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Safety Hints for Hiking in Country Parks


Prevention against Dengue Fever

Countryside Code
Planning Your Trip
Along the Way
Possible Hazards and hints to Hikers
Useful Phone Numbers
PDF Version

Countryside Code

  • Respect villagers and do not damage private properties, crops and livestock
  • Don't vandalize natural features
  • Don't light fire except in barbecue areas and campsites
  • Don't pollute water
  • Don't litter
  • Don't destroy vegetation, wildlife and their living environment
  • Don't excavate or disturb soil
  • Don't feed wild animals
  • Don't cycle on non-designated mountain bike track
  • Protect countryside and preserve natural landscapes
  • Respect other visitors and keep the noise down

1. Introduction

  • Some 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s total land area has been designated as country parks and special areas for nature conservation, outdoor recreation and nature education.
  • Country parks provide extensive hiking trails for leisure walks or hiking. To enjoy a safe hike, suitable preparations and training are essential.
  • The safety guidelines and emergency measures in this web page are only for reference. One should always refer to the updated countryside maps and other useful information when planning the trip.
  • In case of accident, seek help immediately.

2. Hints

2.1 Safety

  • Plan carefully and choose a regularly maintained path with clear directory signs, and familiarize yourself with the area to be trekked, including the escape routes, transportation information, locations of police stations, country park ranger office, and emergency call telephones before setting out.
  • Pay attention to the latest weather information issued by the Observatory before and during the activity. Change or cancel the activity plan if inclement weather is forecasted.
  • Don’t go hiking alone. It is preferable to go hiking in a group of at least four.
  • Follow an experienced hiking leader who is familiar with the route. Ideally, for every ten members, one assistant leader with outdoor experience should offer assistance to the leader to coordinate the group.
  • Make sure that there are members with first-aid knowledge in the group.
  • Don't venture unmaintained path or take shortcuts. Exploring new routes will put you in danger, or get lost.
  • Don't walk, swim or play on natural streams, waterfalls or ponds.
  • Sleep well before your excursions.
  • Pay attention to your physical fitness and strength and avoid over-exhausted.
  • If get lost in the mountain, retrace your steps along the original route. Don’t force your way further and seek help immediately.

2.2 Hygiene and Health Tips

  • Avoid hiking on days of very hot weather, high humidity, with no wind, bad or unstable weather, or when the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in general station is serious.
  • Personal belongings, such as towels and lip balm, should never be shared with others to avoid infectious diseases.
  • Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing with tissue paper, dispose of soiled tissue paper properly in a lidded rubbish bin.
  • Always wash hands with liquid soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based handrub before eating.
  • Be considerate and keep the toilet clean after use.
  • Do not spit or litter. Offenders will be prosecuted.
  • Reduce litter production. Dispose your litter to major refuse collection point to avoid over-filling litter bins in the countryside.
  • Apply insect repellant on clothes and the exposed skin to avoid mosquito and arthropod bites.
  • Those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as heart disease and asthma are advised to consult the doctor before deciding if they should go hiking.

3. Planning Your Trip

  • Pay special attention to weather forecast and reports, especially the conditions listed below.

November to February

A sudden drop in temperature may lead to hypothermia.
Low humidity may increase the risk of hill fire.

March to April

Hikers may get lost in foggy weather.

May to November

Thunderstorms, typhoons and heavy showers may trigger flooding, flash flood or landslide. High temperature may cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

  • Before setting-off, the leader/hiker should leave the following details to a contact person such as friend, family, or the organizer of the event. In case of emergency or journey overdue, the information will be useful for mountain rescue.
    1. Nature, route and destination of the hike.
    2. Date and start time and the estimated finishing time of the hike.
    3. Number of participants and their names and ages.
    4. Contact phone number and address of the participant’s family member.
  • Sleep well before the hike. Have a nutritious meal before setting out, especially for a long walk.
  • Put on suitable outfit and footwear; avoid wearing shorts and short-sleeved clothes. Bring along a walking stick and cap that can ward off the sun in summer and keep you warm in winter.
  • Suitable spare clothing and basic necessities including maps, compass, ample of drinking water, food, torch, rain gear, radio, first-aid kit, whistle, fully charged mobile phone and backup battery, notebook and pen should be carried with your backpack.
  • A mobile phone can be the best means to make distress. Mountain ridges and valleys are usually the blind spots. Bring along backup battery and avoid unnecessary communication to save the battery.

