners or children if supervised by an experienced stream trekker.
2 – Quite Difficult
Can be done by weak beginners but they may struggle on certain scrambles and will require close supervision.
3 – Moderately Difficult
Not suitable for weak beginners or children. Strong beginners may struggle on certain sections and will need supervision.
4 – Difficult
Not suitable for weak beginners or children. Not suitable for strong beginners unless under one-to-one supervision by an experienced trekker using rope for protection. Challenging for experienced trekkers. Good scrambling techniques required for most sections of the stream. Some sections of the route may require rock climbing equipment. Abseiling likely if downstreaming.
5 – Extremely difficult:
Should only be done experienced trekkers with outdoor rock climbing experience and in good weather. Most of the stream route requires rock climbing equipment. The hiking group will need at least one member who can lead traditional style on grades of up to 5.8 / F5 /Hard Severe on loose and slippery rock. A Yosemite decimal climbing grade is given for the hardest move on the route. If downstreaming most of the route requires difficult and multi-pitch abseils. Few streams in Hong Kong have this grade.

Important Note

ROUTING:

A brief description of how easy or difficult the stream is to navigate. Great scramblers and climbers after all are not always great navigators (and vice-versa!)
Easy:
Finding the beginning and the exit of this stream is obvious. Distinct stream course all the way. The way ahead is obvious even to non-hikers. The route gets a lot of traffic and there are many hiking group tags or chalk arrows showing the way.
Tricky:
Finding the beginning and exit of this stream and navigating it requires close map reading. Tributaries and junctions are confusing and not always obvious. The way ahead is not always clear. A less trekked route. Hiking group tags provide valuable assistance.
Difficult:
Find the beginning and exit of this stream route requires map and compass skills or GPS. Navigating the course requires constant map checks. This is a grade often given for routes on the upper tributaries of large streams. Only a handful of people have trekked this stream and there might be no hiking tags.
These grades may be follow by notes on anything connected to routing problems that may be encountered on the route.

DURATION (APPROX.):

The length of time the stream route takes from a fast time to a slow time. A fast time can be accomplished by a group of experienced trekkers with few stops in cool dry weather. Slow times allow for a group with slower trekkers and multiple rest stops in wet or hot weather.
The duration will also include how long it takes to reach the nearest exit trail or road either by faint trails or a bushwhack.'
Note that the duration given is only for the completion of that stream route. You’ll also need to factor in how long it takes to get to the stream and back to civilization again. See the Access and Exit boxes below.

AVERAGE FLOW OF WATER:


The flow of water in Hong Kong’s stream varies enormously throughout the year. The flow of water in the stream has a huge impact on the hiking style, technique and thus the gear you will need. With a high flow of water, a small stream that you might not normally give much consideration to suddenly becomes a challenging adventure. Remember when the greater the flow of water the harder it will be to communicate between your hiking group. A system of agreed hand signals may need to be used.

Low
Dry to a trickle or a small flow of water. A trickling or light gurgling sound can be heard and talking can be heard over long distances. Pools are empty, stagnant or have no current. This level of flow is usually found in small and medium sized streams in the dry winter months. The stream can be trekked without getting your feet wet and waterfalls can be scrambled. Pools do not look appealing for swimming in.
Medium
There is a strong flow of water and pools are suitable for swimming. A gushing or rushing sound can be heard and you will need to shout to be heard if you are not standing close to each other. This level of flow is usually found in small and medium sized streams in the wet summer and for most of the year in the big streams. At the higher end of this scale the current can be strong enough to move an adult along but not quite push them off balance. Wading may be necessary and it may be difficult to keep your feet dry. Scrambling waterfalls is challenging and scramblers should use a rope.
High
A high flow of water but not flooding. The water is still clear. A roaring sound can be heard at waterfalls and fast flowing sections making talking even close up difficult. This level of flow is usually found on the mid and lower sections of the biggest streams in summer a few hours or more after heavy rain. The current in places is too strong to wade or swim against. Waterfalls cannot be climbed or abseiled without a high level of danger. Pools and waterfalls may have dangerous undercurrents. Wading in many sections and some swimming are necessary to complete the stream trek. Only highly experienced trekkers should enter the stream and only when they can be sure the water level is falling and there is no risk of further rain for the rest of the day.

Flooding
A dangerously high flow of water. A thunderous roar can be heard that makes talking impossible even close-up. The water is brown and turgid and is moving debris such as branches and boulders. Flooding can occur on any size of stream during and for a few hours after heavy rain especially if an amber, red or black rainstorm warning has been issued. The current would sweep a person off their feet. Do not enter the stream.
Cancel your stream trek.

