Hiking The Monk’s Trail To Wat Pha Lat In Chiang Mai

Hiking The Monk’s Trail To Wat Pha Lat In Chiang Mai

Updated: February 2019

I think it is funny that I’ve been to Chiang Mai several times and I had never heard of Wat Pha Lat until a few months ago. This is a temple on the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that is seldom visited by tourists.

Update: The temple and trail are now getting a bit busier, but it is still a really nice hike and experience.

Yes, Doi Suthep is the most famous temple and among the most beautiful in Chiang Mai; but Wat Pha Lat, while smaller and less opulent, has a setting that rivals Doi Suthep’s overall beauty.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat is nestled in the forest just a few kilometers down the road from Doi Suthep. There are no crowds, no shops or food stalls, no unwanted distractions.

This Buddhist temple is as peaceful as it can get, sitting next to a waterfall and hiding under the tree’s canopy. It might be completely out of sight, but it has a stunning overview of the city of Chiang Mai that is worth admiring.

This time though, I could not miss visiting Wat Pha Lat. But even better, I would hike to it using the monk’s trail. When I was doing my research to hike the trail, I found it hard to find an overall description on how to do it, so here I tell you how you can hike it step by step.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
Taking a quick break!

To hike to Wat Pha Lat, you must reach the end of Suthep Road, just by Chiang Mai University. You can take a songthaew (the red shared “taxis”) to this point. From here, you will walk forward and turn right at the intersection, heading towards the rear entry of Chiang Mai Zoo.

As you head this way, you will notice in the distance a big red and white radio/tv antenna to your right – this is more less the start of the actual monk’s trail.

Update: Now Google Maps has a marker at the beginning of Wat Pha Lat’s Trail. If you type “Wat Pha Lat Hike” it should come up on your map.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
End of Suthep Road, where you turn right at the signs to head to the trail.

Once you pass the zoo, you will walk slightly uphill for about 3 to 5 more minutes until you see the trail sign at the end of the road, slightly towards the left. It is next to the big antenna.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
The end of the road and start of the trail.
Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
The sign indicating the Monk’s trail to the temple.

For this hike, it is highly recommended to wear closed shoes or hiking footwear, as the trail is rough and quite rocky sometimes. But hey, monks do it with sandals!

It is also recommended to take mosquito repellent since there are a lot of mosquitoes in the forest. It is also important to notice that you are hiking to a Buddhist temple, so wear proper clothing or carry some pieces of clothing in a daypack to cover your shoulders and/or thighs.

The trail has a mild incline of moderate difficulty and takes about 45 minutes from this point to Wat Pha Lat. Once you enter the trail, follow the trees wrapped in the customary orange cloth monks use to dress themselves.

Update: It seems like the trees are no longer wrapped with the orange cloths, but the trail is still easy to follow.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
The beginning of the trail

There are points in which the trail itself becomes a picturesque scene full of trees wrapped in orange. It is beautiful by itself, but once you come across some of the monks that do use the trail, the scene becomes something completely surreal and even enchanting.

At points I couldn’t even stop looking at the monks hiking effortlessly along the trail, making their way to the first shrine just at the base of Wat Pha Lat

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Once in the temple, you’ll see that a 45 minutes hike is nothing to what you’ll experience. It is hard to not be amazed by the sight of the stair adorned with two dragons and ending abruptly at the edge of the waterfall.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

When I arrived, I immediately sat on the dry rocks where the river tends to flow during the rainy season. It was serenity. I watched a few groups of monks emerge from the trail, stop to pray at the shrine, and continue forward to the temple or onwards to Doi Suthep.

Dragons, elephants, and mystic creatures form an intrinsic part of the environment this temple creates. They mix the worldly with the otherworldly in a beautiful way.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

The temple is well kept, yet you can see how nature creeps and overflows in certain areas, making you feel like you are almost in a forgotten land or time, surrounded only by the modesty and peacefulness of the monks. True peace does exist in this temple.