4 Points to Note Along the Way

  • Follow the decisions and instructions of an experienced hiking leader. Don’t leave your group halfway through the trip.
  • Pay special attention to the way-marks and landforms to ensure that one is on the right track.
  • Pay attention to the hazard warning signs erected along the route.
  • Pay attention to mountain bikes when hiking at mountain bike trails.
  • Pay attention to the physical fitness of the team members. Take suitable break for the whole team to ensure that no one is straggling behind or straying away.
  • Watch out for any changes in your surrounding environment. Listen to the weather and news report so as to take early precautionary measures.
  • In case of bad weather, one should consider shortening or curtailing the planned route.
  • In case of emergency or journey overdue, inform the families of the participants or ask the contact person to relay your message.
  • Don't deviate from the planned route indiscriminately or attempt to take any overgrown shortcuts or venture into bushes or forests. You may find yourself getting lost or stranded in a place where you can neither retreat nor proceed.
  • Don't collect and eat wild fruit, mushroom or drink untreated stream water.
  • To avoid hillfire, don't light fire or cook at any place other than designated barbecue sites and campsites. Offenders will be prosecuted.
  • Don’t stand at a cliff educe or climb onto rocks to take photos or view the scenery. way from the hazard safely.

5. Possible Hazards during Excursions in Countryside

5.1 Hilly Paths

  • Hikers sustain a fall easily when going down a hilly path. Wet rock surfaces, muddy paths and sandy badlands pose similar hazards.

Safety Guidelines

  • Wear ankle boots with corrugated soles for hiking.
  • Bring a walking stick for use if necessary.
  • If possible, avoid walking on wet rock surfaces, muddy paths and sandy badland.

Emergency Measures

  • When someone has slipped and injured, check if he has any sprain, fracture, abrasion or other injuries. If necessary, give first aid.
  • Fractures may be difficult to detect. If painful swelling occurs, curtail the planned journey.
  • If the injured can walk, he should do so with the aid of a walking stick or with the support of other companions. He should, by no means, walk by himself as this would aggravate his injury.
  • If the injured has a severe sprain or difficulty in walking, use mobile phone or send someone to seek help. Move the injured to a shady, dry and flat ground; cover him with clothing to keep him warm and wait for the rescue team.

5.2 Flash Flood

  • The devastating power and speed of flash flood should never be underestimated. A stream may overflow and become raging torrents in heavy rain and wash away travelers, resulting in casualties within minutes.

Safety Guidelines

  • Avoid hiking when the weather is bad or unstable, especially when the rainstorm warning signal is in force.
  • Don't wade in the stream after heavy rain in summer.
  • Don't hike along any water course.
  • Don't stay at the water course for taking rest, especially at its lower reaches.
  • When it rains, leave the water course immediately and head for a high spot ashore.
  • Never attempt to cross any inundated bridges. In case of heavy rain, leave the water course immediately.

Emergency Measures

  • Rapid flows, turbid water with sand and mud are early signs of flash floods. Leave the water course immediately.
  • If you fall into water, grip or hold on to the rocks, branches or vines near the banks; try to get ashore and leave the river course right away.

5.3 Landslide

  • Landslides may occur when a large amount of rainwater has soaked a natural or artificial slope during a downpour or after days of heavy rain.

Safety Guidelines

  • Avoid going near or staying around steep slopes during heavy rain or after a few days of heavy rain.
  • The oozing out of a large quantity of muddy water from the base or the weep holes of a slope indicates that the slope is saturated with water. Exposure of inner soil and appearance of new cracks on the slope are early signs of a landslide. Keep away from such slopes.
  • Don't proceed by stepping on loose mud if landslide blocks your way; retreat or seek another safe route to leave the scene immediately.

Emergency Measures

  • Don’t try to rescue accompany buried in a landslide. You should call for a fully equipped rescue team for help.

5.4 Hill fire

  • Hill fire advances rapidly upward and windward on a steep grass slope in dry weather. Never underestimate its devastating power.

Safety Guidelines

  • For the sake of safety, handle kindling materials with great care.
  • Except at designated barbecue sites or campsites, never light a fire.
  • Smokers should refrain from smoking and all cigarette-stubs or matches should be totally extinguished before being discarded into rubbish bins.
  • Hill fire is difficult to detect in daytime. Always pay attention to flying ashes or the smell of something burning. If a hill fire is spotted, leave the fire scene immediately.
  • Don not overlook the spreading speed of hill fire. Do not continue your journey in case of a fire nearby or you may get trapped in the fire.