Important note
Severe flooding and landslides can completely alter the stream course and thus its difficulty and recommendation grade. This happened in June 2008 when a storm caused massive landslides on Lantau which gouged out several streams.

RECOMMENDATION:

How much fun the stream is to trek on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best.
1 (x)
Not worth doing. Either so full of litter or polluted that it stinks or so clogged up with vegetation it is mostly a bushwhack. Take the trail.
2 (xx)
Worth doing only once but only for stream trekking enthusiasts. Done only so you can bag it and brag about it. Might have one or two nice features but other sections will be bushed up. Could also be a nice stream but which has sadly been ruined by being littered or polluted in some sections.
3 (xxx)
Worth doing once and more fun than a trail. Generally, good scrambling, picturesque with a few nice features to scramble on somewhere along its course but nothing spectacular.
4 (xxxx)
Worth doing more than once. While it may not have a wide variety of features, it will have at least one noteworthy or spectacular highlight. There will be excellent scrambles for most the way.
5 (xxxxx)
A Classic. Even non-hikers will like it. There are two or more noteworthy or spectacular features. You will probably go back to this stream or revisit your favourite sections as often as you can. Usually, this grade of stream course has multiple scrambling options for each feature and you’ll want to try them all.

HEIGHT GAIN (APPROX.):

How much vertical distance in metres the route covers. The lowest and the highest elevation of the stream is also given.

LENGTH (APPROX.):

How much horizontal distance in metres or kilometers the route covers.

COURSE:

A description of the types of stream course and features found on the stream route as you would find it heading upstream. If you plan coming downstream simply read the description backwards.
Dashes - indicate a change the type of stream course.
Alt. indicates the altitude or elevation of a particularly outstanding feature in metres.

A general description of the course is written in the following way:

Width / Steepness / Vegetation Cover / Type of stream bed
e.g.
wide quite-steep canopied rock bed with 30m dry waterfall (alt. 320m) - narrow flat bushy boulder bed

Width

Indistinct
The stream is less than 1metre wide and either disappears into the landscape or is so bushed up with vines, thorns or vegetation that it cannot be hiked along.

Narrow
The stream is 1 to 3 metres wide but distinct. Trekkers must hike single file. There is only one scrambling route option.

Wide
The stream is 4 metres wide or more. Two or more trekkers can walk side by side. There are two or more scrambling route options on the same course.
We also modify these adjectives with 'quite' and 'very'.

Steepness
Flat
0∘to 5∘(0% to 9%)
Quite steep
6∘to 19∘(10% to 34%)
Steep
20∘to 34∘(36% to 67%)
Very steep
35∘to 55∘(70% to 140%)
Vertical
55∘or more (140% or more)

To find out about the effects of steepness on a stream course look at the lesson in the Map Skills section, What are the effects of slope steepness?

Vegetation
Open
The stream bed is open to the sky. Rock and boulders will dry out quickly so friction on rock is good. Views allow hikers to fix their position. However, there are fewer trees and shrubs on the stream course that can be used for balance, leverage or climbing anchors.
Canopied
The stream bed is has a roof of foliage. The sky is obscured. Rock and boulders may remain wet and slippery even in dry weather. There are plenty of trees and shrubs on the stream course which can be used for balance, leverage and climbing anchors.
Bushy
Vines, creepers, thorns or other vegetation get in the way and may need to be “gardened” to bypass.

Stream courses types
The trekkable streams in Hong Kong are small and certainly not river-sized – you can’t kayak down them. They are hill streams which cut small valleys down hillsides or escarpments. Basically there are four types of stream courses:

Sediment bed
The stream bed has a sandy, muddy or earthen floor with pebbles.

Boulder bed
The stream bed is made up of boulders of various sizes and has a sediment floor.

Rock bed
The stream cuts through solid rock.

Rock & boulder bed
The stream cuts through solid rock and is strewn with boulders of various sizes.

The terms given are obviously not scientific, only descriptive of the hiking experience. The descriptions given are reductive since no two streams are ever the same and each has its own unique shape as well as its own special geological and floral character. However, experienced stream trekkers will know that certain types of stream course are suited to certain weather conditions and certain types of stream trekking activities. For example, on cold wet, misty days canopied boulder beds are eerie and atmospheric - perfect for slow, thoughtful boulder hopping. On the other hand, dry warm weather is best for scrambling, climbing and abseiling on open rock beds.

Tip: Rock beds and rock & boulder beds tend to have the best scrambling.

ACCESS:

The quickest and/or easiest way to get to the start of the stream course.
This includes the bus/train/car journey from the nearest urban centre and the walk in. The “Total Walk-In Time:” given at the end shows the total amount of walking time to get to the start of the stream route and does not include the bus/train/car journey time.

