Hiking Doi Chiang Dao

by | Nov 11, 2015

If you’re planning on going to Chiang Mai and want an off-the-beaten-track adventure then plan on hiking Doi Chiang Dao. At 7,300 ft. (2,225 m), this is Thailand’s 3rd highest peak.

I always try my best to climb the biggest and baddest mountains in whichever country I’m in. That is, as long as it’s not outrageously overpriced… After scouring the internet and reaching out to a few other adventurous friends in Thailand, I landed on Chiang Dao, for a few reasons. A) It is rarely climbed by foreigners B) It’s the tallest peak in Thailand that isn’t accessible by road. C) It’s within my budget.

Here she is…

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao

We left Chiang Mai at 5:30 am. The drive takes about 2 hours…

We grabbed breakfast, a few cups of coffee and then met the porters/guides at the base of the mountain. At 10 am we began the 2 day journey up Chiang Dao, aka”City of Stars” in English.

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Our porters couldn’t have been older than 18, I couldn’t help but be slightly jealous of their jobs. I would have killed for something like this when I was 16! Outside all day, hiking around the mountains with your best friends. Good times, good times… Although I doubt they feel that way, this is most likely just the best way for them to make a dollar. I’m sure their packs weighed at least 70 lbs each, plus they had to cook and set up our tents… OK never mind, maybe my lawn mowing job wasn’t so bad.

I digress…

The trek started off strong, with steep muddy trails winding through bamboo forests and the odd crop of wild banana trees.

Up, up, up for about 2 hours. Then the jungle canopy clear and we saw this…
Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

BOOOM! We were impressed, to say the least. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for this, but these views well surpassed my expectations.

I took in a deep breath of that dense Thai air, and smiled. Those adventure cravings I had been having were now gone, this is what I had been looking for. An escape from all the worries of the city. A moment to step back and marvel at this exotic land. A moment to feel my heart race and not know if it’s because I just hiked 2 hours up a mountain, or because I’m not sure if I’ll even make it to the top. A moment to feel alive.

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Palm trees on mountain ridges? I’ve never seen such a thing.

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

5 hours later and we made it, just in time for this glorious sunset.

It was a moment that’s difficult to capture with words… The view was 360 degrees, from which we could see the 6 highest peaks in Thailand. Jagged limestone cliffs rose up in every directions, blanketed with lush green jungle. Light rays danced their way through the clouds and shimmered with bright oranges and yellows. It was cool, just enough for a light sweater, a refreshing change from the city heat.

We soaked it in…

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Before total darkness we retreated to camp, which was setup only 30 minutes below the peak. We were surrounded by nearly 150 Thais. I’m pretty sure we were the only white people on the entire mountain, or as they call us in Thai, Farangs. This somehow made me feel a bit more badass.

As our porters cooked us a few Thai dishes we drank local beer and basked under the clear, star-studded sky. Talks about life, love and travel continued until we could no longer sit, or speak.

Feeling accomplished and exhausted, we crawled into our tents.

 

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai

I was invited by my Dutch friend Frans, who has lived in Chiang Mai for about 25 years. He runs a wonderful travel company called, Green Trails. They specialize in northern Thailand trekking and cultural experiences. His company organizes treks on Doi Chiang Dao. So if you’re interested, contact him. He’s the man.

Have any questions about the trek? Please ask me!