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The Best Outdoor Activities in Chiang Mai

No matter where I’m living, I always need some nature in my life. Lucky for me, when it comes to nature, Chiang Mai doesn’t disappoint. I have pretty thoroughly explored the best outdoor activities in Chiang Mai — everything from city parks to hiking trails to waterfalls — and compiled a list of my favorites. (Here I’ve listed them from closest to the city to farthest away.)

Shall we?

A map of all the spots I’ve mentioned in this post

Do yoga in Nong Buak Haad Public Park

Buak Haad is the one and only public park in Chiang Mai’s Old City. It’s really charming — there are grassy areas, fountains, trees, a little track, some outdoor gym equipment, and more. There’s free yoga in the park on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 am and 5:00 pm depending on the teacher and season. You can rent straw mats for 15 baht from the vendors inside the park, for yoga or otherwise.

People doing yoga in the park in Chiang Mai
Yoga in the park | Sourced from the Facebook group

You can learn more in the Yoga in the Park Facebook group.

Walk around Ang Kaew Reservoir

This is a lovely little lake at the foot of Doi Suthep. There’s a trail you can walk around the lake and lots of benches for sitting and reading or chatting or whatever. To get here, go to the Chiang Mai University campus and follow the walking path to the right until you find it.

Ang-kaew-reservoir-chiang-mai
The reservoir inside Chiang Mai University

Huay Kaew Arboretum

This is in between Chiang Mai University and the Chiang Mai Zoo. It’s a nice shaded area with walkways, some playground and outdoor fitness equipment, and often public art scattered around.

Arboretum in Chiang Mai
Huay Kaew Arboretum | Sourced from TripAdvisor

Hike around Huay Keaw Waterfall

I discovered this somewhat by accident but am so pleased I did! You’ll see signs for it on the road on the left after Chiang Mai Zoo. Just walk on in and wander the trails. There are some fantastic viewpoints over the city and little spots you can dip your toes in the falls if you want.

Viewpoint from Huay Kaew Park
Viewpoint over the city from the trails inside Huay Kaew Park
Overlooking the Huay Kaew Waterfall
Overlooking the Huay Kaew Waterfall

Hike the Monk’s Trail

This trail is quite well-known and can be busy but is a really beautiful hike nonetheless. You go up Doi Suthep a bit to a wat with a river and some views over the city. Make sure to bring temple appropriate clothes for when you get to the top. I believe you can either turn around at the temple or keep hiking all the way to Wat Phra Doi Suthep at the top of the mountain if you want.

Sitting at wat at the summit of Monk's Trail in Chiang Mai
At the wat at the top of the Monk’s Trail

Here are detailed directions on how to get to the start of the trail.

Swim in Monthathan Waterfall

You’ll see signs for this waterfall off the road that leads up to Doi Suthep temple. You have to pay to enter the park (I think it was 100 baht? I can’t remember) and then drive a ways in before you get to the waterfall. I would say this adventure definitely necessitates a scooter. There are two different waterfall areas and you can swim in both if you want!

Swimming in Monthathan Waterfall in Chiang Mai
One part of the falls at Monthathan Waterfall
Swimming in Monthathan Waterfall in Chiang Mai
A dip in the other part of the falls at Monthathan Waterfall

Hike or bike to Doi Suthep

I’ve personally never done this hike as it’s known to be quite difficult but it’s definitely a thing! Absolute legends those folks who bike up the hills to Wat Phra Doi Suthep.

Wat Phra Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai
You’ll reach Wat Phra Doi Suthep at the top of a hike up Doi Suthep mountain

I believe to do the hike, you start by doing the Monk’s Trail hike (above) and then keep going up the trail.

Swim or kayak in Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

I’ve also never been here. Apparently, there are two sides: one is more expensive and has a water park you can slip and slide around. The other is less expensive and is for cliff jumping, kayaking, and lunching.

Chiang Mai's Grand Canyon
Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon | Sourced from TripAdvisor

Here’s a blog post with more information on visiting Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon.

Climb around the Sticky Waterfall / Bua Thong Waterfall

This is one wacky natural phenomenon! You can climb up and down this waterfall without slipping on the rocks. The waterfall is located in Sri Lanna National Park about an hour motorbike ride from Chiang Mai. You could also go on a group tour here or get some folks together and hire a songtaew.

Standing on the Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai
Climbing on the Sticky Waterfall

Hike in Doi Inthanon

You can take a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park where Thailand’s tallest peak is located. I recommend going on a day trip tour that includes some hiking, some waterfall swimming, some lunch, a hill tribe visit, and coffee tasting.

Note the weather at the top of the mountains here can be very different from Chiang Mai’s weather as you’re above 2000 m in altitude. It’s really incredible! But wear sunscreen.

King and Queen monuments at Doi Inthanon
The King and Queen Pagodas in Doi Inthanon are surrounded by gardens
Standing in front of a waterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park
Hiking around in Doi Inthanon National Park

All things Pai

Do a weekend trip to the groovy mountain town a 3-hour nausea-inducing van drive from Chiang Mai. Pai has waterfalls, the Land Split, Pai Canyon, and hot springs to explore, amongst other outdoor activities and a particularly epic night market.

Pam Bok Waterfall in Pai, Thailand
Pam Bok Waterfall in Pai
Land Split in Pai in Thailand
The Land Split in Pai
Soaking in Sai Ngam hot springs in Pai, Thailand
Soaking the Sai Ngam Hot Springs in Pai

More about Chiang Mai:

How to Find an Apartment in Santitham, Chiang Mai

More about Thailand:

A Walking-only Guide to Koh Tao

Is Koh Tao a Good Place to Live as a Digital Nomad?

I've been living in Chiang Mai for a few months and these are my favorite spots to escape the city and enjoy some nature time.
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