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A Guide To Hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao


by Jessy Liang



Welcome to the ultimate guide to hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao! If you’re a nature enthusiast or an adventure seeker looking for an exhilarating hiking experience, you’ve come to the right place. Doi Luang Chiang Dao, located in the Chiang Mai Province of Thailand, is a majestic mountain offering breathtaking views, challenging trails, and a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.


Ascending Doi Luang Chiang Dao is more than just a hike; it is a journey into the heart of the stunning Thai countryside. The mountain, standing tall at 2,175 meters (7,136 feet), is part of the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary and is considered the third tallest peak in Thailand. Not only does it provide an exciting outdoor adventure, but it also boasts diverse wildlife, lush forests, and vibrant flora.


Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking to conquer your first mountain, Doi Luang Chiang Dao offers a range of trails suitable for different skill levels. From moderate to challenging routes, there’s something for everyone. Be prepared to push your limits and be rewarded with unforgettable panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.


As with any outdoor activity, proper preparation is key. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know, including details on how to get to Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the best time to hike, the various hiking trails to choose from, essential gear and equipment to pack, permits and regulations, safety tips, camping and accommodation options, as well as information on the wildlife and flora you may encounter along the way.


So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to embark on an extraordinary hiking adventure to Doi Luang Chiang Dao. Let’s dive in and discover all that this magnificent mountain has to offer!


Getting to Doi Luang Chiang Dao

Reaching Doi Luang Chiang Dao is relatively straightforward, as it is located approximately 72 kilometers (45 miles) north of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s cultural hub. Here are the different options for getting to Doi Luang Chiang Dao:


1. Private Vehicle: The most convenient way to travel to Doi Luang Chiang Dao is by private vehicle. From Chiang Mai, take Route 107 northbound towards Fang and continue until you reach the town of Chiang Dao. From there, follow the signs leading to the mountain. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.


2. Public Transportation: If you prefer public transportation, you can take a local bus or a shared minivan from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao. Buses depart from the Chang Phuak Bus Terminal in Chiang Mai, and the journey takes around 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. Once you arrive in Chiang Dao, you can hire a local taxi or a songthaew (a red truck with benches in the back) to take you to the mountain’s trailhead.


3. Guided Tour: Another option is to join a guided tour from Chiang Mai. Several tour operators in Chiang Mai offer organized trips to Doi Luang Chiang Dao. These tours usually include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and sometimes even meals and accommodation. It’s a convenient option if you prefer to leave all the logistics in the hands of professionals.


It’s important to note that public transportation options to Doi Luang Chiang Dao might be limited, especially during low season or on weekdays. It is advisable to check the schedules in advance and plan your trip accordingly. If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays, it’s recommended to book your transportation in advance to secure a seat.


Once you reach Doi Luang Chiang Dao, you’ll find a designated parking area near the trailhead where you can safely leave your vehicle. From there, you’ll be ready to start your hiking adventure in one of the most picturesque areas of northern Thailand.


Best Time to Hike

The best time to hike Doi Luang Chiang Dao is during the cool and dry season, which typically runs from November to February. During these months, the weather is mild, with comfortably cool temperatures and lower chances of rainfall. The clear skies and pleasant conditions make it ideal for outdoor activities, including hiking.


Hiking during the cool season allows you to enjoy the breathtaking views without being hindered by excessive heat or humidity. The temperatures during this time range from around 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit), making it comfortable to hike during the day and sleep comfortably at night if you choose to camp.


It’s important to note that during the peak holiday season, especially around Christmas and New Year, the trails can get crowded. If you prefer a quieter hiking experience, consider visiting Doi Luang Chiang Dao either before or after the peak season. The months of November and February generally offer fewer crowds while still providing favorable weather conditions.


While the cool season is the most popular time to hike, it’s worth noting that hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao is possible throughout the year. However, other seasons have their challenges:


Rainy Season (June to October): The rainy season brings frequent showers and increased chances of muddy trails. It is not recommended to hike during this time, as the paths can become slippery and hazardous. The heavy rain can also contribute to landslides and flash floods, posing a danger to hikers.


