Doi Inthanon National Park

Table of Contents

Forests and mountains
Doi Inthanon summit from Mae Chaem

A short introduction to the Doi Inthanon National Park

The Doi Inthanon National Park is undoubtedly one of North Thailand’s most popular national parks. The park is about 70 km southwest of Chiang Mai. Doi Inthanon became a national park in 1954. It covers almost 500 square kilometers. The summit of the mountain is 2565 meters above sea level. The park is known for its biodiversity, prolific bird life as well as many different natural habitats. It is also a place of historical and cultural importance.

This is our favorite national park in Thailand and we offer many tours to this fantastic protected area that always surprises. 

Kew Mae Pan Trail Doi Inthanon Trekking
The Kew Mae Pan nature trail

Our Tours and Trekkings in the Doi Inthanon National Park

We offer many tours and trekkings in the Doi Inthanon National Park. The best sellers are our day tours: Doi Inthanon: Hiking the Nature Trails (only from November 1 until May 31) and Doi Inthanon: Mighty Waterfalls, Rural Life and Royal Chedis (the whole year). We now also offer a day trip that includes both the Kew Mae Pan and Pha Dok Siew Nature Trails: The Magnificent Nature Trails of Doi Inthanon (only from November 1 until May 31). These day tours include a fair amount of driving. From Chiang Mai to the summit of Doi Inthanon and back to Chiang Mai takes about four hours (approximately 108 km). 

There are a growing amount of places where you can spend the night but our favorite place is the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang. You can stay there either in a homestay or in a basic bungalow, depending on your preference. We recommend staying overnight in the this village because it is a wonderful experience and gives you enough time to enjoy the fantastic nature trails and lovely temperatures on the highest mountain of the country. We recommend the two-day trip The Ultimate Doi Inthanon Adventure – Dry Season, that features both fantastic nature trails. The rainy season variant of this program is The Karen People of Doi Inthanon.

Trekkings that start in Doi Inthanon National Park

We offer several multiple day trekkings that start in Doi Inthanon National Park and end in the Mae Wang National Park trekking area. You can choose between the two-day Waterfalls and Forests trekking, the three-day Forests and Tribal Culture and the four-day Explore the Forests and Waterfalls of Doi Inthanon National Park.

All these trekkings involve a visit to the summit of the mountain and then continue with “classic trekking”. Overnights are in different Karen villages along the route. There are many waterfalls in the Mae Wang area that are more suitable for swimming than the waterfalls on the Doi Inthanon. You are not allowed to swim in the Vachirathan and Pha Dok Siew waterfalls because it is too dangerous. For those who love to swim in waterfalls we designed the two-day trekking The Waterfalls of Mae Wang, during which you can bathe or swim in four different waterfalls. 

Tourism in the early days

Doi Inthanon has become very popular in recent years. In guidebooks of the 1960s, from Margaretta Wells and Roy Hudson, only the Mae Klang Waterfall is mentioned as a tourist attraction. I guess the road to the summit was not good enough. In the Lonely Planet Guide of  Thailand, which was published in 1981 the author Joe Cummings mentioned the Mae Klang Waterfall but not the mountain.

In the 1992 edition, however, Cummings devotes almost a page to Doi Inthanon and explains how to get there from Chiang Mai. For backpackers, who depended on public transportation, it was quite difficult and time-consuming. Therefore very few independent travelers probably made it to Doi Inthanon in those days. The only accommodation was the national park accommodation, which was difficult to book for independent travelers. I remember we used to organize two-day Doi Inthanon tours with an overnight in a Karen village. This was about 20 years ago, long before they established the Kew Mae Pan and Pha Dok Siew nature trails.

Vista on Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon vista

Tours to the Doi Inthanon National Park

Most people visit Doi Inthanon on a day tour. They visit the summit, hike the Angka Nature Trail, visit the two pagodas and then hike one of the two nature trails. The Vachirathan Waterfall is usually a stop as well as the Mae Klang Waterfall. A day tour from Chiang Mai involves a lot of driving, in total about 3,5 hours.

