Wat Pha Lat, a hidden gem located in the lush forests of Chiang Mai, can be reached by hiking the scenic Monk’s Trail. This lesser-known temple provides a serene and peaceful atmosphere perfect for those who want to escape the bustling city life and immerse themselves in nature.
The Monk’s Trail is a well-trodden path used by monks to reach the temple. Beginning at the end of Suthep Road near Chiang Mai University, the hike offers a delightful trek through the woods with occasional glimpses of colorful prayer flags, while leading to the enchanting Wat Pha Lat. The hike is suitable for both casual hikers and experienced adventurers alike and can be completed in just a few hours. Upon arriving at the temple, visitors are rewarded with not only the beautiful architecture but also the tranquil surroundings with a picturesque waterfall nearby.
Wat Pha Lat, though not as famous as its neighboring temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, is a worthy visit on any trip to Chiang Mai. The journey along the Monk’s Trail not only contributes to the unique experience but also offers a refreshing alternative to the city’s more popular tourist attractions.
Getting to the Trailhead
To begin your hike of Monk’s Trail to Wat Pha Lat, first, you need to reach the end of Suthep Road by Chiang Mai University. You can take a songthaew (the red shared “taxis”) to this point. After getting off the songthaew, walk forward and turn right at the intersection, heading towards the rear entry of Chiang Mai Zoo.
Once you pass the zoo, continue to walk uphill for about five more minutes. Keep an eye out for the trail sign near the left, where the road ends. You’ll notice trees marked with bright orange cloth, which is also used by the monks visiting Wat Pha Lat.
The hike is approximately 1.5 km one-way, with a gentle ascent up the mountain slope. Along the way, you’ll come across lush jungle, elegantly flowing streams, and several photo-worthy stops. The trail is categorized as easy, with an elevation gain of 187 meters (614 feet) and the highest point of elevation at 635 meters (2,084 feet)
Keep in mind that it will take around 45 minutes to reach the end of your hike at Wat Pha Lat temple.
Hiking the Monk’s Trail
The Monk’s Trail is a popular hiking route that takes you to Wat Pha Lat, a hidden gem nestled in the lush jungles of Chiang Mai. The trail spans approximately 3 km (1.8 miles) roundtrip and is suitable for hikers of most skill levels. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning natural beauty and be immersed in the serene atmosphere of this sacred trail used by monks.
As you embark on this relatively easy hike, you will gain an elevation of around 187 m (614 feet), with the highest point reaching 635 m (2084 feet). Most of the trail is shaded by trees, providing some reprieve from the heat, although it can still be moderately challenging in hot weather.
Getting to the trailhead is simple. After passing the Chiang Mai Zoo, walk uphill for around five more minutes until you reach the trail sign where the road ends. Once you’re on the trail, follow the bright orange cloth wrapped around trees to ensure you stay on the correct path. The hike typically takes about 45 minutes to reach Wat Pha Lat.
If you wish to extend your hiking adventure, you can continue on from Wat Pha Lat to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This section, however, is longer and steeper, taking around 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the iconic temple.
Exploring Wat Pha Lat
The hike to Wat Pha Lat along the Monk’s Trail is an easy 3 km roundtrip, suitable for most skill levels (A Rambling Unicorn). As you hike through the lush jungle, you’ll find beautiful wilderness, gradually unveiling the serene and unique Wat Pha Lat temple.
This temple, also known as the Forest Temple, is nestled amongst the trees and features intricate statues, shrines, and natural elements harmoniously combined in its architecture (We Seek Travel). As you explore the temple grounds, you’ll notice the calming sound of the waterfall nearby, setting a peaceful atmosphere.
While wandering through the area, take time to observe and respect the religious symbols and artifacts. Some key points of interest include:
- Ornate Buddha statues adorned with colorful sashes
- The ancient Chedi (stupa) hidden within the trees
- Various spirit houses scattered across the temple grounds
- Beautiful mural paintings depicting the life of the Buddha
As a place of solitude and meditation for monks, it’s essential to maintain a quiet and respectful manner while visiting Wat Pha Lat (Globo Treks). This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquility and beauty of the temple and its surrounding nature.
Tips and Precautions
When planning your hike on the Monk’s Trail to Wat Pha Lat, it’s essential to keep a few important tips and precautions in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
First and foremost, wear appropriate footwear for the hike. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots with good traction will help you navigate the trail safely and comfortably. It’s also recommended to wear light, breathable clothing that’s suitable for the tropical climate of Chiang Mai.
Bring enough water and snacks to sustain you throughout the hike. The trail can take around 1 to 3 hours, depending on your pace, so it’s essential to stay hydrated and well-nourished during the journey. You can refill your water bottles at Wat Pha Lat, so be sure to pack enough for the first part of the trail.
Stay on the main path and respect the environment by not littering or disturbing the flora and fauna. If you’re hiking during the rainy season (June to October), be prepared for muddy, slippery conditions.
Finally, while exploring the temple grounds, be respectful of the sacred space by dressing modestly (covering shoulders and knees), refraining from loud noises, and observing the posted signs and guidelines.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Wat Pha Lat and hike the Monk’s Trail is during the cooler months, from November to February. This is when the weather is most comfortable for hiking, with less humidity and heat. However, it is important to note that this is also the peak tourist season, so expect more visitors on the trail during this time.
If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of monks walking along the trail, plan your visit between 7 am and 11 am, as this is the most common time for them to traverse the path. To enjoy the best natural lighting for photography, visit before 2 pm when the sun is still high in the sky. After 2 pm, the sun begins to move behind the mountain, but the lighting remains adequate for sightseeing and photography.
When planning your hike, consider the following guidelines:
- Hike during the cooler months (November-February) for the most comfortable weather conditions.
- Visit between 7 am and 11 am to observe monks on the trail.
- Reach Wat Pha Lat before 2 pm for optimal natural lighting.
Remember to wear comfortable clothing and footwear, and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent for a more enjoyable experience on the trail.
The Wat Pha Lat hike along the Monk’s Trail is a unique and memorable experience, offering a scenic and peaceful trek through the lush jungles of Chiang Mai. This moderately challenging hike rewards visitors with stunning views and a glimpse into the tranquil life of Buddhist monks.
The kid-friendly trail is well-maintained and features vibrant flora and fauna, making it an ideal excursion for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and families alike. Moreover, the hike’s relatively short distance allows visitors to enjoy the trail in just a few hours.
At the end of the trail, the serene and picturesque Wat Pha Lat temple complex awaits, providing a unique setting for reflection, meditation, and exploration. This lesser-known gem of Chiang Mai is well worth the hike and is sure to leave a lasting impression on those who undertake the journey.