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Mon Jam (or Mon Cham, ม่อนแจ่ม in Thai) is another must-ride mountain top just within two hours from Chiang Mai city. This road cycling ride takes you on a series of scenic climbs that rise along terraced farmlands and quiet valleys, an idyllic route with the usual mix of twists and turns, and challenging gradients of the roads in Northern Thailand.

We would recommend cycling the Samoeng Loop prior to riding this route, since the first 21 km are exactly the same, and Mon Jam might require a bit more cycling prowess, fitness and experience on Thai roads.

As mentioned, the ride begins with approximately, 10 km on the flat road 121 (or ‘canal road’) then turning left for 2.5 km on road 107 and left again into a quiet back road that leads past Mae Rim into road 1096.

Once riding on road 1096, you can continue straight to Mae Sae and Samoeng or take a deviation to the right, into road 4043, at approximately 21 kilometers from the start of the ride. This narrow rolling road stretches along the foot of the mountain for 5.5 km before the climb starts, and the first ramp is not a joke, 700 meters at 12% maxing out at 16% as a welcome to Mon Jam.

Including this ramp, the first half of Mon Jam climb ascends 500 meters in 7.5 km. The last 2.9 km of these are specially demanding at an average of 9% with beautiful hairpins and a vegetation canopy that helps cool down from the intense effort.

When you make it to the top, there’s a slight downhill to catch up your breath as you pass by a tiny village. Then another twelve hundred meters at 12% and you will reach the village of Mae Khi (แม่ขิ), where there’s a local shop with plenty of snacks and drinks should you need to take a break on a hot day.

The landscape is slowly transforming at this height, the dense tropical forest starts opening up and revealing some tiny vineyards, avocado and strawberry plantations and pasture fields with plenty of cattle, certainly not the most stereotypic Thai scenery, but a picturesque cycling backdrop resulting from the notably lower temperatures in the area.

There’s an intersection ahead that takes you to Samoeng on the right or to the second part of Mon Jam’s climb on the left. 5.5 km ahead at 6% average gradient but the last few meters flattens off, allowing for spectacular, almost 360-degree views of the stunning surrounding valleys, a heavenly sight after the effort.

82 Km

1310 m

4:00 hours

2 stops

2.5-3 W/kg

Avg 20 km/h

Max 16%


Download .GPX file

The top of Mon Jam is inhabited by a few agricultural communities from native hill tribes. They have adapted their crops to the mountainsides hence the iconic farm terraces overlooking the valleys. The area is also a tourism magnet and in the last few years there has been a proliferation of ‘pop-up’ tent resorts catering for local and foreign visitors. On the bright side, there are plenty of cafes born out of this tourism bonanza that serve locally produced coffee, most of them with astonishing views of the neighboring valleys and hills.

Despite the tranquility of the ascension, it can get real busy up here on the weekends, with hundreds of scooters and tourist minivans that get to the top from the other side, which is closer to Chiang Mai. Bear in mind this traffic on the 6.5 km descent, as well as the insane gradients (over 20%) that can be dangerous even with dry conditions.

The end of the downhill meets road 1096 again in an intersection where we can take a right turn towards completing an extended Samoeng Loop, or turn left to Mae Sa and Mae Rim. If we decide upon the latter, we’ve got another beautiful 10 km descent (don’t forget to stop in Mae Sa to spot some elephants) and a flat 20+ km run back into town.

As a general norm for rides starting from Chiang Mai we suggest setting off early to not only avoid the heat but also the traffic and the rain (between May and September it tends to rain in the afternoons). The pavement conditions are top-notch except some particular areas undertaking road works from time to time, and it’s a good idea to bring a compact groupset with at least a 30T or 32T cog to have a bit of rest in the steep sections.