Mountain trail with beautiful view
Doi Inthanon Kew Mae Pan Trail

Doi Inthanon Tours and Trekkings

We have been offering Doi Inthanon Tours and Trekkings for many years. Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand. Doi Inthanon Tours and Trekkings have become more and more popular over the years. In the cold season, especially hordes of local tourists drive up to the summit of the mountain. 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.

King Inthawichayanon of Chiang Mai

“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 honour of Chao Inthavichayanon (1817-1897), the 7th king of Chiang Mai. The king wanted his ashes to remain on Doi Angka. His daughter Chao Dararasamee let a stupa be constructed near the summit where the ashes of the king were deposited. They renamed the mountain Doi Inthanon after King Inthawichayanon, the 7th ruler of Chiang Mai.

Shrine in the mossy forest
The Shrine of King Inthawichayanon near the summit

The expedition of Carl Curt Hosseus

Hosseus’ expedition was composed of twenty-two Laotian porters with one local leader, one chief, two Shan men, two policemen, an interpreter, cook and a boy. In total there were 32 people. To describe the expedition goes a bit too far. Just read the book. He describes passing through the villages of Sanpatong and Mae Wang. There were already Karen villages on the slopes of Doi Inthanon.

“Before sunrise, we started breaking up the camp, so that we could start marching with the sun coming up in yellow splendour. We had camped at the height of about two thousand meters with a minimum temperature of 7,9 degrees Celsius. After a few hours marching, we approached the spurs of the summit. A delightful view of the Mae Ping, the hazy plain and the northeastern mountains opened through the trees.”

Hosseus was determined to camp on the highest point. “To find it was not a small undertaking. The entire Doi Anka Luang is covered with dense jungle and orientation is very difficult,….”. Finally, he found the summit which he named the “Richthofen Peak” after a man called Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen“. Giving names to mountains and other places was normal in colonial days.

Hosseus wanted to stay a few more days on the summit but decided against it. The lack of potable water was a problem for the members of the expedition. “Besides, the nights were, at least for my people, freezing. They could not sleep for a moment despite several great fires we made around the camp.” The minimum temperature was close to zero.

tree with Ferns and mosses
Ferns and forest.

Doi Inthanon becomes a National Park

Doi Inthanon and its surroundings were declared the country’s sixth National Park on October 2, 1972, in order to protect the forests around the mountain. The park is known for its extraordinary richness in biodiversity and its wide range of different natural habitats. 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 of 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.

Kerr, 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.”

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 fields and mountain
View on Doi Angka from Chiang Mai, November 1939. Picture by Edward Walter Hutchinson, courtesy of View on Doi Angka from Chiang Mai. Photograph Collection 28 of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Below is a picture of the summit of Doi Inthanon taken from Mae Chaem.

Forest with mountains in the clouds
The summit from Mae Chaem

The Karen 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. After the government declared the area a national park they were allowed to stay there. You can read more about the Karen people here. The most visited Karen village is Baan Mae Klang Luang. The Karen of this village manage the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail. This nice trail ends in this village. The trail is open the whole year. 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. The village is famous for its coffee as well.

rice fields Pha Dok Siew vista
Pha Dok Siew nature trail

The Hmong on Doi Inthanon

Hmong people moved into the area about 100 years ago and established settlements at higher elevations. Today there are several thousand Hmong and Karen living in villages which 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, hilltribe people now grow vegetables, flowers, coffee and fruits apart from their staple foods such as rice. The Hmong people sell their vegetables at the Royal Project Market. As said, Baan Mae Klang Luang is famous for its coffee.

Kew Mae Pan Trail

As a result of man-made destruction in the past (and less so at present), the Park contains disturbed areas and secondary vegetation. Lower montane oak forests have been interpreted as being the result of human impact. Also, grassland areas, such as that along the Kew Mae Pan Trail, are probably due to forest clearing by hilltribe people prior to the establishment of Doi Inthanon as a National Park. The Hmong people manage the Kew Mae Pan Trail. If you want to hike the trail you will need to hire a guide from the Hmong community. The trail is only open in the dry season from November 1 until May 31.

Here is an overview of the Doi Inthanon Tours and Trekkings we offer: