Doi Chiang Dao
Doi Chiang Dao: Thailand’s 3rd Highest, but most popular climb
Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Mountain Stats
- #3 Highest in Thailand
- 300 species of birds
- 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
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.
Climbing Doi Chiang Dao Thailand - Support facilities
Guides and porters
Food & water
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.
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.
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.
Tourist Police: 1699
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.
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.