Hiking In Vietnam: Dinh Mountain (DIY Guide)

In its mountain scarcity, Southern Vietnam humbly boasts of itsĀ top 3 highest mountains: Black Virgin Mountain being the highest at 996MASL, Chua Chan Mountain at 800MASL and Ba Ra (White Virgin) Mountain at 736MASL. My original plan after conquering the first two is to complete the series by going on a 4-5 hour journey from Saigon to Ba Ra Mountain. However, upon sharing my DIY guides to the FB travel groups, I received a tip from a prominent biker in HCMC named Florent about Nui Dinh about a 500MASL peak lying just along the road going to Vung Tau. Apparently, he has been to the mountain a lot of times tracing Mountain Bike routes. So I’m really thankful to him for introducing to me this mountain. šŸ™‚

Magical 6 levels of waterfalls of Suoi Da
Magical 6 levels of waterfalls of Suoi Da

By the time that I’m writing this, I have already been to the mountain twice.Ā I loved the nature surprises that it brought me the first time I went there so I did not hesitate to go back. Although theĀ strongest motivating factor is to reach the summit, the waterfalls (and I mean a lot of waterfalls) that are hidden in it are as inviting.

Getting To Nui Dinh

Google maps would always suggest the shortest route which is taking CT01 route going to Vung Tau. However, this road is only for cars so if you’re going by motorbike, you have no other option but to pass through Dong Nai, which makes a total of around 80km drive. I hate this route though because it makes you pass the industrial areas… a lot of pollution, bad roads and big trucks! Allot a total of 2 hours drive by motorbike.

First Motorbike Accident

I first went there last October 1 on my motorbike with a young German intern named Mina whom I met through couchsurfing. By that time, I was just into my 3rd month of driving a motorbike, and I have never had a long drive with someone as a passenger. I was quite scared that balancing would be a challenge. However, there was a greater risk that I didn’t realize. The night before setting off, I changed the motorbike that I was renting which I realized was a totally bad decision. I have not tested driving it and it appeared to have Ā a delay on its breaks. Somewhere in Dong Nai, I crashed a motorbike in front me and we fell down wounded. šŸ™ It was so traumatic that I drove unconfidently during the next hour. With painful open wounds and damaged trekking sandals, I pushed through instead of backing out. I wasn’t going to let the accident ruin my weekend. There had to be a reward for the pain!

Chasing Peak and Waterfalls at Nui Dinh

Based from Florent’s tip, there are two waterfalls in Nui Dinh – one being at the foot and one at the middle. We parked our bikes right at the trailhead that leads to Suoi Da (the first series of waterfalls). Ā The mapped trails here are purely Florent’s work.

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Trails of Nui Dinh, thanks to Florent!
Trails of Nui Dinh, Thanks to Florent!

However, Mina and I decided it’s better to dip in after the hike. So we resisted the temptation to swim in Suoi Da and headed for the mountainĀ trail. I already forgot how much time it took for us before we reached the second waterfalls (Suoi Tien) but it was quite an adventure finding our way to it using the map Florent gave and Google maps. We gave in to Suoi Tien and dipped there for a while. We also realized that there was actually a paved road that leads up to this part of the mountain. In my head we could have just driven going up, but then I convinced myself that hiking the jungle wasĀ more adventurous.

This waterfalls is the playground of these kids.
This Suoi Da waterfalls is the playground of these kids.

After dipping, we followed the paved road going up and found a trail to our left somewhere ahead. The trail led to a Pagoda and walking up further, we found a peak overviewing the city and the beach. Mina and I that this view was good enough so we started heading down back to the path leading to Suoi Tien then Suoi Da.

Suoi Tien and Suoi Da

Although more like a stream rather than a waterfalls, Suoi Tien (Fairy Falls) offers refreshing and cool waters coming from up the mountain. We found a few locals on picnic around the pool. I like the Suoi Da better though, as it is a 6-level waterfall system. We camped our things at level 5 and made our way up to level 6, which is the grandest of them all. There’s a small pool deep enough for you to do a jump. šŸ™‚ It was also a bit sunny during my first time there so there was a rainbow at the foot of the highest level waterfalls. Suoi Da is an amazing reward after a day of hiking!

