The highest mountain in Thailand and other attractions of Doi Inthanon National Park
February 4, 2024
Table of contents
As a child, I really wanted to touch the clouds. Already as an adult, on a plane trip I got very close to the clouds, but I was not able to touch them.
In Doi Inthanon you can be among the clouds, touch them and even climb above the clouds.
Spoiler: clouds cannot be felt with your hands; up close they are most like fog or odorless smoke.
To achieve this, you need to climb the highest peak in Thailand, which is located in Doi Inthanon National Park. Its height is 2565 meters above sea level.
By the way, in regions with a temperate climate, the base of cumulus clouds is usually below 550 meters above ground level, and the upper limit can reach 2400 meters. In arid and mountainous areas, cloud bases may be above 6,100 meters.
The heights of the other clouds are as follows:
- Stratus clouds (average altitude 623 m)
- Rain clouds (average height 1527 m)
- Thunderclouds (summit) (average height 2848 m)
- Thunderstorms (base) (average height 1405 m)
Doi Inthanon National Park is the name of a very large area in the Thai province of Chiang Mai. The main attraction of this park is the highest mountain peak in Thailand. In addition, there are several hiking routes, several viewpoints, waterfalls and several other natural attractions.
On the territory of Doi Inthanon National Park there are also hotels (resorts) with stunning mountain views and even a small town (or village) with its own market.
Because of these features, tickets to Doi Inthanon are not sold at the entrance to the park, but rather deep inside – after the hotels and the town. Thanks to this, a large part of the park can be explored for free.
For free you can see several waterfalls, at least one mountain hiking trail and some other natural sites. But to see the most interesting things, unfortunately, you still have to pay.
I have prepared a map for you – on it I have marked the most interesting places of Doi Inthanon:
I divided the added points into groups:
- Outbuildings – here I collected checkpoints, parking lots, ticket sales offices, etc.
- Main attractions of Doi Inthanon – the main attractions of this national park
- Other interesting places in Doi Inthanon – other attractions that you can visit or skip depending on your interests and availability of free time
- Interesting places on the side of road 1192 – attractions that are not on the main route. The turn-off to Road 1192 is located immediately after “Doi Inthanon National Park Check Point 2” (that is, after the ticket check). Whether to visit these places or not – decide for yourself, depending on the availability of free time.
- Misc – other places that interested me, which are located very far from the main routes
The color designation is as follows:
- Dark crimson – the most interesting and spectacular places
- Yellow – minor attractions that may not be spectacular at some times of the year
- Green and purple – secondary attractions removed from the main route
- Blue and orange – outbuildings
In addition to my interactive map, there is also the following official map:
Be sure to check that your vehicle is in good working order, especially the brakes. During the climb, closer to the top, I felt a characteristic iron smell – I think experienced car enthusiasts will understand me. And it seemed to me that the smell was following me, that is, coming from my motorcycle. I had time to think, well, that’s the end, the motorbike, and therefore me, won’t go anywhere else. I stopped at the nearest parking lot and saw a group of Thai teenagers around a motorcycle – they were trying to fix it. That is, I was lucky and that time not for me the bell tolls.
When climbing, the load on the engine is very significant – the engine of my motorbike was running at full power, but depending on the degree of slope, the maximum speed was 35-70 km/h.
Similarly, on a descent there is a heavy load on the brakes. Make sure your brakes are not too worn and try not to overheat the brakes and brake fluid. To do this, you need to brake in intermittent sessions, releasing the brakes from time to time and letting them cool. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, then shift to a lower gear and brake with the engine, assisting with the brakes if necessary.
If your vehicle is not equipped with ABS, then do not allow the wheels to lock when braking, that is, do not brake too sharply and do not press the brake pedal all the way – this can lead to wheel locking and loss of control. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, then you don’t have to worry about wheel locking – you can brake at any intensity without fear of losing control of the car or motorcycle.
Also take water with you if you plan to hike (Doi Inthanon has a couple of routes for beginners).
Doi Inthanon is located in Chiang Mai province. At a distance of approximately 40-50 km from the city of Chiang Mai (the distance is approximate, since from the edge of the park you will still need to drive quite a few – tens of kilometers – along a mountain serpentine road).
First of all, I would like to dissuade you from trying to visit the park on foot without vehicles, or by bicycle.
Here I did not meet walkers, but in Khao Yai National Park (where there is a 30-40 km mountain road from the entrance to the park to the first interesting place) I saw walkers. This is no longer a sport – this is torture.
If you are coming from Chiang Mai on Road 108, then you need to turn onto Road 1009 at the place marked “Turn to Doi Inthanon” on my interactive map. Then you need to move along the same road all the time.
First, along the road you will see an ordinary town or village, then on the road there will be “Check Point 1 Km. 8". They don't sell or check tickets here – just drive straight through.
The route from Check Point 1 to Check Point 2 can be visited for free, since tickets are checked only when crossing “Check Point 2”.
