Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail (เส้นทางศึกษาธรรมชาติ กิ่วแม่ปาน) at Doi Inthanon National Park is a perfect hiking opportunity offering unique forest phenomenon, panoramic views, waterfalls and serene surroundings. An amazing walking trail, probably also the highest altitude walking trail of Thailand, this natural trail is situated at approximately 2200 meters above sea level. Some come here for hiking, while others come for bird-watching and then there are few who head to Kew Mae Pan to catch the beautiful sun-rise views.
A 3.2 km. long trail, it takes around 2-4 hours to complete the circular path that passes through dense forests, waterfalls, grasslands, mountain ridge and dense bushes. Air is thin and cold and at times, it can be really windy as you find yourself amid clouds floating around you. Come prepared with good walking shoes (of course, no slippers), a jacket, cap/hat, water bottle and camera to capture scenic beauty.
Entrance Fee/Guide to Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
As you go up-slope towards the summit of Doi Inthanon, a few meters up from the Royal Twin Chedis, you will find entrance to Kew Mae Pan Trail. We parked our Yamaha PCX at the parking space and headed to the entrance office. It is a circular trail that starts from the right of the parking lot, goes around and circles around to exit at the left side of the same Parking lot. It is compulsory to have a guide for the trek who are local villagers from Hmong Tribe. Both Guide and Entrance Fee cost 200 Bahts for a group (up to 10 people). We met another Thai couple at reception only and decided to share our guide thus saving us some bucks ;).
At Parking lot itself, you will find toilets and also 2 restaurants.
4 Phases of Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
Soon we were on our way hiking up. Trail path is well defined passing through water-streams and green, serene surroundings. You can also pick a walking stick from the reception (if you want one) and start following your guide. There are 21 stations across the trail. You can find them marked on a map at reception and also on bill-boards at their respective locations on the trail.
Roughly, you can divide the whole trail in 4 broad phases –
Phase 1: Rain-forest with Moss and Ferns
The first phase of the trail passes through a rain forest with Moss. Ferns grow dense along the trunks of large trees growing and competing to receive sunlight. Initially you will find a little ascend as you will walk amid large trees with big trunks. There are wooden plank stairs at high slope areas to help you walk up easily.
As you walk up a little, you will reach a beautiful waterfall. Sound of waterfall amid green lush trees will energize you to walk up on your trail. Most of the waterfalls within the park have relatively good flow of water all year round but the best season for water flow is during the rainy season from May to November.
As you walk up, you will find vines clinging to tree trunks. These vines do not invest energy in creating large trunks, rather grow in length to reach to the top for getting sunlight. By the way, they provide convenient aerial-ways to squirrels to travel from tree to tree.
Phase 2: Sub-Alpine Meadow: Green Pasture
After passing through the thickets of evergreen forest, trail enters the range of large pastures that change color from green during the rainy season to light brown during the dry season.
Even with a trail amid tall grass, it gets difficult at times to walk else it is almost impossible to walk through this dense grass. Poor soil, strong winds, steep slope and frequent fires prevent young plants from growing here.
Towards the end comes the view-point from where you can enjoy the panoramic views of the valley full of mist and clouds with sun-light piercing through.
Phase 3: Along the Ridge: Beautiful Rhododendron Flowers
As you take left from the view-point, you start walking along the ridge. By the way, beware of reptiles around the grass. As we were walking down, a snake crossed our way as we all stopped to give her a way.
Views on the side of the cliff are beautiful as valley expands to far horizon and clouds hang on top of the mountain. Small rock on the side is Pha-Ngam Noi Rock which is a twin granite rock left after water has eroded most of the soil around it leaving behind this solid piece of rock.
The highlight is the local variety of Rhododendron, giant red colour flower blooming on the edge. In case, you are into bird-watching, try to find few here. Best time for bird-watching is around February to April when the big winter migration to Thailand happens which also is the breeding period.
View point for Royal Twin Pagodas
As you take a turn to re-enter into Rain-forest after grassland, you reach to the view-point from where you can capture the picture of both Royal Pagodas together. It is very difficult to get a picture of both Chedis together from a spot inside Pagodas complex but from here, you can capture them clearly.
Phase 4: Trek Back to Rain-forest
You re-enter inside the rain-forest as you take a left turn post Twin Pagodas view-point. You hear the sound of water-stream as you walk down and then again up crossing a small wooden bridge.
There are stops on the way where you can take a quick break to catch your breadth.
You will be amazed by your fellow hikers by the way as we were by seeing this little girl jumping and running faster than us 🙂
After a quick ascend towards the end, we returned to the parking lot from where had started our hiking.
Tips for Kew Mae Pan Natural Trail Hike
Here are some quick tips for you to better plan your hike to Kew Mae Pan Doi Inthanon-
- Good physical condition: Yes – Hike is a bit challenging and you will require moderate level of fitness to complete the same.
- Don’t forget to carry water with you! A must !!
- Good shoes, no doubt will be needed for sure. No slippers or sandals please.
- Wear comfortable clothing – Will be helpful at slopes for sure if you have comfortable lower.
- Enjoy nature with silence. Please do not disturb wild-life or leave any garbage behind.
Kew Mae Pan Timings
The trail is open at 6.00 am and closes at 4.00 pm (for the last visitor to get in). Many people head to Doi Inthanon for an early morning Kew Mae Pan hike to catch sunrise. In case, you are heading in morning for hike, do carry some warm clothes as mornings get chilly. Please note that trail remains closed during rainy season (1 June – 31 October).
It was an amazing hike for us. Wish you too an awesome hike and exploration at Doi Inthanon.