This national park which covers an area of 1,005 square kilometers is located on Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain which is 2,565 meters above sea level. Located between Mae Chaem and Chom Thong, the park is comprised of the largest tract of upper mountain forest which ranges across Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and ends in Northern Thailand. The mountain ranges gave birth to the main tributaries of the Ping river and formed the beautiful waterfalls, namely Siriphum, Wachirathan, Mae Pan, Mae Klang and Mae Ya. The moist and dense evergreen forest is abundant with lichens and wild orchids. The park is also a paradise for bird lovers.
Visiting Doi Inthanon is possible throughout the year however, the best period for viewing the waterfalls is May through November while the best period for viewing wild flowers is December through February and for ornithologists is November through March.
Getting there: Travel 58 kilometres west of Chiang Mai via Highway No. 108 to Chom Thong, then turn right into Highway No. 1009 and continue a further distance of 48 kilometres along Highway No. 1009 to the summit. A good asphalt road takes visitors up but is rather steep, thus the vehicle must be in a good condition. Visitors could pay for the entrance fee at Km. 8.
Doi Inthanon can be reached by a local truck (Song Thaeo) from Phra That Chom Thong or Mae Klang Waterfall. The Song Thaeo runs to Doi Inthanon National Park Office (Km. 31) and neighbouring villages. A chartered Song Thaeo costing around 800 baht can make stops at other attractions around the area.
Admission : adult 400 baht, child 200 baht
Accommodation, restaurants, and camping sites are available at the park headquarters at Km. 31. Tel: 0 5335 5728, 0 5326 8550, 0 5326 8550, 0 5326 8577 Bangkok Tel: 0 2562 0760 or www.dnp.go.th
Attractions in Doi Inthanon National Park
Namtok Mae Ya is one of the most beautiful cascades in Chiang Mai. Water flows from a 280-metre steep cliff onto different rock formations in a lower basin like drapes. The well-managed waterfall is teeming with verdant forests and is best for recreation. It is located 1 kilometre from Highway No. 1009 junction, turn left for 14 kilometres and then take a 200-metre walk.
Namtok Mae Klang is a 100-metre one-level waterfall located 8 kilometres from Highway No. 1009 junction and turn left onto an asphalt road for 500 metres.
Tham Bori Chinda is a large cave located near Namtok Mae Klang at Km. 8.5 of Highway No. 1009. The road sign to Tham Bori Chinda will be seen at the junction on the right. The deep cave has stalactite and stalagmite formations, Buddha images and a rocky stream. The surface of the water glitters like diamonds flake when light reflects the stream. Sunlight in the cave allows visitors to see the entire cave.
The Tourist Centre at Km. 9 has exhibits on nature and animals that inhabit the area.
Namtok Wachirathan is a large waterfall which plummets over the edge of a high cliff into a deep pool below. When there is a large amount of water, there are large splashes in the basin, creating a cool and refreshing environment. The delightful ambience can be felt by walking on a slippery bridge that leads to the waterfall. To get there, turn right off Highway No.1009 at Km. 21, then follow the signpost to the waterfall a further 350 metres on foot. At Km.20 a new road is built to reduce the walk to the waterfall.
Namtok Siriphum is a splendid waterfall that falls from a steep cliff in two lines and can be seen en route to Doi Inthanon. The attractive waterfall is located at Km. 31 of Highway No. 1009, take a right turn for 2 kilometres and is approachable only on foot from the base of the waterfall.
Doi Inthanon Royal Project is in Khun Klang village close to the park headquarters. The project was initiated in 1979 to help the hill tribes to cultivate cash crops other than opium and train them on modern agricultural practices. Most produces are temperate zone plants. Flower plantations, a plant breeding research lab and flower plantations of hill tribes (Hmong) are open to visitors.
Phra Mahathat Napha Methanidon and Phra Mahathat Naphaphon Phumisiri, twin pagodas located at Km. 41.5, were built to commemorate the fifth cycle birthdays of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Both pagodas share the similar bases as well as a two-level walking path that surrounds them. The pagodas enshrine Lord Buddha’s ashes and Buddha images, and overlook the magnificent scenery of Doi Inthanon.
Doi Inthanon Peak has a cool climate all year round. The Air Force Radar Station and King Inthawichayanon’s stupa located on the mountaintop. King Inthawichayanon, the last king of Chiang Mai, was concerned about the importance of forests and wanted to preserve the forests for future generations. He was so familia with Doi Inthanon that he asked that part of his ashes be kept here. The Tourist Information Centre, near the top of Doi Inthanon, exhibits a chronological background of the mountain, including its geography, biology, forests, and animals.
Namtok Mae Pan is the longest waterfall in Chiang Mai, which flows from a 100-metre cliff. Its charm can be enjoyed by standing some distance from the falls. From afar, the white water and the green forests around the falls make a beautiful picture. From Km. 38 of Highway No. 1009, drive along the Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem road (Highway No. 1192) for 6 kilometres and a sign to the waterfall will be seen, then drive on an unpaved road for 9 kilometres. The lovely waterfall can be reached by a ten-minute walk from a parking lot. In the rainy season, the road to Namtok Mae Phan is in a poor condition; only a four-wheel vehicle could make the journey.
Namtok Huai Sai Lueang is beyond Namtok Mae Pan, about 21 kilometres from Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem Road. Turn left to an unpaved road where only a four-wheel vehicle could make a trip in the rainy season. The medium-size cascade has water all year round and flows from a cliff to each level.
Natural Study trek on Doi Inthanon Kiu Mae Pan starts from Km. 42. This short trail, winding through pristine forest for about 2.5 kilometres, a 3-hour walk, allows the hiker to experience the natural beauty of the forest at first hand. The Rhododendrons, commonly found in the Himalayas, are found along the trail and they are in full bloom during December-February. Trekkers on this route should seek permission from the park headquarters at Km. 31 for safety reasons. A group of not more than 15 people is recommended. Food consumption is not allowed while trekking. This nature trail is closed for reforestation from June 1 to October 30 annually.
Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail was surveyed and designed by Mr. Michael MacMillan Walls, a Canadian volunteer biologist who devoted to his work and died from a heart attack on this mountain. This trail is 360 metres long, passing through wet and cold areas in a lush valley. Forest above 2,000 metres is covered with lichens and wild orchids. Indigenous plants that needs a high level of nutrition, organic deposits, and rare species of birds are seen along the trail.
There are more nature trails on Doi Inthanon, each providing different views of the diversity of plants, reforestation, the importance of tributaries, the origin of caves, hilltribe agriculture, and birdwatching. Walking trails range from 1 to 8 kilometres. Each trip needs approval from the Chief of the National Park and a trekking leader is needed. The service is obtained at the Park Office at Km. 31.
Birdwatching on Doi Inthanon Inthanon
Birdwatching Information Centre (Uncle Daeng’s Shop) is located at Km. 31. This is a bird information exchange centre among birdwatchers, nature students and the general public. The information details the habitat and food of birds and animals living on Doi Inthanon. The aim is to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. It also provides the Doi Inthanon Birdwatching Diary, bird sketches by various bird watching experts, birdwatching trails, bird pictures, and slides.
Winter is the best time for birdwatching when indigenous and migrant birds are found including Eurasian Woodcock, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Forest Wagtail, Chestnut Thrush, Scarlet Finch, Little Bunting, and Crested Bunting.