Hiking in the Mae Kampong Valley
Thanks to the delay in the monsoon season, the weather in Chiang Mai is perfect for hiking and to take advantage of this I recently drove up the Mae Kampong valley, an hour from Chiang Mai to check out some of trails suitable for hiking in the Mae Kampong valley.
The drive up the Mae Kampong valley is fantastic, with smooth curving roads snaking their way up between the mountains, passing small villages, farms and forest along the way. The last few km requires extra caution as it gets especially steep as you near Mae Kampong village, and the last 1 or 2km is especially steep and perhaps not to be driven up in wet conditions in a 2WD car.
I parked the car near the top of the pass at a ranger station bordering Chiang Mai and Lampang and from here took what looks like an old dirt forestry track on the left which heads uphill through some pine plantations. Occasionally I would get sneak peaks of what was to follow with breathtaking views of both provinces, with jungle clad mountains stretching out into the distance. After a few hundred metres the trail narrowed and veered off the main track, heading up towards the ridge of the mountain. It was quite overgrown but the trail was visible enough not to get lost and before I knew it I was on the summit of an exposed knife edge ridge with glorious panoramic views all around. The weather was just about holding, sporadic rain has tended to arrive in the afternoon recently and so I was expecting a downpour soon, I could see isolated showers in the distance but generally the skies remained blue with patches of cloud.
As I continued along the ridge, I started to see some interesting flora and fauna, with dozens of different mushroom species dotting the floor and hanging onto tree trunks. The trees were covered in thick moss, no doubt attributed to the micro climate at this altitude, which was in the region of 1,500m / 4,500ft and were slightly stunted due to the exposed position in which they grew. There were signs of perhaps deer with small hoof marks in the wed mud, although the only animals I came across in abundance were various insects and butterflies.
I continued along the ridge for a few km but due to failing light I turned back. I didn’t come across another person all afternoon so hiking in the Mae Kampong valley is perfect for those wanting to get away for some rare peace and quiet in Thailand. The trail stretched out beyond me and it would be possible to camp out overnight on one of the open areas, there were signs of camp fires on some of the exposed flat areas. With the incredible abundance of mountains and forests in the north, trekking in Northern Thailand would no doubt be one of the highlights of a visit to the region and I will return to explore the region in the near future.