Mae Ya Waterfall (Nam tok Mae Ya)

Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

About Mae Ya Waterfall (Nam tok Mae Ya)

Hiking Distance: 1.2km round trip
Suggested Time: 45 minutes

Date first visited: 2008-12-30
Date last visited: 2008-12-30

Waterfall Latitude: 18.43977
Waterfall Longitude: 98.59407

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Mae Ya Waterfall (Nam tok Mae Ya) was definitely one of the better waterfalls we saw in Thailand, and it seemed to us to be the pride of the Chiang Mai province.

It certainly surprised Julie and I with its enormous size, which our guide said was about 260m tall and up to 100m wide (though I’ve seen more modest claims that its height was more like 40m).

Mae_Ya_035_12302008 - The Mae Ya Waterfall
The Mae Ya Waterfall

And while the Thi Lo Su Waterfall tended to get a good deal of votes for Thailand’s most beautiful waterfall, Julie and I actually thought Mae Ya was every bit as good.

Our guide, who happened to be from nearby Chom Thong Village, thought this was better than Thi Lo Su, but there might be a little bit of a local bias.

Nonetheless, we thought highly enough of this waterfall that we put it into our Top 10 List of Best Asian Waterfalls.

We’ve been told that this was supposedly the tallest waterfall in the country (we’re not sure about that assertion), but it definitely held its own in terms of size.

Mae_Ya_001_jx_12302008 - On the drive to the Mae Ya Waterfall, we could see in the distance the peak of Doi Inthanon Mountain, which was the highest point in Thailand
On the drive to the Mae Ya Waterfall, we could see in the distance the peak of Doi Inthanon Mountain, which was the highest point in Thailand

However, what really made this waterfall stand out was the massive triangular fan shape and the multitude of stepping drops that gave it character and texture (especially if photographed in long exposure).

We saw plenty of people who came with big cameras so I think it was safe to say this was also a photographer’s favorite.

In addition to photographers, we saw many other people simply content to bring their families and play in the water further downstream of the Mae Ya Waterfall.

Given that it was mid-afternoon when we showed up (around 2:15pm) and there were lots of people here, the best viewing spots at the end of the trail had limited space.

Mae_Ya_001_12292008 - At the car park and market with Mae Ya Waterfall in the distance, making it clear to us that it was indeed a large waterfall
At the car park and market with Mae Ya Waterfall in the distance, making it clear to us that it was indeed a large waterfall

Thus, in order to avoid having people inadvertently photobombing your shot, we had to exercise some patience in order to get that desired photograph, especially for those long exposures that would require a tripod to be set up.

Overall, the walk was a mere 600m from the car park though we easily spent nearly an hour here for the hiking and relaxing.

Part of the reason why we stayed as long as we did was to wait for the sun to hide behind the mountain so we would be able to take that long exposure photograph without washing out any part of the photo that the sun was still shining on.

That probably didn’t happen until some time close to 3pm during our visit on the penultimate day of 2008.

Mae_Ya_040_12302008 - Context of people enjoying the Mae Ya Waterfall
Context of people enjoying the Mae Ya Waterfall

As for the path itself, it pretty much followed the river so we could see from its size that the waterfall probably had year-round flow.

Meanwhile, the car park was decked out with a large row of tented cantines and markets.

The top part of Mae Ya Waterfall was visible from here, which suggested to us that there was some merit to our belief that it was big.

Of course, it also hastened us to get onto the walk with plenty of excitement.


The Mae Ya Waterfall resides in Doi Inthanon National Park near Chom Thong in the Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. It is administered by the National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Mae_Ya_007_jx_12302008 - Sign indicating that it was a mere 600m to the Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_005_12292008 - Looking downstream over some cascade on the way to the Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_007_12302008 - Our first look at the impressive Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_011_12302008 - Julie having a seat and checking out the impressive Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_014_12302008 - Julie getting another look at the Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_022_12302008 - With limited viewing space at the end of the trail, I tried to see how else I could capture the Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae_Ya_038_12302008 - This was about as close to the Mae Ya Waterfall as I was willing to set up the tripod for this photo
Mae_Ya_042_12302008 - We saw quite a few people enjoying the water downstream of the Mae Ya Waterfall

The falls is about 14km from Chom Thong Village at the end of a scenic road that teased us with distant views of the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand‘s highest point.

Note that the road to Mae Ya was different than the road leading up to the summit of the Doi Inthanon summit (both split from each other around the Chom Thong Village).

Since we were on an escorted tour, we noted that it was also about a 50km (30-minute car ride) from the Mae Klang Waterfall, which was the attraction we came from to get here. It took us about 90 minutes to ride back to Chiang Mai from this waterfall.

For geographical context, Chiang Mai was in Northern Thailand roughly 700km north of Bangkok. It would take around 9 hours to drive or a little over an hour to fly between the cities.

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Sweep from the lower portion of the falls to the narrow top of the falls

Tagged with: mae ya, mae chaem, doi inthanon, chiang mai, national park, thailand, waterfall, fan, chom tong

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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