Doi Inthanon is one of Thailand’s most well know and well-visited national parks and is home to Thailand’s highest mountain Doi Inthanon. Doi Inthanon attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year, but most of these visitors only stick to driving the main highway to the highest mountain and to the easily accessible waterfalls and viewpoints along this route, only a very small fraction actually get off the main paved road to get deeper into the park to see what else Doi Inthanon offers. Most miss out on seeing the parks natural beauty that the rest of the park offers. There are a couple of nice waterfalls and viewpoints along the main paved road which can easily be visited and the Angkha Nature trail is a delight (although very short at around 400 meters) But for those who are willing to put their walking shoes on and leave the main highway, they will definitely be in for a treat! One trail definitely worth checking out is the Mae Klang Luang trail.
The Mae Klang Luang trail is around a two-hour trek and will take in a diverse range of landscapes. If you are starting at the higher end (recommended as most of the walking will be downhill) then you will start by leaving the highway straight into the forest. The path will make its way downhill towards the river which runs through this part of Doi Inthanon. Eventually, the path will meet the river and you will spend around 1 hour following the river downstream through the lush forest. On route, you will come across plenty of small and large waterfalls and there is a large waterfall (Pa Dok Siew Waterfall) with a pool beneath which is deep enough for swimming if you want to cool off. The trail continues along the river until it emerges into cultivated clearings above the village of Mae Klang Luang. In the rice planting season, these slopes heading down to the village carpeted in lush green rice paddies. On route to the village, you should also see coffee plants. Coffee is one of the areas main crops are grown by the Karen people in this area. Just before passing through the village, there is a Karen coffee shop that uses coffee cultivated from the surrounding slopes, there is usually a Karen villager on hand to explain the coffee cultivation process
At the end of the trail, you will probably be hungry! There are very few restaurants or food venues in Doi Inthanon National Park but at the end of the trail in the village of Mae Klang Luang there is a small restaurant operated by some of the Karen ladies from the village. The food here has a local flavour and is recommended if you want to miss the large commercial place on the highway catering to all the tour groups. See the map below for the local Karen Restaurant
Taking a guide on the Mae Klang Luang trail
If you want to do the Mae Klang Luang trek you must take a local guide. The local guides are local Karen villages (usually from Mae Klang Luang village) who have a good knowledge of the area. The scheme to employ local Karen guides from the village provides employment and opportunities for the guides to earn extra income and allow the local Karen hill tribe community to benefit from the tourist visiting the national park, also these guides know the area very well and most have lived in the national park all their lives.
At the start of the trail, you will find a small sign listing a few telephone numbers of local guides. You will probably need a native Thai speaker to communicate on the telephone as most of the guides will not have good English skills I am not too sure if there are any other ways of arranging a guide but this seems to be the procedure, maybe guides can also be arranged at the national park office. This will be investigated next time we visit the national park and will post an update to this post
Taking on the Mae Klang Luang trek on your own.
This is difficult and not encouraged by the park wardens they are worried you may get lost! Which is a real possibility, The path, although well-trodden, is not marked and the path does diverge on occasions.
Mae Klang Luang Trail Map
The map shows the start and finish points accurately but the walk route detailed above is my best approximation of the route. I think it is close but not completely accurate, so please do not use this map as a guide if you are intending on doing the Mae Klang Luang trail on your own.
Visiting Doi Inthanon and the Mae Klang Luang Trail
Travel Hub now offer a privately escorted day tour which will take in the main sights of Doi Inthanon as well as walking the Mae Klang Luang trail. We will also make the arrangements for the local Karen guide to accompany us on the Mae Klang Luang part of the trek. This is our set itinerary:
• Pick up from your hotel in Chiang Mai. 7:30 am
• Visit Sanpatong Buffalo Market (Saturday only)
• Visit Watchiritharn Waterfall
• Mae Klang Luang Trail (long walk)
– Rice paddies
– Karen village (not long neck)
– Local Coffee production
• Visit Royal Pagodas
• Visit Thailand’s highest mountain
• Angkha Nature Trail (short walk)
• Option – Mae Ya Waterfall (if open) • Return to your hotel in Chiang Mai. 5:30 pm
For more information visit the website: Mae Klang Luang Trek Doi Inthanon