Hong Kong Hiking Meetup. Of course, Mr. Van Hoy says, he is thrilled to see more people venturing beyond the high-rises. When he first joined the group eight years ago, it had about 8,000 registered members. It now has 25,000.

illegal dirt biking that has left once-lush hilltops barren.

The government said it punished more than 700 people last year for violating anti-epidemic measures in the parks and had deployed workers to remind people to pick up their litter; Ms. Cheng said enforcement had not been strict enough.

She issued a bleak warning: “We’ll also need this countryside when the next epidemic comes, so we need to protect it.”

There are still refuges for those in the know. When the crowds get too dense at Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, Tsao King-kwun, a retired professor, drives to small villages nearby, where he likes to admire the traditional architecture. It’s a departure from his usual walking route around the reservoir, but Mr. Tsao can rest assured that the crowds won’t follow.

“Because they don’t know it,” he laughed. “This” — he gestured to the reservoir, where he had deemed the crowds acceptable for a walk that afternoon — “is quite obvious. They go on Facebook.”

spectacular orange, but she hadn’t seen it this year because of the crowds.

Still, she took solace in the fact that, as the seasons and foliage changed, so would the number of visitors. “After a while, there won’t be this many people,” she said. “They’ll all go to Tai Mo Shan” — Hong Kong’s highest peak — “to see the bell flowers.”

Elsie Chen contributed research.

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