Wat Pha Lat, which means “Monastery at the Sloping Rock”, was originally used as a resting place for people walking up to worship at Doi Suthep. But once the road was built in 1935, making Doi Suthep much more accessible; Wat Pha Lat, in turn, became a monks’ residence.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai

Should you decide to stop your hike here, you can easily walk to the street and take a songthaew back to the city (around 60 bahts), but should you decide to hike up to Doi Suthep, you can continue the trail along the river until you reach the road.

Once at the road, you will turn to the left and cross to the opposite side of the road, where you will enter the first path you’ll see to your right (the one before the street sign pointing opposite your way).

From here on, the trail is not marked with orange cloths, but it is easy to follow. You’ll often see the power lines that go up to Doi Suthep parallel to the trail.

Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai
See, the monks hike it!

This part of the trail is more challenging, though, as it is steeper and longer. It takes about 1:15 hours to reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Wat Phra Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Naga staircase of Doi Suthep

Once you reach the road again, you’ll hike up until you reach the Naga staircase, leading you upwards to the temple. Here you won’t feel the serenity and peace found at Wat Pha Lat, but this temple is worth seeing.

It shines thanks to its extravagant golden Chedi and its several holy shrines. The view of Chiang Mai city is also a highlight of this temple.

Wat Prah Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

How to Hike the Monk's Trail to Wat Pha Lat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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83 thoughts on “Hiking The Monk’s Trail To Wat Pha Lat In Chiang Mai”

  1. Jonathan Smith

    Hello,
    I will probably be doing this hike alone. Should I be concerned about snakes or other dangers?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jonathan – Not at all! There are no snakes in the area (that I’m aware of) and it is very safe to walk it on your own. You’ll see a few hikers avery now and then, including the monks going to the temples.

    2. Wilfried Wadehn

      no,you dont have to worry–be happy!
      there are definitly no snakes or other dangerous animals along this trail
      Capt.Wilfried Wadehn
      21 Jan 2016

  2. Hi! Just wanted to thank you for your advice on this trek! I found your website by chance while in Chiang Mai and decided to do the route alone. Your details and instructions worked perfectly and it was so peaceful and beautiful. Thank you for the picture references to help with navigation- they worked a treat! 😀 Great website!

    1. Jess! I wanted to do this hike alone as well. Did you feel safe? Did yo have any issues with the dogs?

  3. I have read a handful of posts about packs of rabid dogs being aggressive at Wat Pha Lat…. Did you encounter this?? I was going to do this hike alone tomorrow, but am now feeling very nervous.

    1. Hi Lauren –

      I’ve done the hike a few times and I’ve never encountered that rabid dogs problem. From my experience living in Chiang Mai, it is very rare to find aggressive dogs (at least I never did). I think the trail is quite safe, but at least it is good you’re aware of the possibility that there may be dogs out there, so you can go prepared for that.

  4. Priscilla Higby

    Printed out this webpage and hiked to both temples! Great experience to visit the temples without the touristy baggage. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Louise –

      Yes, it is pretty safe to hike solo (female or not). Yes, Doi Suthep has a lot of taxis up there, as well as Songthaew (red pickups) that commonly go up and down the road all day.

    1. Hi Lousie, it’s a pity I just read your coment now as I hiked today with my boyfriend and it was pretty great. We met no monks and no dogs and we hiked all the way to Doi Suthep. On the way to the second temple we met a hiker walking down and he advised to skip the gravel road that takes you to Doi Suthep from when you emerge from the trail and rather walk on the paved road because there are plenty of dogs along the gravel road that could get agressive (I hadn’t been aware that the gravel is an option anyways).
      The most dangerous creatures seem to be moskitos!
      Great thanks to the author for the description!

  5. Just did this today and it was awesome! Followed these direction without any issue. A note for female travelers, the first temple does not have any cover-ups to comply with the requested modest dress so it might be a good idea to bring a wrap or pants to throw on when you get there, or just hike in them. Tuk Tuk from the west edge of the old city to the end of Suthep road was 50 baht. Maybe could have gotten it for less… The driver seemed to know what we were talking about when we said we wanted to hike. Thanks for he great post

  6. Hello,

    Thank you for this post! My boyfriend and I want to do this next week. I just wanted to ask a quick questions – we are planning to get the 6pm sleeper train from Chaing Mai to Bangkok. Will we have enough time to hike to both temples and get back, showered and to the train station in time for the train do you think?