Normally you drive the same way back. If you are short on time, the day tour is certainly worthwhile. Both the trails are very nice and the falls are spectacular year-round. In the last couple of years, more accommodation has opened, especially in and around the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang. More people thus spend the night in the park and it is well worth it. 

Walkway in the forest Doi Inthanon
Walkway in the forest near the summit of Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon Trekking and tours in the forest

How to be prepared

You will go to an environment that is prone to unpredictable weather conditions. Even in the very hot dry season months March and April the weather on Doi Inthanon can be very different from where you started your trip, which is most likely Chiang Mai. In the rainy season, you can have blue skies and hot, sunny weather in Chiang Mai but on Doi Inthanon, it might be foggy and cold. Sometimes there is hardly any visibility near the summit. It can be very atmospheric and mystical. So be prepared and take a raincoat and a warm shirt with long sleeves with you if you go trekking on Doi Inthanon.

The trails and the right footwear

If you do hike one of the more popular trails such as Kew Mae Pan, Pha Dok Siew, or Angka you will not encounter that much difficulty: these trails are well maintained so fairly easy. If you go on one of our Doi Inthanon trekking tours it is different. There are trails but sometimes not maintained. You really need good hiking boots with a good grip. Depending on the tour the hiking becomes real jungle trekking. We usually don’t meet other trekkers on our Doi Inthanon trekking tours.

Kiw Mae Pan Nature Trail Doi Inthanon Tours
View from the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail

The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail

The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is the most popular Doi Inthanon trekking trail in the park. This trail is only open in the dry season from November 1 until May 31. It can become quite busy on this trail especially on weekends and holidays in the cool months of November, December and January. The Hmong people manage and maintain the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. If you want to hike the trail you will need to hire a guide from the Hmong community.

The view deck of the trail

The trail is well maintained and not difficult. You start hiking through the forest to the famous view deck, the ideal place for selfies and other pictures if the skies are clear. The most spectacular part is the stretch through open grassland that offers amazing views, unlike you will find anywhere else in the park. Hmong people cleared this area to grow opium, prior to the establishment of Doi Inthanon as a National Park.

A fantastic hike

After you have arrived at a point that offers great views of the two Royal Chedis it is back into the forest and back to the starting point. The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is a circular walk doable for everyone in reasonable shape. You can hike the trail in under two hours but take your time: it is really a fantastic hike. If you have time you should do the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail as well. It is very different.

viewpoint Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
The famous view deck of the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail on a beautiful day

The Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail

The Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail is the second most popular trail in Doi Inthanon National Park. This trail is open the whole year. The start of the trail is on the left side of the road between the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang and the Park headquarters. This trail is not a circular trail. It ends in the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang so you will need transportation to get back to the start of the walk unless you are on tour with us. From late October 2022 until March 2023 the trail has been closed for some major repair work on the bridges and stairs at the waterfall. 

Karen guides

Karen villagers from Ban Mae Klang Luang maintain and manage the trail. On the occasion of the coronation of King Mahavajiralongkorn, Rama X, a substantial amount of money has been invested in the trail. There are now explanatory signs along the trails. Many of the bamboo bridges and railings are new and very sturdy. At the start of the trail there are guides waiting to accompany you. That is in fact not necessary as the trail is clearly marked but it gives the villagers a bit of extra income. Taking a guide is compulsory.

Tribal woman at nature trail sign Pha Dok Siew Trail Doi Inthanon Green Season
A Karen guidesat the entrance of the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail

The Pha Dok Siew Waterfall

Almost all of this trail is down but that doesn’t make it an easy trail. The trail descends along the Pha Dok Siew Waterfall, which is in season absolutely awesome. Everyone in reasonable shape can do this hike but you need to wear good shoes. There are some great views over the mountains and rice fields along the way. You can do this trail easily in under two hours but take your time and enjoy the force of nature. The trail ends in Ban Mae Klang Luang where they serve great village-grown coffee. There are also some small restaurants in this Karen village.

