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Hiking on the Roof of Thailand
The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is without a doubt the most popular trail in Doi Inthanon National Park. The Hmong people from the nearby Baan Khun Klang community maintain and manage the trail. They also work as guides. The trail is very clearly marked and easy to find on your own. Taking a guide, however, is compulsory and provides the local Hmong people with some extra income.
These guides are not professional and most of them don’t speak English or only a little bit. The trail is open only in the dry season, from November 1 until May 31. It opens at 0600 and they allow the last visitors to start the trail at 1600. The Doi Inthanon National Park opens at 0530 so if you enter the park at that time you will be able to start the trail at 0600. It would be better to spend the night before in the park, for instance at the bungalows in the Karen village Baan Mae Klang Luang.
The start of the trail is between the two Royal Chedis and the summit of the mountain. It is clearly marked. There is a huge parking lot and several small shops.
History of the Trail
Development of tourism in the Doi Inthanon National Park only happened in the last 20-30 years. The 1992 edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook Thailand, A Travel Survival Kit offers a page of information about the park, the waterfalls, and about “getting there & away.” The Forest Service bungalows near the park headquarters were the only accommodation available in the park and cost from 300 to 1000 THB per night.
The Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon, the chedi the Royal Thai Air Force constructed to commemorate the king’s 60th birthday in 1989, was already there. I assume, therefore, that the road was in fairly good condition. Times have changed. Around 1999 they opened the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. The Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail, managed by the Karen People of Baan Mae Klang Luang, was established in 2006, according to our information. These two trails have attracted a growing amount of visitors as they are fairly easy and short trails. Each trail only takes about 1,5 to 2 hours at a relaxed pace.
References for the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
I have hiked the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail several times and try to do that at least once a year to check if there are changes or something else I should know. I consulted the Thailand, Travel Survival Kit guidebook to learn about the history of tourism to Doi Inthanon.