Inthanon National Park
Inthanon National Park, at 482 square kilometres, protects
four major watersheds and, of course, Thailand's highest mountain,
Doi Inthanon, which has its summit 2565 metres (8415 feet) above sea
level. This National Park, in Chiang Mai province, is unique in Thailand
as it is 300 metres higher than any other mountain in the country
which allows it to support a tract of upper montane forest and Thailand's
only sphagnum bog (albeit a very small one).
there is quite extensive deforestation in places, due to a sizeable
hilltribe population, there is still a large amount of quality
habitat which is home to a very high number of bird species.
Due to the long road to the summit there are many places to
stop and access the forest which is magnificent in places; particularly
the moss-clad forest at higher altitudes. There are a number
of accommodation options in the park and although none of these
are exceptional it is unlikely that bird watchers will want
to spend much time away from the trails given the ornithological
treats that await. Birds seem to be in greater densities here
than in many other locations in Thailand, meaning that this
is an ideal place to see a large number of species in a short
space of time and one of the most memorable locations for birdwatching
(Photo by Vincent van der
Doi Inthanon has so many birding highlights it is almost impossible
to mention them all without giving the entire checklist for
the National Park. This mountain spans a number of habitats
and consequently contains the birds associated with them.
The summit area, which is higher than any other in Thailand,
provides some of the most memorable birdwatching on the mountain,
perhaps even the whole country; Chestnut-tailed Minla, Green-tailed
Sunbird, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush
are very abundant in this area and both Speckled and Ashy
Woodpigeon are frequently seen.
further down the mountain Green and Purple Cochoas steal the
show, with many species of Flycatchers to be seen from the
park HQ to the summit. Brown-throated Treecreepers are easily
found as are many colourful birds such as Maroon Oriole and
(Photograph by Suppalak
(Photo by Suppalak
the rivers near the waterfalls Slaty-backed Forktail and Plumbeous
Water Redstart can be seen foraging amongst the rocks and
White-capped Water Redstart (River Chat) is a must see bird
which no illustration does justice to; to me this is one of
the most beautiful birds to be found in Thailand.
drier forest contains birds seldom seen anywhere else. Black-headed
Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and White-rumped Falcon
are the most sought after birds here and Black-backed Forktail
is present in the streams.
The sheer size of Doi Inthanon means that a high species total
can be accumulated on any visit, and by staying for 3 or 4
days and birding at a variety of altitudes a large number
of exciting birds can be seen.
here for a checklist of the birds of Doi
Inthanon National Park
Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for
ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand:
to Doi Inthanon is not difficult; take a bus or songtaew from
Chiang Mai to Chom Thong (pronounced Jorm Torng). If you arrive
here before 10 am you can get on a regular songtaew up the
mountain. If arriving later than 10 am you should charter
a songtaew to the park HQ at Km 31, which should cost 300-400
baht. Considering the distance this isn't a bad price.
your own vehicle the journey is a simple one and getting to
HQ will take about 1.5 hours. From Chiang Mai get on the road
which heads out to the airport and continue all the way to
Chom Thong from which Doi Inthanon is clearly signposted.
Although it is easy to get to Doi Inthanon without private
transport it is highly advisable to hire a car to fully enjoy
the park. The birding hotspots are a long distance apart and
without transport lots of walking, hitch-hiking or flagging
down irregular songtaews will be required. The road up Doi
Inthanon is well-maintained and a four-wheel drive vehicle
is not essential. Driving to the summit from Chom Thong takes
around 45 minutes and vehicles can be hired in Chiang Mai
for as little as 800 baht a day with just a passport as deposit.
are a large number of locations one can stop and observe birds on
Doi Inthanon, and if so inclined there is the opportunity to find
new and "unexplored" trails. However, here are some of the
established birding locations;
area : As
soon as one arrives at the summit car park the birding starts in this
area; large numbers of leaf warblers, particularly Ashy-throated Warbler,
are always present in the vegetation around here and Chestnut-crowned
Laughingthrush, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and
Green-tailed Sunbirds are always around to add a splash of colour.
