Planning a trip to Sapa in northern Vietnam and want to hike Mount Fansipan in one day? You’re in luck as we hiked Fansipan (Phan Xi Păng in Vietnamese) in one long day in November 2020 so we have insider tips on what to expect and how to prepare for this hike.
Hiking Fansipan is a challenging yet memorable bucket list experience when visiting Sapa. Located in the Lao Cai Province’s Hoang Lien National Park, Mount Fansipan is the tallest mountain in Vietnam at a staggering 3,143 meters (10,312 feet). It’s also referred to as the “Roof of Indochina” as the highest peak in Indochina (Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.)
Vietnam has tons of trekking adventures. While we’ve completed a trek at Bidoup Nui Ba National Park and several day hikes from Ho Chi Minh City, this 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) round trip Fansipan trek is ambitious to complete in 1 day. It’s the hardest hike that we’ve done in Vietnam with the steep route and length. We can see why many hikers opt to spend 2 days hiking Fansipan with an overnight stay on the mountain.
For adventurous travelers, you’ll love the opportunity to push your body to the limits, embrace nature, and see only a handful of hikers on the trail. It’s a great spot for those who enjoy off-the-beaten-path experiences.
Since you’re still gung ho about completing this hike, continue reading our 1 day Mount Fansipan hiking guide to learn how to survive this hike.
Read More: How to Get to Sapa from Hanoi
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Overview of Mount Fansipan Hike in One Day
Fansipan is a difficult trek to complete. You need to be an experienced hiker as there are several areas along the trail that require scrambling up rocks. Plus, you need to be able to walk/hike for hours. To prepare for the Fansipan trek, training on hills is highly recommended.
- Challenging level: Hard
- Distance: About 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) round-trip via the Tram Ton trail
- Summit height: 3,143 meters (10,312 feet)
- Time to complete: 12 hours
- Helpful tip: If you’re too tired to do the round trip hike, you can hike up one-way to Fansipan peak and take the cable car down the mountain. Yet, the cost will include a round-trip cable car ride.
Read our ultimate Sapa trekking guide here.
Can you Climb Mount Fansipan Without a Guide?
During our research, we read that it is possible to hike Mount Fansipan without a guide. You would be responsible for transportation to the starting point of the hike (We went with the Tram Ton hiking route) and register yourself at the Ranger’s station (Search “Núi Xẻ Ranger Station Trạm Tôn” in Google.)
We were happy to have a guide as there are a few points where we could have turned and ended up somewhere else on the mountain. The hiking path is not marked so it’s best to go with someone who knows the trail.
How Much Does the Mount Fansipan Hike Cost?
The cost varies depending on whether you’ll hike Mount Fansipan in a day or over two days. Since we’re focusing on a one day trip, many Sapa trekking companies charge between $60-$80 USD per person. All prices are quotes in USD and paid in Vietnamese currency (VND).
For the one day trek, we paid $60 per person (excluding tip) and it included a local guide, a picnic lunch, Mt Fansipan fee, and round-trip car transportation. If you want to take the cable car down, there is an additional fee.
For a two day Fansipan trek with an overnight on the mountains, there will be porters and cooks as additional support is needed. The cost will be higher for 2 days.
To find a Fansipan guide, you can ask your accommodation for recommendations or find a trekking company. Here are several trekking companies that are recommended through Ho Chi Minh City’s Female Expats group – Zaazaa Trekking, Sapa O Chau, and Sapa Sisters.
We went with Zaazaa Trekking as Zaazaa is a local female guide who lives in the area and organizes a variety of treks for tourists. She has excellent customer service as she is easy to work with and to talk to over WhatsApp. We hiked with Zaazaa’s brother in law as she couldn’t join us for the trek on our day.
What is the Deal with the Fansipan Cable Car?
The majority of the visitors take the funicular and cable car combination from the Sapa city center to the summit. It’s an opportunity for those who don’t want to hike to get to the summit quicker.
The Hoang Lien cable car station is up in the mountains so you’ll need to take a taxi or drive a motorbike to the starting location. If you want to go to the cable car station from Sapa city center, you’ll need to take the Muong Hoa funicular. Head to the yellow building that has a “Sapa Station” in the main entrance and take a smaller red train.
The round-trip Fansipan cable car cost is 728,000 VND ($31.50) for adults and 534,000 VND ($23.10) for children. There isn’t any one-way available. The Muong Hoa funicular ticket, it’s an additional 100,000 VND ($4.30) per person. The ride will take between 15-20 minutes one-way depending on your starting point.
What to Bring on your Mount Fansipan Hike
- Rain jacket or poncho – The weather on Fansipan is finicky so you may encounter rain. Here is what we use: men/women.