Hot Season (March to May): The hot season in Thailand can be sweltering, with temperatures easily exceeding 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Hiking during this time can be physically demanding and potentially dangerous due to heat-related illnesses. If you choose to hike in the hot season, it’s crucial to start early in the morning to avoid the intense midday heat and stay hydrated throughout the day.


Overall, the best time to hike Doi Luang Chiang Dao is during the cool and dry season, providing you with pleasant weather conditions and an unforgettable hiking experience. However, always check the weather forecast before embarking on your adventure and make sure to be well-prepared for any potential weather changes during your hike.


Hiking Trails

Doi Luang Chiang Dao offers a variety of hiking trails, catering to different skill levels and preferences. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s a trail that will suit your abilities and provide a rewarding experience. Here are some of the popular hiking trails on Doi Luang Chiang Dao:

  1. Pha Daeng Trail: This trail is the most popular and accessible option for hikers of all levels. It starts near the Chiang Dao Cave and takes you through stunning lush forests, offering panoramic views of the valley below. The trail is relatively well-marked and takes around 3-4 hours to reach the summit. The moderate difficulty level makes it suitable for beginners.
  2. Doi Luang Trail: For more experienced hikers looking for a challenge, the Doi Luang Trail is the way to go. This trail starts near the Chiang Dao Wildlife Research Station and is known for its steep and demanding ascent. The trail takes you through dense forests, rocky paths, and exposed ridges, offering breathtaking views along the way. The hike to the summit takes approximately 6-8 hours, and proper hiking experience and fitness are required.
  3. Giant’s Footprint Trail: If you’re looking for a shorter hike that still provides stunning viewpoints, the Giant’s Footprint Trail is a good choice. This trail starts near the Chiang Dao Cave and takes you to a large rock formation resembling a giant’s footprint. The hike is relatively easy and takes around 1-2 hours round trip. It offers a great opportunity to enjoy the surrounding nature without the strenuousness of the longer trails.
  4. Monk’s Trail: This trail is not as commonly known but is worth exploring if you’re looking for a unique experience. It starts near the Wat Phra That Sri Boonruang Temple and takes you through a peaceful forest, passing by several small caves and a waterfall. The trail is relatively easy and is a great option for those seeking a serene and spiritually enriching hike.

It’s important to note that all the trails on Doi Luang Chiang Dao require proper hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, and of course, a sense of adventure. While some trails are more challenging than others, it’s always important to assess your fitness level and choose a trail that corresponds to your abilities. It is also advisable to check weather conditions and trail updates before embarking on your hike.


With its diverse range of trails, Doi Luang Chiang Dao offers an unforgettable hiking experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of northern Thailand and create lifelong memories.


Essential Gear and Equipment

When embarking on a hike up Doi Luang Chiang Dao, it’s essential to equip yourself with the right gear and equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some of the essentials you should consider packing:

  1. Hiking Shoes: Invest in a sturdy pair of hiking shoes with good ankle support and a grippy sole. This will provide stability and traction on the uneven and sometimes slippery trails.
  2. Backpack: Opt for a comfortable backpack with enough capacity to carry your essentials such as water, snacks, extra layers of clothing, a first aid kit, and other personal items.
  3. Water: Stay hydrated throughout your hike by carrying an ample supply of water. It’s recommended to have at least 2 liters of water per person for a full-day hike.
  4. Food and Snacks: Pack lightweight and nutritious snacks such as energy bars, trail mix, fruits, and sandwiches to keep your energy levels up during the hike.
  5. Protection from the Elements: Depending on the weather conditions, pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a lightweight raincoat or poncho to protect yourself from the sun and unexpected rain showers.
  6. Insect Repellent: Doi Luang Chiang Dao is home to various insect species, including mosquitoes. Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from bites and potential diseases.
  7. Navigation Tools: Carry a map, compass, or GPS device to help you navigate the trails. Familiarize yourself with the route before setting off and keep track of your progress along the way.
  8. Headlamp or Flashlight: If you’re planning to hike during early morning or late afternoon, or if you’re camping overnight, a headlamp or flashlight will be essential for visibility in low-light conditions.
  9. First Aid Kit: Prepare a small first aid kit with essential items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic, pain relievers, and any personal medication you may require.
  10. Extra Clothing: Pack layers of clothing to adjust to changing weather conditions. Include a lightweight and breathable long-sleeved shirt, a warm jacket or fleece, and extra socks. Even in warm weather, the temperature can drop significantly at higher altitudes.
  11. Personal Items: Don’t forget to bring your identification, cell phone, power bank, and any other personal items you may need during the hike.