All these species are reliable in the wet season although most are
easier in the dry.
are lots of great photos around of various thrushes from within
the grounds of the radar station, however, the guards will
not allow foreigners into this area which is disappointing;
apparently we are all spies! Doug Judell once tried to stroll
in with a party of Thai birdwatchers; he almost made it but
a guard chased him and he was turned back. If anyone manages
to access this area maybe they could contact me and tell me
their modus operandi.
boardwalk is wonderful and seems like something from Lord
of the Rings; White-browed Shortwing, Pygmy Wren Babbler and
Rufous-throated Partridge are ever present but not always
easily seen; listen for their calls. Lots of other great birds
often occur in this area including thrushes, Ashy Woodpigeon
and Yellow-browed Tit so it could be worth spending a whole
morning on this short trail.
(Photo by Suppalak
Mae Pan trail :
I have only ever walked part of this trail, but it appears to have
potential as it winds through some moist and interesting forest.
This trail is high enough up the mountain for most of the summit
specialities to be present and a number of Flycatchers were present
on the only occasion I have been on the trail, with Vivid Niltava
the most notable. However, it seems that it is now impossible to
walk this trail without hiring a guide for 200 baht. Apparently
it is impossible to dodge these guides and as this trail is not
one of the best on the mountain it is wise to avoid it. It seems
a massive imposition that having paid 400
baht to get into the park one must pay even more just
to walk on this trail!
These two modern chedis are in an open area which can provide some
great views over the surrounding countryside on a clear day. Green-tailed
Sunbird is common here, feeding on nectar in the ornamental gardens
and often one can get very close to this species here. Buff-throated
Warbler often puts in an appearance in the scrubby areas behind
the left-hand chedi as one enters the area, and is one of the most
attractive Phylloscopus warblers in my opinion.
damp patch of forest behind the toilets here seems very productive
for flycatchers, particuclarly Niltavas and I've also seen Snowy-browed
and White-gorgetted Flycatchers here. Hanging around the toilets
with a pair of binoculars can draw a few stares however. A fee of
20 baht must be paid to enter this area which I'd like to think
goes towards the upkeep of the chedis but is much more likely to
fill the pockets of high ranking park officials.
2/Jeep Trail (Km 37.5) : This
is one of the best-known birding areas on Doi Inthanon so don't
be surprised to meet other birders here. Simply birding along
the road is often rewarding, particularly with Spectacled Barwing
being reliable; other birds often seen from the road include
Small Niltava, Short-billed Minivet and Eyebrowed Thrush. The
jeep track itself is easily missed as its entrance is quite
overgrown: it is on the right immediately after a small building
just after the checkpoint. The excellent forest here is regarded
as a reliable site for Green and Purple Cochoas. Do not be fooled
into thinking that these are easy species to see though; Green
Cochoa is best looked for from February to July and Purple Cochoa
isn't often seen outside of April. Cochoas apart there can be
so many good birds on this trail that one could spend the whole
day on it when bird activity is high, although sometimes there
can be frustratingly few birds present. Even on quiet days views
of Brown-throated Treecreeper, Maroon Oriole, Little Pied Flycatcher
and Large Niltava (listen out for its "Doh, Ray, Me"
call) should be possible. Most people walk this trail until
it emerges into an open valley, but it seems to stretch way
beyond for the adventurous.
(Photo by Suppalak
34.5 Trail : This
trail consists of a jeep track which splits into 2 branches after
about 1 kilometre. It passes through some useful forest, with a
few damp gulleys to explore in which I have seen White-tailed Robin,
Rufous-bellied Niltava, White-gorgetted Flycatcher, White-necked
Laughingthrush and Black-eared Shrike Babbler, before emerging into
secondary vegetation where birds such as Rusty-cheeked Scimitar
Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia and Hill Prinia can be found; the bamboo
in this area is a good place to spot Black-throated Parrotbill.
This should be enough to whet your appetite and encourage you to
explore this trail which certainly receives fewer birders than the
jeep trail at Km 37.5. I have been told that this trail is also
good for spotlighting Mountain Scops Owl; it's bell-like call will
be easily heard to help you find it!
Daeng's : Mr
Daeng has a beautiful collection of bird photographs and an informative
birding logbook. However, the real reason to stop here is for the
birds that turn up at the stakeout behind his restaurant; Dark-sided
Thrush, Lesser Shortwing and Siberian Blue Robin are often seen
and Hill Blue Flycatcher and even Bronze-winged Jacana turn up!
There is little to see in the wet season though. Birds such as Little
Spiderhunter, Grey-breasted Prinia, Black-throated Sunbird and Olive-backed
Sunbird can be found in the garden.