The white-handed gibbons

According to the guides, there are two families of White-handed gibbons living not far from the trail. There is a slim chance you will see them but you might hear their characteristic calls in the morning. This trail is more hiking than Doi Inthanon trekking. It is the second most popular hike but we think it is at least as interesting as the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. These trails complement each other: the Kew Mae Pan has fantastic views, Pha Dok Siew has thundering waterfalls. In our Ultimate Doi Inthanon tour, you will hike

Doi Inthanon Pha Dok Siew waterfall Pha Dok Siew Trail
Pha Dok Siew waterfall

The Angka Nature Trail

The Angka Nature Trail is a short trail just under the summit of Doi Inthanon. It is very interesting because the vegetation is very different from that of the Kew Mae Pan and Pha Dok Siew nature trails. The Angka Nature Trail is the trail at the highest elevation in the park. The mossy forest is extremely lush with beautiful ferns. It is a very easy hike mostly with wooden walkways. In the rainy season it can become very spooky and cold up there.

Ferns on Angka Nature Trail Doi Inthanon
Ferns on the Angka Nature Trail

Fantastic Doi Inthanon Trekking

Doi Inthanon National Park is ideally suited for multiple-day trekkings. There are villages where visitors hardly set foot and the forest is superb. I have done several treks in the past and didn’t meet any other people, apart from local villagers. There a numerous great trails with fantastic views. The above-mentioned trails are all great but made available and suitable for the general public. Local people maintain them which is a good thing.

The forest trails of Doi Inthanon though are more adventurous and challenging. Only local villagers use them so we sometimes have cut our way through the vegetation. Your guide always carries a large knife for this purpose. We offer two-day and three-day trekking that most people in reasonable shape are able to enjoy. 

Join-in trekking
Trekking on Doi Inthanon

What more has Doi Inthanon to offer?

Doi Inthanon National Park has fantastic waterfalls, tribal villages, great forest trails, a very interesting Royal Project, amazing views, rice paddies, and more. Most visitors book a Doi Inthanon day tour but it is worth spending an overnight on the mountain. There are more and more small lodges and homestays to choose from. Doing a Doi Inthanon day tour from Chiang Mai still involves approximately four hours of driving on the day. If you are really into trekking you should take at least two days. We offer great Doi Inthanon trekking tours.

Rice terraces and forests
The great rice fields of Doi Inthanon

The best waterfalls on Doi Inthanon

Vachirathan Waterfall

The Vachirathan or Wachirathan Waterfall is the most popular waterfall on Doi Inthanon. It is close to the main road, has a large parking facility and coffee shops and restaurants. It is an impressive and really thundering waterfall. There is a good trail on the left of the falls that allows you to hike up to the top of the falls. This trail ends at the main road. Everyone visiting Doi Inthanon stops at the Vachirathan Waterfall, a must-see site.

Vachirathan Waterfall with rainbow Doi Inthanon National Park forests Doi Inthanon
The Vachirathan Waterfall

Beautiful Mae Ya waterfall

Visitors on a Doi Inthanon day tour usually skip this waterfall. The Mae Ya waterfall is not on the main road to the summit of Doi Inthanon. Visiting these falls will take at least two hours and there simply is not enough time if you go for a Doi Inthanon day tour. The Mae Ya Waterfall is very impressive. The water splashes down along a rock wall. You can’t swim at the Mae Ya falls.

Mae Ya waterfall

Mae Pan and Huay Sai Lueang Waterfalls

These waterfalls are off the beaten tourist track. People on a day tour from Chiang Mai usually don’t have the time to visit the Mae Pan and Huay Sai Lueang waterfalls. They are about 1km off the main road no.109 to Mae Chaem. The Huay Sai Lueang waterfall is easily accessible. To get to the Mae Pan waterfall you have to follow a trail through the forest. This trail can be tricky in the rainy season. The Mae Pan waterfall is the highest waterfall in the park.

