Visit Doi Inthanon National Park – Perfect Day Trip from Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon doesn’t appear in many Chiang Mai guides and it’s a pity. This National Park located just 1.5 h drive from the Old Town is a perfect getaway from the city. You will find yourself surrounded by beautiful nature, countless waterfalls, scenic views and impressive temples set on the top of the mountain. If, like us, you love hiking, natural scenery and are up for adventure, Doi Inthanon should be on your list while visiting North of Thailand. And our guide will help you organise an ideal day trip from Chiang Mai.
A Day Trip from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon
Located in Chiang Mai Province, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, rising 2,565 meters above sea level. Thanks to the altitude, the air here is fresh all year long. However exploring Doi Inthanon isn’t only about seeing the mountain top. The National Park is a true jewel of natural beauty. This includes lush tropical forests, mighty rivers and majestic waterfalls. Hiking trails spread all around the park offer some of the best views in the Northern Thailand.
Visiting the park
Upon entrance to the park you will receive a map of the area (after paying 300 THB entrance fee) that will direct you to all the most important spots. The map is NOT precise at all… but there’s basically one road and few roads going off them so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the spots.
Depending on the season you visit in, some parts of the park might be closed. We wanted to do the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, which offers the most amazing views. However we discovered that this and many other trails are closed in rain season (from June to November). During the dry season on the other hand, the waterfalls are not as impressive.
Mae Klang Waterfall
Mae Klang Waterfall is the easiest to get to, and it’s located before the park gates. Here you can swim if the weather allows it. It’s popular with locals who come here for picnic during holidays and weekends.
This waterfall is the first stop once in the park. Just a short ride from the Check Point you will find sign and a road on the right. The waterfall was extremely impressive. The strong cascading water was creating a mist all around the area.
The second waterfall on the way. It’s equally impressive, however visitors can see it only from small viewing platform located a hundred metres up in the forest.
Hike to Siriphum
The hike to Siriphum waterfall is one of two hikes open also during the rain season. There are two ways to do this trail. One leads to the waterfall and comes back the same way. The other carries further, past the waterfall to the local Karen Village. There you can observe the life of the locals and see the process of coffee making (there are many coffee plantations in this part of Thailand). The down side to this 2nd trail is that if you travel by car, somebody has to drive your car from the starting point to the Karen Village for you. Otherwise, you can get a van shuttle for an extra charge.
We chose to skip the Karen Village (read here the reason). It took approximately 1h to complete the hike.
↬ Note : All hikes in Doi Inthanon must be done with a local guide. The charge is 200 THB (6EUR) per guide. They are not really necessary for every trails, but it’s a way for them to generate some income for their villages.
The way at first isn’t very impressive, as it passes just through a forest. Soon however, the first falls reveal themselves. You continue walking on the side of the river and after some man-made stairs, reach the bottom of a huge waterfall. As we visited during wet season, the water cascading down was very strong and impressive.
Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
It’s the most popular trail in Doi Inthanon. Nature lovers should not miss it (visit between November and May). The hike is easy, about 3 km long and passes by green forest, waterfalls and numerous streams. There are 21 stations offering detailed explanations about the plants and ecosystems of the park. At the end you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the area.
Royal Pagodas and the Gardens
Two sacred temples were built to celebrate the birthdays of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his Queen. The pagodas are surrounded by a beautiful gardens and overlook the whole park (if you come on a clear day). You will walk through garden full of stunning foxgloves and plenty of butterflies (and bees). At the time of our visit, they were also creating a garden for the 2nd pagoda aswell!
↬ TIP : There is a small entrance fee of 40 THB (1.1 EUR) to the Pagodas.
The highest point in Thailand is located at 2565 m above sea level. There is a small shire and a 15min path around the summit. The mossy wooden pathway is extremely quiet and serene. There are stops on the way with informative boards. One of them shows how the highest point was measured for the first time ever.
Do not expect much of this point. The path is nice, but it’s not much compared to the other hikes.
How to get to Doi Intahnon
Doi Inthanon is located apx. 80km from Chiang Mai, 1.5H drive making it an easy day trip. The easiest way to get there is by renting a car. We rented our car with Annas Car Rental and were very happy with it. It cost 900 THB (27 EUR) including insurance. We had to leave 2000 THB (60 EUR) cash deposit and one passport. Both were given back to us the same day when we returned the car.
↬ TIP : Reserve the car at least a day before and pick it up early the following morning. It will give you plenty of time to visit the park and return by 7PM when the rental shop closes.
If the weather conditions allow it and you like driving a motorbike, then arriving by bike to Doi Intahnon is also an option. It costs 200 THB (6 EUR) per day.
Driving by a scooter was our original idea. We both like it and Hamilton is a great motorbike driver. However we visited in August and it was raining through out the whole day. We decided that car was a safer option. However, we did see few brave couples that arrived by motorbike.
Alternatively, you can join an organised tour visiting Doi Intahnon in one day trip, or pick a private tour.
There are many gas stations on the way to Don Inthanon and around Chiang Mai after your day trip. We payed around 300 THB (9 EUR) for gas for the return trip with some stopovers on the way.
What to bring
- Doi Intahnon due to its altitude, the climate is much cooler than the surroundings. Make sure to pack an extra layer for the visit.
- If you choose to get there by motorbike make sure to pack a warm jacket, raincoats and gloves. It was around 18 degrees on the summit. It’s not thaaat cold, but the wind and rain can make it extra unpleasant. Especially on a motorbike.
- Take water in a reusable bottle or a bottle that filtrates bacteria. Like Gray, which we used a lot collecting water from streams.
- There are a few restaurants inside the park so you can get a nice lunch. Despite its touristic location, the place we ate in was good and really cheap. We payed only 40 THB (1.1 EUR) for chicken fried rice. And it was yummy!
- However packing few energy bars or other snacks might be a good idea.
- Wear comfortable clothing and sport or hiking shoes. Take hat, sunglasses and sunblock, specially in the dry season.
- Make sure to pack natural mosquito repellant, even in the dry season.
- Take a camera with spare battery. It’s forbidden to fly a drone close to the summit as there is a military station right next to. We flew the drone at the Royal Pagodas to get the view. Well…the clouds covered everything, but that’s how it should look like:
Visiting Doi Inthaon is only one of the best things to do in Chaing Mai. Make sure to find out about the other from our blog posts!