An easy but very scenic short hike near Chiang Mai that’s practical to do on your own is this trail from Doi Suthep’s ranger sub-station at Huay Tung Tao to the nearby waterfall of the same name. At present our route is about an hour there and an hour back by the same route, though we are looking at some additional trails with a view to mapping a possible round trip.
It is picturesque though, going through some excellent untouched forest, and is very good for bird-life, so it’s well worth considering if you’re looking for an afternoon’s pleasant ramble. This hike also has the advantage of finishing at Huay Tung Tao, so you can wrap up your afternoon with a beer & some great Thai food too.
First you’ll need to find the aforementioned ranger station, which is neither signposted nor well known so here goes: Head to Huay Tung Tao Lake, and turn left at the lakeside T-junction after the entrance booth. Follow the road over the dam; round the lake, past the Buddha statue and past the new The Peak activities centre and you’ll see an area of paddy fields on your left. Turn left down the track that forms a line between the far side of the fields and the trees and a kilometre or so will bring you to the tiny ranger station.
In the pic above the track leading straight on heads up to a Hmong village on Doi Pui. You will need to turn immediately left from the point the pic was taken, so you don’t actually officially enter the park and shouldn’t be liable for the entrance fee. Cross the stream and head into the forest on the far side. There’s a fork after a few yards; ignore the left trail and keep straight on. That track winds up through dry dipterocarp forest to meet the stream again. Keep to the left bank and follow the trail through some bamboo thickets.
A kilometre or so further on the trail crosses the stream and you’ll find yourself in lusher forest. Bird life is abundant in this area and the hike is very scenic with the brook bubbling along on to the left and huge trees all around. Ignore a bamboo bridge crossing the stream and keep straight for 30-40 minutes, which will bring you to the foot of the spectacular falls. Shear cliffs covered in creepers form a backdrop and the falls cascade over two levels from a height of some 50 metres. The fortunate near total absence of litter shows almost no-one visits these falls which are, to our mind, some of the most spectacular on Doi Suthep/Doi Pui, and there’s even a small pool suitable for swimming. (There used to be bamboo ladders leading to the top but these are long rotted so do NOT attempt this now.)
From here it’s an hour or so downhill to get back to the ranger station from where you could walk another kilometre or so round to the lakeside cafes (by turning left on the sealed lakeside road). if you’re doing this by bicycle or motorbike then leave them at the ranger station. If you’re renting a tuk tuk or songthaew, then maybe ask the driver to drop you off at the substation and pick you up in the Huay Tung Tao car park (but make sure you’ve agreed on an approximate time and precise place).
This is a very pleasant hike suitable in all but the heaviest rains, and we’ll be checking out the bamboo bridge trail soon … so watch this space!
By Mark Ord.