  7. I did this hike last week. The only alteration I would suggest is that if you are motorbiking/scootering up to this, that folks park right by the trailhead. The paved 1km hill leading up to it isn’t scenic. You won’t be missing a thing.

  8. Thank you!
    My daughter and I will be in Chaing Mia next month and so look forward to this hike. Any other quiet hikes or out of the way temples to suggest?

    1. Hi Sara –

      Thanks! While I haven’t done it, I believe there’s a nice hike to a waterfall a few kilometers north of Chiang Mai. I’m afraid I don’t remember the name of the waterfall or hike at the moment, but will try to find the name and reply back. I do remember, though, that you have to go to the base of the mountain by motorbike or songthaew/taxi, as it is quite far from the city.

  9. Thanks Norbert for the directions. I wasn’t sure last Sunday when I walked from my apartment past Chiang Mai Ram Hospital and then the University of Chaing Mai all the way up to the Naga staircase at Wat Doi Suthep. I’m not even sure of the distance but at a moderate pace it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. No mosquitoes but I’m sure they be on the trail you just described. I have hiking boots and also the New Balance marathon shoe. My feet are much more comfortable in tennis shoes. I hike in the Himalayas with my hiking boots but do you think tennis shoes will be ok for this hike? Thanks so much for your clear trail instructions. Dan

  10. Thanks for the great article and the lovely idea! It was one of the best days I had in Chiang Mai. I found it quickly and felt completely safe and at ease (as a solo female traveller). Saw lots and lots of butterflies, the trail is very easy to follow and the Temple is amazing. Thanks once more!

  11. Thanks for the details of the hike! Great pictures! I’m planning to do the hike with my kids (5-7 years old) in about 3 weeks. Any recommendation besides mosquitos? Given some of the comments about aggressive dogs on the gravel road up to Doi Suthep, will it be better to avoid that path and take the paved way? Are these dogs around “all the time”? Thanks, Francisco

    1. Hi Francisco, sorry for the late reply. I’ve done the hike a few times and I never saw such dogs. Now, I’m not saying they don’t exist, but they are not there all the time – probably not even often. I would not hike along the paved road cars take to Doi Suthep. It is not only extremely long compared to the hike, it is also relatively dangerous considering how “bad” they drive there. Do not risk it there.

  12. Hi! Can someone tell me what should I say to the rot daang in order to get there? Since im going solo and its my first time in Thailand I dont wanna get lost.
    Just “the end of Su thep road?”
    Thanks

    1. Hi, Kaori –

      Maybe you could tell them to take you to Ban Doi Suthep School at the end of Suthep Road. Take a screenshot of the map I have in the post and show them the name and location of the school in Thai, so they know exactly where to drop you off. From there you can follow the route as marked on the map. Hope this helps!

  13. Thanks for the directions and the article! I found it last night on internet, and decided to do it today. It was a beautiful walk and experience, and I would probably do it again if I come back sometime. I got slightly lost entering the second section of the trail though, after hitting the road, because I didn’t see the entrance (and I didn’t note down the directions). Anyway, I entered the hill just a few meters after the actual entrance of the trail where there is like an open-ish area on the hill-side, and started following a very small, not-very-officially-looking trail, which eventually led me (as hoped!) to the main one.

  14. Nice description, Norbert. I’m a regular hiker around Chiangmai and do the Pilgrim’s Trail quite often. A couple of observations after reading other comments: firstly there ARE snakes at a couple of points along the trail, including king cobras near the first stream, but they are all more wary of us than we are of them and I have not heard of any problems. Secondly, the dogs – if you stay near the stream, passing BY Wat Palad, rather than entering the temple and going THROUGH it and along the surfaced road, you shouldn’t meet the dogs (which seem to be less aggressive these days anyway and are all bark and no bite). Happy hiking to all!

    1. Thanks, Mike, for your input! It’s good to know about their existence, but like you mentioned, in general, there’s no significant danger.

