Doi Suthep: My Favorite Place to go Hiking in Chiang Mai

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Doi Suthep: My Favorite Place to go Hiking in Chiang Mai

Last week I posted my list of 8 Chiang Mai temples you must see, and 2 of the temples on the list can be found along the trail hiking up Doi Suthep. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can hike to 2 incredible temples, which is why Doi Suthep is my favorite place to go hiking in Chiang Mai.

I had heard about the hike but was skeptical to try it by myself since other bloggers had mentioned that the trail is a little hard to follow at some points. Thankfully I found some folks that hiked the trail regularly on Facebook in the Nomad Coffee Club group.

We met up at 8am at the cluster of signs near the end of Suthep Rd just past CMU. From there we all jumped on our motorbikes and followed the leader of the group up to the trailhead.

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The meeting point

How to get to the trailhead

From the old city, head west on Suthep Rd past CMU until you reach the end. You’ll see a cluster of signs (pictured above).

From there, turn right and follow the curvy road past the back of the Chiang Mai Zoo. At the top of a small hill you’ll see the trailhead and small area to park your motorbike. This is also known as the TV Tower.

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Our group was a mixture of 11 travelers from all over the world. I loved that I was learning a new hike and getting to meet other travelers at the same time. One of them even asked me to do a guest post on her blog Epicure and Culture!

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The much easier section heading up Wat Pha Lat

My favorite place to go hiking in Chiang Mai

The first part of the hike is the easiest. It’s about a 45 minute hike to Wat Pha Lat with a steady incline. The trail is pretty much completely covered by trees, many of which have pieces of orange fabric tied around them that has been blessed by the monks who make the journey to the temples every day.

I wouldn’t mind making that trek everyday. Everything is so calm on the way up to Wat Pha Lat. It’s just you and the quiet nature surrounding you, and that doesn’t change once you get to the temple!

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The view as you enter Wat Pha Lat

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I mentioned in the last post how much I love Wat Pha Lat because it’s one of the few temples that isn’t over run by tourists. Wat Pha Lat is nestled back in the jungle of Doi Suthep away from the main road. There were a couple of other tourists there that had taken a songtaew up to the temple entrance and a small handful of monks. Other than that we were able to enjoy the serenity all to ourselves.

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We were all blown away when we saw the hidden temple. A waterfall runs right through the grounds making it that much more magical. When we were there, the water was low, so we were able to walk out on the rocks and take in the view of the temple and of the busy city below.

We sat there for more than 30 minutes taking everything in. Almost everyone in our group had brought their camera and were more than excited to get some photos of the beautiful temple. Since we were there on a Saturday, a small coffee stand was open for us to grab a little pick me up before continuing on our journey. I definitely needed it after getting up that early on a Saturday!

After taking tons of pictures and downing our coffees, we continued on our way up the mountain.

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You’ll see this Buddha statue as you continue on the path past Wat Pha Lat

Continuing on the hardest part of the trail

A small stairway in the rocks next to the stream of water leads up to the continuing trail. This is were the trail gets really hard!

The path is steep and slippery. Some of the spaces for your feet are not very big at all, so please take caution when hiking this trail.

After pulling ourselves up through the trees for a little while we came to the first part of the road that you have to cross over. We walked left along the guardrail a few hundred feet until we saw the opening in the trees for the continuing trail across the paved road.

*The road to Doi Suthep can be very busy with cars, motorbikes, and songtaews heading up to the temple. Double check that there are no cars coming before crossing the road.*

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Walk along the guardrail until you see the opening in the trees for the trail across the paved road

The hike from Wat Pha Lat to Doi Suthep temple took us about an hour until we reached the road again leading to Doi Suthep temple.

Once again we crossed over to the other side of the paved road to walk the last few 100 feet along the shoulder up to the temple.

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This is where the trail ends. Continue walking along the road up to Doi Suthep Temple

We made it!

Once we got to the base of the temple, we all broke off to do our own thing. A few folks in the group had never been to Doi Suthep temple before, so they joined in the crowd and walked the Naga staircase up to the golden temple.

The rest of us had already seen the famous temple once or twice, so we opted to grab some treats from the various food stands and sit in a gazebo behind the booths.

A nice bag of fresh fruit is quite refreshing after that long, steep hike! 

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We sat around for another 30 minutes before heading back down the mountain.

The walk down takes substantially less time than walking up. We made it back to the parking lot in about an hour or so.

After that first hike, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get back up there and do it again, which I did the next week except this time I walked to the trailhead from Nimmanhaemin with another fellow traveler from Japan, and I was leading the hike! Glad I paid attention the first time!

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Tips:

  • Even though the monks do this hike daily in sandals, I do not recommend trying it. Wear proper footwear. The trail gets steep and a little slippery in areas and you’ll be happy you have some traction.
  • Bring plenty of water. The coffee stand at Wat Pha Lat is only open on the weekends, so there isn’t anywhere to get water until you get to Doi Suthep temple during the week.
  • Wear bug spray. If you’re like me, mosquitoes LOVE you, and you don’t want to deal with itchy bites while your hiking.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Yes you are hiking, but you’re hiking to 2 sacred temples that have strict dress codes. Either wear or pack clothes to cover your shoulders and knees while you are looking around the temples.
  • Bring money. I almost left my wallet at home that day because I didn’t think I needed it, but something told me to grab it before I left our apartment, and I’m so glad I did! Once you get to Doi Suthep temple, you will want to grab a snack and a refreshing beverage….trust me!

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