Waterfall in the jungle
Huay Sai Lueang Waterfall

Elegant Pha Dok Siew Waterfall

The Pha Dok Siew Waterfall, also sometimes spelled Pha Dok Sieo, is a rather narrow, long outstretched cascade close to road no.1009. It gave its name to the nature trail that starts at the falls and ends at the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang. This waterfall features in our “Waterfalls” Doi Inthanon day tour.

Big waterfall in a forest Baan Mae Klang Luang
Pha Dok Siew waterfall

The lovely Sirithan Waterfall

This small but beautiful waterfall is on the left side of road no.1009 if you come from Chom Thong. Many people don’t bother to stop at the Sirithan Waterfall but we think it is worth it, especially in the rainy season.

Waterfall in the forest
Sirithan Waterfall

The popular Mae Klang Waterfall

The Mae Klang Waterfall, named after the Mae Klang river, is right at the entrance of the national park. It is very popular with local people and there are lots of food stalls and restaurants. You have to walk to the main waterfall, a bit further from the parking lot and the food stalls. It is really a nice waterfall and one of the few where you can swim.

This is until the 1970s, before the establishment of the national park, the only waterfall tourists visited. Margarett Wells mentions the falls in her 1962 guidebook.

Waterfall at Doi Inthanon National Park Green Season waterfalls

Hudson’s guide to Chiang Mai

Roy Hudson wrote in his Hudson’s guide to Chiang Mai and the North (1971) the following: “There is only one waterfall worth of the name within easy reach of Chiang Mai, and that is the Mae Klang Waterfall,..” (..)Leave Chiang Mai by the Chiang Mai Gate and Hot Road and drive south through San Pa Tong village. Before entering the town of Chom Thong, turn right at Km 57.4 along a motorable track leading to the waterfalls 9 kms distant (Route 1009), These falls are reputed to be 300 ft high, but the main fall has only a 70 ft vertical drop. Be cautious in choosing a vantage point from which to take photos, as accidents have been known to occur here in the past.”

The picture of Boonserm

There are very few old pictures of Doi Inthanon and of the Mae Klang Waterfall. The late and legendary Chiang Mai photographer Boonserm Satrabhaya took the below picture in 1952. You can find many of his photos on the website of Chiang Mai University Library. 

Waterfall on old picture
Mae Klang Waterfall in 1952. Boonserm Satrabhaya took this photo in 1952.

Siriphum Waterfall

The Siriphum Waterfall (Siribhum Waterfall) is a bit out of the way of the tourist trail. You can see these impressive falls from afar. It cascades down from a high cliff above the Hmong village Baan Khun Klang. To get close to this waterfall you have to enter the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon in Baan Khun Klang. This Royal Project is very much worth a visit. You can take a walking trail to the foot of the mountain.

It is a paved and flat trail. The walk takes about 15 minutes. The trail takes you through a forest of tree ferns which is really nice. It ends at a small waterfall. There is water all around you. A steep and difficult trail can take you to the upper level of the Siriphum Waterfall. It is a challenging trail in the rainy season.

greenhouses with waterfall
Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon with Sriphum Falls in the background

The tribal villages in the park

Doi Inthanon became the first national park in northern Thailand in 1972.  Within the boundaries of the park, there were at least 30 villages, most of them inhabited by people of the Karen and Hmong ethnic minorities. There are also 14 Thai communities living within 5 km of the boundaries of the park. There are more Karen than Hmong villages but this is just my personal impression.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej initiated the Royal Project in 1979 on Doi Inthanon. The Hmong seems to have been the beneficiaries of the Royal Project, more so than the Karen. They used to grow opium and now grow cash crops such as cabbage, cut flowers, fruit, peaches, avocados. The Karen only grow coffee.

Two women in a ricefield
Karen women in a good mood

The Karen people on Doi Inthanon

Over 200 years ago, Karen tribesmen started to settle in today’s park area, particularly at lower elevations, to pursue their traditional subsistence rice farming. In January 1906 on the way to the summit of Doi Inthanon Carl Curt Hosséus visits a Karen village, called Ban Khunkoh 1.