Remember that it’s essential to be well-prepared and have the necessary gear for your safety and comfort during your hike on Doi Luang Chiang Dao. Additionally, don’t forget to inform someone about your hiking plans, including your expected return time, in case of any emergencies.


Permits and Regulations

When planning a hike on Doi Luang Chiang Dao, it’s important to be aware of the permits and regulations that are in place to protect the environment and ensure the safety of hikers. Here are some important points to keep in mind:


Permits: To hike on Doi Luang Chiang Dao, you will need to obtain a permit from the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. The permit can be obtained at the entrance of the sanctuary or at the trailhead. It’s important to check the current permit requirements and fees, as they may be subject to change.


Registration: Before starting your hike, you will need to register your name and contact information at the trailhead. This is for safety purposes and to keep track of the number of hikers on the mountain.


Group Size: There may be restrictions on the maximum group size for hiking on Doi Luang Chiang Dao. Check with the authorities or the sanctuary’s website for any group size limitations. It’s important to respect these regulations to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure a safe experience for all hikers.


Leave No Trace: Follow the principles of “Leave No Trace” to help preserve the beauty of the mountain. This includes packing out all your trash, avoiding damage to vegetation, and being respectful of wildlife and other hikers.


Campfire Restrictions: Open fires are generally not allowed on Doi Luang Chiang Dao due to the risk of forest fires. Check with the authorities or rangers at the trailhead for any specific regulations regarding campfires or the use of camping stoves.


Respect Wildlife and Flora: Doi Luang Chiang Dao is home to a diverse range of wildlife and unique flora. Respect their natural habitat by observing animals from a distance, not disturbing vegetation, and refraining from taking any plants or wildlife as souvenirs. It’s also important to stay on designated trails to minimize the impact on the ecosystem.


Guided Tours: If you’re uncertain about the regulations or prefer to have a knowledgeable guide lead your hike, consider joining a guided tour. They can provide valuable information, ensure adherence to regulations, and enhance your overall hiking experience with their expertise.


By following the permits and regulations set in place, you can help preserve the natural beauty of Doi Luang Chiang Dao and ensure the sustainability of the hiking trails for future generations to enjoy.


Safety Tips

Hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao can be a thrilling adventure, but it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a positive experience. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Plan and Prepare: Before setting off on your hike, research the trail, familiarize yourself with the route, and check the weather forecast. Plan your hike according to your fitness level and experience, and pack accordingly with the necessary gear and supplies.
  2. Hike with a Companion: It’s always recommended to hike with a companion. Having someone with you can provide assistance in case of an emergency and adds an element of safety and companionship.
  3. Stay on Marked Trails: Stick to the designated trails to avoid getting lost or causing unnecessary damage to the environment. Venturing off the trail can increase the risk of injuries or encounters with wildlife.
  4. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Drink plenty of water and eat regular snacks to maintain your energy levels throughout the hike. Dehydration and fatigue can affect your decision-making and physical abilities.
  5. Check for Trail Updates: Prior to your hike, check for any trail updates or alerts from park authorities. This can include information about trail closures, dangerous conditions, or wildlife sightings. Stay informed and adjust your plans accordingly.
  6. Be Prepared for Changing Weather Conditions: Mountain weather can be unpredictable. Bring extra layers of clothing to adjust to changing temperatures, and pack rain gear in case of unexpected showers. Start your hike early to allow for enough daylight and avoid hiking during thunderstorms.
  7. Watch Your Step: Pay attention to the terrain and watch your step to avoid tripping or slipping. Be cautious of loose rocks, tree roots, and uneven surfaces. Use trekking poles for added stability if needed.
  8. Respect Your Physical Limits: Know your own physical limits and listen to your body. Take breaks when needed, pace yourself, and don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. Overexertion can lead to accidents and injuries.
  9. Carry a First Aid Kit: Pack a basic first aid kit with essentials such as bandages, antiseptic, blister treatment, and any necessary medications. Be prepared for minor injuries or ailments that may occur on the trail.
  10. Inform Others of your Plans: Before starting your hike, let someone know your itinerary, including the trail you’re taking and your estimated return time. This ensures that someone is aware of your plans and can alert authorities if necessary.

