The “Doi Lanka Noi Loop” is, for the moment, my favorite hike near Chiang Mai because it has so much variation in trails, natural environment and landscapes. You will need a full day for this hike. I will first give a hike description, with some photos of the area. Then I provide links to download GPS files (.kml and .gpx), and in the end I will show you how to find the trail-head.
The starting point of this hike is on road 1252 near a small village (Baan Kampaeng Hin). You start this hike on slippers or water proof sandals because in the first few kilometers you follow a stream which you have to cross 15 times. Obviously, you don’t want to wet your hiking boots (some crossings are knee deep) and you don’t want to take your shoes of 15 times. The complete loop is about 11 kilometers long. The lowest elevation, at the trail-head, is 1050 meters; the highest point is Doi Lanka Noi, at about 1750 meters. You will need about 6 to 7 hours to complete the loop, but this depends of course on the slowest person in your group and on the amount of time you take for resting and taking photos. The hike is not suitable for people who are afraid of heights as there are a few spots where the trail is narrow near steep dangerous drops.
Let’s first look at the map, where I have marked some important way points (A to J) which I will mention in this hike description.
Park your car at the main road near the start of a short village road which you can find on coordinates 18.952053,99.3461114 in Google Maps. Don’t put on your hiking shoes, but start this hike on plastic slippers or water proof sandals. This is the lowest point of the hike, with an elevation of about 1050 meters.
A to B (about 270 meters)
Walk into the small village road for about 300 meters to reach a stream which you will have to cross. This stream crossing is point B on the map and here your realize for the first time why you started on slippers. Depending on the time of year the water can be shallow and calm or a bit deeper and wilder. This is also the place where you want to spray your legs with a strong repellent, because there are leeches on the first few kilometers of this trail.
B to C (about 3 km)
Follow the trail for about 3 kilometers while you keep crossing the stream (some crossings are knee deep). This part of the hike is in a valley with forest and coffee plantations. It’s the greenest part of the hike with a lot of vegetation, small streams, high humidity and usually some leeches. When you have crossed the stream 15 times you reach point C. This is where you put your hiking shoes on and the climbing starts.
Note that after the last crossing of the stream (at point C) the trail bends to the right towards the ridge. There is another trail going straight which may confuse you.
C to D (about 1.6 km)
The trail now climbs up following a ridge. The first part is on the edge of the ridge, sometimes quite steep, and later the trail is on the side of a cliff. As you get higher you get nice views over the valleys on both sides of the ridge. On your right you will see the summit of Doi Lanka Noi. When you finally reach a flat area (at point D), most of the climbing is behind you. Point D has an elevation of 1685 meters.
D to E (about 1.2 km)
Now you get a relatively easy walk towards the summit (point E). The first part is almost flat with a lot of ferns (depending on the season); the last few hundred meters are going up again, but not very steep. Note that in the last few hundred meters there are several more or less parallel trails going up to the top.
At the summit you find a small Stupa and a small Naga statue; good spots for a selfie. This is a good place to have your lunch break while enjoying the views in all directions. While taking a rest at the summit you have to make sure that you find the right spot where the trail starts going down. The spot where the trail continues is a bit difficult to see if you have never been there before so it’s good to hike with somebody who knows the trail.
E to F (about 250 meters)
The first few hundred meters of the descend (E to F) are quite steep and you don’t want to loose your balance here. Only goats will feel really comfortable. I find this the most difficult (and a bit scary) part of this hike and am always happy to have the support of my bamboo walking stick. There are many loose stones on this part of the trail, so be careful that you don’t hurt people who are descending below you.
F to G (about 1.3 km)
From point F, the trail then follows a ridge, in the beginning with a few ups and downs and with some nice views, especially to the south.
G to H (about 1 km)
Then the ridge goes quite steep down while the trees get denser until you reach the valley.
H to I to J (about 1 km)
The last part is a gentle slope down along some small tracks to a village (Baan Mae Ton Luang). At point I is a small temple, which has some space to park a car (useful if you want to climb Doi Lanka Noi from this side). In the village you find a small shop at a corner (point J) where you can enjoy a beer or coffee. In a way this is the end point of the hike.
J to A (1.5 km)
Now you will still have 1.5 easy kilometers along the road to get back to your car at point A.
Usually a circular hike could be walked in two directions. However, I don’t recommend to walk this Doi Lanka Noi Loop the other way around, because then you would get all the stream crossings in the end.
If you find the entire loop too long, or if you don’t fancy crossing the streams, you could start at point I (park your car at the temple), walk up via H, G and F to E, and then come down the same way. From the temple it’s about 3.5 km to reach the top and a hike up and down would take 4-5 hours.
Geo-coordinates for the temple are: 18.945662, 99.359028
Download the tracks
Here are some links to download the GPS trails for this hike. The .kml (keyhole markup language) file can be opened in Google Earth. The .gpx file can probably be used in your GPS device and hopefully helps to keep you on track. But I recommend that you take somebody who knows the area.
To download a file, right-click the link and then save it to your computer.
How to get there?
From Chiang Mai (crossing near Central Festival) take the road towards Chiang Rai (Road 118) for about 43 kilometers. Turn right into road 1252 (signboard indicates Chae Hom). The geo-coordinates of the turn off are: 19.0164464,99.3042805.
Follow road 1252 for 17.2 km to the trail-head (geo-coordinates: 18.952023, 99.346160) and park your car. The trail starts on a small village road to the left.