The account of Kerr

In his account of his 1921 trip Kerr mentions the village Ban Nong Lom, which he spells as Ban Nawn Lom: “Soon after the main path along the Me Kang was left and a branch path to the right taken, this led to the fairly new Karen village, Ban Nawn Lom, conveniently situated for the last part of the ascent of Angka.”2

He described Ban Nong Lom as follows: “Ban Lawng Lom is a small village of about 20 houses, the Karens inhabiting it belonging, apparently, to the Sgaw division of the race.”3 There are many Karen villages in the Doi Inthanon/Mae Wang area. During our multiple day Doi Inthanon trekking programs you will stay overnight in Karen villages.

View of rice terraces and mountains Doi Inthanon trekking
View from the homestay in the Karen village

Baan Mae Klang Luang

After the government declared the area a national park they were allowed to stay there. The most visited Karen village is Baan Mae Klang Luang. The Karen of this village manages the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail. This fantastic nature trail, which is open year round ends in this village. There are some very nice rice fields around this village and, besides homestays, there are some basic but nice bungalows in Baan Mae Klang Luang. For groups and individuals we use the homestay of Khun Juluko, which is in a quiet part of the village with some lovely views.

The village has become very well known for its coffee. There are at least five coffee producers in the village. The arabica coffee plants grow in the forests around the village.

Terrace with view
View of the restaurant of Mae Klang Luang Hills bungalows

Other Karen villages

Besides Baan Nong Lom and Baan Mae Klang Luang two other Karen villages Baan Phamon and Baan Angka Noi joined and formed a local organization called “Baan Mae Klang Luang Tourism Alliance” in 1999. The alliance was meant to operate as a community-based tourism business. Objectives were to provide supplementary income to the villagers and to reduce illegal use of forest resources, especially land encroachment and hunting for wild animals

They also wanted to provide genuine knowledge about the Karen people and rectify any misunderstandings among outsiders about the Karen people and build environmental awareness of the local Karen people and visitors.

Rice fields and mountains
Rice terraces of Ban Nonglom in the rainy season

The Hmong people on Doi Inthanon

Hmong people moved into the area about 80 years ago and established settlements at higher elevations. When Kerr made his last expedition to Doi Inthanon in 1921 there is no mention of Hmong villages on or close to the mountain. Today there are several thousand Hmong and Karen living in villages that are situated within the park boundaries.

Rather than moving the hilltribe people from the national park, his Majesty King Bhumibol initiated projects to stop them from their slash-and-burn practices and from growing opium. In the framework of the Inthanon Royal Project, hill tribe people now grow vegetables, flowers, coffee, and fruits apart from their staple foods such as rice. The Hmong people sell their vegetables at the Khun Klang Hmong Market. They also maintain and manage the famous Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail.

local Hmong guide Doi Inthanon waterfalls
Local Hmong guide on the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail

Baan Khun Klang

There are several Hmong villages in the Doi Inthanon National Park. The most visited is Baan Khun Klang which is close to the headquarters and the visitor center of the national park. This village is also the location of the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon and the Royal Garden Siriphum (Siribhum).  Another Hmong village, Khun Wang, is located about 15 km further down road 4016 or 1284.

This village is the location of the Khun Wang Royal Project Development Center and the Royal Agricultural Research Center. You need to stay overnight on the mountain to be able to visit these interesting places. There is accommodation as well. The Hmong people are the main beneficiaries of the Royal Projects. Ban Khun Klang is popular for its Cherry Blossom trees (Sakura) that blossom in January and February.

Sea of Clouds Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon Sea of Clouds

More wonderful places of interest

The Royal Chedis

The two Royal Chedis stand on the left side of road no.1009, leading to the summit of Doi Inthanon. One is called Naphamethinidon, which means ‘by the strength of the land and air’. It was built in honor of the 60th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX in 1987.

