Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s Highest Mountain, and the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail

Doi Inthanon National Park two hours southwest of downtown Chiang Mai is part of the Himalayan mountain range with Doi Inthanon as the highest mountain in Thailand peaking at 2,565 meters above sea level. You can drive all the way up to the summit passing several attractions including Wachirathan Waterfall, The Royal Twin Pagodas, and the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. We decided to do the trail first when we had the most energy.

Meet our guide, a local Hmong hill tribesman. You must hire a guide on site for 200 baht per group as you can’t do the trail alone. The 3.2 km long trail takes approximately 2 hours to complete depending on how many stops you make — there are 21 stations along the trail with information about the plants and ecosystem in the area.

The first part goes through a cloud forest with tall trees struggling to get light in the often mist-wrapped mountain. However, there was not a single cloud in the sky on our visit.

The forest is full of moss and ferns, and you will pass small streams and waterfalls.

After about 20 minutes we stepped out of the forest into golden subalpine meadow hills which will be all green during the rainy season. Please note that the trail is closed for reforestation during the rainy season from 1 June to 31 October.

Standing on a viewing platform approximately 2,300 meters up looking out the hazy sky. It was that season when farmers burn their fields (beginning of March) which also means fewer tourists; we were alone here.

A GoPro selfie from the same platform.

Spectacular view of the mountains, the forest, and the meadow. It was a perfect day for hiking: 22 degrees and sunny. If you come here during peak season (December – January) it will be colder so you better bring a lighter jacket.

The air is thin up here, so walk slowly and enjoy the beautiful trail with wildlife such as flowers, birds, butterflies, and insects.

Rhododendron arboreum flower, which is the national flower of Nepal. In addition to Thailand and Nepal, this tree species is also growing in Bhutan, China, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

If it wasn’t for the sign I obviously wouldn’t know the name of the flower.

View over the Royal Twin Pagodas which were built by the Thai Royal Air Force as a gift to the King and Queen on their 60th birthdays (in 1987 and 1992).

The end of the trail with a fantastic panoramic view. From here, we turned down back into the forest onto another path leading to the starting point walking in a circle.

On the way back we saw this funny-looking tree. Kind of look like a worm climbing the roots.

Back to the parking lot, we jumped in the car and drove 300 meters further up to the highest point in Thailand. Up here, the temperature was 18 degrees but can drop to below zero during the cool season.

The highest point in Thailand, 2,565 meters above sea level. Yay! At this altitude, your body starts telling you there’s something wrong with the air; I felt a bit weird and got a mild headache. My wife, however, didn’t feel a thing.

Back down to 2,142 meters to see the Royal Twin Pagodas and the beautiful garden. I’ve never seen a bluer sky in Thailand, which, due to its warm climate, often has a hazy or light blue sky.

A stair up to Napapon Phoom-Siri Chedi, the pagoda dedicated to the Queen.

Another queen standing next to me.

Gorgeous view from the garden.

On the way down we stopped to see the impressive Wachirathan Waterfall at 900 meters above sea level and eat a bite at a restaurant by the parking before we drove back to our hotel in Chiang Mai’s old city.

If you decide to drive up Doi Inthanon yourself, drive with great caution and make sure how to use “engine braking” when driving down instead of pressing the brake pedal as it can burn out the brakes and cause brake failure. My wife was so nervous before we drove up, but the ride went like a charm!

The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is found at the kilometer 42 marker on the road to the summit.


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