  15. I was planning a trailrun here in chiang mai and your trail seems to be a good option. I still cant figure out the length of the trail from start to the small temple (not the touristic one!) and back. I am planning to run 10 kms.
    Hope you can help me out. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Alethea –

      I’m not sure of the length but considering it is like 45 minutes uphill, I’ll say it is not longer than 2.5 km each way.

    2. My estimate is about 1.5 kms each way. Fast walk in 20 mins. Up to Wat Doi Suthep and back is about 6kms total. The second ‘half’ of the trail is quite steep though.

    1. You can take a taxi to the end of Suthep Alley or to Ban Doi Suthep School. From there you can follow the directions as listed on the post. If you search “Wat Pha Lat Hike” on google maps you’ll see the mark of the trailhead.

  16. Hi again, Norbert. A couple of updates on the trail: firstly, it has been re-routed slightly by Wat Palad and is now a bit easier, a little less steep, stays along the N side of the stream and now crosses the main road exactly opposite the continuation of the trail on the other side of the road. All positive developments. A further small point, if anyone is using the excellent OsmAnd GPS app with Thailand map, which shows the whole trail, Wat Palad temple his mis-named Wat Pha Dat in English (though the Thai script seems accurate). Happy hiking throughout N Thailand in the upcoming cool season!

  17. Heather Gilbert

    Thanks for the great description, it’s a beautiful hike and that view of the dragons over the waterfall is unforgettable! A perfect hike for when you’re short on time.

  18. Thank you for such a detailed guide! I think this is going to be a definite trek when visiting CM! Would you plan for a full day or a half-day hike?

    1. Thanks! If you’re only planning on seeing Wat Pha Lat and hiking one way, you could plan just a few hours (2+). If you’re planning on hiking all the way to Doi Suthep, then think of 4-5 hours. If hiking roundtrip to both temples then it is a full day (6-8 hours). That should give you enough time to hike at your pace and see both temples.

  19. Hi, thanks a lot for the useful guide! I have a few questions, tho: After we’ve finished hiking the monk’s tril, and reached Wat Pha Lat, can we get a songthaew up to Doi Suthep? And what time should we arrive to be hiking with the Monks?

    1. Hi Lim –

      Getting a songthaew from Wat Pha Lat to Doi Suthep is a bit hard, as there’s no way to coordinate it. My recommendation would be to step outside the temple, by the road, and just wait for a songthaew heading up to the temple. Usually, Songthaews to the temple only leave Chiang Mai when full, so they might not have any seats for you, but some of them will pick you up anyway if you don’t mind standing in the middle.

      Regarding the monks, Most of them hike up early in the morning, but I hiked and passed by a few of them at some point mid-morning (like 10:00 or so). I guess it’s all about luck, but I guess you’ll have more chances to see them earlier in the morning.

  20. Hi Norbert

    We just took this trail this morning, and it was beyond great. We took grab to the end of Suthep Alley, but felt like a driver could take us up to the entrance of trail. Anyways, thanks to your detailed information, we were able to discover such a great trail and spiritual temple. It definitely will be our highlight of trip.

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Keiko! Yeah, I too feel like the Songthaew can go all the way up to the trailhead, but some of them don’t like to head up that way or sometimes it’s really hard to explain it to them. But who knows, in the future, you could try to have them drop you at the entrance. WOrst case scenario, you can walk again from the main road.

  21. I’d just like to thank you for sharing this route information. After visiting Doi Suthep we didn’t know what to do. We wanted to visit a non touristic temple and I checked on the Internet and this came up. It is great; the location, the peaceful, the river… But the way to get there was even better. We walked the trail from the Doi Suthep temple down to the end of the route.

    Thank you!

  22. Good man Norbert. Did the trail today with my wife as we are on honeymoon in Thailand. Directions were spot on. Cheers!

  23. Thanks for the detailed description! I really enjoyed the hike by myself, and the next part to Doi Suthep with someone I met along the way.

  24. Thanks to finding your blog post, we did this hike today and it was wonderful! Made it to Wat Pha Lat and then hiked all the way to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Super sweaty in the heat of the day, but well worth the trek. Thank you!

