Trail to Highest Thai Peak via Khunwang Pagoda (Doi Inthanon National Park)

14 Jun 2022 15:34 - 14 Jun 2022 16:04 #5794 by wvwv
If you've ever been you'll know there's a road which takes you to within a short walk of the summit.  But that's too easy.  This trail approaches the mountain from the north whereas the road is on the opposite side.  It winds up a steep ascent from Khun Wang until it reaches a pagoda/shrine of the same name, after which the path narrows and cuts through unspoiled forest to the very top of Inthanon.


It seems fairly well travelled, certainly until the pagoda it's a wide track a metre or more wide in parts.  The second section from the pagoda to Doi Inthanon is a single lane track.  You might get away without the GPS track to the pagoda if it weren't for the first few hundred metres through farmland.  After the pagoda you really need the GPS track to find the initial turning and then to reassure you on the occasion when the path isn't 100% clear.  On the picture above, the pagoda place is on the top of that massive rock.

Very near the trailhead at the start of the walk:


A little bit further when entering the forest for the first time:


Approaching the pagoda.  Somewhere around here is the turning on the right to go up to Inthanon:


There were a few leeches in June, mostly on the second section just after the pagoda.  It is a hard trail due to the gradient, with some technical parts.  The burning season (maybe February, March, April, maybe May) should be avoided as views will likely be poor due to haze.  Rainy season views are dependent on fog/mist/clouds.  Generally the morning will be foggy and later in the day the sun will have had opportunity to clear the clouds.  The optimum time to try the trek is probably November, December, January, but also likely to be very cold during that time.  The summit was 15 degrees C in the afternoon when I arrived at the visitor centre; likely to be less than that in winter.  A few days earlier at night the temperature had reached 2C but I think that's atypical for early June.


Good visibility, right? I reckon that's easily over 100km.

On the way from Chiang Mai:

Starting from Khun Wang Temple, an average person will take about 3 hours to get to Khun Wang Pagoda, and 2 back.  To Doi Inthanon you'd have to add about 3 hours more each way so a total of 10 hours and that's without any time spent at the summit where you would probably want 1-2 hours to eat at the cafe, take a photo at the highest point sign, and maybe look at the short nature trail.  So it would be very difficult to do it as a day hike unless you have good stamina and fitness.  You could arrange some transportation at the summit to a hotel or back to where you started from.  A better plan might be to start the hike from the top, and have somebody pick you up from Khun Wang later.  I drove from Chiang Mai so 9am was the earliest I managed to start from Khun Wang Temple.  I reached Doi Inthanon Summit by 1pm, spent 2 or 3 hours wandering around the nature trails, and arrived back down at Khun Wang by about 19:30, the last hour using a torch.  I move fast and don't take many breaks.  I managed to get a lift down to Kew Mae Pan nature trail but no luck walking the 4km back up.


Pictures from around the pagoda area, the mountain ridge was acting as a wall that the fog couldn't climb over.  That foggy abyss on the left of the photo was really steep, I found that out on the way back down when the fog had cleared:


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14 Jun 2022 16:29 - 14 Jun 2022 16:31 #5795 by wvwv
Typical section of trail approaching the summit, quite moist and mossy up here:

This was my first glimpse of civilisation, it's part of the air force/military base:

A few pictures from Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, couldn't see the views because of the clouds:




I also went to have a look at 'Grand Pagoda Napamathanidol' which is a very well manicured garden area with an escalator no less.  I wouldn't usually take a picture of an escalator but I found it so bizarre to walk up 6km of inclined muddy terrain in a national park, pulling leeches off my ankles, to then step onto a spotless escalator.


On the way back down going past the pagoda again, starting to get dark:




GPS track:


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14 Jun 2022 17:15 - 16 Jun 2022 10:30 #5796 by wvwv
Trail to Highest Thai Peak via Khunwang Pagoda (Doi Inthanon National Park)







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