More precisely, some time after crossing “Check Point 1” you will see a ticket office. If you want to limit yourself to exploring the area between two check points, then do not buy tickets.
Along this road you can visit for free those objects that are placed in the section “Other interesting places in Doi Inthanon” on the interactive map. Most of these places are waterfalls. Please note that during the dry season the waterfalls may dry out.
There are only two objects worth noting in the ticketless zone:
- Mae Klang Luang rice terraces – beautiful mountain terraces with rice
- Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail is a small hiking route. This place, to be more precise, is not free. You will need to pay for a local guide. In my opinion, this route can be skipped if you have limited time.
Along the road you will see a small town with a market and several resorts with stunning views.
Tickets are sold at the place indicated on the map as “Doi Inthanon National Park Tickets”.
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Thai child – 30 baht
- Thai adult – 60 baht
- Child of a foreigner – 150 baht
- Adult foreigner – 300 baht
- Cars, pickups, vans, etc. (regardless of nationality) – 30 baht
- Motorcycles (also regardless of nationality) – 20 baht
As you can see, motorcycles pay the least…
Almost all attractions are located along road 1009 and you always need to go straight (if this word is applicable for a mountain serpentine).
After “Doi Inthanon National Park Check Point 2”, that is, after checking the tickets, you will see a turn onto road 1192; on the interactive map, see the group of points “Interesting places on the side of road 1192”.
If you are limited in time, then skip these places – they are either difficult to reach and/or not very interesting and/or abandoned.
I was interested in only one place – Ban Rabiang Na Pa Bong Piang:
But I didn’t have time to visit there – these are not my photographs. Perhaps the access to this place is quite difficult.
This viewpoint is located along the road – stopping there is prohibited, and the nearest parking is a few hundred meters higher up the mountain.
I parked the bike and then walked down to the viewpoint. My opinion: the time you look at this place from the car window is enough, there is no need to go here specifically, and it’s simply dangerous – as such, there is no sidewalk for pedestrians.
So that you understand the atmosphere, I made a short video. You can guess that I am nervous, because behind me there is a curved mountain road with a strong slope along which vehicles constantly pass.
Two identical pagodas dedicated to the king and queen. Also called:
- Grand Pagoda Nabhapolbhumisiri
- Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon
They are placed in a garden with flowers.
The views from here are stunning.
Entrance costs 100 baht.
Vehicles need to be parked a little further away; people are transported by something like a taxi.
Views will depend on the weather – sometimes everything can be hidden by fog.
Overall it’s nice, but it’s not entirely clear why in a paid park you need to buy additional tickets to some places. This is another drop in the cup of disappointment from Doi Inthanon.
These pagodas are also visible from the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail.
The next viewpoint is hard to miss – it is located in a large parking lot and is also the entrance to the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail.
As you can guess from the name, this is the 42nd km of the road (meaning road 1009).
Clouds float at the same level as you, they constantly change shape. More precisely, this is the top layer of cumulus clouds.
The altitude here is 2175.
The views of the clouds, changing shape and height every moment, are mesmerizing.
The viewpoint is across the road from the parking lot – be careful when crossing the road.
The entrance to the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is located in the same place as the parking lot and View point KM.42.
In addition to the entrance to the route, there are toilets, souvenir shops and several food shops and small restaurants nearby.
This is a circular route and is 3 km long.
We completed it in an hour and a half.
I would classify this route as easy, for beginners.
The app on my phone showed that the maximum altitude was 2319 meters.
Map of the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail:
At the entrance to the route it is written everywhere that the cost per person is 200 baht. I prepared 400 baht (for two) and already began to wonder whether people have a limit to greed. It turned out that 200 baht is enough and this is the fee for the guide. In paragraph one of the rules it is written that all visitors must be accompanied by a local guide, that is, apparently, it is impossible to refuse a guide. We didn’t need a guide – somewhere in the middle of the route, by the way, he said that usually those he accompanies take a rest and he has to wait for them, but in our company he is afraid of falling behind… He also said that today this route has already been going the third time and after that he will go home. He also told various stories about mountain goats, but I didn’t really listen.
By the way, it’s not hot there – the minimum temperature that day was 7 °C. If you stand still, it's a little cool in shorts and a hoody. While hiking, I was sweating in my hoody.
The first interesting place is the waterfall.
The waterfall is really beautiful and full of water, despite its almost peak height and dry season. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised, because before that I had already seen a large number of unremarkable or simply waterless waterfalls.
The first part of the route passes through a mountain forest – it is quite interesting from a botanical point of view.
Then the route moves to a mountain meadow. From here you can see how the clouds approach the mountain and some of them roll over the top of the mountain and envelop people.
Through this meadow we reached the Kew Mae Pan Viewpoint.
From here there are views of the mountain slopes and we are standing close to the clouds that are trying to overcome the mountain peaks. Sometimes the clouds succeed and envelop visitors.
