One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai is to pay a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the golden temple on top of the mountain. If you are looking to get some exercise and visit the Temple we’ve got you covered. Below we will walk you through how to hike up Doi Suthep on the Monk’s trail.
Know before you go:
1.5 – 2 hours up. Elevation gain of around 1,100 feet, roughly 2.5 miles
We recommend you start your hike early in the morning to avoid the crowds at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The large tour buses tend to roll in by 8:30 am so if you arrive after that time, the area is crowded and full of people.
What to bring:
- 1.5 liters of water per person
- Close-toed shoes
- Proper Buddhist Temple clothing – no knees or shoulders showing
- Bug repellent – you’re in the forest.
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead is now conveniently marked on Google Maps as ‘Wat Pha Lat Hike (Monk’s trail)’. You can take a red songthaew (shared taxi) or an Uber to start of the hike.
If you’re driving or walking, from Suthep Road, you’ll want to take a right turn when you hit a sign for the Zoo that looks like this:
After your turn right off Suthep Road, continue to follow all signs to the Chiang Mai Zoo. you’ll climb in elevation for a bit before you hit the back entrance to the Zoo on the right (DO NOT enter the Zoo). Continue past the entrance and you will soon arrive at the trailhead which is marked with two green signs completely in Thai. There’s also a gray and blue entrance hut that will signify that you’re in the right place.
The Trail to Wat Pha Lat
The Monk’s trail is well worn and easy to follow. There are orange pieces of monk robe hanging from several trees to mark the path. The first part of the hike from the trailhead to Wat Pha Lat takes about 40 minutes and the incline is pretty mild. It’s a nice warm up for the harder, steeper, second half of the trail.
Wat Pha Lat looks like it’s straight out of Indiana Jones. Before the road was constructed in the 1930s, this hidden temple used to be a midway resting stop for worshippers making their way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Now, it’s a home to several monks and a meditation retreat facility. So make sure to keep your voices low!
From Wat Pha Lat to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
From Wat Pha Lat to the top, the terrain becomes much steeper, but there are nice trail steps the majority of the way. At a certain point you will reach a guard rail and arrive at the main road. You’ll have to cross and walk about 100 yards to link back up with the trail on the other side.
Follow the trail all the way until it ends at a small dirt turnoff at the main road. Some people say you can pass through the gate at the top of a dirt road off to the right, but you can’t anymore. You would be trespassing and entering Wat Phra That Doi Suthep from the back monk entrance. Instead, continue along the main road, past several street vendors, until you reach the entrance to the Naga, dragon stairs.
And there you have it! You’ve made it, you’re golden!
*You’ll notice that there are several Songthaews (shared taxis) waiting just outside the temple. If you’re not up for the hour hike back down, you can grab a ride back to the city for about 40-60 baht.