The target species for most people here is Black-tailed Crake which
seems to put in an appearance an hour or two before dark. Sit on
the slope near the marshy patch here to give yourself a view of
as many open patches between the long grass as possible so as to
spot it when it crosses these areas. If you are lucky enough to
get a clear view this bird is very handsome indeed. Unfortunately
I have been told that this small marsh has become very overgrown
and a tape is a necessity to lure the crake into a viewable situation.
Mountain Scops Owl calls from the campsite at night so spotlighting
here might be rewarding.
short walk up the road through some farmland brings one to a small
orchard where Daurian Redstart has occasionally turned up. Many
other open-country birds can be seen along here, including Grey
Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat, Pied Bushchat and Green Bee-eater.
Waterfall : This
waterfall can be accessed by following the road to the campsite
and turning left when the school is to one's right. Follow the signs
to the base of the falls. This is a good place for River Chat and
Plumbeous Redstart as are other waterfalls on Doi Inthanon; this
one is much less often visited by birders however. There is a trail
which follows an irrigiation channel which can produce some nice
birds, but beware of the slippery flagstones. I am told that this
is a good stake-out for White-headed Bulbul too; be careful to get
a good look at them and not to mistake stresemanni or leucothorax
subspecies of Black Bulbul for White-headed as they can be quite
common in the north.
22 (Siritan) Waterfall :
rather beautiful and large waterfall has a small car park and a
trail leading to its viewing platform. This offers a great view
of the water pouring over the lip and often provides sightings of
River Chat. Grey Wagtail and Blue Whistling Thrush should both be
seen and by walking down to the water from the platform Plumbeous
Redstarts can be found. When the water is low it is possible to
make ones way downstream by climbing along the rocks and this provides
an opportunity to see other forest birds.
(Photo by Suppalak
Waterfall : This
far down the mountain the forest is very different to that
at the summit, appearing much drier with the temperature far
higher. The waterfall itself is quite a spectacle, particularly
after the wet season. Blue Whistling Thrush is always present
here with at least two subspecies to be seen in the "winter"
months; Grey Wagtail is often to be seen foraging amongst
real treat, though, can usually be seen a little downstream
of the falls, where a set of steps leads down to the stream,
including some shady pools. If one waits here a while Slaty-backed
Forktail is usually the first bird to appear and isn't too
shy. Plumbeous Water Redstart can also be encountered here
but can be very quiet and often sticks to the shadows, so
look closely. The star of the show here is White-capped Water
Redstart or River Chat, which although by no means is guaranteed
here, does often show up if there are not too many people
about. It is worth spending an early morning or late afternoon
here to see it undisturbed as its colours are wonderfully
vivid: this is perhaps my favourite bird at Doi Inthanon.
Note: Slaty-backed Forktail is still easy to find
here in the wet season but River Chat and Plumbeous Redstart
bridge crosses a stream here and the waterfall viewable to the left
as one heads uphill is a reliable spot for Slaty-backed Forktail
and Blue Whistling Thrush.
13 : A
small parking area leads to a bridge over a stream and then along
a trail through the dry forest. This has been a favourite place
to look for Rufous-winged Buzzard and White-rumped Falcon over the
years although they are by no means assured. Black-headed Woodpecker
is an extremely attractive bird which can be found in this region
and species such as Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Large Cuckooshrike
and Golden-fronted Leafbird are likely. Black-backed Forktail inhabits
the stream at the Km 13 parking area and can be seen fairly easily
just after dawn. This trail can be punishingly hot during the day
and totally devoid of birds; I have had the best luck in the early
morning and an hour before dusk, after 5.30pm.
Klang Falls :
This area can be worth investigating early in the morning before
the heat becomes too much or too many people turn up. Greater Racket-tailed
Drongo is very obvious here and I have also seen Banded Kingfisher
at this point. On one fortunate occasion the very beautiful Black-headed
Woodpecker put in an appearance for me here.
About 3 kilometres from the Inthanon Highland Resort is an
area of large scattered trees which is a regular pre-roost
gathering for Blossom-headed Parakeets in the dry season.
The highest number I have counted is at least 61 birds and
it is likely that there are a few more. This spot is also
superb for Rufous Treepie and a number of other open-country
get there, turn left, down a dirt track, immediately before
a small bridge, just beofre the entrance to the Inthanon Highland
Resort. Follow this track, ignoring a track which joins from
the left. Drive through what seems like an abandoned resort
and continue until the scattered houses which form a village.
