Hiking from Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep via Monk’s Trail

There is a Thai saying that goes “If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view of the whole city from the top of the Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” After being in Chiang Mai for almost 3 weeks, I decided to go hiking to Doi Suthep with my friends. Doi means a mountain and the hike leads to a beautiful temple, which sits on the top of the mountain Suthep, called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which dates back to the 14th century. This temple is also the main attraction of Doi Suthep. Here are some facts for hiking to Doi Suthep via Monk’s Trail:

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate Level.
  • Fitness Level: Even if not extremely fit, you need to be fairly active.
  • Approximate duration of uphill hike: 4 hours on an average, including refreshments and break.
  • Path: Passes through a jungle and waterfalls, steep at certain sections, and around 309 stairs lead to the temple after the hike.
  • Trekking Equipment: Though special trekking equipment is not required, I would suggest you to make your own trekking stick during the hike.
  • Guide: A trekking guide is not needed.
  • Can the hike be done solo? Yes.

Hike from Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep:

I got out of my Chiang Mai apartment around 7:00 a.m., had breakfast and bought water and bananas for the hike. Then I headed to meet my friend at our decided meeting point, which was approximately a 30-minute walk away. We met around 8:30 a.m. at the Suthep Road intersection right after the CMU and started walking towards the Monk’s Trail, which is the starting point of the hike. Since many years, the monks walk to the temple via this path, and hence the name. Though I walked up to the intersection point, one can easily get a songthaew (red colored shared taxis) up to that point.

Suthep Road Chiang Mai

Once you are at the intersection, you have to walk to the end of Suthep Road (towards Chiang Mai Zoo).

Monk's Trail Map

At the very starting of the monk’s trail, there is a map of the whole path leading you to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We finally started the hike around 9:15. The beginning part is easy to cover. The trees on the trail are marked with orange colored monk robe pieces tied around their trunks. If at some point, there is a diversion of paths and the trees on the both sides are marked, it means both the paths will meet later.

Doi Suthep Hike

Here I rested, and made my own trekking stick. And of course, captured more beauty.

Waterfall Monk's Trail

This hike has so much to offer, such scenic beauty, two waterfalls and a white colored temple along the way called Wat Pha Lat. It is a beautiful temple beside a waterfall with ancient Buddha sculptures and a breathtaking Naga staircase. This place is so quiet, peaceful and feels straight out of a mystical storybook. There might be stories related to it, who knows!

Cafe Monks Trail Doi Suthep

At Wat Pha Lat, there is a little café right after the waterfalls, which is run by the monks. We stopped there for our respective coffees and Iced Teas. An interesting thing about that café was that a part of the bill (9 THB for every cup of iced boon coffee and iced bai boon) is automatically donated for the welfare of monks.

Nature Trail Jungle Hike

Monk’s trail ends soon after the cafe. Then I reached a road, continuing on the way. After a few minutes, I started climbing towards Doi Suthep Temple on Nature’s Trail.

Doi Suthep Hike Steepness

From here on, the trail got strenuous and even someone like me, who can walk a lot, felt like giving up at times because of the rain, the slippery path and increased steepness. At one point, my friends were way ahead of me and I was walking at my own pace, taking little breaks, resting, and trying to capture the scenic beauty. However, they waited for me after getting to the road. And god knows how thankful I was for the bananas I had bought!

Jungle Hike Chiang Mai

Leading my way through the woods to the temple.

Doi Suthep Stairs

After you reach around the temple, there are varied food options available from fruits to meat. I was starving after completing the hike so before entering the temple I had some sweet corn. Then there was another daunting task of climbing around 309 stairs to reach the temple. After questioning my life decisions with every step and especially this very recent one of hiking, I finally reached at the top around 12:45. But as they say, the best views come after the hardest climbs. As soon as I reached at there, all of it seemed worth all my efforts.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The entrance ticket costs 30 THB and the temple has multiple entrances leading to the same place. The temple compound is beautiful, with the temple having gold mount, multiple deities and many legends associated with it.

Chiang Mai City View

Then I went ahead and saw the view of Chiang Mai from the top. It was spectacular. I have no words no express how I felt. I am not even sure if a picture can do justice to that.

Other ways to reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep from Chiang Mai –

Many tourists choose to travel to the temple via songthaews, tuktuks or by renting bikes. You can take a songthaew from Old town to Chiang Mai Zoo for 30 THB and from the zoo to temple for another 30 to 40 THB. The temple is around 15 kms via road from the Chiang Mai. While going back, I saw the rates for the songthaew and they went like 40 THB per person up to CMU and 60 THB for Maya, Old Town, and Nimman Road.

Doi Pui – Hmong’s Hill Tribe Museum

Doi Pui Hmong's Hill Tribe Museum

Hmong’s Hill Tribe Museum (Entry Ticket: 10 THB)

Hmong Hill Tribe Museum

After that, I boarded a shared taxi to the Doi Hmong Tribal Village, which is around 5 kilometers from the temple. There I visited the Tourist Street where many locally manufactured handicrafts and handmade souvenirs are available. I also went to a museum in the village where their weapons and day-to-day traditional items are on display. Finally, I boarded a songthaew back to Chiang Mai.

Also Read –

Hiking to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

Trekking – Aritar to Phusrey lake in Sikkim

Some tips and recommendations for hiking through the Monk’s Trail to Doi Suthep:

  • Start as early as possible to ditch the heat.
  • Do not skip breakfast.
  • Wear good quality trekking shoes as the path tends to get slippery due to frequent drizzles. In addition, I recommend you to carry a raincoat in the rainy season.
  • Dress comfortably because the steepness of the trail increases at certain sections. In addition, the temple rules require one to dress appropriately in covered clothes.
  • Carry a lot of water and snacks with you in a small daypack to ensure hydration. This is very important, as there are very limited food options throughout the hike.
  • Carrying a mosquito repellent is necessary.
  • While in the woods, you can use an app called “maps.me” which many other hikers use to find the way. Make sure to save an offline map before starting the hike.
  • If you are an asthma patient, please carry your inhaler, or simply avoid hiking. In this case, you can take a songthaew right to the temple and maybe use trams, which are available as an alternative to climbing the 309 stairs.

Even though the whole day was really eventful and tiring, I am glad I chose to hike instead of boarding a taxi straight to the temple. It also came as a surprise to me that many locals never go hiking there. The whole trail feels like a magical place if you keep the strenuous part of the hike. Well, that and the bugs and ants throughout the jungle area. If you are in Chiang Mai or about to visit, you should definitely do this hike and experience for yourself!

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