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Taking the High Road: The Best Places to Go Hiking in Chiang Mai

Taking the High Road: The Best Places to Go Hiking in Chiang Mai

Hiking in Chiang Mai: The Best Hiking Trails in Thailand

As Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai offers a whole host of activities from cultural museums and temples to an amazing market and food scene. The experience of hiking in Chiang Mai is not to be missed. There are incredible, well managed trails to accommodate all levels.

Chiang Mai is well known for its sense of relaxation and northern soul. The city is ever growing but has a real understanding of where it came from. Surrounded by jungle-clad hills and mountains, the options for hiking are endless. We’ve collected our favorites, which are some of the most famous of the hiking routes in and around Chiang Mai.

hiking in Chiang Mai guide for backpackers

Wat Pha Lat to Wat Doi Suthep

Arguably the most popular hike in Chiang Mai thanks to its straightforward location and incredible scenery. The trail begins right on the edge of town not far from the city’s zoo. The main road winds its way up Chiang Mai’s own mountain towards the temple in the clouds, Doi Suthep.

Rather than take the road you’ll be following the well-marked trails that begin at Wat Pha Lat. The beginning of the trail is often referred to as the Monk’s trail. Local monks will regularly tread this path when travelling between each temple.

Once you make it to Doi Suthep give yourself some time to explore the temple itself. The golden pagodas and incredible colors matched with the awe-inspiring views make it well worth the climb. Plus if you’re completely shattered following the climb you can always take one of the many Songthaews back down the hill!

Doi Pui to Doi Suthep

The same end destination as the hike above, but with a different starting point. Instead you’ll start right near the top of the mountain and follow a path through thick forest and jungle before rejoining civilization. On the trail you’ll journey through a couple of hill-tribe villages. You’ll be able to catch your breath as well as see traditional clothing, shop for local wares and sample some of the spectacular Lanna coffee.

hiking in Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep temple

Doi Inthanon Nature Trail

Around an hour from Chiang Mai, but well worth the journey. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest peak and is covered in well-marked trails for all abilities. For information, stop by one of the many tourist information and park visitor sites. There are camping options for multi day excursions, as well as tens of waterfalls to visit.

The main hike is to gun for the summit. You’ll need to get hold of a local guide to help you on this lengthy trek. The views afforded are incredible and you’ll safely be able to say that you’re the highest person in all of Thailand when you reach the top.

If you’re not up for the whole hike then take a trip towards the top of the mountain. Just past the twin pagodas you’ll find the nature trail center. Here you can join small groups or go in a couple/solo with a dedicated guide. You’ll still get some incredible views and if you time it right you’ll be high above the clouds that blanket the valley below.

Doi Luang Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao is probably our favorite of the Chiang Mai hiking locations. It’s rugged, it’s local and it’s simply spectacular. If you’re an avid hiker then it is well worth the 1.5 hour drive out of Chiang Mai. The main peak is the third highest in Thailand and makes up part of the incredible limestones cliffs and mountains.

We strongly suggest taking a tent with you and joining a camping/hiking adventure group (tents can sometimes be provided by guides). If you’d like to explore the area but don’t want to go for the major hike then we suggest taking your own transport and exploring the park by scooter or motorbike. Journey along the main road for long enough and you’ll come across a hill village known as Rabiang Dao. This incredible place offers tent accommodation, including all sleeping bags etc, as well as including dinner and breakfast. It is an amazing spot to grab a beer, take in the view and breathe in the clear, fresh air.

Tips for Hiking in Chiang Mai

Plan ahead to make the most of your hikes. Read up on the area and find out if you need a guide. In high season the guides will book up in advance, so it’s worth seeing if you can contact them before you leave. This isn’t always easy but it’s well worth the effort.

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