 

Suoi Da Level 6 Nui Dinh
Suoi Da Level 6 Suoi Da Level 6 Nui Dinh
Suoi Da in Nui Dinh
Suoi Da in Nui Dinh

Trail Hunting to the Summit

Hoping to reach the summit this time, I headed to Nui Dinh again last Nov. 5 for another shot with 3 new buddies. The plan was to drive up to the end of the paved road and trek till we find the summit. Bad idea! Haha. I didn’t even consult Florent’s map. If I had, I should have known that the trail to the summit is just passed Suoi Tien. We tried to find the trail from the end of the paved road. It was fun trail-hunting in the jungle though, but we ended up in a dead end which doesn’t seem to be the top. It seems to be lying on the other side of the road. So we just headed back and enjoyed the scenic Suoi Da at the bottom. So I guess I will have to go back there again to reach the summit!

Trail hunting in Nui Dinh
Trail hunting in Nui Dinh

Side Trip to Vung Tau

Nui Dinh is just 30 km from Vung Tau so it’s always tempting to have a side trip to the beach and spend the nigh there. A 40-minute drive from the mountain to the beach was our last stretch of butt-grueling ride for the day. During my first time, we stayed at a co-ed backpacker hostel for 90K VND for one night and the second time at a nice apartment like hostel for 300k a night for 2 pax. I will be writing my unique Vung Tau experience on another time.

Vung Tau is definitely a to-go place if you live in HCM
Vung Tau is definitely a to-go place if you live in HCM

Full Hike Itinerary

If your purpose is to hike Nui Dinh from foot to top, then you should head for Suoi Da and park your motorbike there. Below is a suggested itinerary:

DAY 1

05:30am –Ā ETD District 2 and start driving to Ba Ria using road AH1 and AH17
6:30am – Breakfast somewhere in Dong Nai
8:30am – ETA Suoi Da and start hike
9:30am- ETA Suoi Tien, dip for a bit
10:00am – Continue ascent to the summit
11:00am – ETA at the summit, lunch
12n- Descend back to Suoi Da
2pm – ETA at Suoi Da, dip as long as you want
4pm – ETD for Vung Tau (optional)
4:40pm – ETA Vung Tau… beach bum
7pm – Dinner

DAY 2

05:30am – Sunrise by the beach
06:30am – breakfast
07:00am – Jesus Christ Statue or short trekking to the cliff
09:00am – Drive back to HCMC
12:00am – ETA HCMC

Semi-Hike Itinerary

If hiking is not your thing though, you couldĀ also reach the summit using the easy way which is to drive up a little passed Suoi Tien and start the hike from halfway. This will save you time but your bike should be a high-capacity one since the road is inclined.

DAY 1

05:30am –Ā ETD District 2 and start driving to Ba Ria using road AH1 and AH17
6:30am – Breakfast somewhere in Dong Nai
8:30am – ETA Suoi Tien, dip for a while if you want
9:00am-Ā Start hiking to the top
10:00am – ETA at the summit
11:00am –Ā Descend back to Suoi Tien
12n- ETA Suoi Tien, drive to Suoi Da
12:30 – ETA atĀ parking of Suoi Da, start short trekking to the waterfalls
1:00 pm – lunch and swim
3:00 pm – ETD for Vung Tau (optional – or you can drive back to HCMC)
3:40pm – ETA Vung Tau… beach bumming
7pm – Dinner

DAY 2

05:30am – Sunrise by the beach
06:30am – breakfast
07:00am – Jesus Christ Statue or short trekking to the cliff
09:00am – Drive back to HCMC2
12:00am – ETA HCMC

My Actual Expenses

Gas – 120k (shared by 2) =60k
Food – 120k (depends on your appetite!)
Water – 30k
Hostel in Vung Tau – Ā 90k (during the first time)
Parking in Suoi Da/Suoi Tien – 5k

Total: 305K VND ($12)

Considerations/To Bring

-Sun and rain protection (ziplock to waterproof your valuables)
-Mosquito repellant! (very important)
-Map
-Clothes for swimming and change of clothes
-Food and water (although there are food sources in Suoi Tien and Suoi Da)
-Bring your passport as the lodge will require this from you before they let you check in

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