Remember, your safety is paramount while hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao. Following these safety tips will help minimize risks and allow you to fully enjoy the beauty and adventure that awaits you on the mountain.


Camping and Accommodation Options

If you’re looking to extend your stay and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Doi Luang Chiang Dao, there are several camping and accommodation options available. Here are some choices to consider:

  1. Camping: Camping on Doi Luang Chiang Dao is a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts. There are designated campsites available near the trailhead, allowing you to set up your tent amidst the breathtaking natural surroundings. You’ll need to bring your own camping gear and supplies, including a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment. Be sure to adhere to all camping regulations, including proper waste disposal and campfire restrictions.
  2. Homestays: If you prefer a more immersive cultural experience, consider staying in a homestay with a local family in the nearby villages. This allows you to connect with the local community, learn about their way of life, and enjoy warm hospitality. Homestays provide basic accommodation facilities and may include traditional meals prepared by your hosts.
  3. Guesthouses and Resorts: For those seeking more comfort and convenience, there are guesthouses and resorts available in the nearby town of Chiang Dao. These accommodations range from budget-friendly guesthouses to more luxurious resorts with amenities such as swimming pools and restaurants. Staying in Chiang Dao provides easy access to the mountain while offering a variety of dining options and services.
  4. Tented Camps: Another option is staying at one of the tented camps available in the vicinity of Doi Luang Chiang Dao. These camps offer a blend of camping and comfort, with permanent tents or bungalows equipped with beds and basic amenities. Some tented camps also offer organized activities such as guided hikes and nature walks.

Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, it’s essential to book in advance, especially during the peak season, to secure your preferred choice. Take into consideration factors such as proximity to the hiking trails, budget, and the level of comfort and amenities you desire.


Whichever option you decide on, spending the night in or near Doi Luang Chiang Dao allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of the mountain, waking up to the sounds of nature and preparing for another day of exploration and adventure.


Wildlife and Flora

Doi Luang Chiang Dao is not only a paradise for hikers but also a haven for diverse wildlife and vibrant flora. The mountain is home to numerous plant species, wildlife, and birdlife, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. Here are some highlights of the wildlife and flora you may encounter:


Wildlife: As you explore the trails of Doi Luang Chiang Dao, keep an eye out for various wildlife species that call this mountain home. You may have the opportunity to spot elephants, gibbons, macaques, barking deer, wild boars, and even black bears. Different bird species also inhabit the area, including the endemic Chiang Dao pitta, as well as hornbills, parakeets, and sunbirds.


Flora: The mountain is covered in lush forests, ranging from evergreen to deciduous trees. These forests host an incredible array of plant species, including orchids, ferns, and mosses. You’ll be surrounded by towering teak trees, bamboo groves, and swirling vines as you hike through the trails. During the blooming season, the mountain bursts into color with vibrant wildflowers carpeting the forest floor.


Conservation Efforts: Doi Luang Chiang Dao is protected within the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, with efforts focused on preserving the rich biodiversity of the area. Authorities closely monitor the ecosystem to ensure the sustainability of the wildlife and plant species. It’s vital for visitors to adhere to the regulations and practice responsible tourism to minimize their impact on the delicate balance of the mountain’s ecosystem.


