Winter trekking trails become a big magnet for both trekkers and adventurers to challenge themselves. The truth is that trekking is a popular activity in Vietnam, and it is not hard to understand the reason why. Thanks to the diversified topography, the S-shaped country offers many stunning trekking routes and breathtaking scenery. Furthermore, there are also many different kinds of possibilities for hiking in Vietnam, from a half-day exploration to a full-week journey. And what surely leave a strong impression on you are the views of stunning highland valleys, vivid rice terraces, towering limestone mountains, and untouched coastal areas.
So, if you are looking for the country’s remote trails with picturesque views for winter trekking, then it is time to consider the list of top trekking trails worth discovering, as voted by both domestic and international travelers.
Winter in Vietnam
This could come as a big surprise to some, but some certain parts of Vietnam, especially in the North, often goes through 4 seasons per year: Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. In general, wintertime here usually starts from mid-December to late March. The colder weather is due to the monsoon winds which blow from the northeastern section.
During this season, travelers can experience cold breezes, cloudy sky, and light showers. Though the winter temperature in Northern Vietnam can get quite low at 13°C, it is the best time for younger spirits to enjoy their trekking routes through a few mountainous areas, like Sapa, Ha Giang, Cao Bang where temperature can even get as low as 2°C and even snow and ice! This is a good chance to not only challenge their mind and body, but also catch stunning views from their trekking.
Best trails for winter trekking in Vietnam
Sapa is ranked as the first position in the list of trekking trails in Vietnam during wintertime. Located in the Northwest Vietnam, this is a mountainous town in Lao Cai Province. Winter in the town can be extremely cold with average daytime temperatures around 8°C and average nighttime temperatures around 1°C. While it might be a fabulous idea to see the rolling hills and spectacular mountains covered in a blanket of white snow, trekking in this weather could be both challenging and rewarding.
This highland area gains reputation for not only the mountainous retreat for Vietnamese ethnic groups, but also home to a dense network of trekking trails. Those trails promise to offer you awe-inspiring mountainous scenery and exhilarating feelings. Of course, you can choose to enjoy an easy-day hike that you can even end up a shopping spree or even dare to climb up to Vietnam’s highest peak, namely Fan Si Pan Mount, during a 3-day trip. Especially, hiking in winter rewards you with a chance to experience the fog-covered views of the terraced rice paddies.
Overall, trekking through Muong Hoa Valley is one of the tops things to do in Sapa. Far from the town about 14 kilometers, the trek takes you on a great experience that learns more about cultivating rice fields and teaches you about the culture of the H’mong people. During the route, you have an opportunity to see a bamboo forest, walk through terraced rice fields, and interact with the locals. They also offer multi-day treks in which homestay is included, too. It is highly recommended to book a trek journey with them for the deeper memory.
Another trekking paradise is the province of Cao Bang. If the coldness is not what you are afraid of, then a trekking trip to Cao Bang in winter could be your best choice. By now, the rains have largely stopped. Hence, hiking will be easier, safer and even less difficult than in autumn and summer. Maximum temperature in daytime is around 19°C, whilst 10°C at night is totally normal. Like Sapa, some of more mountainous regions in the province get snow every once in a while. Hence, make sure you come prepared!
Characterized by its landscape of karst mountain, spectacular waterfalls, meandering rivers, wild hikes, and cultural encounters, the place becomes one of the favorite trekking trails for adventurers and seekers. Whether you love hiking over peaks and past rivers, through rice terraces, or from one village to the next, there is one thing for certain that many friendly mountain villagers in the province would be happy to welcome you to their home.
One of the reputable hiking trails in Cao Bang is the route to the Ban Gioc Waterfall. About 370 kilometers from Hanoi, the falls will be worth distance without making you disappointed. The trek takes you past many hill-tribe villages of the Tay, Nung, Hmong, and Red Dao ethnic groups, before heading to Pac Bo village. From Hanoi, you can rent a motorbike/car to get Cao Bang City. While in the city, hiking to Ban Gioc Waterfall rewards you a chance to stay close to the pristine nature in Cao Bang at best. There are a number of hotels and homestays as accommodation in Trung Khanh Town, Cao Bang Province. Some typical examples are Sunny Hotel, Bang Giang Hotel, Thanh Loan Hotel, or Saigon Ban Gioc Resort.