I tried to take photos and record videos, but if you point the lens at the cloud, or if you are inside the cloud, you just get an almost white frame.
A short video from Kew Mae Pan Viewpoint (Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail):
And one more small video in which you can see that, on the one hand, I try to capture the clouds in the frame, but at the same time I try to ensure that the frame does not consist exclusively of clouds, since still nothing is visible except a light gray rectangle.
Sometimes the clouds overcome the mountain peak and envelop you. You can “touch” them, but this is about the same as touching the fog.
Then we continued the route along the mountain slope, which was constantly pressed by clouds and sometimes these clouds enveloped us.
For me it was a unique experience – for the first time in my life.
Clouds constantly change shape – into very different and unpredictable ones. The movements are smooth and harmonious, but always unpredictable, creating new unimaginable forms. It feels like the clouds are dancing.
If only to see this, Doi Inthanon is worth a visit.
Along the way there are information signs telling about unique mountain plants and animals.
Also on the mountainside you can see two huge stones – they either hide in a cloud, then appear again. The stones are not small at all – I thought, what would it be like to live in a house on one of these stones? They look quite flat.
I read the information on the tablet, scientists think that these formations are not part of the rock protruding due to erosion of neighboring rocks, but rather stones that broke off and fell from another peak, but got stuck in such an unusual way.
At the end of the path along the mountain slope, another viewpoint awaited us.
Pagoda Noppamethanedon & Pagoda Nopphonphusiri are visible from here.
This viewpoint is slightly lower than the previous one and is often enveloped by a cloud. The views from here are amazing too!
Then the path turned into the forest again. The forest has a lot of interesting vegetation, some trees have information signs.
Overall, a very spectacular and not very difficult mountain route. If you're visiting Doi Inthanon, this is one of two places I definitely recommend visiting. The second place is the peak itself – the highest mountain peak in Thailand.
After completing the route, we had a snack at a small restaurant located next to the exit.
Then we continued moving – before reaching the top, we saw a parking lot and stopped. It turned out that there was nothing interesting there – just parking in case of emergency.
The next two objects are nearby – drive all the way to the top. You will see a parking lot with other vehicles.
Ang Ka Nature Trail (also written as Angkha Nature Trail) is a very small route, only 320 meters long. The entire path goes along the bridge, there is a slight descent and ascent only at the beginning of the route, the rest of the path is on the same level.
I liked this place – and not only because they didn’t charge me for entry. Seriously, the path is laid out very well – you can really see the diversity of the mountain flora.
In general, the entire route is very picturesque.
Did I mention it's cold in the mountains? Moreover, it is not cold in Thai way, when the temperature below 30 °C is called “fresh”, below 26 °C is called “cool”, and below 22 °C it is already “very cold”.
No, it’s cold there according to European standards, for example, at 6 am at the top the temperature was 4 °C.
Of course, during the day it is noticeably warmer there, but in any case, it is cooler in the mountains than in other places in Thailand. On the motorcycle, even dressed in a hoody and jacket, my wife and I were a little cold.
There are several buildings around the parking lot (which is next to the Ang Ka Nature Trail), including a gift shop and restrooms.
There is a room with information stands.
You will see several signs, including one telling you that this place has an altitude of 2565.3341 meters above sea level, which is the highest place in Thailand. The app on my phone showed the next altitude above sea level.
When you've had your fill there, go to the place marked Doi Inthanon Summit.
There is an observation deck and a view above the clouds.
Before this, I had only looked above the clouds from an airplane and never from a mountain.
Video from the highest point in Thailand:
But this place has a problem – it is, in fact, the only outstanding viewpoint in Doi Inthanon that can be reached without hiking.
That is, many people arrive in Doi Inthanon every day, all of them travel tens of kilometers up the mountain and, in fact, there is only one interesting place for them (literally only a few people go hiking, mostly foreigners).
And the platform for the viewpoint is made too small for such a flow of tourists.
As a result, we have: a queue to take photos.
Yes, if you don’t go to the mountains, then there is actually only one interesting place in Doi Inthanon. And there are too many people there.
If you walk along mountain trails, it becomes a little more interesting. But it's not for everyone, especially if you don't like paying.
Paid entry, difficult journey and only one interesting place. Yes, I understand that entry cannot be made free – the number of visitors will immediately increase 10 times and everything will only get worse.
Perhaps it needs to be improved somehow, at least enlarging the observation deck. Perhaps the experience would have been better if other places didn't charge. The feeling that something needs to be done, because there is some kind of imbalance from visiting this place.
Again, if you stretch out your exploration of the park over several days and visit the waterfalls, the experience will improve. But when I found out that on the second hiking route you again have to pay for a guide, I thought that there was already enough for that place and went home.
Bottom line: this unique place is the highest peak in Thailand. Only here you can be above the clouds. Only here I managed to find myself inside a cloud without a plane. I'm glad I visited this place and recommend it.
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