If you’re up for a quick morning adventure, then hiking the Monks Trail Chiang Mai to Wat Pha Lat temple is an incredible way to experience a slice of Chiang Mai’s natural beauty. This one is a relatively short and easy hike, but well worth it to escape the tourist crowds and the hustle and bustle of city life.
Unfortunately, the trail isn’t really walked by monks anymore. Instead, they’ve carved new routes through the mountain to avoid the tourists. Still, the hike is far from a tourist-trap, and a visit to the hidden forest temple in Chiang Mai was one of my favorite morning trips in the city.
How to get to the Monks Trail
In order to get to the Monks Trail, you will need to make your way to the trailhead, which is located near the Chiang Mai Zoo. Depending on traffic, it should take roughly 15-25 minutes to get here from the Old City in Chiang Mai.
There are a few different ways to get here:
- By motorbike – Motorbike rental in Chiang Mai is 200 baht per day
- By Grab – Can cost over 150 baht, one way from the Old City
- By Songthaew – Will cost roughly 70-100 baht
I believe that the best way to get here is to simply rent a motorbike for the day. Since this is only a short hike, it makes sense to have one for the rest of the day.
Of course, if you’re planning to spend the whole day hiking around Doi Suthep, then leaving your motorbike near the trailhead for the Monks Trail might not be the best bet. In this instance, I’d hail a Songthaew.
Tip: Keep quiet on the track. The track is used by many people as a morning meditation hike.
Monks Trail Map
In the Monks Trail map below, you’ll find the starting point for the trail, as well as the temple itself, pinned as “Pha Lat Temple”, just to the west. The walking trail starts on the bend of this road, where you’ll be able to enter into the forest and begin hiking.
Monks Trail GPX Map
Below I’ve inserted a Monks Trail GPX map that I recorded on my GPS watch. If you have one yourself, you can download the track using the link below.
Hiking the Monks Trail Chiang Mai
Hiking the Monks trail in Chiang Mai is a great morning sunrise walk that anybody can do. Along the way, you’ll pass jungle and a few flowing streams. Once you reach the Wat Pha Lat temple, there is a small waterfall and a view over Chiang Mai city.
Length: Roughly 40 minutes one-way
Distance: 1.5KM one-way
Monks on the Trail in 2020?
Unfortunately, hiking the Monks Trail Chiang Mai isn’t the mystical and enchanting experience it once was. The trees once wrapped in buddhist robes are now bare, and the monks seem to have found new routes to Wat Pha Lat.
As mentioned, there are a few unmarked side trails, which now have monk robe wrappings and which lead all through the Doi Suthep mountain area. We were told that these new trails are where the monks now walk everyday in order to not be disturbed by tourists. So, if you see some winding trails leading off the path, I’d stay off them in respect for the monks.
In a way, this compromise has lead to a good outcome. The monks still have trails to walk and meditate, and tourists, ex-pats, and locals are still able to enjoy the Monks Trail and the Wat Pha Lat Temple.
Book Your Trip To Chiang Mai
Book Cheap Flights
Still in the planning stage of your trip? Currently, the best and easiest way to find cheap flights are to use Momondo and Skyscanner. Between the two, you’ll be guaranteed to always find the cheapest flight, anywhere in the world.
Book Your Accommodation
Whether you’re looking for hostels, hotels, guest houses, or resorts between Booking.com and Agoda, you’ll always get the best deals. I always search using the map feature to find accommodation in the best locations. Sometimes, if I want to stay in a place a little longer, I’ll use Airbnb.
Book Tours and Transport
You already know that I prefer independent travel. In saying that, sometimes the best and cheapest way to get things done is to just book a tour or package. For Thailand, I always use Klook and Viator. To find cheaper transport in Thailand like buses, trains, and ferries, you can also check 12GoAsia.
Don’t Forget Adventure Travel Insurance
If you’re reading this blog then you’re more likely to be seeking adventures over poolside sips. After having my entire bag stolen in Barcelona (including camera gear) I’ve sworn to always have travel insurance. By far, my favorite company for the most comprehensive adventure travel insurance is World Nomads. If you’re on the fence, you can read my article to see if it’s right for you.
Best Time to Go
Hiking the Monks Trail Chiang Mai can be done any time of year. The best time to do the hike is in the early morning or for sunrise in order to beat the school and business traffic and to get great golden views over Chiang Mai City.
Tip for Expats and Locals: You can join the Doi Suthep Walker’s Facebook Group if you want to hike around Doi Suthep and the Monks Trail Chiang Mai.
Wat Pha Lat – Forest Temple Chiang Mai
Wat Pha Lat translates to “Sloping Rock Monastery” in Thai. This small monastery was constructed to serve the purpose of a rest and prayer stop for people and monks walking up to Doi Suthep. However, since Doi Suthep is now accessible by road, the monastery has turned into a monks’ residence and meditation center.
Upon reaching Wat Pha Lat, the forest temple, you’ll realize that you have several areas to explore. There is a long dragon bridge that runs down the mountain to the edge of the flowing river. There are also several smaller temples and stupas, as well as many statues and depictions of Buddhist deities.
Where to go From Here?
So, what’s next? After the Monks Trail Hike, you’ll have three options as outlined below.
Continuing the Hike to Wat Doi Suthep
A popular option for people who are looking to progress onto a longer hike is to continue up to Wat Doi Suthep. This is a larger and much more popular temple. The hike here is a little longer and much steeper. Expect at least a 1.5-hour hike.
From Wat Doi Suthep, follow the river up until you reach the road. From here, there is another skinnier and unmarked trail that leads all the way to Wat Doi Suthep.
Walk the Monks Trail Back Down
If you’ve left your motorbike at the base of the trail, then you can simply turn around and walk back down the way you came to Suthep Road.
Lazy Option: Hitch a Songthaew From the Road
This one is for the laziest of hikers. On the right side of the temple, you’ll see main road access to the forest temple. You can walk down this road and wave down a passing songthaew to take you back to the start of the track or all the way to Chiang Mai.
More Chiang Mai Adventures
I hope this guide to hiking the Monks Trail Chiang Mai has been informative and inspires you to take the adventure. If you’re in Chiang Mai for a few more days, why not. check out some of the links below?
If you have any questions or you want to say hi, leave a comment below or contact me via email!