Emergency Measures

  • When there is a hill fire, stay calm.
  • Never attempt to extinguish a hill fire indiscriminately, except that
    1. the affected area is very small;
    2. you are in a safe place; and
    3. you can quickly evacuate from the fire scene.
  • Evaluate the following in evacuating from the fire scene.
    1. The direction in which the fire spreads - avoid escaping in the same direction of the prevailing wind.
    2. The gradient of the paths nearby - choose the one which is the easiest for escape.
    3. The height and density of the vegetation nearby - find a place with less vegetation for escape.
  • It is easier and quicker to escape through existing paths.
  • If the fire is imminent and there is no way out, you should cover your exposed skin with wet clothing and then make way to the already burnt area. This can minimize the chance of getting injured. To conserve energy, never run uphill if the situation permits.
  • Do not run into shrubs or grasslands, as fire usually spread rapidly and the temperature may soar in these areas.

5.5 Lightning Strikes

  • Lightning normally strikes at the highest point of an object and the electric current is conducted to the ground via the least resistant path.
  • Hikers attacked by lightning usually have the symptoms of muscle spasm, scalds, suffocation and cardiac arrest.

Safety Guidelines

  • Take note of the latest weather information. Avoid hiking when the weather is unstable, especially when thunderstorm warning signal is in force.
  • Wear shoes or boots with rubber soles in outdoor areas.
  • Don’t touch water or wet objects.

Emergency Measures

  • Don't stand on hill tops or near any highly conductive objects. Keep away from trees and masts which are likely to be struck by lightning.
  • Since lightning current is conducted away through the ground, you should not lie down especially when the ground is wet. Instead you should crouch down to minimize the area of contact between you and the ground.
  • Stay away from iron fences or other metal installations, including antennae and water pipes. Remove all metal objects (e.g. gold ornaments, watch) from your body.
  • Consider switching off the mobile phones.
  • Seek shelter in buildings whenever possible.
  • Don't swim or engage in other water sports.
  • Don't touch any inflammable materials, such as kerosene or liquefied petroleum gas.
  • Beware of intense gusts.

5.6 Getting Lost

  • It is easy to get lost during bad weather or venture unplanned route.

Safety Guidelines

  • Choose maintained paths with clear directory signs, plan your hiking route carefully.
  • Stay tuned to weather report, and avoid hiking under adverse weather condition.
  • Remember to bring all necessities including maps, compass, ample drinking water, food, torch, rain gear, radio, first-aid kit, whistle, mobile phone and backup battry, notebook and pen.

Emergency Measures

  • Find your location with a compass and a map.
  • Recall the route you have covered and retrace your steps to your original position. If this is not possible, stay and wait for rescue.
  • To save your energy, don’t proceed further.
  • If you must advance further, take note of all the paths that you have tried.
  • Avoid steep ravines as it is not easy to locate oneself in this topography. Head for a high spot if you fail to identify your location. It is easier to identify directions and to be discovered by the rescue team.
  • In case cold weather sets in but you do not have sufficient warm protective clothing or if thunderstorm or hill fire occurs, leave the high spot until the situation improves and go back to the high spot again and wait for rescue.
  • Give out international distress signal. (See paragraph 6)

5.7 Heat Stroke

  • Heat stroke is caused by one's inability to regulate body temperature through transpiration at high ambient temperatures. The patient feels hot, dizzy, uneasy and even becomes unconscious. When the temperature exceeds 40oC, skin will become dry and flush; breath and pulse rate will increase. In some serious cases, the patient will suffer from shock. One shall lower the patient’s body temperature and seek medical assistance.
  • Overheat of the body will lead to heat exhaustion which usually occurs when one is engaging in sports in hot humid weather, especially when one fails to replenish his body fluid and salt lost through sweating. The symptoms are exhaustion, headache, dizziness, nausea, muscle spasm, paleness, clammy skin, rapid but weak breath and pulse.

Safety Guidelines

  • In summer months, plan a route which is shaded by trees. Leave more time for rest and don’t plan a prolong journey.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Drink ample of mineral water.

Emergency Measures

  • Move the patient to a cool shaded place. Remove his clothing and lay him down with feet elevated; give him drinks if he is conscious. Avoid the patient being surrounded by people.
  • If necessary, apply other body-cooling techniques like immersion in water, wetting clothing and fanning until the symptoms disappear.
  • Continue to replenish water and ask for help in order to rescue the patient as soon as possible.
  • If the patient sweats heavily and convulse, serve him with salt water in the ratio of one tea spoon of salt to one liter of water.

