Hiking trails in Thailand

As businesses reopen for the “new normal”, cities across Thailand are back to their vibrant, noisy selves. Fortunately, national parks are also back or will reopen soon, so there are still places to escape to for much needed peace and quiet.

Instead of a walk in your neighbourhood park, go all the way outdoors and plan a hiking or mountain-climbing trip away from city crowds.

1. Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail – Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai

HikingTrail doi inthanon
Image credit: Chiang Mai Traveller

Hiking up to the highest point in Thailand is a challenge, but the trail along the way is also well worth it. The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail includes the cloud forest, which is a viewpoint overlooking a blanket of clouds over the valleys.

HikingTrail doi pagoda
Image credit: @diego_attiani

On the trail, you’ll come across a moss-covered bridge running through a rainforest, as well as twin pagodas with a beautiful garden.

HikingTrail doi bridge
Image credit: @yuidotoo

If you plan to climb up further, Doi Inthanon offers rental tents (฿400-600, ~USD12-18 for 3 people) for those who want to stay overnight to catch the sunrise. This includes sleeping bags, pillows, mats, and access to shower and bathroom facilities – they can be booked in advance here. There are also rental camping gear available at the entrance.

Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
Address: Ban Luang, Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai 50160
Opening Hours: 5,30AM – 6.30PM, closed from June to October
Distance from Bangkok: 10 hours by car
Duration: 2-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Price: ฿300 (~USD9) for foreigners | ฿200 (~USD6) for required Hmong guide
Google Maps

2. Phu Bak Dai Mountain – Phu Ruea District, Loei Province

HikingTrail phu bak dai
Image credit: EDTguide

This mountain’s main attraction is called Pha Lok Luang (translated as “fooling cliff”), which is a stone slab sticking out at the top of the mountain. 

HikingTrail sunscape
Image credit: teawloei

Reenact your favourite scenes from The Lion King on this “mini Pride Rock” or fool your friends with death-defying moments for the IG.

HikingTrail fall
Image credit: Readme.me

Those visiting the Phu Bak Dai Mountain have to ride tractors (฿3000, ~USD91 – 6 per tractor) up the hill before hiking the rest of the way. Visitors can stay overnight to gaze at the stars and watch the sunrise since the park has no hours. 

HikingTrail sunset
Image credit: @3mo_journey

There are no rental tents or equipment here, so you have to bring your own gear and set up your own camping ground.

Note: Please still exercise caution when visiting this viewpoint.

Phu Bak Dai
Address: Pla Ba, Phu Ruea District, Loei 42160
Opening Hours: 24/7, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 8-9 hours by car
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Price: ฿1000 (~USD30) (natural preservation fee)

3. Doi Luang Chiang Dao – Daen Lae Range, Chiang Mai

HikingTrail doi luang chiang dao
Image credit: Bangkok Biz News

This third highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Luang Chiang Dao, is located a one-day hike opposite Doi Inthanon. From here, you can see the neighbouring Doi Inthanon from afar peeking out of the fog with other mountains. The viewpoint up top lets climbers see the sun set behind fog-covered skies and mountain peaks.

HikingTrail Ban Lisu
Image credit: PaiNaiDii

If climbing all the way is a challenge, there is a homestay named Ban Lisu where you can see the sea of fog nearer to the foot of the mountain. Winter season is the best time to see the fog, as it covers the whole area.

HikingTrail doi luang chiang dao sign
Image credit: Chiang Mai Local Tours

Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: 273 Moo 5 Chiang Dao, Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai 50170
Opening Hours: 5AM – 9PM
Distance from Bangkok: 11-12 hours by car
Duration: 1-2 days
Difficulty: Hard
Price: ฿200 (~USD6), guide required
Google Maps

4. Tab Kak Hang Nak Hill Nature Trail  – Ao Nang, Krabi

HikingTrail dragon crest
Image credit: @martson_

For the Tab Kak Hang Nak Hill Nature Trail, many hikers suggest going early morning to avoid the heat and drinking lots of water before scaling the mountain. Some have also mentioned that the trail involves a lot of vertical climbing, so you want to be reasonably fit to try this trail. It takes at least over an hour or two to scale up to the peak. But by the time you get up there, you will be breathless – both from the climb and by the breathtaking viewpoint 

HikingTrail dragon crest view
Image credit: @praw.sira

At the top of Dragon Crest Mountain, there is a stone tongue reaching out. Unlike the Phu Bak Dai, this one is quite high up and much riskier to sit on. For those who dare, this spot has a stunning view of the Phang Nga Bay and Krabi.