EXIT:

The quickest and/or easiest route from the end of the stream route to a mode of public transport. The “Total Walk Out Time:” given at the end shows the total amount of walking time required.

TOTAL HIKING DISTANCE (APPROX:)

This is the minimum distance you will need to hike in order to complete the stream route. It includes the total distance of the walk-in and the walk-out as well as the length of the stream.

TOTAL HIKING TIME REQUIRED (APPROX.):

This is the total minimum amount of time needed to hike the route including the walk-in and the walk-out. A fast time to a slow time is given. A fast time can be accomplished by a small group of experienced trekkers heading upstream in good weather with few stops. A slow time is for a large group of mixed ability with multiple rest stops.
Remember you'll need to factor in how long it will take you to get to and from the hiking area too.
Note that there are of course alternative ways in and out from each stream course but we have chosen the easiest and/or the quickest.

NOTES:

Any additional comments or useful/interesting information about the stream route. This could include facts on geology, history, flora, fauna, news stories, hiking tales, things to be careful of such as Illegal Immigrant camps, etc.

DATE HIKED, WEATHER and STREAM CONDITIONS:

The date when the stream route was done and in what kind of weather conditions including the average flow of water encountered.
Keep in mind that records over several years old might not include natural or man-made alterations of the stream. Note too that the level of water flow will vary a great deal over the year: summer months usually getting the highest flows and winter months getting the lowest

WRITER:

The person or hiking group who wrote up the description including a contact email address.

TAGS:

Key words that will help us categorize this route. e.g. scrambling, waterfalls, pools, etc.

WEB LINKS:

Provides a link to a website, blog or photo gallery that has more information, photos and video for this stream route.

PHOTO & VIDEO:

A photo and video library taken of this stream route. We usually put the altitude or 6 figure grid reference of the feature or stream course in the title.


Sample of a full record


STREAM NUMBER: 1A

MAP & COUNTRY PARK: Sai Kung & Clearwater Bay Countryside Series Edition 10 2008 Map, Sai Kung West Country Park
NAME: Ngam Lung Tributary
FROM: Lung Hang Stream (Grid Ref:KK234817)
TO: MacLehose Trail near distance post M052 (Grid Ref: KK242820)
DIFFICULTY: 3½/5
ROUTING: Easy
AVERAGE FLOW OF WATER: Low. Dry in winter.
DURATION (APPROX.): 1½ to 3 hours (+30min hike up Lung Hang Stream)
RECOMMENDATION: 4/5
HEIGHT GAIN (APPROX.): 60m to 370m (310m) (+40m coming up Lung Hang Stream)
LENGTH (APPROX.): 1100m (+800m hike up Lung Hang Stream)
COURSE: med.width flat open boulder bed (gush) – fenced dam – med.width flat open boulder bed (gush) [Lung Hang Stream] – stream junction for Ngam Lung Tributary [Alt. 60m] - narrow steep open/canopied rock bed with small 2m deep pool [Alt.160m] – narrow steep canopied rock/boulder bed (dry) – 10m dry waterfall – narrow flat canopied & bushy rock/boulder bed (dry) – faint trail to MacLehose trail.
ACCESS: From Sai Kung Bus Station, take the no.9 minibus to Lady MacLehose Holiday Village. The bus journey usually takes about 15mins. From there, take the trail to Pak Tam (5mins). At Pak Tam take a trail behind some buildings that follows the main stream and that follows a pipeline (10mins). Enter the stream at the small dam with a rusty open fenced door. Hike up Lung Hang Stream for about 750m until you reach a large tributary on the East side (35mins). The tributary then crosses a faint trail a few metres further up. Total Walk-In Time: 50mins
EXIT: Take the MacLehose trail East down to Pak Tam Au (30mins). You can catch the no.7 minibus or the no.94 bus back to Sai Kung from the bus stop.
Total Walk-Out Time: 30mins
TOTAL HIKING TIME REQUIRED (APPROX.): 2½hrs to 5hrs
DATE HIKED, WEATHER & STREAM CONDITIONS: 8th October 2006 Dry, quite hot, cloudy. Low - just a trickle
NOTES: Best done upstreaming. The pool is only good for swimming in wet summer months.
WRITER: Scrambling.hk
WEB LINKS: Flickr user cololintait: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49159768@N00/sets/72157594323227513/
TAGS: pool, scramble,
PHOTO & VIDEO:



Answer for question in grades at a glance: The famous route is the standard Wong Lung Hang route, Lantau, near Tung Chung.




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