Summary: Sunset Peak is a beautiful surreal location that is difficult to get to but rewarding as a campsite if you pick your spot well and bring the right supplies. The main reason this spot missed a perfect grade is the fact that it gets a fair amount of through-hiking traffic and has some noise and light pollution issues due to its proximity to Hong Kong International Airport. With that said Sunset Peak has a sort of post apocalyptic feel to it on account of the numerous abandoned buildings scattered along the spine of the mountain and as a result this is the only site I've reviewed to date where manmade influence somehow adds more than it detracts from the experience. This is why despite the technical rating in the chart here I gave Sunset Peak extra points for the unique and beautiful ascetics on the site. In terms of access, from Pak Kung Au bus stop on Tung Chung Rd it is a fairly steep and exposed 2.3km hike to the site which is just below and to the East of Sunset Peak proper. There are longer routes in from New Tung Chung Hang and Mui Wo to the North and East respectively but I haven't taken those. There are multiple places around the various abandoned buildings to pitch your tent but no formal campsite setups i.e. no BBQ pits, clothes lines etc... This is a very compelling site for the more adventurous and fit campers, but would be a stretch for families and or young children given the challenging approach, lack of facilities on site and fairly treacherous surroundings. If your motivated by the pictures and up for a good hike and minimalistic sites this is definitely worth a go.
What I liked:
- Campsite Environment: There really is no other place like this. The desolate windswept hills dotted with derelict bunker like buildings all sealed shut with steel plates and nestled in amongst the waist high long grass makes this spot as peaceful as it is unsettling. Bring a friend and a book of ghost stories!
- Views: From the start of the hike until you settle in at camp it is big views the whole way. Great for the photographer hikers or just those looking to meditate on the scenery.
- Weather: It's elevated and exposed location mean the site receives a generous breeze that keeps things cooler than surrounding areas. A big benefit in the summer and will certainly make for an adventure in the colder months.
What I didn't:
- Foot Traffic: Despite going on a weekday and the significant climb there was quite a bit of foot traffic into the evening. Not a show stopper at all but I imagine weekends would be even heavier and maybe a bit off putting if you choose the wrong site to pitch your tent.
- Light & Noise: Hong Kong International Airport is a few km down the Northern side of the site which means there is quite a bit of residual light at night and the occasional plane on approach.
- Pack for Mountains: I had vicious sun and wind swept rain all within an hour on my hike up. You need to bring broad brimmed hats, rain gear, lots of water and proper insulation for the cooler months.
- Pass on Kids: This is not a good one for small children. The hike up is very exposed and pretty steep, and the site itself is not kid friendly. Stick to camping with grown kids or other fit adults and keep the groups small.
- Bring Water: There is a potable water source on site for those very comfortable purifying water but the hike up and remote location justify being prepared as long as you can handle the weight.
- Building 9: Like the title of an 'End of Days' zombie film the best spot for camping is behind abandoned 'building number 9' which faces South away from the airport. Its actually a beautiful spot with amazing views which you can see in full detail in the video tour below.
PHOTOS & VIDEO
CAMPSITE VIDEO TOUR
THE GOOD - In Photos
Take the bus from Tung Chung to Pak Kung Au for the shortest approach to Sunset Peak Campground. The good news is the walk is loaded with breathtaking views, but you pay for the pleasure by way of the incline. Still the steep hike makes for a good workout and a feeling of accomplishment once you reach the site. This is where things really get interesting with hills covered in waist deep long grass on open rolling landscapes that drop off to the ocean. And on the hills are a dozen or so derelict buildings each sealed off with steel plates, all sitting low nestled in the long grass evoking a post apocalyptic vibe. These views and the strangeness of these buildings along with the vast open hill side and flowing grass are what makes this trip worth it despite some of the draw backs. This is definitely the most unique campsite I've ever been too and worth the trip for the more adventurous and physically fit trekkers.
