Just two hours outside of busy Chiang Mai is Doi Inthanon National Park. The park is home to some of the countries most stunning scenery, several caves, gorgeous waterfalls, and the highest mountain in Thailand. It’s possible to arrange an organized tour but the more exciting option is to rent a motorbike and arrange your own visit like I did with a group of friends. Because there is so much to see and do it is better to plan to stay a night rather than to attempt to see everything all in one rushed day.
Camping in Doi Inthanon:
There are both hotels and guesthouses in the park but both times I’ve been we chose to go camping. It’s possible to camp without having to bring any of your own gear as it’s all available to rent from the park. The tents are also already set up which saves you the hassle– perfect for people like me who are famously awful at putting things together. Our last visit we rented a tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping mats and a pillow for 280 baht ($7.83). The camping area is located near the park management offices, about a 15 minute drive into the main park entrance. The camp grounds have restroom and shower facilities as well as on site guards at the entrance. Although you’re not allowed to build campfires many of the other campers made fires in small BBQ grills to prepare their meals. If you don’t feel like bringing your own food and BBQ grill there are several restaurants located near the camping facilities. There is also a large outdoor market nearby selling fruits, vegetables, street food, BBQ, and even local wines and other alcohol. I recommend trying the hot pot BBQ restaurant directly across the entrance to the campgrounds as they play music and have a better atmosphere than many of the surrounding restaurants.
We started later than we planned so on the first day we mostly busied ourselves with renting the tents and supplies, buying food and drinks and setting up the hammocks we brought. We hurried to unload our supplies and equipment to make it to the top of the mountain to watch the sunset we found to be rather disappointing. The views that day were not so great and the sunset wasn’t so amazing but it was fun nonetheless. When you go the top of the mountain make sure to bring a thick jacket, especially if you’re on a motorbike. Even though it wasn’t so cold at the campsite the ride to the mountain top and back down was freezing.
More spectacular than the sunset are the temples near the mountain top. The views of the national park from the temples are more gorgeous than the views found at the lookout point on the mountain summit. There are two temples in stunning colors of gold and purple located five minutes from the top of the mountain, you can’t miss them. The temples have an additional entrance fee of 100 baht ($2.80) but the views alone make the price of admission well worth it.
Waterfalls of Doi Inthanon:
There are eight major waterfalls in the park, one of which we did manage to see on the drive in on the first day. This is actually not the most famous waterfall in the park but it was my favorite. Being able to climb this waterfall and swim in the pool at the bottom is what made me prefer this fall to the others. The water in the pool was cool and refreshing and the climb up was challenging but allowed for some incredible views. I actually wasn’t even able to make it to the very top but I saw a group that managed to make it all the way up.
The next day we packed up our belongings and returned the rented gear, stopping for a quick breakfast from one of the nearby restaurants. The plan was to slowly make our way back to Chiang Mai, viewing as many waterfalls as possible as we made our way out. The ride through the park was gorgeous and peaceful and the signs showing turnoffs for the waterfalls were in Thai as well as English, making it easy to locate the falls. Some of the falls you’re only able to stop and view from lookouts rather than swim in but they are still very impressive.
Hours later, sunburnt and dirty from the ride home, we arrived back in Chiang Mai. This trip and the photos I managed to take were so amazing that I visited the park again weeks later when I had another friend in town. Anyone visiting Chiang Mai that is interested in the outdoors and nature should be sure visit Doi Inthanon National Park.
Admission to the national park is 300 baht ($8.39) for adults and 150 baht ($4.19) baht for children with an additional 50 baht ($1.40) charge for each motorbike that is brought into the park.
Getting there: Doi Inthanon is 36 miles (58 kilometers) west of Chiang Mai. Take highway No. 108 to Chom Thong, then turn right into Highway No. 1009 and continue for another 30 miles (48 kilometers). There are signs in English along the way that will help direct you to the park.