Hiking the Mae Yen waterfall trail – Thailand

Thailand Pai Cloudy Sunrise

The Mae Yen Waterfall is located near the city of Pai in Northern Thailand. Though there’s waterfalls pretty much everywhere in Thailand that one is worth the shot because of its 2 level pools, but also because you actually need to walk to reach that waterfall. And lot of people give up before reaching it.

Full Disclaimer

Being a pretty advanced hiker, what you are about to read might not be applicable to you. 
Please get to know who I am before adventuring yourself in this article.
We do not all react the same way to the local environment and the weather could turn out to be very different.
Make sure you understand your body and mental fitness before engaging yourself in rough hikes. 

Quick Summary:
– Hike type: 1 out of 2 stars Out-and-back
– Packing: 1 out of 3 stars (1 / 3) Small day pack (~10L) with a water-filtering tool
– Hike length: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) – 12km / 7.5miles roundtrip. Doable in less than 5h
Hike elevation: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) 210m / 690ft – 1.75% overall steepness
– Accessibility: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) – The start is located on the outskirts of Pai
– Overall difficulty: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) – A lengthy hike despite the short distance due to constant river crossing

Author’s note: having lost most of my Thailand’s pictures, I’m sorry to say there’s not a lot to illustrate that hike


Walking Bare foot in the jungle
Anything else but sandals will lead you to walk bare feet

Do NOT take anything else than SANDALS to walk. Not flip-flops, not sneakers, not hiking boots, SANDALS (hiking sandals being the best).
That hike requires the river Mae Yen Luang to be crossed over 30 times! People either give up because they are tired of taking their shoes on and off, or because they start getting blisters from their wet shoes.
With the river being constantly there, take a water filtering system with you and you won’t have to care about how much water to carry.

Doubting about what you should wear? Read this article about Appropriate Hiking Gear.

Warning: This hike will be longer than expected. A lot of people end up turning around because the constant river crossing slows their pace. Be ready for that.

Getting There

GPS coordinates : 19.3621115,98.4610396
To reach the Mae Yen Waterfall, you must first reach the city of Pai.
There are vans leaving Chiang Mai almost on an hourly basis. Just know that it is a strenuous road and you might get car sick.
For the fun of it, you can always rent a scooter from Chiang Mai and drive yourself there. If you do it correctly it could be even cheaper than the van.

Once you reached Pai, walk or ride your scooter East towards the only bridge in the area. Stay on that road and make a slight left at the next intersection (you should see a written sign indicating a “Waterfall Hike”), then stay on the road until the end which will very quickly become a dirt road. At that point cars will become too large to stay on the road.
There’s a small parking area at the end of the path where you can leave your scooter or bike. 

Hiking Mae Yen Waterfall trail

The trail starts with what you’ll have to do for the next 4 hours: crossing a large puddle of water.
Go through it and immediately after that, be confused about the path to follow.
Turns out you have 2 options: follow the stream to the right, or go straight in-between private properties. Regardless of the option, they merge within a few hundred meters.
If you go in-between the properties, just follow the obvious trail. You will walk pass a house and the trail will take a left turn at that point. Very quickly you’ll have to cross the stream again.
That’s it, just follow the trail for the next 5km.  The trail is easily identified and there’s no way you can get lost. Just be ready to cross the river many, many times.

The Mae Yen Waterfall
The Mae Yen Waterfall

After roughly 4.5km, you will see a blue sign indicating a steep climb ahead. No need to use hands, but be careful as the steepness combined with the muddiness of the area makes it easy to slip and fall.
You’re only 1.5km away from the waterfall but that could still represent a good 30 to 45min of walk.
The good news is that the steep section doesn’t last long.

After that, keep walking until you reach the end of the trail. You can’t miss it, it ends with a waterfall.

Once you’re done enjoying the waterfall and its 2 pools, just turn around and walk the trail in reverse in order to go back to Pai.

The path for the Mae Yen Waterfall

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