The second is called Naphaphonphumisiri, meaning ‘being the strength of the air and the grace of the land’. This chedi was built in honor of the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1992. These two chedis are very popular with local tourists and offer fine views of the mountains.

View on two Royal Chedis on Doi Inthanon
Two Royal Chedis on Doi Inthanon. View from the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail.

Khun Klang Hmong Market

The Khun Klang Hmong Market is close to the National Park headquarters. The Hmong people of the Khun Klang and Khun Wang villages used to grow opium until the King initiated his famous Royal Project on Doi Inthanon in 1979.

The Hmong people sell fruits and vegetables from their fields but also other products that have been imported from Chiang Mai. The market attracts a lot of tourists and is a great source of income for the Hmong people. I always buy lots of avocado at this market.

Woman sleeping Doi Inthanon Hmong Market
Doi Inthanon Hmong Market

The Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon

In 1979 King Bhumibol Adulyadej initiated the foundation of the Inthanon Royal Research Station. The Hmong and, to a lesser degree, the Karen tribal people cultivated opium on the mountain. Their agricultural practices were also destroying the forest on the mountain, which is the watershed of the lowlands. The objective of this station was to introduce alternative cash crops to the tribal people as a substitute for opium.

The King renames the project

In 2007 the King honored the project by renaming it the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon. The station occupies a large area. It contains a Fern House, an Ornamental Plant House, a Herbivores Plant House, accommodation, a Royal Project shop that serves locally grown coffee. We highly recommend visiting this Royal Agricultural Station as you can also walk through a tree fern forest to the foot of the Siriphum (Siribhumi) Waterfall. It is a wonderful place of much importance to especially the Hmong people.

Fern trees
Tree fern forest on Doi Inthanon

Flora and Fauna of Doi Inthanon

Below the elevation of 1000 meters deciduous dipterocarp forest, bamboo deciduous forests and mixed deciduous forests are prevalent on Doi Inthanon. These forests are typical of the lowlands of northern Thailand. Evergreen forests with woody lianas and epiphytes can be found near the summit. Epiphytes include bright green ferns and mosses, dangling lichens and orchids and other flowering plants. Some very beautiful parasitic plants grow amongst the leaf litter. The Sapria Himalayana, family of the Rafflesia flower, is a good example.

With a bird list of 386 confirmed species Doi Inthanon National Park is Thailand’s premier birdwatching site. The park’s wide range of elevations, the variety of habitats and strategic position on migration routes are the reasons for Doi Inthanon’s diversity of birdlife. The Thaibirding website offers great information on the birdlife of Doi Inthanon National Park.

colorful bird
Birdlife on Doi Inthanon

A bit of history of Doi Inthanon

Where did the name Doi Inthanon come from?

German botanist Carl Curt Hosseus wrote, “The plan was to ascent Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain of Siam. The officials had, according to what they said, neither a good map of the region nor did they even know the name of the mountain”. The mountain was known to local people as Doi Angka Luang.

The British expert on map-making, James McCarthy, gave the mountain the name Inthanon in honor of Chao Inthavichayanon (1817-1897), the 7th king of Chiang Mai. The king wanted his ashes to remain on Doi Angka. His daughter Princess Dara Rasmi (sometimes spelled Dara Rasamee) ordered a stupa to be constructed near the summit where the ashes of the king were deposited. After that, they renamed the mountain officially Doi Inthanon after King Inthawichayanon, the 7th ruler of Chiang Mai.

Shrine in the mossy forest Doi Inthanon Doi Angkhang
The shrine for King Inthawichayanon at the summit of Doi Inthanon

The first exploration of Doi Inthanon by Carl Curt Hosseus

Doi Inthanon National Park is about 70 km southwest of Chiang Mai. It takes about 1,5 hours to drive from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon. The Thai government declared Doi Inthanon a national park in 1972. It covers 482 square kilometers. The park is also nicknamed “The Roof of Thailand”. The park is known for its extraordinary richness in biodiversity and its wide range of different natural habitats.