At a small left hand turning you will see an obvious shelter
where you can park and wait for the birds. Between 5 and 6
pm is the time to be there.
there is quite a range of accommodation here it ranges from
grubby to adequate within the park itself, with better quality
just outside. Two locations within the park have National
Park bungalows; park HQ and Mae Pan. At HQ the bungalows appear
to cater for large parties, and although I have never stayed
here, I was told that bungalow prices started from 800 baht
per night - some look quite nice. HQ also has a small shop
selling a few snacks and souvenirs, including bird related
items, and a new, huge restaurant for diners, which is not
an improvement on the small ones which used to exist and a
ridiculous waste of entrance fees.
campsite is also located near headquarters, but far enough
away from it to be inconvenient; remember to pack a torch
for the walk back from the restaurants in the evening or possibly
food could be arranged in the hilltribe village. There are
toilets and showers here, but these can feel just a little
chilly and during busy periods it can be quite noisy too.
The nights here can be surprisingly cold so make sure to bring
sufficient bedding if camping otherwise a good night's sleep
will be difficult to come by as I found out rather dangerously
in 1999: Doi
Inthanon Trip Report.
near HQ is Mr Daeng's where he has a few, but reputably very
simple, rooms which are very cheap. Food is available here
and there is a bird log which can be quite informative and
he has copies of his birding map available. It's worth coming
here for lunch at least once just to see the vast array of
excellent bird photos on the walls.
National Park bungalows at Mae Pan are quite nice and can be rented
for as little as 500 baht per night (at least that is what Doug
Judell and I were charged) and have the benefit of hot showers. There
is a small restaurant here too so there is no need to go hungry
(or thirsty as beer is sold here).
kilometre 26 there is a simple Ecolodge, consisting of several bamboo
bungalows which cost 500 baht per night. This is run by a friendly
hilltribe family and is located in a peaceful spot. There is no
electricity here but gas lamps and candles are provided which lend
the place a nice atmosphere in the evenings. There is no food available
here though, but there is some reasonable open-country birding in
paddies around here.
in the park include excellent hot chocolate, tea and coffee at the
summit (toilets too); simple food, snacks and drink at the 2 chedis
and barbecued chicken and ice-cream at Vatcharitan waterfall. In
the rainy season the stalls at Vatcharitan waterfall are usually
By far the nicest
accommodation is outside of the national park with the Inthanon
Highland Resort (http://www.inthanon-highland.com)
being a particularly pleasant place to stay, but perhaps a little
expensive at 1200 baht per night. They are used to catering for
birdwatchers and will have breakfast ready early in the morning
- the food here is also very good. They can be contacted by telephone
+66 81 9610361 fax; +66 81 8850926. Sometimes this place gets very
busy with birding groups, but there is a pleasant alternative next
door; V.S.Inthanon Resort (http://www.vsinthanon.com)
which prices itself at 1200 baht per night but this price is negotiable.
They can be contacted on +66 83 3225101. The National Park staff
will charge visitors the
400 baht entrance fee on a daily basis if staying
outside of the park, something which rapidly increases ones expenses.
Thong has a number of shops and a modern petrol station where most
supplies can be found - there is even a small Tesco supermarket
now. There is also a cash machine in the town should you run short
where most visitors to Doi Inthanon will stay for at least
a short period, has lots of excellent places to stay and eat.
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Northern Thailand Birding Locations
Flora and Fungi of the Km 37.5 Jeep Track
Inthanon, 8-10th November 1999
Inthanon, 17-21st January 2000
Inthanon, 25-28th January 2002
Inthanon, 15-21st November 2003
Thailand, 6-13th October 2004
31st March - 13th April 2007
Inthanon, 21-25th April 2006
Tour, 10-24th January 2007
Introduction, 11-21st January 2007
Tour, 11-29th January 2007
Thailand, 14-19th February 2007
& Northeastern Thailand, 28th June-21st July 2007
Season Tour of Thailand, 17-25th July 2008
day Trip to Doi Inthanon, 26th July 2008
4 Target Species in the North, 28-29th July 2008
Season Birding Tour of Thailand, 1st-14th July 2009
by Nick Upton
Van Der Spek
Inthanon Summit - posted 15/08/09
Mesia - posted 11/01/09
Jeep Track at Km 37.5, Doi Inthanon -
Rainy Season Birding Trip
- posted 09/08/08
of Thailand, 17 January to 6 February 2008 -