Being close to nature is a great way to relax, recharge your batteries and connect with yourself. Since I was a girl, I simply love it! Nowadays, working a long time in front of a computer screen, going into nature has become even more essential for me. That's why I always find (and explore) some trails and waterfalls around. In this world, amazing places are always somewhere...
For those who love nature, Chiang Mai is a city that can't be missed if you're visiting Thailand. Located in the north, the fourth largest city in the country is surrounded by mountains and a lot of nature. So, there are plenty of trails and waterfalls in Chiang Mai for you to explore... Living there for a year, I haven't stopped making the most of hiking! Temples, elephants, and cooking classes move local tourism. However, if you are going to visit Chiang Mai, I highly recommend escaping from the traditional routes and go to the mountains!
Check out some tips on trails and waterfalls in Chiang Mai that are not to be missed!
Trails and waterfalls in Chiang Mai: what do you need to know?
Most of the waterfalls located around Chiang Mai have free entrance. The trails are mapped and signposted, so there is no need for a guide to explore the trails and waterfalls that I indicate in this post.
However, in case you don't feel safe, or even don't want to hike alone, there are several local packages with guides that include waterfalls and trails. At the end of this post, I indicate the Fellowtraveler. Thee tours are organized by Waranya, which is a local Thai lady that loves nature. She loves trails and knows many waterfalls (including the most hidden ones!) in the region.
Food in Southeast Asia is never a problem! Around the waterfalls, there are always stalls with food and fruits, cafes and several snacks available. Therefore, those who do not have any food restrictions, don't need to worry too much about bringing food.
Bringing repellent, sunscreen, towel and bathing clothes is always recommended. Also, be sure to collect your own garbage and enjoy your hike!
Huay Kaew Waterfall
Located at the base of the Doi Suthep, the mountain where Chiang Mai's most famous (and one of the most beautiful) temple is located, this waterfall is very quiet and ideal to take a break. As it stays in town, it is a great program to do in the morning or in the evening. I lived 15 minutes riding of this waterfall, so this turned into one of my favorite places and where I would recharge my batteries often.
If you want to have a great start on your day while in Chiang Mai, my tip is: take a Songthaew (one of the red trucks) to the Huay Kaew Arboretum. This is a tree nursery and a very nice park. Inside the park is Teak Forrest Cafe which has an incredible fresh coffee. You can take a walk and start the day with a delicious coffee! From there you go to the waterfall.
You don't pay anything to get into Huay Kaew and I recommend you follow the trail to the last fall, where you will find a natural pool.
Wat Pha Lat Hike (Monk's trail)
For those who are spending a little time in Chiang Mai and love to hike, the Monk's trail is awesome! Wat Pha Lat hike is very easy, well mapped and ideal to do on the weekend. It takes about 1h30 to Pha Lat temple and another 1h30 to Doi Suthep.
If you are out of shape or want a shorter program, my tip is to go to Pha Lat temple and enjoy some time there and then come back. There are small cafes and shops there, and if you want, take a snack to take a break. The temple is beautiful and it's worth enjoying the calm and nice vibe of the place.
For the strongest, there is a little climb to the Doi Suthep, one of the most beautiful temples of Chiang Mai. It's worth a lot! In the Doi Suthep there are cafes and even restaurants and if you have tired you can take a red truck and go back to the city. It costs about 100 bahts in case you don't want to do the trail back.
If your legs are in good shape you can still go to Bhubing Palace. It's another 4 km walk to there, but unfortunately, you will have to follow the roadside.
If you want to visit the palace, arrive before 3 pm, as the palace closes after that time. The gardens are very beautiful and outside the palace, there is a local market with food and souvenirs.
Mae Sa Waterfall
Entrance fee: 200 bahts
About 20 km from Chiang Mai, this waterfall is located inside Doi Pui National Park. The road is very beautiful, with a lot of nature around and a delicious ride to do with a motorcycle. It's worth renting one in Chiang Mai and enjoy a Sunday at the waterfall. However, check for blitz spots before you even leave home. Route 107 usually has a few points, so make sure first if you don't want to get a fine from the Thai police.
In Thailand, international driver's licenses are not considered valid. So if you are stopped by a guard, you will probably have to negotiate a fine.
Bua Tong "Sticky" Waterfall
This is one of the most unique waterfalls I have ever seen in my life! Seriously, I've never seen a formation like it. The name "sticky" refers to the rocks that form the waterfall. As they are rough, it is possible to climb the rocks almost without slipping. The shape of the rocks is quite characteristic too. It seems that you are on another planet... It's undoubtedly another place that deserves a visit, even more so for those who enjoy nature!
In general, the waterfall is full of butterflies, which makes it a scenic place! It's worth the visit, the climbing, the photos and the whole tour!
When to go?
October and November are good months to visit the city and enjoy the trails and waterfalls in Chiang Mai. As the rainy season is over, the waterfalls are still abundant and the heat is not so intense.
How to get there?
There are several red trucks ("Songthaews") that take you to the waterfalls. In front of the Central Kad Suaed Kaew (local shopping center) you will find some that do this kind of tour.
Another option is to rent a motorcycle. However, here I highlight: there are numerous police blitzes all over the city. In Thailand, as I explained, an international driver's license is not accepted and you will have to pay and negotiate the fine. Driving a motorcycle in Thailand, although many people do, is considered a high risk sport not covered by most insurance. Therefore, it is risky.
If you know some trails and waterfalls, but do not feel safe (or just do not want to) go alone (a) I recommend super Fellowtraveler trails that are organized by Waranya. It is worth visiting their Facebook page and Instragram!