The Highest Peak

It includes the highest peak in the country. With its cool climate all year round, it is considered one of the most popular recreation areas in the country. The National Park, moreover, is a place of historical and cultural importance. It has now become one of the main tourist destinations in Chiang Mai province. Especially in the cold season, it attracts many visitors on Doi Inthanon tours.

Carl Curt Hosseus, the first western visitor

Who was the first western visitor to explore the “Roof of Thailand”? The first report of a foreigner trekking to the summit of Doi Inthanon dates back to 1906. It was the German botanist Dr. Carl Curt Hosseus (1878 – 1950) who visited North Thailand in the years 1904-1906. It was the first botanical exploration of Northern Thailand. White Lotus published his book Through King Chulalongkorn’s Kingdom (1904-1906): The First Botanical Exploration of Northern Thailand”. The first English translation dates back to 2012.

Tourists on Doi Inthanon view deck Green Trails Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon view deck

Why are there no big animals in Doi Inthanon National Park?

Doi Inthanon once was home to large mammals such as elephants, tigers, serow, and leopards. Also, the assam macaque and white-handed gibbons seem to have been prevalent. Until the 1950s elephants, tigers, and wild buffaloes seem to have been around. The Hmong people were scared of the tigers because they killed their horses. Tigers also attacked people.

There are probably deer and some small mammals still living in the park in the wild. There might be monkeys but I have never seen wildlife in Doi Inthanon National Park. On July 26, 2021, park rangers released a number of barking deer and white-backed pheasants into the wild. These animals came from the wildlife breeding center in Omkoi, south of Doi Inthanon. Pictures of this event appeared on the Facebook page of the National Park. Below are some pictures, courtesy of the park.

Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam

Arthur Francis George Kerr (1877-1942) and Henry Burton Guest Garrett (1872-1959) co-wrote the article “Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam“, which was published in the Journal of the Siam Society in 1925. It is a very interesting article about the different expeditions that went up the mountain, starting with the first expedition of Hosseus. More about him later.

Henry Burton Guest Garrett and the goral

Garret went up the mountain in 1910 and spotted many  gorals: “Goral, a kind of wild goat, were very plentiful on the rocky ground around the Pa Ngêm: their color, a prevailing light grey with white feet and throat, the head being somewhat darker, blended wonderfully with the rocks, which were covered with patches of lichen.” 

The goral is a kind of mountain goat, native to mountainous regions of China, India, and mainland Southeast Asia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the goral as a vulnerable species. Thai researchers conducted a study on the ecology of goral from May 1996 through July 1997 in the Om Koi Wildlife Sanctuary, where it is not yet extinct. This wildlife sanctuary is about 200 km south of Doi Inthanon National Park.

Two goats in the mountains
Nemorhaedus griseus arnouxianus aka Chinese goral. Picture by ML5 at Wikipedia project

Kerr’s expedition to Doi Inthanon in 1921

Kerr went up the mountain in April-May 1921. He mentions a “hot-weather elephant camp” in charge of the Kamu people but there were also wild elephants and wild buffaloes. Kerr and Garrett mention “the evergreen was very dense but fortunately there was a good path made by wild elephants, which continued for some time in the right direction. It was evident from the appearance of the tracks that the elephants had not been on the path for some weeks.”

A bit further they wrote: “At about 1900 metres another game path was struck, this time made by kating (Krating aka gaur: wild buffalo) and rhinoceros; the krating tracks were, according to the Karen guide, quite fresh, made that morning but no rhinoceros had been along since the previous day.”


Map of Doi Inthanon
Sketch Map of Doi Angka. From: Doi Angka, the highest mountain in Siam, by: A.F.G.Kerr and Henry Burton Guest Garrett, 1925.

Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros

Both the Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros were once found in Thailand’s forests. It is possible that these species roamed the forests of North Thailand in the 1920s. Up to the early 60s they were sighted in the forests on the Thai-Burma border, according to a report from 1963 by Boonsong Lekagul, the “Father of Nature Conservation” in Thailand. Now they are probably extinct.

