Best Mountain Biking Near Bangkok? What Makes Khao Ito Stand Out From the Crowd
Another long weekend in Thailand in July meant that preparation for our next cycling trip began in earnest several weeks prior to the holiday. There are dozens of mountain biking trails near Bangkok but this time we decided go a bit further afield to a place called Khao Ito, generally considered the best mountain biking area near the capitol, and within range of one of my favourite places in Thailand, Khao Yai. We also thought we would take advance of the 3 day weekend and stay overnight to get the most of the trip. Khao Ito is just 2 hours from the city on a normal weekend, however long weekends generally mean an exodus of people going back to their home towns so 3 hours is more reasonable time if you are driving from Bangkok.
Having left Bangkok at 9am I was surprised how light the traffic was, not surprisingly this was not to last and by the time I reached Rangsit, North of Bangkok the traffic had slowed to a snails pace which was to last all the way past Lam Luk La. Fortunately though towards Nakon Naiyok it had cleared and I had reached my destination by midday. Khao Yai is usually packed on long weekends, but with fewer attractions in the South it was relatively quiet except for a few school groups and bikers. There are 2 reservoirs at Khao Ito, and nestled between the two is a nice Thai restaurant where bikers tend to start riding from. After a bit of lunch we set off on our ride at 1pm – perhaps not the best idea in 35+ degree heat but with the trail being no more than 15km and mostly under the forest canopy it was pretty comfortable riding. One of the best things about Khao Ito is how well the trails are defined and marked, generally trails get overgrown pretty quickly and getting smacked in the face by a branch or getting thorns embedded in your skin is all part of the experience, but Khao Ito has wide open and well worn trails, which are nigh on impossible to get lost on. We took the clockwise route, stopping every so often to take photos or to admire the views, the first few km is very gentle and good preparation for the climb to the top of the hill, which from the 10km point is pretty grueling. We chose to take the road from the 10km marker to the top, but there are off road trails all the way to the top which we did on day 2.
We had a 20 minute break on top, despite the road going all the way up there is not actually anything to see or any viewpoint so to avoid getting eaten alive by the mosquito’s we chose one of two downhills called the chicken run to the bottom. The downhills on Khao Ito are what sets this area out from the other mountain biking trails near Bangkok. Take 4km of windy single track, throw in some rock gardens, gravel, roots, jumps and drop offs and anyone will see why people consider Khao Ito as some of the best mountain biking in Thailand. The final 1 km is on farm / fire trails which led us back to the parking area at the restaurant and completed our first exhilarating run of the trip. With a few detours the total distance was 17km, you can see the trail on my Map My Ride page.
After some food and drinks we headed into the nearest town, Prachinburi to find some accommodation, whilst there are a few resorts near Khao Ito, it was a bit quiet and with the town only 10km away we found some very basic accommodation at a hotel called Sophia Hotel for 600THB per night. The price included WiFi and breakfast and a few English TV channels, but other than that there was little to recommend about the place.
The next day we headed back to Khao Ito to explore other trails, this time we left a little earlier so the temperature was around 30 degrees when we set off. Having done some research the night before, we decided to do an anti-clockwise route, going up the chicken run from the day before. After 2km I managed to lead us down the wrong trail to a farm so we had to do a small loop around the lake and start again (when I mention above that it is nigh on impossible to get lost in Khao Ito, that generally applies to everyone except me!) With that hiccup behind us we tried again and this time found the trail which is essentially 4km up hill to the summit. This is not as hard as it seems, as the trail is so compacted and relatively smooth, we were able to cycle most of it, with the exception of a few steep sections and rock beds where we had to push. Half way up the hill the heavens opened and we had a welcome respite from the hot weather. I have always loved biking in a tropical downpour, perhaps being from Wales it reminds me of home but for my cycling partner it was not so much fun so we took shelter in a bamboo grove until the rain passed.
Onwards and upwards, this time the trail had turned into a small stream and the mountain bikers we encountered going downhill were being very careful not to slip. The downhill route we chose this time is considered the more technical, probably summed up at the start with the 3ft drop off onto a rooted trail and surrounded by trees. Despite being egged on by several Thais we chickened out of the drop much to their disappointment, blaming the heavy downpour on making the jump impossible. Of course we were just not skillful enough but we were not deterred and continued down another fantastic downhill section. It was definitely more technical than the downhill from the day before, but no less fun, sections through the bamboo were just amazing with the vibrant green of the bamboo straddling the winding muddy trail. It was here I had my first and only off, as my riding partner suggested I go in front I hit a muddy patch and slid off. Thankfully the bamboo cushioned my fall so we were back on our way through a technical rock garden and winding single track through some young forest before emerging onto the main road. From here it was a repeat of the latter downhill section from the day before and we completed our slightly shorter run of 14km.