5.8 Hypothermia

  • It is caused by drop of body temperature due to lack of sufficient clothing in a cold place. Even in summer, rapid drop in temperature due to sudden cold rain or rainstorm will also cause hypothermia.
  • Symptoms: fatigue, exhaustion, clammy skin, stumbling, shivering, muscle spasms, stammering and hallucinating.

Safety Guidelines

  • Have a good sleep on the night before the hike.
  • Don't go hiking if you are not feeling well.
  • Have a nutritious meal before setting out. Take high energy food like chocolate during the trip.
  • Bring warm protective and rain-proof clothing
  • Bring a spare set of clothes for change.
  • Don't overload yourself with bulky object.
  • Rest at intervals. Don't overstrain.

Emergency Measures

  • Seek rain shelter and change wet clothes.
  • Cover your head, face, neck and body with clothing or sleeping bag to keep warm.
  • Take hot drinks and high energy food to maintain body temperature.

5.9 Snakebite

  • Common venomous snakes in Hong Kong include Banded Krait, Many-banded Krait, King Cobra, Chines Cobra, Bamboo Snake. They are more active in spring, summer and autumn.

Safety Guidelines

  • Wear long trousers and ankle boots.
  • Use maintained paths, never venture new path and avoid hiking in dense woodland or tall underbrush.

Emergency Measures

  • If you see a snake, keep calm and stay still. Let the snake run away. Snakes have good eyesight. Irritation will lead to snake attack.
  • In case of snakebite, please take the following measures.
  • Don't cut, suck or wash the wound. Keep the injured lie down at rest. Don't elevate the wound or make unnecessary movement. Avoid alcoholic drinks.>
  • Whenever possible, use bandage to tie above the wound. Use a wide bandage if the wound is on arm or leg.
  • Pacify the injured and rush him to a hospital for treatment. If possible, identify the type, colours and patterns of the venomous snake. If the snake has been caught, bring it along to the hospital so that the right antivenom can be used.

5.10 Bee Sting

  • Don't touch the combs of bees, hornets or wasps in countryside, this would avoid being attacked and stung by their swarm.

Safety Guidelines

  • Use maintained trails. Don't venture new paths, avoid going into grass/fern bushes or tall underbrush where insects and wasps inhabit.
  • Don't disturb combs.Never strike bushes with branch or stick.
  • Avoid using aromatic body lotion.

Emergency Measures

  • If there are only one or two bees/hornets/wasps hovering above, ignore them and keep going as usual.
  • If there is a comb blocking the way, circumvent it and proceed.
  • When attacked by a swarm of bees/hornets/wasps, squat still and cover your head and neck with outerwear for protection, or lie curled on the ground and evacuate slowly after the swarm has dispersed.
  • If the sting is left in the wound, remove it with forceps. Don't squeeze the poisonous gland to prevent any residue poison from entering the body. You may apply a cold compress and apply it lightly to the wound to soothe the pain temporarily.
  • Seek medical treatment if stung seriously.

5.11 Mosquito Bite

  • Mosquitoes are common in the countryside. Mosquito bites cause temporary itching. However, one may be infected with dengue fever when being bitten by Aedine mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) carrying dengue virus.
  • Dengue fever is an acute mosquito-borne infection caused by the dengue viruses. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infective female Aedine mosquitoes.

Safety Guidelines

  • Wear loose, light-coloured long-sleeved tops and trousers, and apply DEET-containing insect repellent on clothing and exposed parts of the body.
  • Avoid prolong stay under tree, in grass bushes and hidden places.
  • Do not dispose empty boxes, soft drink cans and plastic bags which can retain stagnant water.
  • Do not store empty barrels or bottles for water storage purposes in the countryside.

Emergency Measures

  • Mosquitoes are common in the countryside. Mosquito bites cause temporary itching. However, one may be infected with dengue fever when being bitten by Aedine mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) carrying dengue virus.
  • Dengue fever is an acute mosquito-borne infection caused by the dengue viruses. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infective female Aedine mosquitoes.

5.12 Mites and Ticks

  • Some mites inhabiting the rural areas may carry vector borne diseases such as scrub typhus. Scrub typhus is infected through the bites of infected Trombiculid mites. Symptoms include fever, headache,muscle pain and punch-out skin ulcer (eschar) at the site of vector bite. To prevent vector bites, members of public should take preventive measures when going to rural areas.
  • Tick-borne spotted fever is transmitted by ticks. Most larval ticks cluster at the tips of grasses or leaves and seek for their preferred animals or humans for sucking blood. Humans bitten by infective larval ticks may contract the disease.
  • Precautionary measures should be taken at countryside to avoid being bitten by these vectors.

