Mae Yen Waterfall hike, Pai – Adventure Guide [2023]

If you’re after a real adventure right in the heart of Pai, look no further. Mae Yen waterfall is an awesome adventure right on the doorstep of Pai!

The mountain village of Pai in Northern Thailand is a big hit with the backpacking community, and for good reason. Nestled in the mountains, far away from any hustle and bustle that Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer, this quaint little mountain village has been a pilgrimage for backpackers for years.

That said, if you’re looking to get away from the copious amounts of elephant pants, weed shops, hippies, dreadlocks, and the occasional bongo drum, then don’t be fooled. Pai has some of the best waterfalls and hikes to escape the hippy vibes if that’s not your thing.

It just so happens that the Mae Yen Waterfall can be started from the middle of the village itself, and within half an hour you can be surrounded by dense jungle, and the wonderful nature that Northern Thailand is well known for.

Standing in the second pool admiring the cascade!

Quick Facts about Mae Yen Waterfall Pai!

  • Distance: 12-14km
  • Time from Pai: Can start it from Pai itself
  • Time needed: 4-6 hours
  • Best travel time: Early morning to avoid crowds
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Waterfall height: Three tiered, so hard to tell. But fairly large!
  • Cost: FREE!
Mae Yen in full glory

High Points of the Mae Yen Waterfall Pai

  • Easy to reach from Pai and no transport necassary (A scooter to cut the trail down is recommended)
  • Incredible jungle trek which rewards you with an amazing waterfall
  • Nice pool to plunge in after the long trek in

Low Points of the Mae Yen Waterfall Pai

  • A long old hike, with some decent elevation gain
  • A tonne and I mean 60+ river crossings in total
One of the many river crossings

How to get to the Mae Yen Waterfall Pai

I’m staying fairly central when it comes to Pai, and I managed to walk straight out of my hostel and all the way to the falls and back. It would, however, cut 4-5km off of the total distance of the hike if you were to drive a scooter to the first river crossing.

From Pai itself, you want to head out east, over the bridge, and towards the big buddha on the hill. Then you’re going to head through to the starting point of the trail which is a small road through wonderful rice terraces with the infamous mountain backdrop.

There’s an alternative stop on the way at the Long Neck Karen Village. But personally, I do not agree with this from a moral standpoint, but that’s just me.

Here’s the starting point for the trail:

The route/track to the waterfall itself is fairly self explanatory. However, please make sure you’re prepared for many, and I mean many, river crossings.

Wear appropriate shoes, or hiking sandals. I saw lots of people barefoot, which isn’t really the best of ideas given that the hike is as long as it is. I wore trail runners as I always do, and was absolutely fine. A spare pair of socks would have been handy but it wasn’t too bad.

Route Map and Elevation Map

As previously mentioned, the route is fairly self-explanatory. You’ll be dodging and diving under and over fallen trees. You’ll be crossing the river back and forth and you’ll be clambering over rocks.

About 2/3 of the way through the trail you’ll go up a steep section of the trail. This is the hardest part of the trail but doesn’t last for too long. Take your time and you’ll be absolutely fine.

One of the main things with this hike is looking after your feet and ensuring you don’t collapse your arches from walking barefoot and don’t get blisters from wet socks and friction.

Not a bad lunch spot!

My Experience of the Mae Yen Waterfall hike in Pai

Waterfalls are just amazing, aren’t they?

There’s something special about this one though. I think the dense jungle just makes a waterfall a little more special. Like it has a bigger allure, more of a mystic to it. Like it’s a true adventure and it’s really meant to be there, yanno?

That said, the hike through here is absolutely beautiful and would be a good day without the rewarding waterfall at the end.

When you get to the falls, you’ll be so pleased and relieved that you’ve made it after a hot, humid, jungle hike.

Make sure you clamber, at your own safety, up the side of the first waterfall to reach the second pool. From there you can cool off, take a little dip, and stand in awe at the cascading waterfall above you.

Those jungles leaves
Jungle doggo

If you’ve got a few days in Pai, then I would strongly suggest setting a morning/afternoon aside for this awesome hike into the jungle.

Just make sure you take plenty of water, good shoes, a towel, some lunch, and snacks and you’ll have the most amazing day at the Mae Yen Waterfall in Pai.

For all my hikes I used AllTrails. An all-in-one GPS, mapping, and route planning app that’ll have you exploring unknown trails wherever you are.

You can find the Mae Yen Waterfall hike on all trails here.

Make sure you visit Pam Bok Waterfall whilst you’re in Pai, too!

If you’ve any questions about the Mae Yen waterfall, then drop them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.

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