Doi Chiang Dao


Doi Chiang Dao: Thailand’s 3rd Highest, but most popular climb

Mountain Stats
Natural Form and History
Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Support Facilities
Safety & Accessibility
Special Tips
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Quick Answers

Q:How do you climb Doi Chiang Dao?
A:Doi Chiang Dao is a 1-2 day hike depending on whether or not you want to camp overnight. The hike requires a permit and taking a guide along is recommended but not mandatory. It is not especially high, so not much cold weather gear is required unless you're camping up near the summit overnight, which is recommended as it means you can take in an inspiring sunset and/or sunrise from the summit.
Q:Can you summit Doi Chiang Dao in 1 day?
A:Trekking Chiang Dao in a day is definitely possible if you start early. The entire trek up and down is relatively easy with just a bit of scrambling on rocks at the very end due to the steep summit area. If you're summiting in 1 day, we recommend getting up very early to try to catch the sunrise, and then trying to get back before the hottest part of the day.

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Mountain Stats

2,175m (7,136ft)
Climbing Height
1,100m (3,609ft)
  • #3 Highest in Thailand
  • 300 species of birds
Other names
  • Piang Dao
  • Doi Luang Chiang Dao

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Natural Form and History

Natural Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Natural history

Doi Chiang Dao is a 230-250 million year old limestone massif, part of the Thanon Thong Chai range. It is categorized as a Ratchaburi rock unit and is thought to be caused by the deposition of sea sediments and limestone fossils and the piling up from the sea of animal carcasses, such as corals and shells. The Chiang Dao limestone represents mid-oceanic carbonates formed upon sea mount bases of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean.

Natural Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Climbing history

Doi Chiang Dao is located in the Chiang Dao district of Northern Thailand. The area around the mountain is a designated Wildlife Reserve area, the Amphoe Chiang Dao, with a number of other smaller hills. The hills are home to various tribes and have been popular with the local populace for several centuries.

Doi Chiang Dao is known to locals as ‘Piang Dao’ or ‘at the level of the stars’ and is believed to be the abode of a protective spirit Phor Luang Kam Daeng along with his wife Nang In Lao. The popularity to outsiders as a climbing destination probably starts with European settler James MacCarthy who once fell sick while travelling through Northern Thailand and was therefore forced to stay in Chiang Dao for some time during which time he discovered the beauty of the hills.

Natural Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Current status

Being of an accessible height and having a trail that is not intimidating to visitors, Doi Chiang Dao is one of the most popular climbing destinations in Thailand. With astounding views of hills all around, Doi Chiang Dao offers a wealth of wildlife and nature and a truly astounding array of flowers.

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Climbing Experience & Itinerary

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Climbing Experience

Doi Chiang Dao is one of the most scenic treks in Thailand. The trail, though steep in parts, is mostly under a canopy of trees which will help take off some of the pressure of the climb. Even so, expect some grueling stretches and factor in plenty of time for rest both ways. Because of the steepness of the mountain, climbing down is every bit as exhausting as climbing up. Hence, climbers who are physically fit and have some exposure to trekking will find it easier.

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Trail options

Number of options

Being part of a wildlife sanctuary, there are several trails that go through parts of the mountain for people with varying interests like bird watching, temple visits or nature treks. However, to go all the way to the summit, there is only one official trail (unofficial trails also exist but it is advisable, in the interests of safety, to stick to the official one). The official trail is a relatively straightforward one and not too difficult to follow, but the sign boards are only in Thai so make sure you have an English-speaking guide or get clear instructions on the trail before you set out.

Time to complete
2 days

Though this entire trek can be covered in a single day, most travelers follow a 2-day itinerary which gives them plenty of time to stop and admire the sights.

Number of days
Day 1

Start journey from Chiang Mai, and head towards Chiang Dao Cave.


Arrive at Chiang Dao Cave. The official trek starts from here with a 12 km drive to the start of the walking trail.


Arrive at the trail head and start your hike. The trek is along steep slopes in dry evergreen forest, but is not a difficult climb (unless you are blessed with rain-showers). The route has plenty to offer including amazing views and colourful flowers and butterflies along the way.


Lunch on the slopes and continue on. The trail remains steep, and you get to see bamboo groves, limestone formations and grassy patches on the way before you reach the Ang Salung (or Ao Salun) valley. The trail proceeds to the camping ground that is at the far eastern end of the valley. On this stretch, you get to see the villages down below and the mountains all around.


