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× Note: Sanctuaries are different to National Parks in Thailand, Thailand currently has established 39 sanctuaries and access is more restrictive as their role is as a sanctuary for wildlife rather than a park for the nation. Some sanctuaries do allow limited access to tourists.

Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain (Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary)

22 Jul 2019 18:52 - 22 Jul 2019 18:58 #5323 by wvwv
This is probably the best mountain views you can find in Thailand. Jagged peaks, 2 summits, seas of fog, a scenic route up through a picturesque valley with views either side. It has everything a hiker could want. I did this mountain the high season just gone and woke up on the summit on Christmas Day. There're no other trip reports on this forum for Chiang Dao apart from one by Robby who got as far as DYK substation (about two thirds down the page): - wildlifethailand.com/kunena/23-national-...n-the-north?start=24

Chiang Dao has regular buses from Chiang Mai (local bus, no aircon). Once at Chiang Dao Town songtaews can take you to the cave area where most of the hotels and guesthouses are. Cost about 200 baht (per vehicle). They start from the other side of the road to the Tesco Lotus Express.

There are 2 official routes up; Pang Wua, and Den Ya Kat substation. Pang Wua seems to be closed as of last year and everybody is going via DYK. The Chiang Dao NP is now strict regarding registration. You have to register at least 1 day before so that means arriving at the visitor centre no later than 4pm the night before (closing time). They take a passport copy so you need your passport. This is the mountain from Chiang Dao Town:



The trek is not done on Wednesdays however this usually being done as an overnight trek I'm not sure if that means Tuesday-Wednesday treks or Wednesday-Thursday treks, probably the latter? Every other day it is open. Only open start of November to end of February, so a short climbing season will mean lots of people; about 100-200 every day, more at weekends and holidays.

Prior to 2018/2019 I would have said it was perfectly possible to hike without a guide by turning up at DYK substation carpark (assuming you have your own vehicle) and just starting walking. It is definitely not a hike that needs a guide, so it was just a question of whether you wanted to abide by the rules. HOWEVER, I came across this link, go down to the comments about people being apprehended: www.bemytravelmuse.com/hiking-doi-luang-chiang-dao/ It now seems a guide is unavoidable.

There is a fairly significant cost for this trek, particularly if you don't have own transport or are a small group, the figures below are from another source on the net.

- Thai guide is 1000 baht. English speaking guide is 2000 baht. I am not sure if these costs are for a dayhike or overnight. A day hike would be quite tough if you are not in good shape.
- Park entrance fee for foreign adults is 200 baht/person.
- Toilet kit is 250 baht/person. It’s compulsory.
- Transportation from Chiang Dao Town to DYK (approx. 1 hour), and back is 1400 baht total (assume per car not per person). If you have your own vehicle you can drive yourself.

Note that the visitor centre is very far from Chiang Dao Town so if you don't have your own transport you are going to need to use a tour agent in Chiang Dao to book the trip and register on your behalf.




I had previously hiked the first part of an old trail to the summit which has not be used for over 6 years (the summit trail that is, the first part is still used occasionally). On the last trip I had got as far as 'the flags', which is a group of flagpoles about 2km up a very steep trail starting from behind the temple/cave in Chiang Dao. The GPS track is here: www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=fsrpweosgnvwaajo&language=en and you can read a short description of the trail here (it's the one called "the flags"): www.maleenature.com/Chiangdao-Hiking.htm These are a couple of pictures from when I did the hike to the flags. It was cloudy.




If you are looking for other treks in the area, the user that posted that track on gpsies.com has loads of good quality submitted GPS files, click on his username and download any that interest. I think he is connected to/owns Malee Bungalows which is a resort in Chiang Dao.

I'd already decided I was going to take the old track to the summit and armed with a machete I was going to make it, however long it took. December 2018 was the start of the season they had started cracking down/apprehending people for unauthorised access and a lot of those comments had not made it onto the net yet, so I wasn't really fully aware of the severity of the enforcement. Had I have been I might have thought twice, but as it was the cave startpoint is a lot more convenient and the trek is also shorter at just over half the length, but it is much steeper. Instead of walking up through a gently-sloping valley you are more or less climbing for 5+ hours. It really beats up your hamstrings because you're always on the tips of your toes pushing up.



