For someone who loves doing sports and being outdoors, suffering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury can not only be traumatic but also depressing. Couple it with other knee injuries such as Jumper’s Knee (patellar tendonitis) and Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), and you should probably resign to staying at home or in a gym settling with repetitive exercise routines.
‘What do you mean by I can’t go hiking anymore?’
‘Does it mean I will never be able to feel the exhilaration of finally reaching a mountain peak after hours and hours of walking uphill, again?’
While doctors would reply with a solemn ‘Unfortunately, yes’ in most cases, it is not always the case, for some.
The good news: Physiotherapy and muscle building are crucial in helping you recover from an ACL injury and in preventing further knee injuries.
Most doctors would recommend you to stop high contact sports and anything that will cause you to land awkwardly on your injured leg. That practically leaves you with little choice in terms of the type of exercise that you can do.
Although there is the nagging worry about injuring your knee while hiking (because how are you going to get back down if you injure your knee), hiking with proper knee guards and equipment can actually be good for the strengthening of your leg muscles.
Note: Going uphill will be less strenuous on your knees than going downhill.
Here, some of the best tried-and-tested hiking trails in Hong Kong that aren’t just relatively easier on your knees, but does not compromise on the breathtaking views:
#1 MacLehose Trail Stage 1
A 10-kilometre stretch of road that might be boring to some (because of how flat the trail is), but beautiful to others who would stop to take in the view. As part of Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark in Sai Kung, what this trail promises at the end entail 1) a huge wall of hexagonal rock columns resulting from volcanic activities hundreds of millions of years ago, 2) a high sea cave and 3) dolosse with a geometrical background that’s perfect for that Instagram-worthy shot. Remember: Bring enough water (and snacks) to last you throughout the day.
Because of the flat nature of this trail, MacLehose Trail Stage 1 is also a popular spot to train for a half marathon.
Note: There are no toilets along the way.
#2 MacLehose Trail Stage 2
Stage 2 of MacLehose Trail leads to Long Ke Wan, a beach which is also a camping ground. It is about a 1.5 kilometres away (while this is seemingly short for anyone athletic, it is not for someone with a bad knee because of how steep the trail is) from the hexagonal rock columns at the end of Stage 1.
One misstep can cause your knee to buckle because of the height of the steps (it happens to me all the time).
Which means you have to take twice the effort to go downhill cautiously.
Note: This trail might not be suitable for someone who is afraid of heights, given how close to the edge of the cliff you might be. But I promise a better view.
#3 Hong Kong Trail Lugard Road
Begin your walk from Victoria Peak, also commonly known as The Peak, by taking a bus from Central. While many content creators boast about the convenience of Dragon’s Back Trail (too much in fact) and how it has the best views of the city, the views did not impress me. What made it less memorable was how unfriendly the trek was for someone with knee problems.
If you want a clear view of Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers in the city, the Hong Kong Trail at Lugard Road is it.
The trail can get a little steep at some places, but as long as you take it slow, your knees will be fine.
When you reach a crossroad halfway into your hike, don’t forget to also stop by and snack on a traditional Cantonese snack known as 糖蔥薄餅 aka tong cong bok bang, which costs about HK$12.
Below, additional tips for hiking with bad knees:
- Buy a quality trekking pole which provides enough support when you are going downhill so as not to lose your footing easily while going downhill.
- Wear proper hiking shoes to prevent slipping, which might cause you to sprain your knee.
- Invest in a high-quality knee guard which provides enough support.
- Keep your legs bent while going downhill to take some of the pressure off your knees.
- Take your time to go downhill and give your knees enough time to recover.
- Start early and go slow for a more enjoyable hike.
- Hike at a convenient location where you can easily catch a bus back to the city after.
What’s your favourite hiking spot in Hong Kong?
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