Chiang Mai is home to some rather stunning national parks which are the distinctive feature of the northern part of Thailand. These places are pure wilderness amongst beautiful jungles, mountains, waterfalls and lakes.
The highest point in Thailand suitably set in a national park, it is the Doi Inthanon Mountain.
Please take note, that some of the National Parks are the home of Tigers and Bears who run freely living in the wild. Of course, these are dangerous wild predators but remember you are in their home. It is always best to ask the Park Authorities before heading off into the wild, so you know what to expect. Thailand National Parks are home to the highest number of Tigers in the whole of South-East Asia.
Doi Inthanon National Park established in 1972 is located in the Chiang Mai province, roughly around 60 kilometres from Chiang Mai.
It has some of the most mouth-watering scenery in the whole of Thailand. It is home to the highest mountain in the country – Doi Inthanon, which elevates to approximately 2565 metres (8,415 ft).
The Doi Inthanon National Park set in approximately 482 square kilometres (186 SQ miles). The villages here populate around 4500 people in total. Karen and Meo Hmong are the main two villages located in this National Park.
Doi Inthanon National Park houses a vast array of bird species and floral species. Within the perimeter of the Park, you will find numerous waterfalls. Wachiratan Falls (up high in the mountain), the Mae Klang Falls, Siriphum Falls and Mae Ya Falls.
Throughout different parts of the National Park, you will find the ecology and climate of the surrounding do differ somewhat. This can be down to the wet and dry, and high and low areas producing different habitats.
Doi Inthanon National Park Tour
There are a large number of tour companies that offer different tours around the National Park. These include and not restricted to the following:
- tours to head up and scale the Don Inthanon Mountain,
- tours to go trekking through the jungles and see all the waterfalls.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is located north-west of Chiang Mai City, in the Chiang Mai Province. It spreads across 265 square kilometres and is home to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Bhubing Rjanives Palace. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is also home to the Doi Suthep and Doi Pui twin mountains.
The climate here is quite cool for Thailand, with an average around 20 to 23 degrees Celsius. Lows can get as cool as 6 degrees Celsius.
The park also features numerous caves, waterfalls, mountains and viewpoints. Doi Suthep-Pui is one of the most favoured National Parks in Thailand for trekking and cycling. Tour shops and hotels offer a variety of tours from treks/cycling to sight-seeing throughout the national park.
The National Park is naturally made up of deciduous forests, walkway paths, flat vegetation to add to the above. When you elevate further up the hills and mountains, you will see evergreen forests come alive. There are some surfaced roads which are used by cyclists and so forth. To add to this surrounding the area, you may come across the Hmong Hill tribal people. The pure essence of being here is inspiring, with nature calling right in front of your eyes every step you take.
Take care if you are hiking/trekking on your own in the park, there are a few animals to make you wary. The wild boar that can be temperamental at times, and also the crocodile salamander.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a sacred temple located in the Doi Suthep National Park. It can sometimes be mistakenly named Doi Suthep, but that is the name of the actual mountain in the park and not the temple. The reason it can be mixed up is that the temple’s located on the hill that forms the Doi Suthep mountain.
The road from Chiang Mai can reach the Wat Phra That Temple via the temple base which has steps leading up to the temple. There are 309 steps from the base leading up to the temple, or you could feasibly take a tram.
The sheer atmosphere of the Wat Phra That Temple grounds is fascinating, to say the least. From the first step leading up to the temple, you will notice a long dragon on each side (as a rail type feature). Throughout the temple is awe-inspiring featuring aspects of both Buddism and Hindu.
The temple features a statue of an Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. Both capture the essence and true spirit of the whole vibe of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. You will also come across many other relics that are related to legends of the temple and the history behind it.
Being a very sacred site to most Thai’s, you must wear appropriate clothing and take your shoes off on entry.
When you are at the top of the temple, you will see some very impressive views of Chiang Mai city to capture on your camera!
Bhubing Rjanives Palace
The Bhubing Palace is a newly built (1961) royal residence located in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai. The Palace is built on stilts and is said to take advantage of the cool mountain air. It is open to the public, except when Royalty is there. It is very famous for its Suan Suwaree (rose gardens) which are home to numerous plants and flowers that are rarely found in Thailand.
Doi Suthep Mountain
There are two peaks in the Doi Suthep National Park, known as twin peaks, Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. Doi Suthep and Doi Pui mountains are both formed by granite stone, and they are part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range of mountain peaks.
The Range of mountains belongs to the Shan Highland system. From this point, you will also see some of the other peaks in the range depending which way you are facing.
Doi Suthep mountain is 1676 metres high, with its twin brother Doi Pui being slighter higher at 1685 metres high. Doi Suthep tends to attract more of the tourist visitors due to having the Wat Phra That, and Bhubing Palace located on its ascend. Both of these mountains are a decent trek for anyone who enjoys a good hike up a mountain.
You don’t need expert climbing skills to summit either mountains, but you would still need to be very careful. Always take precaution when climbing/trekking up a mountain, as weather can change, and the paths can become slippery.
Mae Ping National Park
Mae Ping National Park located southerly of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Parks is approximately 1003 square kilometres and features the famous Ping River. The Ping River passes Chiang Mai town and is known for the beautiful cycle route along its side, then leading up to the hills.