THE BAD - In Photos
The factors leading to Sunset Peak getting a 4 out of 5 were essentially a human impact issue. In short, the beauty of this spot draws a lot of through-hikers, which although not overwhelming could have an impact on your peace and quiet. More significantly is HK Int'l just a few km down the northern slope which throws off quite a lot of light pollution and attracts a fair few approaching airplanes. Neither of these factors are enough to rule this out as a recommended spot, and depending on your personal tastes one could argue that they add a bit to the surreal feeling of the place. With that said this isn't a destination for families with young kids or for the less physically fit. The trek is demanding and there are little in the way of provisions on site.
Sunset Peak campsite is a breathtaking and bizarre location worthy of a visit for its desolate uniqueness and amazing views. This is essentially a mountain top ridge running location that is primarily a site seeing destination for through-hikers, which happens to offer up a few level locations around several of its abandoned buildings to set up small tents. Luckily, at least one of these locations is set off the main path and facing away from the sites biggest drawback, Hong Kong International Airport. In stead this spot faces South East toward Lama Island with rolling grass hills dropping off steep ridges down to the ocean. This is a well deserved treat after what amounts to a pretty brutal albeit very scenic ascent up from the Pak Kung Au bus stop on Tung Chung Road. On this hike you'll be highly exposed to sun, wind and weather in general for the majority of the way so be sure to pack appropriately before heading out. More importantly there are no amenities or facilities either on the hike or at the site so you'll need to bring everything you need on your back remembering that you'll have to keep things pretty light at the same time. The site does have a potable water source but I would leave this to those more experienced purifying water in the field. If you're not one of those people the water will have to come with you up the mountain.
Once at the site I highly recommend making your way straight to building 9 and walking around the back to find one of the better level sites on location. You can see specifically how to identify building 9 in the video tour on this page, you won't be disappointed if you do!
There is a nice breeze that can whip up into intense gusts when a weather system rolls in so I advise stake-ing out your tent even if things are calm on your arrival as things can change quickly on the mountain. Regardless, the breeze and location actually do help with mosquitos but I imagine on a calm night they could still come out in force so bug spray is always a good idea just incase. Also, this site is not designed for open fire so you won't be able to smoke them out if they decide to show up. On that point, fire is a serious danger at this site given the high winds and large sections of grass fields. Even on rainy days there is a layer of dry dead grass beneath the green stalks that is a serious fire hazard so you should not attempt an open fire. If you must cook your food I advise brining a gas canister and finding an open concrete slab on which to do your cooking just to be safe.
It's also important to note that there are no facilities at all including trash cans so you'll need to carry out anything you bring in. The site is actually very much trash free despite the lack receptacles which speaks well of the campers and trekkers that make their way through so make sure to do your part as well if you decide to drop by.
There is more foot traffic than you'd imagine for such an out of the way location, and the light and noise pollution from Hong Kong Airport is a bother but none of it is enough to effect my recommendation to put this site on your priority list. Its simply too unique a location to pass up and with the added incentive of a pretty beautiful campsite I'd say any intrepid and healthy hiker should try this one out.
This is the most unique campsite I've been too and for that reason alone I highly recommend it for anyone physically fit and well prepared enough to meet the challenge. The best part is that once you're there the exposed hillside actually filters in a nice breeze keeping things marginally cooler than the surrounding areas. A nice added benefit in the hot summer months for sure. More over and as referenced through this review, the environment around the site is simply stunning more than making up for any of the shortcomings of the site. This ones not for little ones or novices but for everyone else I say 'No pain, no gain' when it comes to Sunset Peak!
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR SMALL CHILDREN: Despite the beauty of this site it is not recommended for small children or even young adults who are not in top physical condition. The main reasons for this verdict are 1) the hike is steep and highly exposed to sun and inclement weather, 2) there are no facilities or amenities once you get to the site and it is a long hike followed by a bus ride to get back to town, 3) the site itself is not kid friendly with small tent sites, uneven paths, and lots of long grass which can be home to problematic wildlife (think wasps, spiders, snakes etc...). This site is better for solo excursions or ideally small groups of 2-3 experienced trekkers.
