Ng Tung Chai waterfalls
I'd been in Hong Kong a few years before I "discovered" one of the best wild places here, Ng Tung Chai (吳桐寨). A friend had told me of a great valley with waterfalls on the north slopes of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山); I'd read an account of hikers who, early last century, visited surely the same valley, using a rope to negotiate a particularly steep section.
Searching the Countryside Series map, Central New Territories, I figured the place marked as Ng Tung Chai Waterfall was maybe the same location; the map showed there were trails here, so one day, I set off to explore.
That first visit, I hiked up and past the summit of Tai Mo Shan, then down to the east, and north - into the ravine. But I've since visited by the rather simpler route, from Ng Tung Chai (village), near the head of the Lam Tsuen Valley, and just east of Kadoorie Farm.
My most recent visit was just a week ago, when the waterfalls were a little disappointing - as this summer has been dry - but Ng Tung Chai was still magical; like a secret place you can glimpse from outside, but must enter to really experience.
At first, you walk up a concrete footpath from the village, passing stands of trees, and fields on the left, with the main tributary of the Lam Tsuen River below. The concrete path ends at a temple complex (where I believe you can sometimes buy soft drinks); the route to the falls now becomes a forest trail.
The trail is well maintained, with occasional signposts - one of which points uphill to the high, Scattered Fall, the other showing it's straight on to the other falls. Head straight on, to the lower reaches of the ravine.
Hiking to the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls
Fairly soon, there's another junction, with a short flight of rough n rocky steps dropping to the stream, just below the Lower Fall (or Bottom Fall). This is a good place to rest, and to scamper around on the rocks by the plunge pool below this fall, which is really two waterfalls, one plunging into a tiny gorge where there's a pool hemmed in by rock, after which the second fall spills out, to form the cascade ahead of you.
Right, we haven't got all day you know, so it's back up the raggedy steps, and then there are more steps; the trail's mostly steep from now on.
But very soon, there's an excuse for another rest - the Middle Fall, where the stream drops down a cliff face, to a pool ringed by bouiders, and almost immediately vanishes into the mini gorge. It's real nice here; it's relaxing to watch the fall, listen to the water shooshing down, and look around to see nothing but ravine, trees, and sky.
Enough relaxation already! The Main Fall's ahead; while the Lower and Middle falls are the supporting cast - and among the prime waterfalls in Hong Kong - the Main Fall is the star attraction. The trail is steep, climbing the wooded ravine side, zigzagging upwards.
The path swings round a spur of hillside, and you can look up to see the Main Fall - a ribbon of white amidst the greenery. There are more steep zigzags, a gentler section beside the stream, and - at last - the path arrives at the Main Fall (roughly an hour from Ng Tung Chai village).
The waterfall plummets down the dark cliffs at the rear of a natural amphitheatre; on either side forest clings to the steep slopes (forest that sometimes holds rare birds for Hong Kong); and the amphitheatre opens to the north, facing out towards the hills across the Lam Tsuen Valley.
There's another fall, the Scattered Fall, just above this Main Fall - there's even a well-maintained path to it. When I first came, the Scattered Fall path continued down - steeply - to this place at the base of the Main Fall. But since then, there has been a landslide that destroyed this section of trail, and the Country Parks guys have found the landslide too unstable to again link the Scattered and Main falls.
Signs warn "Road Closed"; if you wish to visit the Scattered Fall you should now descend to the junction near the temple, then climb to reach the decent path. But you'll notice a thin but fairly well used path - stubborn hikers have blazed a trail up a small valley, then up and across the now overgrown landslide debris.
I've been up this trail, and found it okay though involving some rock scrambling; but if you decide to try be careful, and don't go if conditions seem ripe for another landslide (such as after heavy rains).
If you do negotiate this route to the Scattered Fall, you might also feel up to scrambllng further upstream, to the Maiden Falls. I haven't been, but learned of them from the Ng Tung Waterfalls page on the [sadly, now defunct] website by Hong Kong waterfall enthusiast Daniel Chan'.
Minibus 25K from Tai Po Market East Rail station serves Ng Tung Chai village, but stops at a junction on Lam Kam Road rather than continue up the narrow, winding road to the village proper - so you might be tempted to take a taxi from this or Tai Po Market or Wo stations.