Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon is a very popular national park about an hour outside of Chiang Mai. A car is necessary to get the most out of this park. There are many tour companies that will take you here but we DO NOT recommend seeing the park by this means. Our friends did an organized tour and did not have a very good time. When you are on a tour, you are on the tours time table, they make you stop at many markets, they also pull over to the most crowded waterfalls and there is no hiking or walking involved. To get the best experience rent a car for a day. The drive to the park is easy, pretty much one highway to get there. Even though you drive on the left side of the road (which may be weird for some, it is not that bad). Beware the road up into the park is very windy, so if you get motion sickness, bring some Dramamine or other motion sickness medicaiton.
Doi Inthanon is home to tallest mountain in Thailand.
The entrance fee for foreigners is 300 THB for adults and 150 THB for children. This is paid at the second check point. You must park your car on the side of the road and go wait in line. You have to pay with cash only, they will then give you a ticket to hold in your car.
Most people that come to Doi Inthanon stop at the waterfalls just off the road and then leave. If you do this you are missing out on the spectacular views and experience that this park can give you. After much research we found a hike suitable for our young children.
Keaw Mae Pan Natural Trail is near the summit of the mountain. Once you pay the entrance fee stop at the visitor center. They will give you a map of the park and tell you how to get to this trail.
The parking lot for this trail has a restaurant. Many people stop here to eat after going to the summit. Go to the north side of the parking lot just above the bathrooms. You will see a small hut and usually a small line. It is required to have a guide for this hike. The guides are from the Hmong Tribe. The cost is 200 THB and is NOT negotiable. If you are lucky your guide will speak English and give you information about the park and the history. We were unfortunate that this was not our case. Having a guide for pretty pointless as the trail is easy to follow but it is required and we were happy to support the local people.
Our experience on the Kaew Mae Pan Nature Trail
This trail is about 3 miles per my gps watch. The local guide was 3 km. My children age 2, 6 and 9 were able to hike the entire trail. Well.. we had to carry the 2 year old for about half the time. We also had my 60 year old mom (who is an experienced hiker). The trail has quite a few ups and downs, with stairs so it can be hard on the knees.
The trail is beautiful. Set in the rain forest. The temperature is about 20 degrees cooler than the base of the mountain, so bring a light jacket would be appropriate plus you are in the shade most of the time. You hike up and down hill after hill through the dense rain forest. You stop at a cute little waterfall. We took the opportunities to rest and give our kids a small snack. 2 of the 3 miles is spent getting to the summit of the hike.
TIP: check the forecast and come on a clear day!
The summit of this hike is breath taking. Rolling mountains as far as the eye can see. Then you head along a trail ridge until you come to view the two pagodas. (this part is int he sun). Absolutely stunning.
Then it is a short 1/2 mile hike through the rain forest back to the car.
My 6 and 9 year old loved swinging on the vines like a monkey. Finding good swinging vines was also a good motivation for them to keep hiking!
How long to stay
We left our house at 8 am and returned around 5 pm. That includes 2 hours in driving time.
What to bring
-A change of clothes/swim suit-if you want to swim in Pha Khun Na waterfall
-a light jacket
-THB in cash
-snacks for the kids
Nearby Waterfalls to see:
- Mae Ya waterfall- is actually just outside the park. We were going to stop on our way out but the kids were too tired and actually asleep.
- Wachirathan Waterfall- this one is very popular and for good reason. It is stunning. It is 100 foot walk from parking lot. There is a trail that leads to the bottom of the falls (follow the trail to the right) and takes you to the river. Is is less crowded down here and very peaceful. Bathrooms are available here
- Sirithan waterfall- another poplar large waterfall just off the road
- Pha Khun Na Waterfall- I am sad we missed this one. It is a short stroll from the visitor center. Bring swimsuit and towel to this one if you want to get wet.
This is a must see attraction outside of Chiang Mai. We highly recommend renting your own car to do this so you can go at your own pace. Tour companies do not let you hike. The summit of the mountain does not have any views and is just a sign that says “Tallest peak in Thailand” skip it. If you have small kids, pick 2-3 waterfalls you want to see and skip the rest. The worst thing is whining kids and they will be happier if you condense the day to the TOP few you choose.
-Russ and Ashley