Conquering the Doi Suthep Hike: A Guide to Chiang Mai’s Iconic Trail

Doi Suthep is a mountain located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and is a popular destination for hikers and adventurers. The mountain is home to a number of trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the natural beauty of Northern Thailand.

One of the most popular trails on Doi Suthep is the Monk Trail, which is a 4.5-mile out-and-back trail that is considered moderately challenging. The trail takes hikers through the lush forest and up to Wat Pha Lat, a beautiful temple that is situated halfway up the mountain. From there, hikers can continue on to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a stunning temple that offers breathtaking views of the city below.

Hiking Doi Suthep is an experience that should not be missed, and is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Chiang Mai. Whether you are an experienced hiker or a beginner, there is a trail on Doi Suthep that is perfect for you. So pack your hiking boots and get ready to explore one of the most beautiful mountains in Northern Thailand.

Getting to the Trailhead

If you’re planning to hike the Doi Suthep trail, you’ll need to get to the trailhead first. Here are a few options for transportation:


Songthaews are red pickup trucks that act as shared taxis all over Chiang Mai. You can hire one to take you to the Doi Suthep trailhead, but keep in mind that they may not be the most comfortable option. They can be crowded, and you’ll likely have to share the ride with other passengers. However, they are affordable and easy to find.


If you’re comfortable riding a bicycle, renting one can be a great way to get to the trailhead. It’s a scenic ride, and you’ll be able to take your time and enjoy the journey. Keep in mind that traffic in Chiang Mai can be chaotic, so be sure to stay alert and follow traffic rules.


Renting a motorbike is another option if you’re comfortable riding one. It’s a faster way to get to the trailhead than a bicycle, and you’ll have more flexibility in terms of where you can go. However, keep in mind that motorbikes can be dangerous if you’re not an experienced rider, and traffic in Chiang Mai can be chaotic.

No matter which option you choose, be sure to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to get to the trailhead. Traffic in Chiang Mai can be unpredictable, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave early.

The Hike

Hiking the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Chiang Mai. The hike offers a stunning view of the city, a chance to explore the jungle, and a visit to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. The trail is 4.5 miles long and has an elevation gain of 2,027 feet, making it a moderately challenging route.


The trailhead is located behind the Chiang Mai University campus. To get there, drive west on Suthep Road towards Doi Suthep, then make a right turn and follow the road that climbs abruptly for 5-10 minutes. The trailhead will be on your left. There is no entrance fee to the park, but a donation to the temple is appreciated.


The hike takes you through the lush jungle of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The trail is well-maintained, but it can get slippery during the rainy season, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as monkeys, birds, and butterflies.


The trail follows the course of a small river, which adds to the beauty of the hike. You will cross the river several times on wooden bridges, which can be slippery when wet. Take your time and watch your step.


About halfway through the hike, you will reach a small waterfall. It’s a great spot to take a break, cool off, and take some photos. The waterfall is not very big, but it’s still a nice sight to see.


As you near the top of the trail, you will come across several shrines. These are places of worship for the locals and are considered sacred. Be respectful and avoid touching or disturbing anything.


The hike culminates at the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, which offers a breathtaking view of Chiang Mai. The temple is located at the top of Doi Suthep mountain, and you will need to climb a set of stairs to reach it. The view from the top is worth the effort.

In summary, hiking the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is a great way to explore the jungle, see a beautiful waterfall, and visit a sacred temple. The trail is moderately challenging, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water. The hike can be done in a few hours, but you can also camp overnight if you want to take your time. The weather can be unpredictable, so check the forecast before you go.

What to Bring

Before embarking on a hike up Doi Suthep, it is important to make sure you have the right gear and supplies. Here are some essential items to bring with you:


A small backpack is a must-have for carrying the essentials, such as water, snacks, and sunscreen. Make sure it is comfortable to wear and has enough space to fit everything you need.


Staying hydrated is crucial when hiking in the hot and humid climate of Northern Thailand. Bring at least 1.5 liters of water per person, and consider bringing a water filter or purification tablets in case you need to refill your bottle from a natural source.


