New Territories, Hong Kong
I heard about this trail as a youngster from my Uncle Jack, a retired sergeant major in the British Army. The mountain footpaths that were eventually spliced together to make a continuously marked proper trail had been used forever for fitness competitions between the various national components of the British Army. Uncle Jack, as macho a person as has ever been bred, actually graciously deferred to the Gurkhas of Nepal when he described the MacLehose. He stated that, tough as he and "his lads" were, they could not hold a candle to the famed Gurkhas. I hiked this trail in 1987 over the course of a week and it kicked my ass. —M. John Fayhee
Length: 62 miles
The Details: While Hong Kong may be one of the most densely populated places on the planet, the surrounding New Territories are rural and quiet—and they are tough country to hike. The MacLehose Trail makes constant, grueling 1, 000-plus-foot descents followed immediately by ascents along the fingers of ridgetops, making it more challenging than its mileage suggests.The trail is broken down into ten sections, starting at the stunning eastern beaches before climbing up into tropical mountains, where monkeys chatter from the branches—watch out for cobras—and winding past 3, 140-foot Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in the area. It usually takes five to six days to complete the trail, which has been made a bit easier since the days of the Gurkhas with stone steps and paths and first-come-first-serve free campgrounds. Occasional food vendors offer more comfort along the way. When you are done, take a cab back to a hotel in the metropolis.
When to Go: Winter (November-March) is best since summer is very humid.
About Fayhee: Besides being an expert on the fine arts of smoking cigars and occupying a barstool, author M. John Fayhee has spent a lot of time walking across the planet and observing nature and the humans who visit it. The former contributing editor at Backpacker and author of Smoke Signals: Wayward Journeys Through the Old Heart of the New West (Raven's Eye Press, 2012) was also the longtime editor of the Mountain Gazette, where he built up a faithful tribe of mountain-town followers who eagerly awaited his monthly columns. An unassuming heir to Henry Thoreau, Edward Abbey, and Hunter S. Thompson, Fayhee has found inspiration on trails from Mexico's Copper Canyon to the Rockies’ Continental Divide, but his bucket list trail is in one of the world's largest cities.
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