Doi Inthanon National Park - Chiang Mai

Chedis at Top of Doi Intanon
Chedis at Top of Doi Intanon

Doi Inthanon National Park covers a vast area and is home to Thailand's highest mountain. Doi Intanon is cool year-round and spawns the Mae Klang, Mae Pako, Mae Pawn, Mae Ya, Mae Cham and Mae Khan rivers.

The mountain's forested slopes include evergreen, pine forest and mixed deciduous teak & mountain pine. Doi Intanon also has some appealing waterfalls

Mae Ya Falls

Mae Ya waterfall is thought to be the highest in Thailand and is well worth the extra effort to get there. It can be described as a large volume of water rushing down an ever-widening series of steps (about 80 meters in length) to crash onto the rocks below. That's to say it isn't a vertical free-faller like most waterfalls. It's a photographic favorite so don't forget the camera. Check out a park map for details how to get there.

Brichinda Cave

(Km 9) This impressive limestone cave has a gigantic entrance chamber and tower, then further along a second chamber (nearly as big as the first) with a skylight opening to the surface. A one-hour's walk from the main road will get you there.

Park Headquarters

(Km 30.8) The headquarters building has a small camping space and the Hmong village of Ban Khun Klang is also nearby. There is a bungalow compound located at the back. At Km 30.4 there is a paved turn off that takes you to Siriphum. An excellent view of Siriphum can also be enjoyed by walking or cycling along the track which forks left from the main road just beyond the entrance to the guest house compound. The falls are actually twins - two parallel plumes of cascading water named after King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.

Gew Mae Pan Trail

Ah, now here's a must for anyone who likes nature trails. Perhaps the most rewarding walk in the park is a new trail which begins a short distance up the main summit road from Napamaytanidol Chedi (see park map). This trail is set along an untouched natural evergreen forest.

The bird life here is abundant, including the Green-Tailed Sunbird which is only found here, so don't forget the binoculars. Before hitting the trail, permission must be sought at park Headquarters. Sounds like hassle but it's just a simple formality. Allow around two hours to complete the trail with camera stops.

Summit of Doi Intanon

(Km 48) The drive to the summit offers some excellent views, especially during the dry season. When you reach the summit be sure to take a look at the King Inthawidhayanon Stupa, and don't forget to read the translated inscription on the marble plaque nearby.

On the main road and opposite the summit Ranger Station is a sign in Thai marking a short, self-guided nature trail which descends to a bog in a small karst depression. The boggy area at the bottom is a good location for bird-watching.

The Mae Chaem Road

Branching off the main summit road at Km 38, the first kilometer travels through some lush mountain forest and then comes out into the open and follows a descending ridge with more excellent views. Makes a nice break from the main summit route.

Mae Pan Area

Here's another little gem you might not read elsewhere. At Km 6.6 on the Mae Chaem road is the turn-off to Mae Pan Waterfall. It is marked by a sign so you can't miss it.

The access road is dirt and descends about two kilometers to the Ranger Station where you will find a campground. This area is quiet and well off the beaten track.

From the ranger station there is an excellent loop hike of 1.5 to 2 hours through untouched terrain with small waterfalls and tumbling creeks along most of the route. Visitors can walk the 800 meters to Mae Pan Falls and back again, as well as the 200 meters to Huai Sai Luang Falls just beyond the campground. Both of these trails are clear and well looked after.