Amazing Hikes of Chiang Mai – Doi Lanka Noi
Amazing Hikes of Chiang Mai – Doi Lanka Noi
In my 2 years living in Chiang Mai a couple of friends had mentioned the beautiful hike up to Doi Lanka Luang and Doi Lanka Noi, but it is still relatively unknown to most people, even to people from Chiang Mai. It is also known as Doi Mae Tho but few people I know reference this name. Some basic facts about the mountain; Doi Lanka Luang is 2031m (6,663 ft) high and the 6th highest mountain in Thailand and situated in the Khun Tan range, a mountain range that encompasses Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang and Lamphun provinces. Doi Lanka Luang its on the border between Chiang Mai and Lampang. The lower altitudes are covered with dry mixed deciduous forest, while hill evergreen forest grows above 800m.
A friend and I finally decided to do the hike in May 2017 despite the early onset of the rainy season, a good decision as on this particular day the air was clear of smog and the sun was shining for the majority of the day. The hike starts easily enough and despite being a bit overgrown there were a couple of signs to point us in the right direction up the valley. Before long though we had lost the trail as it crosses the Huai Mae Ton stream several times and we had to make our own trail up to the top of a small hill where we rejoined the path.
From here the going gets pretty tough with really steep rocky sections where some scrambling skills are required. A good head for heights is needed here as well as some balance skills as its very exposed with steep drops either side as you ascend. The views are gorgeous however and just got better and better as we slowly made our way towards the top of Doi Lanka Noi. The topography was quite unusual for what we were used to in Chiang Mai as there wasn’t much in the way of dense jungle, rather sporadic pine trees with long grass in between, feeling almost alpine.
We finally made it to a small golden stupa that sits on the summit of Doi Lanka Noi, an exposed area with few trees or plants and incredible panoramic views of the mountains and valleys in all directions. Unfortunately our mission to summit Doi Lanka Luang was cut short with a major shoe malfunction and so after some makeshift repairs using cable ties and string to hold the shoe together and with light fading we chose to head back down via a shorter loop. The way down offers amazing views of the huge cliff which makes the mountain so distinguishable and imposing.
It was tough concentrating on the narrow trail whilst enjoying the views and I kept on loosing my footing as I reached for my camera every 2 minutes. Eventually the trail leveled off as we made our way into the valley and the forest soon gave way to farm plots and plantations. The trail finally exited at Ban Kam Phang Hin which left us with a couple of kilometres to walk back to the coffee shop where we parked the car.
Head North East of Chiang Mai along the 118 highway before turning right onto the smaller 3005 road which heads towards the village of Mae Kampong. When you see signs for Dragon Flight zipline you take the left turn on the 4063 road which winds its way towards the 1252 road. At the junction you will take an almost immediate right turn which heads down a valley to a small village which is the starting point of the hike. A good landmark to start is Thepsadej coffee located here.
How to prepare
There are no restaurants in the village, they sell basic snacks in the coffee shop but nothing substantial so prepare in advance. They sell water though if you want to stock up here. The route we did was 15km, prepare at least 3 litres of water and take plenty of suncream as it is exposed. Take bug spray for the lower sections and there are leeches in the wet season so prepare accordingly. A walking stick is very handy for the steep ascent and descent to provide extra support and balance. Be prepared for inclement weather, it can be very warm at the bottom and chilly on the summit so take some rain gear and an extra top if its cold. The sharp stones are punishing on footwear, we would have been in trouble had it not been for the cable ties I always carry in my hiking bag. Duct tape comes in very handy as well for emergencies.
Trekking Companies in Chiang Mai
Of course we were only able to do this hike with our own transportation and gear. If you are interested in this hike there are trekking companies in Chiang Mai who can organize guided trips to Doi Lanka Luang. I recommend Active Thailand as they are one of the longest operating companies in the region, having been offering tours since 1991. Check out the Active Thailand trekking page here or leave a comment below with any questions or comments.