Motorbiking Doi Suthep

Motorbiking in Chiang Mai – An Beginners Offroad Trip to Doi Suthep Pui National Park

Motorbiking in Chiang Mai is an amazing way to see the local environment, explore areas generally inaccessible to tourists and for freedom to see more of the area than relying on public transportation. It was for these reasons that A friend and I recently rented an off road motorbike to explore the Doi Pui Suthep National park, the most famous attraction in Chiang Mai which looms over the city covering an area of 265 km². The park is perfect for motorbiking in Chiang Mai, with a myriad of dirt trails, single track, hmong villages, temples and stunning vistas. Forest on Doi Pui Suthep generally consists of evergreen at higher altitudes above 1000m and deciduous forest at lower elevation. The park is famous for having nearly 2000 species of ferns and flowering plants, it also has nearly 300 species of birds and a number of mammal species making the area a nature lover’s paradise.

Off Road Biking in Chiang MaiStart of the trail heading up from Huay Tung Tao lake

We rented our motorbikes from Tony’s Big Bikes inside the old town, choosing them for being one of the longest established and trustworthy names for motorbike rentals in Chiang Mai. We opted for the Honda CRF250L which was more than enough for the slog up the steep and slippery hills, and at 1200 THB for the day inclusive of insurance and all protective clothing we thought that was a fantastic deal. There are plenty of other reputable shops for motorbike rentals in Chiang Mai so it’s worth shop around for one you feel comfortable with.

We hit the road leaving Tony’s at 9am and headed to Huay Tung Tao lake, several km north of the city and upon reaching the lake we headed up a dirt trail up the mountain. Despite the recent rain the lower section of the trail was in good condition so we made good progress heading up the mountain, stopping every so often for photos of the glorious views of Chiang Mai. We soon reached the small Hmong village of Baan Khun Chang Khian nestled towards the summit of Doi Pui at around 1500m in altitude. There is little to see here other than some quaint coffee shops and some traditional houses but it is a pleasant place to stop for a break and relax in the cooler temperatures found at this altitude.

Off Road Motorbiking Doi SuthepPutting the Honda CRF250L through it’s paces towards the summit

We were soon on our way, heading towards our target of reaching the summit of Doi Pha Klong, a little known but beautiful mountain ridge adjacent to the highest summit in the park, Doi Pui which is 1685m high. Doi Pha Klong is also known as Buddha footprint and is a popular hike or mountain bike trail for locals. The trails deteriorated as we got higher and higher and what were wet but sticky trails towards the bottom turned into treacherous slick mud trails towards the top. Even with knobbly tyres it was like being on ice as progress slowed to a crawl and enduring a couple of falls. Thankfully a farmer came to our rescue to fix a bent gear leaver after one fall, without whom we would have been stuck. Thankfully though we finally made it to the top and celebrated with some tomato soup and fresh coffee thanks to my trusty jetboil cooker. From the summit there are panoramic views looking east and west with steep valleys either side. The moody clouds sweeping in from below made for an even more dramatic backdrop.

Motorbiking in Chiang MaiNear the summit of Doi Pha Klong / Buddha footprint

We dropped into the valley to the west which was perhaps the point that I realized I wasn’t a good enough biker for the terrain we were on, and after my 3rd fall which left me with a badly burned leg from the exhaust I was starting to wish I was back on the road. Thankfully though it wasn’t far to another Hmong village called Mae Sa Mai which looked stunning looking down onto the village and beyond. From here the road was paved all the way to the 1096 highway which is part of the popular Samoeng loop, which circles Doi Suthep Pui national park. With a few hours of daylight to spare we decided to have a bite to eat at the popular tourist attraction of Mon Jam, a few kilometers climb up more paved road. This area is popular for locals as well as tourists with stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside and farms dotted around the hillside. Despite being very developed it made for a nice stop to get some food before heading back to Chiang Mai.

Mon JamThe tourist attraction of Mon Jam makes for a nice place for lunch

Motorbiking in Chiang Mai was an amazing experience, there are endless trails to explore to suit all abilities. Whilst motorbiking in the rainy season was perhaps not such a good decision for my level, more experienced riders would no doubt be able to handle the conditions with no problem but if you’re travelling and not familiar with the area I would recommend only doing it in the dry season and perhaps going with a guide. Many of the trails are used by farmers and often end up as dead ends, some trails are used by hunters or once upon a time used by opium growers in the mountains and so without being familiar with them it is easy to end up completely lost and without a phone signal which is sporadic in the park.

Have a question or comment about motorbiking in Chiang Mai? Feel free to leave in the comments section below!