Safety Hints

  • Wear loose, light-coloured long-sleeved tops and trousers and apply DEET-containing insect repellent on clothing and exposed parts of the body.
  • Wear shoes that cover entire foot, avoid wearing sandal or open shoes.
  • Avoid resting or lying inside scrubby areas.
  • Do not hang clothing on vegetation.
  • Avoid brushing the grasses beside the path.
  • Do not feed wild or stray animal.
  • Inspect and disinfest your accompanying pets regularly.

Emergency Measures

  • The incubation period for scrub typhus is commonly 10 to 12 days while that for tick-borne spotted fever is about 6 to 10 days. One should pay attention to the symptoms if being bitten and seek medical advice promptly for doubt.

For more details, please refer to the website of Centre for Health Protection and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department:

5.13 Dangerous Plants

  • Some common plants in the wilderness are harmful to hikers. For examples:

Wax Tree - skin allergy
Prickly Ash- scratches
Wild mushrooms/ wild fruits – probably poisonous, can be fatal if consumed.

Safety Hints

  • Avoid going into dense bushes.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothes and long trousers and bring a pair of gloves.
  • Protect your head and face or exposed skins with handkerchief or clothing if you have to pass through a bush.
  • Don't touch the Wax tree.
  • Beware of thorns when gripping on a plant.
  • Don't attempt to eat wild fruits/mushrooms.

Emergency Measures

Seek immediate medical treatment if skin allergy occurs after touching a plant or you are poisoned by wild fruits/mushrooms.

6. Distress Guide

  • Give first aid to the injured as far as possible.
  • Send out international mountain distress signals (see Para. 6.1) until the rescue team arrives.
  • If possible, at least one member should look after the injured while the other two should go together to seek help.
  • To facilitate rescue, the person who goes to seek help or call for help should write down the following essential information to reduce the inaccuracy of the distress message delivered by him due to tension and his unclear verbal communication.
  1. the nature/cause/time of accident;
  2. the location/ grid reference/number of the nearest distance post (paragraph 6.2) ;
  3. the terrain/special landmarks in the vicinity ;
  4. the no of injured and number of persons on the spot;
  5. the personal details of the injured including the name, age, sex, telephone number, residential address and contacts of family members;
  6. the nature of injury
  7. the condition/ locations of other members ;
  8. any other relevant information.

6.1 International Mountain Distress Signals

  • Ways:
    • send out six long blasts within one minute;
    • pause for one minute;
    • repeat a. and b. Don't stop until the rescue team comes. Keep on giving out the signals even if the rescue team has discovered you from a far distance so that the rescuers can identify your exact position.
  • Tools:
    • Blowing a whistle
    • Flashing with your torch light at night
    • Waving colourful or shiny clothes to attract attention

Morse Code Distress Signals
Sending out blasts in the sequence of three short, three long and there short.

SOS Distress Signal
If possible, use stones or tree branches to form the characters of SOS (Save Our Soul) on a flat and open space (Each character should be 6m x 6m).

6.2 Distance Post and “Your Location” Map Coordinate

  • The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has erected distance posts at about 500m intervals along all long-distance hiking trails (MacLehose Trail, Lantau Trail, Hong Kong Trail and Wilson Trail) as well as all country trails for users to identify their location. In case of emergency, they can state their position by referring to the number on the nearby distance post or the coordinates marked at the location map, thus facilitating search and rescue operation.
  • “50222 SMS/ GPS Hiker Tracking Service”: Hikers can punch in the numbers of distance posts they see along the trail and send them to 50222 via SMS or open the GPS Hiker Tracking Services of the “Enjoy Hiking” mobile phone application. In case of accidents, rescue parties can locate the hikers based on the data. Details please refer to the following websites:

50222 SMS Hiker Tracking Service:
GPS Hiker Tracking Service: 
Emergency call: 999/112

Telephone numbers of Country Park Ranger offices/ Fire Control Centre
(Enquiry for hiking routes during office hours)
Sai Kung 2792 3730
Hong Kong 2552 7907
Central 2429 7247
Lantau 2988 8927
West District 2477 4896
North District 2662 5015
Fire Control Centre 2720 0777 (24 hour hill fire reporting hotline)

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Last Review Date : 06 August 2014