Crow’s Nest, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is endowed with incredible views from a number of locations, but my favourite view by far, can be seen from Crow’s Nest. Crow’s Nest is a less well travelled location for viewing the iconic Hong Kong skyline which means you can easily find a spot to plant your tripod. It provides a unique view where you can really see the density of the buildings.

Background

Crow’s Nest Nature Trail is located on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. It’s one of the easiest viewpoints to get to, with only a short hike required to reach the viewpoint. Furthermore, the viewpoint itself is a flat and safe location, which is quite a change from the viewpoint we perched ourselves on at Jardine’s Lookout, where we were faced with a steep drop in the foreground.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
View from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 100mm ISO-100 1/25sec f/11
Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
View from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 150.5mm ISO-100 1/320sec f/8

The view is unique in that you get the low-rise high-density buildings of Kowloon in the foreground, and Hong Kong’s iconic Island high-rises in the mid-ground, with the mountains as the background. It’s a feast for the eyes and somewhat overwhelming the first time you see it. The best time to visit is right before sunset to catch the golden hour, and right after sunset for the blue hour.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
View from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 173.5mm ISO-100 1/340sec f/8
Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Golden hour from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 200mm ISO-100 1/4sec f/8

How to get there

There are a number of ways to reach the viewpoint, but we chose to take a taxi to Villa Carlton on Tai Po Road. From there, we took the footbridge across the main road and walked to the Shell Gas Station. The hiking path starts from behind the gas station and goes straight up for about 15 minutes. There are ribbons along the trail as a guide, which becomes quite important at night as it gets dark in there very quickly after sunset.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Right after sunset from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 193mm ISO-100 1/3sec f/8

When to go

Hong Kong has two seasons, with a hot humid summer and a cold wet winter. Cold is relative in that it rarely gets down to single digits Celsius, but with the high moisture content in the air, the winters feel much colder than the temperature would indicate. To get a clear view, intuition would tell us that we would want to go during the coldest and driest months, but in Hong Kong, some local dynamics change that.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Blue hour from the first viewpoint; GFX 50R 196.5mm ISO-100 1/3sec f/8

Due to the way air flows to Hong Kong, the winter months actually have higher pollution and less clear air. As a result, the best months to get clear air are the summer months, typically June and July having the best combination of lower humidity and low air pollution. The worst months are typically November to January, where the wonderful cool air is overcome by the pollution flows.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Blue hour from the first viewpoint; GFX 50R 126mm ISO-100 1.7sec f/8

In the months of June and July, there are often storms rolling through Hong Kong. This makes for beautiful clouds, but also means that you’ll often face a view obscured by low clouds. Most images that you see online of Hong Kong have been edited to remove haze or the photographer tried multiple attempts until she/he found the rare combination of low humidity, low pollution, and an unobstructed view at the same time.

Two viewpoints to visit

Once you reach the Crow’s Nest Nature Trail, you’ll go right and follow the trail. You’ll come up to an excellent viewpoint with room for about 10 tripods. The government seems to clear the bush at this location so that photographers can have an unimpeded view of the amazing skyline. I’d recommend bringing your long lenses to really get into the density of this incredible view.

I would suggest that you should also add Crow’s Nest to your list of must-see views in Hong Kong

While the first viewpoint is incredible, if you want the best view, you should continue a few minutes further to the official viewpoint where you’ll find a set of rocks and a fence. Unfortunately, this spot does not appear to be cleared so there are tall bushes that you need to rise above. There is room for only one person on the rock so laying claim to that spot early would be a good idea.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Wanderinglass.com perched on the rock at the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 100mm ISO-100 1/210sec f/8

Julian from wanderinglass.com took the prime spot on the rock so I stayed at the wider viewpoint. I did however take a few handheld images before the sun went down at the prime spot. The remainder of the images were from the first wide viewpoint. I’ll note which viewpoint was used for each image.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Blue hour from the first viewpoint; GFX 50R 100mm ISO-100 2.1sec f/8
Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Blue hour from the first viewpoint; GFX 50R 200mm ISO-100 6sec f/8

Watch out for the monkeys

The two times I’ve visited Crow’s Nest, there have been quite a few monkeys around. In general, they were friendly and left us alone, however it always pays to be extra cautious and come well prepared. Don’t have any open food outside of your bag, keep plastic bottles out of sight, and don’t point your camera or make strong eye contact with the monkeys.

On a previous visit to Crow’s Nest, we came across a number of monkey families with their babies and children hanging around right at the first viewpoint. In those situations, the mother was clearly anxious so we were extra careful to ensure we signalled we were not there to bother them and completely ignored them, and fortunately, they paid us back the same courtesy.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Facing west from the first viewpoint; GFX 50R 200mm ISO-100 1/2sec f/8

Prepare for the darkness

These days, most people have mobile phones with LED lights, so this is not a big issue, but it should be noted this trail gets very dark very quickly after sunset. The trail also has a lot of tree roots and other loose dirt so it helps to have a headband light or something powerful enough to give you good forward vision. In a few spots, the trail is not obvious, so look out for the rope or ribbons to help guide you back down.

Conclusion

When you visit Hong Kong, you have to see the view from The Peak and across from Victoria Harbour from the Kowloon side, but I would suggest that you should also add Crow’s Nest to your list of must-see views in Hong Kong. In a future post, I will share some images from another favourite viewpoint, Beacon Hill.

Crow's Nest Hong Kong skyline view
Blue hour from the main viewpoint; GFX 50R 200mm ISO-100 6sec f/8
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and the views from Crow’s Nest. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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