It is no wonder why Mai Chau has been widely known as the haven for casual hiking in Vietnam. Located in Hoa Binh Province, about 135 kilometers from Hanoi and 60 kilometers from Hoa Binh, the town is best explored during the early wintertime as this is an ideal moment for trekking. Once winter is coming, the temperature is cool, at 22°C daytime, while the temperature can be lower at night, about 13°C. There is a little rain in December.
Generally, the surrounding landscape of rice paddy fields and tiny villages in Mai Chau do catch much attention from trekkers worldwide. Besides, the town’s peaceful vibe and ethnic cultures also greatly enhance your hiking experience. From Hanoi, you can take a bus or hire a car to Mai Chau. There are a wide selection of trekking tours here, from easy, short walking-day tours to multi-day challenging hiking tours. In fact, most of the treks start in either Lac or Poom Coong village. During the route, you will go hiking through different Thai hamlets, hillsides, and rice paddy fields before taking another hiking trail to return to Mai Chau again.
For adventurous spirits, who are keen on a multi-activity holiday in Vietnam, it is advised to book some extension tours which may be nicely combined with Mai Chau trekking tours, such as Tam Coc river boat trips, Pu Luong Nature Reserve trekking tours, Pu Luong Nature Reserve trekking tours, Cuc Phuong National Park trekking, etc.
Ha Giang, far 300 kilometers away from Hanoi, sets its location at the highest latitude in Vietnam. It is great to know that the temperature here seemingly remains moderate during the winter season although you can expect little rainfall in December. The average temperature of the region is about 19°C. However, the regions can experience the chilling cold at night, so the perfect way to keep warm is to wear jacket and socks.
The best trekking route in Ha Giang is the ascent to the highest top of Dong Van plateau, where you can widen your vision to a series of dazzling long mountain passes and deep valleys. Then, cross a landscape of stunning pine forests and find yourself at a grand fortress, known as the King of the H’mong’s Palace. Continue 3.5 hours trek on the highest mountains of Dong Van for breathtaking panoramic views. Just remember that several trails running along the mountains from Dong Van plateau to Meo Vac town may be challenging. However, the views are really tremendous in return. Along with that, descending into the picturesque deep valleys dotted with enormous fields and rocky mountains is a nice experience, too.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
If you’re looking for another adventure travel in Vietnam, it would be a shame to skip Pu Luong Nature Reserve. The Nature Reserve is located in Northwest of Hanoi Capital, belonging to 2 districts of Quan Hoa and Ba Thuoc in Thanh Hoa Province. Created in 1999, with an area of about 17,662 hectares, Pu Luong stands out as the largest nature reserve of Northern Vietnam. Comprising 2 mountain ranges and the valley in between, the place brings you to the most gorgeous natural scenes of grand mountains, fabulous terrace fields, limestone hills, magnificent streams and waterfalls, as well as biodiverse forests.
The best time to visit Pu Luong is from September to November or February to May since this is considered the rice harvest season. Travelling during that time is perfect when rice terraces are transformed into golden yellow vibe that will surely give the awe-inspiring photographic moments. In addition, early days of winter are also ideal for planning a trek in Pu Luong Nature Reserve (about mid-November to December). During this period, the temperature is cool, which is about 22°C in the daytime and about 13°C in the nighttime.
Recently, the Nature Reserve becomes a great destination for a few day trips from Hanoi. You can get there either from Mai Chau or Ninh Binh. Once in there, trekking in the forest and rice paddy fields, cycling through the beautiful reserve, and visiting many beautiful small villages are what win travelers’ heart. Adventure lovers can challenge themselves by conquering the Pu Luong summit at an altitude of 1,700 meters. When it comes to accommodation, it is worth noting that tourism activities are mainly organized by the locals. Hence, you should consider experiencing homestay in the Kho Muong Village, Nua Village, etc.
Cat Ba National Park
Situated in Hai Phong City, about 10 kilometers South East of Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba includes Cat Ba islands and Lan Ha bay. While some tourists fall in love with trekking through Cat Ba National Park, others find themselves absorbed in a cruise to visit Lan Ha bay islets, beaches and floating villages. If adventure is one of your hobbies, then it seems a big pity to skip hiking into Cat Ba National Park.
From late September to early December is considered the best time to travel Cat Ba Island. During this time, weather in the island is pleasant with mild temperature and fresh ambiance. The average temperature, in winter, it is about 15-20°C, even sometimes 10°C with the operation of Northeast monsoon. Along with the beach getaway and scenery contemplation, hiking is also one of the favorite activities here.