Tab Kak Hang Nak Nature Trail
Address: Nong Thale, Mueang Krabi District, Krabi 81000
Opening Hours: 8AM – 3PM
Distance from Bangkok: 11 hours by car
Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Difficulty: Hard
Price: Free but donations are welcomed

5. Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park – Phitsanulok Province

HikingTrail lan hin taek
Image credit: park.dnp.go.th

The Lan Hin Taek are unusual rock formations located in the Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park. Its name comes from the formation’s “broken” appearance – hin taek meaning “broken stone”. Trenches like the ones in these formations were used by communists in the 1970s during their conflicts with the military.

HikingTrail lan hin pum
Image credit: MGR Online

An 11-minute hike from that area is a stranger formation called the Lan Hin Pum (hin pum means “stone buttons”) which, according to an area plaque, was popular with recovering patients because of its breeziness. These rehabilitating military patients came from the nearby forest hospital set up by the communists during the conflict. 

HikingTrail lan hin pum mist
Image credit: Travel Notes

On days where the fog surrounds the nearby area, the Lan Hi Pum looks out of this world as though you were on another planet.

HikingTrail phu lom lo
Image credit: Amazing Thailand

In the same park, there are also cherry blossoms in an area called Phu Lom Lo, about 3-4 hours of hiking away from the rock formation. It is recommended that you take trips during December to January if you want to see them bloom.

Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park
Address: Nakhon Thai, Nakhon Thai, Phitsanulok 65120
Opening Hours: 24/7, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 7 hours by car
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿500 (~USD15) for foreigners, ฿8 (~USD8) for children| ฿40 (~USD1.22) for locals, ฿20 (~USD0.61) for children

6. Khao Mokoju – Mae Wong National Park

HikingTrail mokoju
Image credit: Kapook

If you want a real challenge, Khao Mokoju should be on your bucket list for your next trip to Thailand. Its name comes from the Karenic language spoken by Karen hill tribes – it means “seems like it would rain” and describes what Mokoju looks like from the top.

HikingTrail mokoju forest
Image credit: @siriikarn

This trail involves at least half a day of walking through a forest and then full days of steep climbing. The mountain summit reaches 1,964m above sea level and peaks over the clouds, and one of the best places to watch the sunset.

HikingTrail mokoju forest
Image credit: Thailand Tourism Directory

Keep in mind that you need to contact the park rangers in advance if you plan to climb Khao Mokoju, and the mountain can only be at certain times of the year. However, November to February is ideal due to the colder weather and the mists being more visible.

You need to prepare everything for this trip as the park will only provide camping grounds.

Mae Wong National Park
Address: Pang Ta Wai, Pang Sila Thong District, Kamphaeng Phet 62120
Opening Hours: 24/7, Daily
Duration: 3-5 days
Difficulty: Hard
Price: ฿200 (~USD6) for adults | ฿100 (~USD3) for children) | ฿13,500 (~USD411) for ranger group guide | ฿550 (~USD17) for a local to carry your equipment
Google Maps

7. Secret Buddha Garden – Koh Samui

HikingTrail buddha garden statues
Image credit: Justgola

The Secret Buddha Garden, also known as the Tarnim Magic Garden, sits atop a Khun Nim Peak (Pom Mountain) that once belonged to a retired durian farmer. Until his death, he sculpted statues such as angels and mythical creatures based on Thai Buddhist mythology.

HikingTrail buddha garden
Image credit: Koh Samui Guide Magazine

Since the garden is located atop a big hill, it’s recommended that you bring a good pair of shoes and plenty of water, as the trail leads you through dense forests and up steep hills. Most hiking trails take you to natural wonders, but this is one of the few to take you to a private hilltop garden.

HikingTrail buddha garden farmer
There is a sculptor of the farmer sitting under a shaded spot.
Image credit: Asia Travel Routes

The statues are scattered around the hilly garden ruins, some sitting on boulders and others playing instruments as a band. The placement seems intentionally scattered to make it look like a lively gathering frozen in time, while the sculptor himself sits quietly in the corner of the garden.

Tarnim & Magic Garden
Address: Na Mueang, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84140
Opening Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 9.5 hours by car, 1.5 hour by ferry
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿300 (~USD9)
Google Maps

8. Erawan Waterfalls – Kanchanaburi Province

HikingTrail erawan waterfalls
Image credit: Evaneos

The impressive 7-level waterfall is a popular tourist spot for swimming located in the Erawan* National Park. Some compare the Erawan Waterfalls to its three-headed namesake, with the cascades extended out like multiple elephant trunks. You can climb to higher levels for more privacy, but be aware that the path gets harder as well.

*Erawan is the name of the three-headed elephant ridden by the deity Indra.

HikingTrail erawan fishies
Image credit: ILP Blog

The pool also comes with a free fish spa, courtesy of the abundant fish living in it. They will gladly nibble on your feet, although some of the fish are big enough to bite a whole toe. But don’t worry – these fishes are friendly, so you don’t need to worry about losing a toe.

