Somehow barely a blip on most tourist’s radar, the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai has been our new favorite discovery. When we were here a couple of years ago we hadn’t heard of it, and still we’re met with blank stares when we bring it up to other travelers in the city. Clearly this won’t be the case for long, because…look at it. It’s incredible. So if you’re sick of listening to us go on and on via Instagram or the blog and are silently screaming just tell us where it is already!, here you go people. Jump off cliffs and drink free herbal teas and enjoy. Welcome to the (other) Grand Canyon.
What is the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai?
This. And also known as the Hang Dong Canyon, the Grandcanyon Chiang Mai is a beautiful canyon less than an hour from the center of Chiang Mai city where you can swim, sunbathe, and cliff jump (they have heights for all confidence levels). You can rent an inner tube and lounge for hours, bring beers and hang out in the sun, eat freshly barbecued chicken at the grill. It’s pretty great. And for those scared to stray too far from the beach when the summer heat peaks, it’s the perfect solution. So far, there aren’t crazy crowds, and you’ll likely meet some really cool tourists who know about some other interesting places to go.
Hands down, the Grand Canyon has topped our list of favorite things to do in Chiang Mai. Offbeat, unexpected and naturally beautiful, it’s absolutely worth the trip (even if you’re only in the city for a few days).
How to Get to the Grandcanyon Chiang Mai
Motorbikes. If you’ve been using them and loving them, wonderful. If not, learn to (it really isn’t that hard/scary/dangerous/etc.). Motorbikes are your key to exploring Chiang Mai the way it’s meant to be seen.
We’ve heard it’s also possible to get one of the red trucks or a taxi to take you, but they’re going to charge you a ton and you’ll have to pay for them to wait all day (sort of takes the fun out of it). If you do that, you must arrange for them to take you home too or you’ll be stuck. We recommend arranging this type of transportation through your hostel because you won’t find one on the street willing to make the drive unexpectedly.
It takes about 30-50 minutes to get to the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai (depending on your speed, traffic and if you miss turns, etc.), and most people stay for a few hours or the entire day.
Below you’ll find the Google Maps Image of how to get to the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. We recommend putting the address into the map on your phone before you leave Wifi- If you use Google Maps the route will stay even once you’ve left Wifi (just don’t mess with it or try to reload!) and your blue location dot will continue to move without internet so you can see if you’re on the route or not. (You can also take a screenshot of our map and written directions in case all else fails!).
Grand Canyon Chiang Mai Address: 244 M.3 T.Namphrae A.hangdong, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50230 (if you simply type “Grandcanyon Chiang Mai” into your maps application or Google Maps, it’ll show up)
To get from the Old City to the Grand Canyon, follow the route on the map you see below (we followed the left side of the square of the old city down until where the two highways cross, then switched to the 108 for those of you going off the map).
Follow the 1141 South out of the city (this is the middle route on the map). You’ll switch to the 108 right before you reach the Central Plaza Chiang Mai airport. You’ll see the road you are on turn into an overpass, and the 108 will go under the freeway. Take the underpass to the left (108). Drive for about 15 minutes until you reach the 121. Turn right onto the 121 and drive for about 5 minutes until you reach the first intersection where you will turn left onto the 1269. Keep going until you pass the Hang Dong Golf Club, and take the first right after you pass the entrance (Checking your location on Google Maps on your phone at this point is very useful as it can be easy to miss; also there is some amazing roadside Khao Soi before the golf club if you’re hungry!).
Go straight until you find a small reservoir. Turn right when you see it and drive for a couple minutes until you hit all of the tourists and: The Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai!
One of the main attractions and quite the adrenaline rush, everyone should jump off at least one cliff at the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. If you want to cliff jump, there are 3 levels. The canyon has incredibly steep drop-offs all around, so you can jump from basically anywhere.
The starter jumps: You’ll see a ramp area where people hang out on the far left, and it’s safe to jump from any point along that. Perfect for warming up and shaking the fear off! These vary from just a meter to about 5 meters high.
The middle ground: Straight in from the entrance are the bigger jumps. The middle size ones are at any point along the strait leading to the bigger jump. Definitely recommend this before the big one!
The terrifying big kid cliff: You’ll know it when you see it. When you enter it’s at the tip of the point directly ahead. Allegedly it’s about 16 meters, but when you’re up there I think it’s safe to say it’s a lot more. To climb up you actually have to scale a bit, so it’s pretty inconvenient to get down by not jumping. Once you do it though it feels pretty amazing.
Tips for jumping:
If you’ve jumped before these things are obvious, but we saw a ton of people getting water-slapped by doing it the wrong way.
Never dive off a cliff, save that for the professionals. Always go feet first and put your feet and arms together (like a pencil) once you’re in the air. You will feel it when you hit the water if your legs are apart or your arms are up on the big and middle ones. Try not to lean forward or back either! The worse that will happen is that the water will literally slap you, and you’ll be fine, but it hurts. A lot. The lifeguards had to go in after several people who belly-flopped or whatever and they looked pretty miserable.
Everything Else You Need to Know
- Entrance costs 50 THB per person and includes a free iced herbal tea (the Butterfly Pea flavor is our favorite)
- Parking is free
- They don’t have lockers, so lock valuables you don’t want to bring in under your motorbike seat.
- Life jackets cost 25 THB to rent
- Inner tubes cost 50 THB to rent
- Food: They have a little cafe and outdoor grill selling food. It’s a little more expensive than street food, but fairly cheap for what you get. We ate roadside khao soi on the way for 35 THB and it kept us full. Inside, you can get papaya salad, rice, barbecued chicken for about 70 THB (If you have multiple people they have big portions for sharing, cheaper). The cafe has coffee, juice, fruit shakes, beer and tons more. There isn’t anything directly around outside, so either eat on the way along the highway or you will need to eat there. Outside food and drinks aren’t allowed.
- Go early! The high canyon walls start to make a bunch of shade in the laying out areas by the afternoon, so stake out a good spot early in the day and enjoy the sun while it hits dry land. There are several bamboo platforms for laying on and it’s awesome if you can snag one of them!
- About 100-300 THB (you’ll need 50 THB for entrance, about 20 THB for gas, 30-70 THB for food, at least 70 THB if you want beer)
- a towel
- sandals (wear sneakers while driving but you’ll want sandals to walk around the Canyon- it’s very rocky)
- A lot of people bring speakers and GoPros, we brought our iPhone for navigation and photos.
- They say no outside food/drinks but we all had big water bottles in our backpacks which I recommend because it’s hot.
- If you don’t like leaving things unattended, don’t bring them into the Canyon. Most people are trusting, but if you want to cliff jump or hang out in the water, you won’t really be able to keep an eye on your stuff, the canyon is huge. Either be detached and okay leaving your things unattended (we don’t know if things get stolen) or leave them behind. (Next time, we’ll only take our GoPro and cash because we can keep the GoPro in the water with us.)
- If you can stay until just before sunset, you’ll notice the colors change as the light reflects against the canyon, turning the walls a brighter orange and the water a richer turquoise. Don’t leave much later than 5:00pm if you want to avoid driving home in the dark.
By: Megan Spurrell