Chiang Mai Burning Season

Mountain Biking in Chiang Mai During Burning Season

Mountain Biking in Chiang Mai During the Burning Season

Having only moved to Chiang Mai in December 2014 I was unaware just how bad the burning season was, from March until April a thick fog hangs over the city leaving a lingering smell of burning vegetation which not only burns the eyes but also makes you feel queezy if you exert yourself. Its hard to leave the bike gathering dust though so I thought I would venture out and go for a bike ride to the Buddha footprint, a few km from the Hmong village on Doi Suthep. I took a Songteaw from Huay Kaew Aboretum to sam yaek (3 junctions) just past Buping palace and set off down into the village. At this point the air was relatively clear, the PM levels in Chiang Mai were just over 100 according to and the visibility was 2km or so so riding didn’t feel any different to another day.

The trail behind the village is fun single track through the forest, it was clear the villagers make a concerted effort not to burn anything and any leaves cleared were done so with a rake to allow the plants to grow, I even saw 3 rangers patrolling the area looking for people lighting fires.

Buddha Footprint

Once I reached the ridge that leads up to the buddha footprint I could see the adjacent valley was alight and could hear the sound of crackling foliage burning so it was close to where I was standing. The rangers had reached this point by now and were taking photos, unfortunately there was little else they could do as so much of the hillside was alight. The smoke was rising up the hill and at this point the visibility was just a couple of hundred metres and it was harder to breathe.

Chiang Mai During Burning Season

I continued however as the trail would soon turn back into the national park and towards Huay Tung Tao so I thought it could only improve, however I soon ran into fire on the trail as it burned up one hillside. The heat was pretty intense and it was spreading fast so I decided not to continue on the same trail and turned back to follow the ridge in the opposite direction.

Burning Season in Chiang Mai

The trail was just as good heading West, the undergrowth had already been burned so the air was a little clearer and the single track was smooth and fast, eventually leading out near Ban Pong. I continued South following the road back past Wat Phra That Doi Kham and back into the city. My lungs felt quite tight so I am not sure mountain biking in Chiang Mai during the burning season is particularly healthy but I doubt being stuck indoors is any better and certainly far more boring!