From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can book a flight to Hai Phong City, then enjoy a speed boat to Cat Ba town. If you depart from Ha Long Bay, it is advisable to take a ferry at Tuan Chau Island to get to Gia Luan harbor, Cat Ba Island. After that, spend 30 minutes taking a taxi to Cat Ba town. Cat Ba National Park actually covers more than half of the island; thus, this is an absolute must-see. Through the park, there is an 18-kilometer hiking trail up to the top of the mountain, which runs through the thick jungle and then up to the hills. Although the hiking route is undoubtedly strenuous, it is definitely worth your effort and sweat. The reward for the difficult climb is an opportunity to enjoy beautiful views and watch wildlife. Besides, the national park is also home to many of Ha Long’s native species, and it is so lucky to spot them! While on the island, head towards the Trung Trang and Hospital Caves since both are incredible stops. If you prefer to take it easy, considering shorter hikes is a good idea. Last but not least, going trekking in winter is also the best way to avoid large crowds.
Cuc Phuong National Park
As Vietnam’s oldest and largest national park in term of natural beauty, wild life, and its historical & cultural significances, Cuc Phuong should not be lightly taken. Just 130 kilometers far from Hanoi and 40 kilometers from Ninh Binh City, Cuc Phuong National Park sets its location in Nho Quan District, Ninh Binh Province.
Among many different interesting activities, trekking stands out as the favorite one. The best time to go hiking through Cuc Phuong is in the winter from October to January when the weather is cool and dry. During these months, trekkers have a chance to enjoy birdwatching with many species of rare birds and trekking tours to see flower blooming. Moreover, winter is also the dry season, so you cannot see the rainfall any more. For that reason, your trek will be easier without worrying about slippery paths at all.
On the whole, biodiversity in this park is truly impressive with primeval forests, hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, curious fauna, and karst mountains. Cuc Phuong is an ideal stop for a day trip from Hanoi. You can take a local bus from Giap Bat bus station. Then, catch a taxi to reach the national park. Or you can directly drive a car to the park. There are a wide variety of hiking trails which cater to all trekking skill levels. If you would like to have a short trek trip, then exploring the cave of pre-historic man and hiking route to thousand year old tree area is a nice idea. For those who are fond of discovering more of the national park, then make sure to arrange a 16 kilometer trek to Muong Hamlet where you experience Muong ethnic communities with their unique cultures. This trek is adventurous with much ups and downs. Hence, it is compulsorily accompanied by a local guide from the park.
Nam Cat Tien National Park
Situated in Lam Dong Province, Cat Tien is about 4-5 hours driving north of Ho Chi Minh City, on route to Dalat. And the big magnet of the province is the Cat Tien National Park – a UNESCO and nationally protected area, home to a whole range of wildlife ranging from ancient trees, to rare birds and insects, and even base to 2 wildlife rescue centers. The best time to trek through the park is the dry season (from November to May) when the temperature is cool without rainfalls. Of course, avoid visiting in the peak of monsoon season (from June to November) as you can experience rain and mud, making the National Park challenging to go hiking.
What else? Getting to Cat Tien is not difficult, although there are limited options because of its location. So, you must go by either taking a bus, driving motorbike or hiring a private car. There are 2 starting points to choose from, Dalat or Ho Chi Minh City. Though you can come back to the city in a day, it is recommended to stay overnight for the deeper discovery and more meaningful experience. Accommodation varies that ranges from simple bamboo huts to modern lodges. For those who want to observe many wild inhabitants in the park, staying in the accommodation set amid the forest itself is really perfect.
Thanks to an amazing ecosystem, abundant wildlife, and curvy pathways, Nam Cat Tien National Park becomes one of the most impeccable trekking places in Southern Vietnam. And the popular route is the trek to Crocodile Lake. The route typically includes a 9-km ride to the trailhead of Crocodile Lake as well as a 5-km walk into the lake area. The trail is paved and gives a moderate walk on flattish terrain with a lot of shade so that you can take a rest until reaching the destination. The more you trek through the forest, the more surprising you feel. And how do you feel after setting foot on the Crocodile Lake? It is indeed a beautiful landscape where there is no room for hassles and chaos, right?
Whether it is about leisurely walks through villages or long-distance hikes through jungles, you find yourself excited about these winter trekking trails in Vietnam. But, please double check the weather’s condition before starting any trekking date. Rainfall should be avoided as it will cause you lots of difficulties. Besides, don’t forget to wear neat and comfortable winter trekking pants and proper winter trekking boostS as well as bringing with you a jacket to keep your body warm at night. Hope that you enjoy a memorable trekking route!