About the place:
Locals believe and say that your trip to Chiang Mai isn’t complete if you haven’t visited the twin peaks of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. Formerly known as Doi Aoy Chang, Doi Suthep was renamed after a hermit named Prarusiwasuthep, who once lived on the slopes of the mountain. The idea to convert this mountain vicinity (along with 13 other) into a national park was proposed by the Royal Forest Department in 1973, and finally it was established as Thailand’s 24th National Park in 1981.
The national park area is stretched over approximately 265 square kilometers, and includes many fascinating attractions such as the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is located within the Chiang Mai province. Only a few kilometers northwest of the main city. Doi Suthep is a part of Thanon Thong Chai Range which is visible in its distinctive granite bedrock. The other two mountain peaks in the range are Doi Pui and Doi Buak Ha, the former being the highest at 1685 meters.
The national park provides perfect opportunity for hikers and campers with some beautiful trails and a campsite with a spectacular view. The campsite is located very close to the peak is and is a good place to stay at if you like sunrises and sunsets. Although quite strenuous, some visitors also cycle up and down the mountain.
You can visit the park any time of the year. It may get a little tricky during the monsoon and the campsite is closed from May to September, but it doesn’t stop tourists from visiting. Although, carry your raincoats and take care of what you wear as per the season.
Apart from being a major attraction in itself, the Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park houses many other places of tourist interests. Following are some of the most famous attractions of the national park:
If you are not already in Chiang Mai, the first thing you need to do is to make your way into Chiang Mai. You can either choose to fly from wherever you are into Chiang Mai International Airport (there are daily flight connecting Chiang Mai to other popular cities in the country such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Krabi), take a bus, travel via train, or choose any other option that may seem interesting to you (road trip or hitchhike?!). Once you are in Chiang Mai, there are several options to reach the park from here.
• Take one of the many red vans lined across Chang Pauk Gate (the ones near Tha Pae Gate and Chiang Mai gate will always be costlier) which normally charge 100 baht for a round trip along with a 2 hour wait time. This works only when you take the van on a sharing basis. If you are in a large group or want the van to yourself, the drivers can ask as much as 500 Baht or more. You ALWAYS need to negotiate!
• You can rent a bicycle if you are THAT fit and energetic. It’s a steep ride up so bear in mind that it can be rally tough and exhausting unless you are used to some sort of physical activity. But, once you are at the top, it is totally worth it.
The summit of Doi Pui is around 25 km by road. From the center of Chiang Mai get on Highway 1004 also known as the Doi Suthep Road, from the northwest corner of the city moat. After around 2.2 km, zero the trip meter at the Highway 121 (also known as the Canal Road) intersection. From here follow the wide, winding mountain road past the very touristic Doi Suthep Temple at 12.3 km to Buphing Palace at 17.2 km. From here the road narrows considerably. At 18.0 a narrow lane, grandly referred to as Highway 4038, branches right toward the Doi Pui campsite at 22.0 km. This last 4 km of narrow winding lane is the main evergreen forest for birding. After the campsite at 22.0 km it is possible to follow a paved road to a Hmong village, and from there, by 4x4 vehicle only, return down the other side of the mountain to the back of Huay Tueng Tao. Even with a 4x4 this back mountain road is not recommend in the wet season. This would form a loop back to Chiang Mai and is popular with mountain bikers.
Note that the road in the up-direction from Chiang Mai can be closed in the late evening as the police usually set up a road block near the zoo preventing drunks and other undesirables ascending the mountain after dark. (Info credit: North Thailand Birding)