Trip Report : 2 Day Trip, Exploring Trail from Doi Luang, Phayao to Doi Nohk
It has been a while since I have written about my hiking explorations. I have already covered on this web site most of the hikes that stand out for me within an hours drive of Chiang Mai. But I am beginning now to travel further afield and am finding exciting new areas again. One such recent trip I made was out to a beautiful long ridge that starts about 2 hours drive NE of Chiang Mai toward Chiang Rai.
Doi Nohk (Hump Mountain)
If you head out of Chiang Mai on highway 118 towards Chiang Rai and turn off towards Phayao on highway 120 before you reach Phayao you will cross a ridge of mountains running North to South. The highest point on this ridge is Doi Nohk which is 1686 m above sea level. Doi Nohk (ดอยหนอก) seems to take it’s name from it’s shape. Nohk in Thai means a hump (as in camel hump) so the name can be translated as Hump Mountain. It is quite a sharp hump that sticks out above the ridge.
I had heard about Doi Nohk from a friend who hiked up there with Trekker Hut a group of mainly Thai hikers from Bangkok who travel all over. There is a hike to climb Doi Nohk that you can just about do on a long day trip from Chiang Mai. Below you can see a screen shot from Google Earth showing the trail going up the mountain. You might be able to make your way up to the peak without a GPS but the trail is not obvious, you can find a GPS trail for this route in the collection of tracks below.
There are a couple more routes up to Doi Nohk that come up the over side of Doi Nohk, up the side of the ridge from the East and West. The Eastern route starts from the edge of Phayao and it looks like it would be fairly easy to drive to the trail head. The Western route that is included in the collection of tracks below involved a ride on a tractor from the start and end of the trail.
Off Road Car Track Up To Top Of Ridge, 23.3 km North of Doi Nohk Peak
I found from consulting the Thai military maps for the area and Google Earth satellite imagery that it would also be possible to drive up a road to the top of the ridge 23.3 km North of the peak of Doi Nohk. There is a road that goes up to the top of the ridge from the East side of the ridge, North of Phayao. Most of the way up the ridge this road is tarmacked, then nearer the top the ridge the tarmacked road turns into an off road car track. The track continues 2.6 km to the top of the ridge, crossing a quite dodgy make shift bridge and involving some fairly steep parts where the track is red clay. The track is pretty slippy in the rainy season in places and probably shouldn’t be attempted at this time of year. If at all wet I think it is a trail that would require an off road car with chains on the tires. Once on the top of the ridge, the track levels out a bit it continues along the ridge South another 5.3 km to a foot trail that continues South on the ridge.
Following the ridge from here it is another 23.3 km to the peak of Doi Nohk and then another 8.3 km down to highway 120 from there.
Exploration of Foot Path Along Ridge
I made my way up to the top of the ridge to the North up the off road car track. And I found there is a well defined path for 9 km along the top of the ridge. According to locals it is mostly used by people taking cows along the ridge to graze, as well as people gathering things from the forest and hunting. There were fabulous views all the way. The ridge goes up to 1430 m above sea level at one point along this stretch. See the 30 second video below to get a taste of what the trip was like.
I drove up to the top of the ridge from Chiang Mai, and after getting my car out of a rather tricky spot, started hiking at 2pm. I camped after walking 9 km. The next day I had to turn back after walking a further 3 km. The path started to peter out after my camp site but there was still a faint trail along the ridge. Several km later though the ridge had widened out and there was no longer even a faint trail I could find. But the ridge was still passable. I had to make my way back though as I only had enough supplies for a 2 day trip and wasn’t sure how far I was going to have to walk down from the ridge to meet the car that was going to pick me up.
Possibility of Walking Further to the Peak of Doi Nohk
I think it is quite possible that if we are willing to forge our own trail in places that we could make our way all the way along the ridge to Doi Nohk. It is another 12 km along the ridge from where I camped to a known trail where trails come up to the ridge North of the Doi Nohk peak from Phayao and from the Western tractor trail.
Below in the Google Earth screen shot you will see in dark red the off road car track going up to the top of the trail and in light blue the section of the trail I explored. The grey part of the trail is the unexplored section of the ridge. The white trails are previously explored trails.
I am thinking that mid October I will go and stay the night in Phayao then hike up from there to the top of the ridge with supplies for a two day trip, coming back down to Phayao the same we went up. Just north of where the Phayao trail comes up on the ridge is the steepest part of the ridge and I would like to check that this section of the ridge is passable. Then I would like to see how easy it is to make our way North from there. I think we will need to be equipped with machetes to make our way along the ridge. Over time if not on this next trip I would like to develop a trail across the whole length of this ridge. Plan B for this next trip, if the steep section of the ridge is not passable, would be to go up to the peak of Doi Nohk and camp there.
Rumours of Tigers!
Tigers apparently have been spotted on this mountain ridge 4-5 years ago. Locals who took their cows up to the ridge were finding that their cows were often getting killed by something large. Some of these locals are said to have camped out hidden in the trees with guns to see what was killing their cows. I heard they saw two large tigers and one smaller one and they shot in the air to frighten the tigers off. It seems that little has been heard from these big cats since 4- 5 years ago, I fear they may be no longer with us. 🙁
This area of forest does seem quite wild though. Apparently there are lots of wild boar up there and some wild dogs.