Erawan National Park
Address: Tha Kradan, Si Sawat District, Kanchanaburi 71250
Opening Hours: 8AM – 4.30PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 3 hours by car
Duration: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿300 (~USD9) for adults, ฿200 (~USD6) for children | ฿100 (~USD3) for locals, ฿50 (~USD2) for children
Google Maps

9. Phu Langka Forest Park – Phayao Province

HikingTrail phu langka
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Phayao, Phu Langka Forest Park has the perfect viewpoint for seeing islands of mountains in a sea of fog. The fog envelopes over the valley and transforms itself early morning.  It’s eerily beautiful like a scene out of an ancient landscape painting.

HikingTrail phu langka magic mountain cafe
View from the Magic Mountain Cafe, 30 minutes away from the park by car
Image credit: @komnothetsne

Phu Langka National Park
Address: Pha Chang Noi, Pong District, Phayao 56140
Opening Hours: 4.30AM – 6.30PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 11-13 hours by car
Duration: 5-6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿200 (~USD6) for foreigners, ฿100 (~USD3) for children |  ฿20 (~USD0.61) for locals, ฿10 (~USD0.30) for children

10. Phraya Nakhon Cave – Kui Buri District, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province

HikingTrail phraya nakhon cave
Image credit: Bangkok

It is recommended that you can take a boat ride (฿300,~USD9) from the Bang Pu fishing village to Laem Sala Beach, as the other way is to hike over a hill to get to the beach.

HikingTrail phraya nakhon trail
Image credit: Could Have Stayed Home

Some have said the hill can take up to a couple of hours and is a hard climb despite marked paths. It is an extra challenge if you want to test your endurance before the actual trail. From this point onwards, the 430m trail will have you go through a forest with monkeys and some hand-rope climbing for steep paths.

HikingTrail phraya nakhon pavilion
Image credit: @blukorrimag

This pavilion was built inside the Phraya Nakhon Cave in 1890 for King Chulalongkorn’s visit. The Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion stands majestically isolated under a cave opening where the sun shines down on it, adding to its mysticism as a hidden temple that can only be seen by those willing to make the hike.

The landmark is on Prachuap Khiri Khan’s provincial seal.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Address: Kui Buri, Prachuap Khirikhan 77150
Opening Hours: 8AM to 4.30PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 4 hours by car
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿200 (~USD6)
Google Maps

11. Big Buddha – Kata Beach, Phuket

HikingTrail big buddha phuket
Image credit: @big_buddha_phuket_official

There is a 1-hour hiking trail between Kata Beach and the Big Buddha, one of the tallest statues in Thailand. The ongoing construction of the white marble statue is funded through donations. The view atop Mount Nagakerd overlooks an impressive view of Chalong and the beaches.

HikingTrail big buddha sign
Image credit: AllTrails

If you are taking the hiking trail from Kata Beach, signs in English point the way and encourage hiking for exercise.

Big Buddha Phuket
Address: Nakkerd Hill, Tambon Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83100
Opening Hours: 6AM to 6PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 12-13 hours by car
Duration: 1-2 hour
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: Free but donations are welcomed
Google Maps

12. Emerald Pool (Sa Morakot) – Krabi

HikingTrail emerald pool
Image credit: Jamie Monk via Flickr

The Emerald Pool (Sa Morakot) is located in the Khao Phra-Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary and is as magical as its name. It changes colour according to time of day and temperature, changing between different shades of green and blue.

HikingTrail emerald pool trail
Image credit: @danika.nicki

One of the trails to get to the pools is across a bridge trail (1200-1400m). This one is a long but relatively easy hike through the forest where you can take in the air and sounds of nature. Be sure to step carefully as parts of the trail can be slippery.

HikingTrail blue pool
Image credit: @wzylouisey

About 8 minutes away is the Blue Pool, which is not swimmable due to its high temperature (30-50 Celcius) but equally beautiful. Its spring water is so crystal clear that you can see everything underwater, and the reflection from the forest is sharp as what it’s reflecting.

Khao Phra-Bang Khram Wild Life Sanctuary
Address: Khlong Thom Nuea, Khlong Thom District, Krabi 81120
Opening Hours: 8.30AM to 5.30PM, Daily
Distance from Bangkok: 11 hours by car
Duration: 1-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Price: ฿200 (~USD6) for foreigners, ฿100 (~USD3) for children | ฿20 (~USD0.61) for locals,  ฿10 (~USD0.30) for children

Conquering your mountain

Some of these nature trails are a challenge to overcome but reward your efforts greatly. You get to see Thailand from a different angle and a sense of accomplishment from conquering mountains.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh air on mountains and the sound of the forest to make you feel peaceful and want to stay just a little longer. So keep these places bookmarked for when you’re ready to visit Thailand again, and good luck to those who plan to climb to the top.

Cover images adapted from (Clockwise from Top Left): Readme.me, @placesyouwanttotravel, @giftnana, TripAdvisor 

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