The first time I went (2017) I started at first light about 5am, one or two monks at the temple gave me a second glance and then continued sweeping leaves. At the base of the trail there are a few sidetrails so you need to pay attention to the GPS track. Once on the trail for 10 minutes the sidetrails stop and it's just up and up until you get to the flags after 1-2 hours. There are good views from here and if you're already knackered this is a good point to turn around because you're only about a third of the way and it only gets harder. I did turn around just after the flags. After the flags the path peters out as nobody goes any further anymore. This is my GPS track, finishing a few hundred metres after the flags, using the GPS track already posted as a guide (I took a wrong turn at the bottom):



This most recent time; 11am (because I set off from Chiang Mai not Chiang Dao), no monks to be seen, and I pushed on and found the path a few more times on the way to the top but each time it was only for a minute or two before it became overgrown again. There was a lot of chopping through vines and a bit of backtracking and generally it was very tough going. My new trainers were battered by the top and my shirt ripped in a few places.

Near the top I heard but didn't see mountain goats; I think called goral; this mountain is famous for them and sightings are common. At night you can shine a powerful torch on the sides of the mountain from the camping area and goat eyes will reflect back at you. A couple of small trails between viewpoints at the summit are currently closed as the goats are found in that area and humans were disturbing them.

Finally emerging onto a well-trodden trail was an amazing feeling after 7 hours of brutal hiking. Because I started quite late it was already nearly dark when I made it to Kiew Lom Peak, not far from where I'd emerged from the jungle. From this peak you have spectacular 360 degree views:



I saw a lot of people walking up to that summit, a lot more than I expected, and I realised I was probably going to bump into rangers, and I did on the walk between the two peaks, at the campsite. They were friendly enough, in hindsight I think it helped that I could speak passable Thai with them otherwise the confusion could have led them to believe I had come from Pang Wua or DYK without permission/past 'do not enter' signs. They seemed more interested in the trail I had walked i.e. the condition and how long it took (I guess most of them had not walked it before) and asked a lot of questions and looked in my bag before letting me walk up to Chiang Dao Summit for the sunset. The view from Kiew Lom looking across at Doi Chiang Dao and the campsite beneath it:



The summit is very busy with people but there is enough space up there to get a few metres to yourself for photos.



If you go the normal route, Kiew Lom is done at sunrise on the morning you hike down, and Chiang Dao for sunset on the evening you arrive. So these tourists had not yet seen Kiew Lom. The views from Chiang Dao are unique because of the jagged peaks to either side of the valley. One at 2175m is called Doi Pyramid and you can see why.



In winter it is very cold on the mountain. There is frost on the leaves (the Thais found this amazing) and temperatures can reach zero.

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22 Jul 2019 19:18 - 22 Jul 2019 20:01 #5324 by wvwv
My plan had always been not to sleep on the mountain and to hike back down the normal route in the dark and then hitchhike back to Chiang Dao Town, but the rangers would not allow this because 'dangerous' and instead gave me a tent and sleeping bag and food for the night. I suspect this hospitality rather than the heavy-handed treatment other tourists had received is because they wandered straight past 'do not enter' signs whereas I had not passed any checkpoints or signs?

In the morning we went up to Kiew Lom (my second time) for sunrise and it really was bitterly cold. You need 3 or more layers. There is a sea of fog over Chiang Dao Town and on the other side of the mountains. This peak has less space and so can get a bit crowded but some people stay in bed so it's not so bad. I wouldn't want to try it over new year holidays though.






On the walk down the use of guides wasn't really enforced and people just sort of set off when they wanted to. I walked with a couple of Thai girls who were untypically fast walkers, I'm not sure if they had somewhere to be because at the trailhead you have to wait for the rest of the group anyway. Maybe they had their own transport. They started dawdling halfway down for photos so I carried on and must have been one of the first to reach the bottom. On the way I passed other groups starting the walk up. The walk down through the valley is very scenic and landscape photographers could spend ages here I'm sure.



At DYK substation there were a few people in cars waiting around but no obvious information desk so I do what I always do when faced with a place to go and no obvious means of transport - start walking and wait for somebody to offer me a lift. The offer came about 3km later in the back of a pick-up truck and the driver went a little out of his way to take me back to the cave, so I gave him 100 baht.

GPS trail for main Pang Wua and DYK routes: Don't attempt to hike these without a guide, at least not November-February, you risk being sent down and escorted to a police station. In low season? Well I'm not sure I'd try it then either.

www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=erpspnzhhtdwutkm&language=en

Some more pics from the main summit:






Approx route I took. I had the GPS file but lost it and I was basically hacking through vines anyway...

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22 Jul 2019 19:44 #5325 by wvwv
Elevation gain approx 1.7km over not even 6km. You can almost hear your hamstring popping.

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24 Jul 2019 08:34 - 26 Jul 2019 09:12 #5326 by Paul T
I'm not sure I could do that. If I could I may not be able to get down again - or walk for a week ;+)

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