- Number of Tent Sites: No official number, but there are approximately 5-6 level areas around some of the buildings
- Site Facilities: N/A - bring what you need, carry out all your waste
- Campground Facilities: Potable Water Source (only for those experienced in purifying water in the field)
- Fire: N/A - This area represents a real fire hazard, if you must cook, bring a gas canister
- Beach: N/A
- Fresh Water: Small collection pond below building 9
- Nearby Resources: N/A - 2.3km of rough trekking to get to the nearest road
Sunset Peak is a difficult to access site with virtually no amenities or facilities once you arrive. The vast desolation of this unique location make it a compelling choice for the more adventurous camper, but you should pack smart to maximize balance between comfortable camp life and getting up the mountain in one piece. The shortest approach is 2.3km almost straight up from Pak Kung Au so keeping the pounds down should be your priority. Starting with my STANDARD SOLO CAMPER GEAR LIST you can work back through to see if there is anything thats not a "must have" that you can scrap before your trip.
If you go through the list you'll see there are a few things we can take out given the unique circumstances at Sunset Peak. Here's my short list and reasons why:
- Sleeping Bag in Summer - you have to be careful with this one as even in hot weather driving wind and rain can sap you of your warmth, but assuming you check the weather before you head out and have a fully enclosed tent in tow, this should be something you can drop in the summer months (definitely not in the colder months!)
- Cooking Gear - Potentially saving quite a bit of weight, if you bring food that doesn't need to be cooked i.e. energy bars and sandwiches, you can keep the pots, stoves and gas cans at home.
- Hand Saw - Heavy wood processing equipment won't be necessary in this grassy fire hazard location. You should always keep a fire steel and or a lighter with you just in case, but those won't add any weight to your pack.
The rest of the list should remain intact, just be smart about how much of each food and clothing item you decide to take keeping total pack weight in mind. With all that said, if you have access to an ultra light camp chair (i.e. the sub 1lbs Helinox Chair Zero) it might be worth having this one luxury item when you get to your site (Pro Tip - there is a stone bench at the building 9 camp site in case this idea doesn't float for you).
NOTE ON TENTS: Hong Kong is tropical which means there are lots of creepy crawlies at night and a constant possibility of heavy down pour which is why I recommend the full tent with rain fly and inner mesh. You can get away with a tarp alone but spray for mozzys before bed and don't be surprised to wake up several times a night to brush off bugs, mice and or rats even in the winter months (hammocks might be a little better but not fool proof for bugs or some snakes if not fully enclosed). Last point, Hong Kong is also home to many species of venomous insects and snakes and though I think it would be a very unlucky scenario were you to encounter one in your sleep, a fully enclosed tent removes the risk almost entirely if you keep entrances zipped. Again, I highly recommend a fully enclosed tent regardless of your level of experience outdoors.
Sunset Peak Campground is best accessed by way of the Lantau Trail Section 2 that you can pick up at Pak Kung Au, which is in turn easily accessible by bus from Tung Chung. You can reach Tung Chung City by MTR from virtually anywhere in Hong Kong or Kowloon. To keep things simple, let's assume starting out from Tung Chung MTR:
- From Tung Chung, leave the MTR station and find the Taxi stand outside the main exit.
- Directly across the main road (Tat Tung Rd) from the taxi stand is a series of bus stops outside Fu Tung Shopping Centre, find the line for busses 3M, 11, 11A, 23, A35 or N35 and board anyone when they arrive. You can pay cash but best to get an Octopus Card before you leave the MTR station.
- After a short trip up the Tung Chung gap road get off the bus at Pak Kung Au and follow the signs to Sunset Peak and or Lantau Trail Section 2. You should be walking in the direction the bus that dropped you off was headed on the left side of the road.
- It's only 10 or 20 meters to a set of stairs that leads you up to the start of the trail where you will see a pavilion rest area before heading up the mountain.
- Once you're on the trail it is a single path on Lantau Trail Section 2 all the way to Sunset Peak Campground. Keep in mind there are no official campsite markers at the location so you'll only know it when you see the grass fields and abandoned buildings. If you are concerned about this watch the video tour on this page for a visual reference.
- Hike out the same way you came in and pick up the bus on the opposite side of the road. Any bus labeled 'Tung Chung' will get you back to the MTR and you can always grab a taxi if you prefer.
- The photos below will give you visual reference points getting to the start of the trail.