Mae Ping also houses Koh Luang Waterfall and Thung Kik-Thung Nangu Meadows. Koh Luang Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall that has its waters running down a granite rock face into a pool below. The backdrop here being deciduous forest, that really light up the waters when the sun shines upon it. Thung Kik-Thung Nangu Meadows is a beautiful tropical grassland in the Mae Ping National Park.
Op Luang National Park
The Op Luang National Park is a 553 square kilometres protected area. It is located in the Thanon Thong Chai Range, same as Doi Inthanon Park.
This particular National Park is very famous for its waterfalls, and river canyon. Op Luang also features some caves throughout the canyon. An excellent example of this is the cave called Tham Tong, which is limestone and granite cave featuring long tunnels inside. Tham Tu Pu is another example of just one of the many caves featured in this beautiful landscape.
The most notable feature of the Op Luang is the canyon, which is about 300 metres long and very steep sided. The waters running through the canyon here is called the River Mae Chaem.
If you plan to trek here, beware that this habitat is home to tigers and black bears, many of the National Parks in Thailand are habitats to predators.
Chiang Mai Waterfalls
Chiang Mai certainly offers some of the most fantastic waterfalls in the whole of Thailand. Being located North of Thailand, the climate and general forest and mountainous areas accompany this. Most notable, the natural waterfalls that you will find when heading through the National Parks. Some of the noted waterfalls are in the Doi Suthep-Pui, Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping National Parks. There are also much more hidden away gems that you will come across if you spend time trekking through the amazing protected landscape.
Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall
One waterfall, famous for its name is the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall. Located about an hour and a half drive from Old City Chiang Mai. This particular waterfall is rare, and its name explains that. You can literally walk up the waterfall barefooted with ease as you will grip to the surface without slipping.
The sticky waterfall gets its name from the mineral deposits (calcium carbonate) that provide very grip-like surfaces. Because of the calcium carbonate deposits left on the rocks, there is no slippery algae or slime, and out of rainy season, you can climb to the top. It’s simply amazing, and a must see if you are close to the area of Bua Tong.
In the rainy season, the waters become a lot heavier, and it wouldn’t be wise to head upstream. Some of this waterfall can be very steep at times, so the heavy water pushing you off balance wouldn’t be a good idea.
The List of Chiang Mai Waterfalls
You can find a list of other waterfalls that are worth visiting below.
- Mae Takhrai Waterfall located in Mae Takhrai National Park, a single level Waterfall that is simply beautiful to view.
- Mae Kampong Waterfall has a high flow of water and runs through forests leading to a beautiful water basin.
- Huay Paplu Waterfall, an attractive 3-floor waterfall surrounded by high trees, small and large rocks. Located in Ban Hack San Fah.
- Mae Klang Waterfall, you will find in the mentioned Doi Inthanon National Park. It will be the first waterfall you see when heading up to the top of Doi Inthanon Mountain.
- Mae Pen Waterfall Group, these set of waterfalls are part of the Doi Inthanon National Park. Mae Pen Waterfall is the longest Waterfall in Chiang Mai and flows down from a 100-metre cliff. A must-see sight, and awe aspiring.
- Maesa Waterfall is popular amongst tourists and local and is a favourite recreation hot spot. Set in and amongst huge trees, and jungle, this 8 level waterfall is one of the most photographed in the area. Located about 25 kilometres from Chiang Mai City.
- Mae Wang Waterfall, part of the Mae Wang National Park, is a one level Waterfall. About 20 metres high and 10 metres wide, with a luscious water basin at the root, suitable for swimming.
- Mae Sapok Waterfall is a small but highly attractive waterfall with a pure spring water pool at the bottom.
- Mok Fa Waterfall in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is a fabulous all year round waterfall set in amongst lush green trees.
- Mae Ya Waterfall is also part of the Doi Inthanon National Park and a more sightable feature than being interactive.
- Mon Hin Lai, Monthathan, Sri Sungwan and Vchiratharn Waterfalls are other scenic Chiang Mai waterfalls worth a visit.
National Parks Near Chiang Mai
National Parks close to Chiang Mai would include National Parks such as Doi Luang, Khun Chae, and Lam Nam Kok National Parks.
Doi Luang National Park covers 1170 square kilometres, and you will find located in the Phan District. This Park is home to the Pu Kaeng Waterfall which is a massive, nine floors of water cascading down limestones. The backdrop of this waterfall is amidst beautiful green jungle. The park offers camping and trekking tours.
Khun Chae National Park established in 1995, is an awesome park amidst the jungles. The Park elevates over 1400 metres high, through dense jungle and beautiful waterfalls and streams along the way. If you are planning to camp here, you will need to set up your own equipment and obtain the services of a guide. The Khun Chae National Park is part of the District.
Lam Nam Kok National Park is another Park not so far from Chiang Rai. You can raft here from Lam Nam Kok Bridge, about 20 kilometres. The Parks left in a fertile natural state as it didn’t receive a lot of funding. Thus, it is quieter than that of the other parks mentioned above. Still, oozes natural beauty and nature as do all National Parks in Thailand.
Conclusion of Chiang Mai National Parks
Thailand has 127 National Parks throughout the country. The government protects the land of National Parks and everything that lives in them. You will find rare species, animals and vegetation throughout.
The most notable National Parks in Chiang Mai you will find mentioned above. There are still over a 120 National Parks to explore in the whole of Thailand.
Take precaution when adventuring into the wild, take note of what animals habitat the area. Get an idea of the general flavour of the landscape before you head out there. There’s a vast amount to explore.