  25. Leaving in a couple weeks with my 15 year old daughter and this was at the top of my list but I was nervous given all the comments on how hard it is to find, especially as this is my first time in Thailand. Your instructions are amazing (and I’m assuming by all the other comments that they are accurate ;))

    Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to see it

    1. Hi Genevieve –

      The trail, while slightly hidden from the main road, has become even easier to find these days. It even appears on google maps now, so now you can mark the trailhead on your phone.

      Hope you enjoy it!

  26. Sounds great! 🙂
    Would you recommend a 5.50/6am start (to see sunrise near Pha Lat temple), possibly very low visibility aside from torch light, or a 3pm ish start, to sunset, potentially very humid and busy? Also – is there a waterfall near where I can dip in to cool off? Finally, do you know if I can get a red taxi down (or order a Grab) even if I get to the road to hail one around 19.20/30?

    Thank you :)))

    1. To be honest, I’ve never seen the sunrise from up there, so I can’t speak for its visual quality, but I think it could be a great one as the view is facing east, so you might see the sun coming up, or at least the morning glow. Check at what time sunrise is happening at this time of the year and try to at least start the hike one hour before. It takes 45 minutes to go from the bottom to Wat Pha Lat, but you want to get there before sunrise to see the orange hues before the sun actually pops out.

      For sunset, again, haven’t checked it myself, but in this case it will set on the west, so you won’t see the actual sun setting (as it’s “behind the mountain”). But hiking past 3pm is good to avoid the mid-day heat.

      Wat Pha Lat is sitting next to a waterfall where you can refresh yourself. Have in mind though that it is very shallow, so it’s not like you’ll be able to swim there like on a deep river, but you can at least sit in the water where those small water pockets form along the stream.

      Regarding transportation back, Songthaews run up and down all day, as there are businesses up that road in Doi Suthep. You might have to wait a bit more to hail one from the road, but it’s not impossible. 19.20/30 is not that late. For sure there will be taxis and songthaews going up and down at that time.

  27. Lech Bakhuizen van den Brink

    Just returned back to ChiangMai. The Monktrail (part1+2) was really nice. Thank you for the accurate description and guidance.

  28. We did this yeaterday, it’s a great hike, but I think much busier at the temple now than when you first visited. Only thing to note is the monks cloth is not tied to the trees everywhere anymore, we were looking for it and wondering if we were going the right way, but luckily it’s was marked on maps.me which we were using for navigation.

    1. Thanks for the update, Chris! Yeah, I believe it is getting quite popular now, especially now that the trail is officially mapped on google maps and maps.me, among others.

  29. I did this hike yesterday. There is still monks cloth on some trees but it’s faded and brown. Make sure you bring water! When I got to the temple, the concession stand was out of water, and it was mid morning. They had coconuts for sale, but I’m sure those run out at some point as well. Closed toe sandals were fine for me but I wouldn’t recommend flip flops.

  30. i will definitely come here this weekend and i am happy to all the comments and helps here and idea’s that i can look up for my safety and what do i need to bring and wear. thank you so much for this norbert. i just find out this with a friend of mine and now i have a chance to do this soon.

  31. 2019 update: I hiked up to wat pha lat today. It was a great hike up, easy to follow.

    But about 5 minutes into my descent back into town i ran across a huge (not super thick but very long) snake who was laying across the entire path and not moving! Opted to walk out to the road and take a songthaew back to town 😬

  32. Jonathan Akuitse

    Thanks for the article Norbert, I have just done the hike today and your page was super helpful.
    It was pretty tiring especially because I started late (my bad, went party the day before) so I had to walk pretty fast to be sure I have enough daylight when reaching Doi Suthep. I am not a runner but I am quite sporty, so from the beginning of the hike, it only took me 15mn (I should have pace myself more) to reach Wat Pha Lat, such a wonderful place. The second part, indeed, was more difficult, especially the beginning of it was it is quite steep. But even if I stopped numerous times, it took me around an hour to complete it.

    My advice, if you have the time, don’t rush it. I arrived at the temple like a human sponge.

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