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Doi Luang - Phayao


Elevation gain - Approximately 783m total elevation

Elevation of Doi Luang - 1694m

Trail length - Approximately 8-10 km

Time required - 3-4 hrs for ascent & 2-3 hrs for decent (Depending on pack size)

Difficulty & Danger - Medium

Entry to trail coordinates - contact for coordinates as I will need to see evidence you are capable to do on your own

Water intake - 2 litres per person & take lunch and some high protein snacks for day hike. 6litres of water, lunch, dinner and breakfast + snacks for overnight

Network - We had 4G with True most of the time

Doi Luang is a 1,694m above sea-level and is part of the Phi Pan Nam Range in the province of Phayao in the north of Thailand. The mountain range is split down the middle between Phayao province to the east and Lampang province to the west. The above picture was taken from across the lake that lies to the east of the mountain range.

Naga Tara Boutique Resort is a perfect place to stay the night before as you get a sunset view of where you will be hiking the next day. We stayed at the Naga Tara Boutique Resort which we found to be a really nice hotel.

There are a few ways to do this hike:

  • You can do a day trip incognito style and not pay any park fees. Whether this is allowed or not is grey area but we saw an old local guy doing it by himself and apparently he does it daily!

  • Book through the national park, have a ranger as your guide and a porter to carry your gear. If you push them and have confidence in your ability, you can do this in one day. If you do it in a day you will only need a day pack and no porter for heavier gear.

  • Book through the national park, have a ranger as your guide and a porter to carry your gear. Spend the night on Doi Luang and watch a beautiful sunrise and sunset.

We didn't know any of these options before we planned this hike. In hindsight, if we did, we would have gone on our own on a day trip. We hate having anything to do with national parks and rangers because that just isn't our style. We hike because we enjoy the freedom and the reliance on ourselves to get up and down safely; it is a challenge and every hike teaches us more and more. Having said this, we did enjoy our time with the ranger and porter. They were both very kind and were fountains of knowledge and experience.

So in the end we just chose, for once, to follow the line and book with the national park, get a ranger and a porter to carry our gear. As with many hikes in Thailand, they are always made to seem more difficult than they actually are. After reading some reviews, we chose to take a porter as I was taking my camera gear and my drone which, on its own, weighs about 6kg. My partner and I had around 7kg each (including water) and our porter, whose name was ironically 'Up', had 15kg. As you can see for a big hike up and down many ridges, 30kg or so would have been quite a lot. If you want to know the exact cost and want to book with the rangers just email me at Be advised, the cost does run into the thousands.

We arrived at the ranger station, parked our car and got ready. From here it is a 30min drive to the trailhead. They will stop on the way to pick up some food if you need. We set off at about 10am and it is a pretty clear trail all the way to Doi Luang. With anything less that 7kg on your hide, it is not too daunting or difficult. If you are going to do this on your own, contact me for coordinates of trail entry. A good level of fitness is obviously needed for any hike and I would suggest always hiking in the winter in Thailand.

The first section takes you through the jungle and is moderately steep in places but there are a lot of flat sections for you to recover. You will walk along the edge with views to the east.

Once you are through this section you will then have to take on numerous ridges to get to the top of Doi Luang. I think it was at this point we realised that this can definitely be a day trip and one that any experienced hiker would not need a guide to do. The ridges range from 10m to 20m elevation each and I believe there are about 6 of them. They are not too steep and the trail is good; we tried to take a small break between each climb and in doing this, it was pretty easy going.

As you can see from the second photo above, you will start to hit the clouds at this point. The views either side into the valleys below are really stunning. It is a great feeling to see how far you have come already and it is something that always pushes me to the tops of these mountains.

As I mentioned earlier, I took my drone which is a great way to see hiking from a different perspective. It can even help you to understand hiking mountains more. As you can see from the photos so far, the trail is pretty clear in most places.

So after a few ridges you will start to see Doi Luang and the camping area. To the left of the picture below there is a large rock with a temple on top of it. You are able to climb it as there is rope on one of the ridges. It is advised that you take a two night trip to to this or there is a day hike you can do which starts from the other side of the mountain range.

We got to the top of Doi Luang at about 13.30, which was apparently a very quick time. I guess we only had 7kg or something each and I imagine if we had to carry the full 15kg it would have been a very different story.

There is a small Buddha and of course the Thai flag at the summit point. We set up camp for the night overlooking Phayao lakeside. I was feeling sick for some reason so I pretty much slept from sunset to sunrise and thankfully in the morning was feeling better. The sunrise was awesome and I would really advise, if you have the time and the energy to hike up a tent, you should do it.

We cleaned up our site and put away our camping gear. One of the rangers stopped by with two bottles of natural spring water which was really nice and an added bonus. I would probably not use it for drinking water but for boiling and cleaning it is fine.

We made our way down and it only took us a few hours. If you take a ranger then they will take you down another way where you are picked up by a local village tractor and taken to the nearest ranger station. From there you will get a ranger truck back to the main ranger station and where you left your car.

All in all a nice little adventure. We would have preferred to do this all on our own but the ranger experience wasn't too bad and it did not feel like a total waste of money. The rangers were great and pleasant but we felt that the difficulty level did not warrant a guide and thus this will probably be the first and last time we use a ranger. For us it is a waste of money that we do not really have an abundance of. For others it might be a necessity and the only way you can experience hikes such as these.

I hope you get the opportunity to experience a hike like this in Thailand and I hope you find this article helpful in your adventure. Please don't forget to link my guide in any media you use it for, it is a professional courtesy.

A slideshow of other various pictures.

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