Doi Khun Tan National Park
Lampang, like Chiang Mai, can be a full trip even if you spend all your time in town, but a drive up into the jungles of Doi Khun Tan National Park with their teak, bamboo, orchids and butterflies is worth adding on.
Located just north of the Chiang Mai-Lampang highway (that’s Highway 11, but you’ll find most locals don’t call it by the number), it’s an easy addition to most trips to Lampang.
The park has a few options for reasonable walks in the jungle – a 3 kilometer (one-way) hike out to Tad Moey waterfall, and a longer 11 kilometer hike up to the summit of Doi Khun Tan mountain. The hike does have some steep uphill climbs, but it’s doable in less than four hours and definitely worth it for the 360-degree views.
There is an area to camp within the last kilometer before the summit, but you have to bring your own tent and gear, and it’s best to ask some of the park officials about the conditions and let them know you’ll be staying the night before going up.
There’s also a quaint little railway station that’s worth a look, and a cafe if you’d like to just take a break and enjoy the nature with a little Thai tea or coffee. Entrance to the park costs 100 baht for foreigners (adults), plus 20 baht per motorbike and 30 baht for a car.
Thai food can be had at a number of local-style restaurants inside the park. If you fancy staying the night, the park offers chalets starting from 500 baht per night (single room with a queen bed and private bath).
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Elephant Conservation Center
Seeing elephants up-close can be a pretty moving experience – but ever wanted to be able to go see these beautiful mammals on your own terms, without doing a big tour?
On the highway between Chiang Mai and Lampang, the Elephant Conservation Center offers exactly that – it’s an especially convenient stop if you’re already going to Doi Khun Tan National Park. Wander through the huge grounds of the park and see elephant families, babies and their mahout caretakers going about daily life.
They do offer elephant shows, but rather than gimmicks like football or other games, the shows focus on educating visitors, demonstrating ancient logging techniques and other traditional uses for elephant labor – keep in mind that this can all be really hard on elephants and wear down their health, so it’s best to see this at a responsible place like the Elephant Conservation Center, where the focus is on treating the animals well rather than pleasing the crowd.
Right next door is the Elephant Hospital, and the two places seem to share an ethos of elephant wellness. Tickets for the shows are 200 baht per adult. You can also watch the elephants being washed every day until 1:30 PM. They even offer mahout classes on elephant handling and care, lasting anywhere from one day up to a month.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat
This set of “pagodas in the clouds” just might be the one thing you must see in Lampang Province, if you have time for nothing else outside the capital city. Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is a temple perched high on a mountain top about an hour north of Lampang city.
Nestled on top of the most prominent peak in the area, you can see Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat from far away, and from the top, needless to say, the views are incredible. From this cluster of chedis and little mountaintop structures, Lampang is laid out below you – just make sure any kids in the group know to be careful near the edge.
The trip to get to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is also an adventure in its own right. Drive or hire a car to get to the base of the mountain – here. The scenery on the drive out there is stunning (coming from Lampang city, Chae Son National Park or )though not as much so as the view from the top of the temple.
Park and purchase tickets for both entrance to the temple at the top as well as for a thrilling ride up the side of the mountain in one of the trucks that spend all day doing laps up and down the very steep road. It’s about ten minutes each direction in the truck.
When you reach the top, the truck lets you out in front of a well-maintained path. From there, it’s 800 meters to the views! Little kids or elderly folks may have to go slowly on the path, as it does climb significantly.
There are two great little coffee shops here that donate proceeds to the temple – one at the parking lot at the bottom and one at the top before the final walk up (there aren’t any facilities at the temple at the top, so this is also your last stop for a bathroom – keep this in mind if you’ve just drunk a big iced latte before the bumpy ride).
Entrance to the temple costs 200 baht for foreigners and the truck ride up and down costs 60 baht, roundtrip. Tickets cost far less for Thais, and the people at the ticket office may give you this rate if you have any documentation on you proving that you live or work in Thailand.
Trucks up to the temple run from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, though the last truck down waits until 6:00 PM, so you can stay for the sunset if you like (we didn’t have time but this sunset is now on the bucket list.
Chae Son National Park
We first stopped into the gorgeous Chae Son National Park when we decided to take the scenic route back from Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat – more on this under “How to Get to Lampang,” below.
With the cascades Chae Son waterfall and a great set of nature trails through the jungle, this lesser-known park is a great getaway for a half-day (or more!) from Lampang or Chiang Mai. The highlight is the waterfall, but the park headquarters also has information on the ecology of the forest.
You can also visit Chae Son Hot Springs, inside the park, where you can purchase eggs to hard boil in the pools of piping hot water.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, it’s about an hour hike (one-way) up to the summit of Doi Mon Lan from the park headquarters. From 1,517 meters above sea level, the views are stunning (more jungle than from Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat) and another trail leads down into the Mae Kampong area – a mountain town known for the Flight of the Gibbon tours.
This is a great spot to do a local homestay. If you’re interested in a guide for trekking in Chae Son, ask at the park headquarters or in Mae Kampong town. It’s also possible to reach Chae Son National Park by public transportation from Lampang city – ask for the bus to Chae Son on Talaat Khao Road.
Accommodation in the park is available, with chalets from 800 baht and tents for much less, though not during the rainy season. Entrance to the park costs 200 baht for foreigners.
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I am a Thai mum and love cooking for my children. Over the years, I have taken my family recipes as well as ones borrowed from friends and adapted them to make them even tastier. I publish my authentic Thai Food Recipes here for all to enjoy around the world. When I get a chance to travel I publish information to help others visiting Thailand.