The goral of Doi Inthanon

During another expedition they spotted quite a number of gorals: “as the party approached one rock a fine male goral was seen lying on it…” (….) “Later on, about the rocks near the top, quite a number of these animals were seen and a kid was shot. The skin of this animal was sent to the British Museum but it was too young for a definite determination to be made.” 4 With the hiltribe population on Doi Inthanon most large animals were bound to disappear through hunting and so they did.

Doi Inthanon tree with Ferns and mosses
Ferns and forest on the Angka Nature Trail

The father of Thai botany

The Irish botanist Arthur F.G.Kerr wrote about his expeditions to the mountain in 1922. He still used the name Doi Angka. He wrote: “Doi Angka lies about 57 kilometres in a direct line to the Southwest of Chiengmai (old spelling of Chiang Mai) and can be readily seen on a clear day from that city, but better still from the ricefields to the south of the town where an uninterrupted view is obtained of the whole massif.

In the old days when people travelled by river, Angka was a conspicuous object for several days before reaching Chiengmai and many longing looks were cast at it. Though it overtops all the other mountains in the vicinity it does not give the idea of great height, no doubt because the slopes, as seen from the East, are gradual and rise slowly to a rather rounded top.”


Group of people long time ago
Christmas 1905 meet at the Gymkhana Club, Chiang Mai. Sitting on the right is Arthur Francis George Kerr

A view on Doi Angka from Chiang Mai

That Doi Angka was visible from Chiang Mai is proven by below picture. Bank manager Edward Walter Hutchinson made it in November 1939 from the office of the Siam Bank in Chiang Mai. This is now the location of the British Council, east of the Ping River. Doi Inthanon is still visible from Chiang Mai on clear days.

Old picture of rice field and mountain

My commitment to Doi Inthanon National Park

I live in Chiang Mai so Doi Inthanon is not far. I go there often, have done multiple walks and trekkings and stayed overnight in the park. It is one of my favorite national parks in Thailand. Most people visit the park on a day tour but I recommend to spend the night at the Karen village Baan Mae Klang Luang. Doi Inthanon National Park is also a great place to start a multiple day trekking. There are about 30 villages in the park where you can spend the night. We can take on trails where you will not meet anyone else, except local people. There are numerous villages that never see tourists. Join us discovering the best national park of North Thailand!

Man in front of a waterfall
Frans at the Pha Dok Siew Waterfall

References for Doi Inthanon National Park

  • Margaretta Wells, Guide to Chiang Mai, Bangkok, 1962.
  • Roy Hudson, Hudson’s guide to Chiang Mai, 1972, Chiang Mai
  • Steve Elliot and Gerald Cubitt, National Parks and Other Wild Places of Thailand, New Holland, 2002
  • Carl Curt Hosséus, Through King Chulalongkorn’s Kingdom (1904-1906): The First Botanical Exploration of Northern Thailand, White Lotus, Chiang Mai, 2002
  • A.F.G. Kerr and Henry Burton Guest Garrett,  “Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam”, Journal of the Siam Society in 1925.
  • Philip Dearden, Surachet Chettamart, Dachanee Emphandu & Noppawan Tanakanjana:  National parks and hill tribes in northern Thailand: A case study of Doi Inthanon, 1995
  • Megan Youdelis, The Contradictory Nature of Market-Oriented Conservation: Ecotourism in Northern Thailand, Toronto, 2012
Tourists trekking on Kew Mae Pan Trail Doi Inthanon
Trekking through the cloud forest of the Kew Mae Pan Trail
  1. p.164-173 Carl Curt Hosséus, Through King Chulalongkorn's Kingdom (1904-1906): The First Botanical Exploration of Northern Thailand
  2. Garrett, H.B.G. and Kerr, A.F.G., "Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam", in Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 19, no. 1. P.9
  3. Garrett, H.B.G. and Kerr, A.F.G., "Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam", in Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 19, no. 1. P.10
  4. Garrett, H.B.G. and Kerr, A.F.G., "Doi Angka: the highest mountain in Siam", in Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 19, no. 1. P.18