Arrive at the edge of the Ang Salung valley, the campsite for the night and set up camp before trekking to the summit for the sunset.


Watch the sunset from the summit and return to camp. Enjoy a candlelit dinner under the stars.

Day 2

Trek up to the summit again for the sunrise. The hike up at this hour can be difficult, because it is in the dark and the trail is pretty steep. In fact, this is the steepest stretch of the trail and involves scrambling over the rocks. Once up at the summit though, you can rest while watching the sun come up above the sea of fog and clouds around you.


Back to camp for breakfast and begin the descent. The trail will clear up as the day picks up (except in the odd chance that it rained the day before, which will make it muddy and slippery), and towards the afternoon you’ll start meeting people going up, trudging along the routes that you were navigating the day before.


Lunch in the slopes.


Arrive back at the Cave and proceed back to lodgings.

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Support facilities

Guides and porters

Guides are required
Porters are recommended

Trail facilities

Trail head - Registration kiosk
Trail head - Toilets / Bathrooms
Trail - Publicly displayed trail maps
Summit base camp - Shelters for overnight rest

Food & water

Trail head - Food
Trail head - Potable water
Trail - Portable water
Summit base camp - Portable water
Summit base camp - Food & potable water only available from guide / porters

Network connectivity

Trail head - Network signal

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Safety & Accessibility


The Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Reserve is only open to visitors during the cool and dry season from November to February. The temperatures range between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius during the day and between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius during night time. Up in the mountains, night time temperatures often fall below 10 degrees at night, so pack warm for the night in case you are camping overnight.

Climbing safety

Slippery surfaces:  Unexpected rain can slow your progress and make the trail slippery and treacherous at some points.

Insects:  As is typical with any wilderness, you are likely to encounter a few insects and mosquitos. Make sure to use insect repellent, especially if you are planning on an overnight stay in the mountains.

Personal safety

Being a popular destination, it is very unlikely you will ever be completely alone or isolated on this trek so there is little to worry about in terms of personal safety.

Permits, Fees, and Regulations

Yes, a permit is needed for the climb and the rules mandate that you should apply for it at least two weeks in advance. It is not impossible to get a permit on the day of the hike as they may relax the rules if there isn’t a great rush on the day of your arrival but it is safer to not count on it.

An application must be given in advance to the Director of the Wildlife Reserve Division, Royal Forest Department for the permit. Subject to availability, permits can also be purchased at the Park offices on payment of requisite fees. As of 2019, engaging a guide is a must and those who attempt to sneak around the system run a high risk of getting arrested.

Emergency contacts

Tourist Police: 1699

Fire: 053-222-852

Ambulance: 199

Getting there and away

Chiang Mai International is the nearest airport. Domestic connections are available from other major tourist destinations in Thailand to Chiang Mai. From Chiang Mai, there are several options to get to Chiang Dao. You could choose between a private taxi, bus services that operate several times a day or a self-driven cab. It takes a little more than an hour to get to Chiang Dao from Chiang Mai.

Money Matters

The entrance fee should cost you around 200 baht along with vehicle charges if you’re taking your own vehicle in.

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Special Tips

Tips for amateur climbers

If Doi Chiang Dao is only a daylong stopover on your Thailand visit, make the most of it by taking along a knowledgeable guide who will show you all the important sights on the way as well as give you a taste of local culture. There are a few hot springs and the San Phakia camp site in the mountains that offer a rare chance to view cherry blossoms in January.

The Chiang Dao Cave itself offers a 12km long stalactite-laden adventure that offers some fascinating experiences.

Tips for advanced climbers

Doi Chiang Dao isn’t likely to give you many opportunities to test or show-off your advanced mountaineering abilities. However, being part of a limestone massif, rock climbing and caving opportunities will be nearby, and should be easy to organise as an add-on to a Doi Chiang Dao climb through most good local tour agents.

Tips for women

There shouldn’t be special challenges for women climbers looking to summit Doi Chiang Dao.

Tips for trail runners

Chiang Dao is a favoured mountain for trail running so make the most of your trip by getting in touch with local clubs that organise trail runs on the mountain. With its spectacular ridges, rock walls and sheer cliffs, Doi Chiang Dao is considered by many to be a great spot for the sport.

Tips for nature lovers

The best hike for bird watchers with more than 300 different species, including the Giant Nuthatch and Hume’s Pheasant.

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