When encountering wildlife, maintain a respectful distance and observe from afar, ensuring not to disturb or disrupt their natural behavior. Keep noise levels low and refrain from feeding or approaching the animals. Responsible behavior helps protect the safety of both visitors and the wildlife that inhabit Doi Luang Chiang Dao.


As you hike through Doi Luang Chiang Dao, take the time to appreciate the incredible diversity of wildlife and the breathtaking beauty of the flora. Each step will introduce you to new wonders and create lasting memories of the natural splendor that defines this mountain.


Nearby Attractions and Activities

While Doi Luang Chiang Dao offers a wealth of natural beauty and exciting hiking opportunities, there are also several nearby attractions and activities to explore in the surrounding area. Here are some highlights:

  1. Chiang Dao Cave: Located at the base of Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the Chiang Dao Cave is a must-visit attraction. Explore the limestone caverns and marvel at the intricate stalactite and stalagmite formations. The cave is also considered sacred, with several Buddhist shrines and statues scattered throughout.
  2. Visit Hill Tribes: Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the hill tribes in the area. The Karen, Akha, and Lisu tribes are known for their unique traditions, colorful clothing, and craftsmanship. Experience their warm hospitality, learn about their way of life, and support their local economies by purchasing handmade crafts.
  3. Hot Springs: Unwind and relax at the nearby hot springs after a long day of hiking. The Pong Arng Hot Springs and the Doi Hua Mot Hot Springs are both popular options. Soak in the soothing mineral-rich waters and let the natural surroundings rejuvenate your body and mind.
  4. Wat Tham Pha Plong: Located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Doi Luang Chiang Dao, this temple is perched on the mountainside and offers spectacular views of the surrounding valley. Climb the steep staircase to reach the temple, and take in the serene atmosphere and panoramic vistas.
  5. Explore the Surrounding National Parks: Doi Luang Chiang Dao is situated near other national parks worth exploring. Doi Inthanon National Park, known as the “Roof of Thailand,” boasts stunning landscapes, waterfalls, and the highest peak in the country. Mae Ngat Somboon Chon Dam and Sri Lanna National Park are also within reach and offer opportunities for boating, birdwatching, and more.

Additionally, the town of Chiang Dao itself offers local markets, restaurants serving authentic Northern Thai cuisine, and peaceful ambiance. It’s worth exploring the town to soak up the local culture and savor the flavors of the region.


With these attractions and activities in close proximity to Doi Luang Chiang Dao, you can further enrich your experience by immersing yourself in the local culture, exploring natural wonders, and discovering more of the beauty that northern Thailand has to offer.



Hiking Doi Luang Chiang Dao offers a truly extraordinary adventure for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. From the breathtaking vistas and challenging trails to the rich biodiversity and cultural experiences, this mountain in the Chiang Mai Province of Thailand has it all.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know to plan a successful hike on Doi Luang Chiang Dao. From getting to the mountain to the best time to hike, hiking trails, essential gear and equipment, permits and regulations, safety tips, camping and accommodation options, wildlife and flora, and nearby attractions and activities, you’re now well-equipped with knowledge and insights.


As you prepare for your journey, remember to prioritize safety by adhering to the regulations, assessing your fitness level, and being well-prepared with the right gear. Respect the environment, wildlife, and local communities by practicing responsible tourism and leaving no trace behind.


While the hike itself is undoubtedly a highlight, also take the time to explore the nearby attractions and immerse yourself in the local culture. Visit the impressive Chiang Dao Cave, interact with hill tribes, relax in hot springs, and discover the beauty of surrounding national parks.


Embarking on a hike up Doi Luang Chiang Dao is not just about conquering a peak; it’s an opportunity to connect with nature, challenge yourself, and create lasting memories. So, lace up your boots, get your backpack ready, and get ready to experience the wonders of Doi Luang Chiang Dao – a true adventure awaits!