Photo: Dawn views at Phu Chee Fah.

Phu Chee Fah Forest Park

Our rating:

Phu Chee Fah is the best known of the spectacular viewpoints along the scenic Doi Pha Mon Mountain Range and consequently the most popular. This is where the dramatic photos you see on posters and in brochures of the jagged cliff leaning out towards the Mekong are taken. Phu Chee Fah, at 1,682 metres is not quite the highest point in the range but does affords truly awesome views of Laos to the east with the Mekong in the foreground. The 2 most popular viewing times are dawn, for sunrise over Laos, and early to mid morning for the sea of fog in the valleys below. Cold, dry winter months are the best but weekends and public holidays can get seriously packed with local tourists.



Phu Chee Fah Forest Park

Phu Chee Fah Forest Park

There are two ways up to the viewpoint; a northerly and a southerly route whose departure points are around three kilometres apart off route 1093, but which form two sides of a triangle and so converge close together at the peak. The northern route departs from a kilometre or so north of the junction with the Thoen road and comes out at the foot of the pointed, overhanging, much-photographed cliff. The southerly path comes out further down the ridge so affords views back towards said cliff.

Not a good spot for vertigo sufferers

Not a good spot for vertigo sufferers

At the start of the north trail you’ll see a collection of guesthouses and resorts all very close together and squeezed into a sharp valley from where a concrete road leads up 2.5 kilometres to a car-park. This is a far less busy route but for those on a bike the road – particularly coming down – is a white knuckle, buttock clenching experience and having experienced it once we reckon next time we’d walk. It’s very steep, narrow, tunnel-like, (being tree covered) and pretty much permanently damp and slippery. The walk up, once you reach the car-park, is around 600 metres and fairly easy going though.

The Mekong and Laos

The Mekong and Laos

Back in Rom Fah Thai village, two kilometres south of the road junction, you’ll find the principal route to the top which is both less steep and possessing a far better road surface. This also arrives, after some two clicks, in a large car-park surrounded by souvenir, snack and coffee stalls run by local Hmong village women. Dressed up Hmong kids will try to get money or sell you drinks in return for photos. (Even at dawn!) The path again is fairly easy and around 750 metres to the top where you emerge a short distance down the ridge line from route 1’s terminus. (If you’re feeling energetic you can obviously do a hiking loop here.) At both sites take care – especially if you’re up there in dim light for dawn – since drops are sheer and there’s zero protection and we did find ourselves wondering how many people each year fall off.

Phu Chee Fah looking west

Phu Chee Fah looking west

Halfway between the main road and the car-park you’ll find the Forest Park buildings. Phu Chee Fah isn’t a National Park as such so facilities are more limited but there’s no entrance fee either. The visitors’ centre is frankly pitiful but there was a pleasant camping ground and even a couple of twin room chalets available for visitors. Accommodation and camping is from mid November to mid February only and there are no set fees so payment is whatever donation you consider appropriate. Since they have four rather nice rooms, a kilometre from the car-park this sounds to us a like a recipe for high season chaos!? Apparently you can book, or try to, on the regular National Parks website.

Park accoomdation

Park accoomdation

Remote and spectacular, Phu Chee Fah is definitely worth a visit if you can spare the time but aim for a weekday during winter – cool, dry – months and don’t forget to take an alarm so you can get up for dawn.



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Location map for Phu Chee Fah Forest Park


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phu Chee Fah.
 Read up on where to eat on Phu Chee Fah.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Phu Chee Fah.
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