Hiking can be a strenuous activity, so it is important to bring some snacks to keep your energy levels up. Trail mix, energy bars, and fresh fruit are all good options.

Bug Spray

The forested areas around Doi Suthep are home to mosquitoes and other insects, so be sure to bring insect repellent to protect yourself from bites.


The sun in Northern Thailand can be intense, so it is important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF before setting out on your hike.


Wear comfortable and breathable clothing suitable for hiking. Shorts and a t-shirt are fine, but make sure your clothing is appropriate for the weather conditions. Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers with good traction are recommended to prevent slips and falls on the sometimes steep and rocky terrain.

Other Items

Consider bringing a hat, sunglasses, a first aid kit, and a map or GPS device to help navigate the trails. It is also a good idea to bring a small amount of cash in case you need to buy food or water along the way.

By packing these essential items, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hike up Doi Suthep.

Other Attractions

There are many other attractions to visit in the Doi Suthep area besides the hiking trails. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai and a must-visit attraction for anyone in the area. The temple is located at the top of Doi Suthep mountain and offers stunning views of the city below. Visitors can take a songthaew or drive up to the temple and then climb the 306 steps to reach the main pagoda. Inside the pagoda, there is a relic of the Buddha and many beautiful murals and statues.

Wat Pha Lat

Wat Pha Lat is a lesser-known temple located halfway up Doi Suthep mountain. It is accessible by hiking the Monk’s Trail or by taking a taxi or songthaew. The temple is surrounded by lush jungle and offers a peaceful retreat from the city. Visitors can explore the temple grounds, which include a waterfall, a meditation cave, and a small coffee shop.

Chiang Mai Zoo

Chiang Mai Zoo is a popular attraction for families and animal lovers. The zoo is home to over 400 species of animals, including pandas, tigers, and giraffes. Visitors can take a tram or walk around the zoo to see the animals up close. There is also a large aquarium and a night safari.

Bhubing Palace

Bhubing Palace is the winter residence of the Thai royal family and is located on Doi Buak Ha mountain, near Doi Suthep. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can take a guided tour of the palace and gardens, which include a greenhouse, a rose garden, and a waterfall.

Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand and is located about 70 kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai. The mountain is part of Doi Inthanon National Park and offers beautiful scenery and hiking trails. Visitors can explore the park’s waterfalls, forests, and hill tribe villages. There is also a royal pagoda at the summit of the mountain, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Overall, there are many attractions to see and explore in the Doi Suthep area, from temples and palaces to zoos and mountains. Visitors to the area are sure to find something that interests them.

Tips and Warnings

When planning a hike up Doi Suthep, there are a few tips and warnings to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Rainy Season

The rainy season in Northern Thailand typically runs from May to October, and it’s important to be prepared for wet conditions if hiking during this time. Bring a rain jacket and wear quick-drying clothing. The trail can become slippery, so wear hiking boots with good traction and consider using trekking poles. Also, be aware that the trail may be closed during heavy rain or flooding.


The Monk’s Trail is a popular route up Doi Suthep, and it’s important to be respectful of the monks who use the trail for their daily routines. Dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees, and avoid loud conversations or music. If you encounter a monk, step aside and give them the right of way. It’s also important to remember that the trail is a sacred place, so do not litter or disturb any religious artifacts.


There are many dogs along the trail, some of which may be friendly and others that may be aggressive. It’s important to be cautious and avoid approaching dogs that are barking or growling. Consider carrying pepper spray or a whistle for protection. If you do encounter a friendly dog, do not feed or pet them as this can encourage them to follow you, which can be dangerous on the steep and narrow trail.

Other tips to keep in mind include wearing bug spray to avoid mosquito bites, bringing plenty of water and snacks, and wearing shorts or lightweight pants as the trail can be hot and humid. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for bamboo or other obstacles on the trail. If you’re renting a scooter to get to the trailhead, be sure to drive carefully on the winding mountain roads.

Overall, hiking up Doi Suthep is an exciting adventure that offers stunning views and a chance to see the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. By following these tips and warnings, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.