- Daypack – We love our Osprey backpacks. Here are our favorite men and women backpacks that we use.
- Water and snacks – Here is our favorite reusable water bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Snacks will be helpful to help refuel during your hike.
- Headlamp – Since we started at 5:30am, it was pitch black outside. Headlamps are a lifesaver and you’ll be hands-free. We love and use these headlamps.
- Sun hat – Cover your head and face with this hat.
- Sunglasses – Here are our favorite sunglasses for hiking!
- Sunscreen – Even though the weather is foggy at the top of the mountain, the sun still shines through. We regretfully forgot to put sunscreen on and our faces were sunburned.
- Hiking poles – These would be helpful or you can find a bamboo stick along the route.
- Cash – In case you want to get a snack or something to eat at Fansipan Legend.
- Trash bag – Please remember the “pack in, pack out” mentality, and bring your trash with you back to your hotel. We saw some trash such as plastic water bottles and candy wrappers along the trail.
- Mask – If you decide to take a cable car, visitors need to wear a mask.
What to Wear on your Fansipan Climb
- Technical t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt – Any moisture-wicking shirt will do. Your body will heat up as you climb up Fansipan.
- Hiking pants – Long pants are a must as there are overgrown plants and shrubs.
- Jacket – Any windbreaker type jacket will be great. We used our Patagonia Houdini jackets during the windy areas.
- Hiking boots – It’s recommended to wear hiking boots since the trail is rocky and can be muddy. We use these hiking boots (men/women). We saw some hikers wearing sandals and walking shoes, so it is doable.
- Hiking socks
Mount Fansipan 1 Day Trekking Schedule
Your schedule may vary depending on your hiking speed and fitness level. Below is what we experienced.
- 5:10am – Pick up from the hotel
- 5:30am – Register for the hike at the Ranger Station and start the trail
- 10:15am – Snack/lunch break
- 11:20am – Reach the top of Mount Fansipan and explore Fansipan Legend
- 11:50am – Head back down the mountain
- 5:30pm – Finish!
Our Mount Fansipan Trekking Experience
To be honest, we’re not morning people so it was difficult to get out of our warm, comfortable bed. Luckily we had our backpacks prepared from the previous night so we could roll out of bed.
Our driver/guide, Dung, picked us up promptly from our Sapa hotel, My Boutique Hotel & Spa, at 5:00am. He drove 20 minutes to the starting location at the Ranger Station (Núi Xẻ Ranger Station Trạm Tôn in Google Maps) and registered us. As we waited for the registration process, we noticed that we were the only car in the parking lot. Guess we were the only crazy ones to start so early!
From the Ranger Station, it was only a few minutes to walk to the start of the Tram Ton trail. We started at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) high. Since the trail was in complete darkness, headlamps and/or the light from the cell phone is necessary.
In the first ten minutes, our bodies warmed up as we trekked up the mountain. Since no one else was on the trail, it was completely silent except for our heavy breathing and footsteps.
The sun rose after 6:15am and saw our hiking path clearly. We passed by a stream and continued through the forest area.
Even though we took our time slowly trekking Fansipan Mountain, we enjoyed the fresh air. We also loved the biodiversity of colorful wildflowers and plants and the vast forest area. The mountainside was so green!
Most of the trail is dirt or mud with occasional steel stairways or carved rocks as “steps.” Beware that some scrambling is required so you’ll need some upper body strength. It was sketchy to scale a boulder and also use a rope to hoist ourselves up the side of a rock. The trail isn’t maintained due to the fewer crowds so the plants and shrubbery are growing wildly.
Take as many breaks as you need since the trek up is challenging. We took a short break about 30 minutes away from the cable car station for a quick lunch break. Our guide packed a picnic lunch of sandwiches and bananas. We had baguettes with slices of tomatoes, cucumber, Laughing Cow cheese, and sausages. It was a simple yet delicious meal to refuel.
Once we reached the cable car station/Fansipan Legend, it was such a relief! We entered through a side door that led to the exit from the cable car and into a souvenir/gift shop area.
Although, we weren’t done yet as there were another 10-15 minutes of walking to reach the summit of Fansipan. We slowly made our way up the stairs as our legs were pretty tired.
Heads up – the summit is crowded with thousands of people!
After passing by the top attractions of Fansipan Legend such as the Great Buddha Statue, 9 Story-Waterfall, Lady Buddha (Guanyin) Statue, and the Alahat Pass with 18 bronze statues of different deities, we finally reached the top of the Fansipan Mountain at 3,143 meters (10,312 feet). Hooray!
The Fansipan summit is a top landmark to visit in Vietnam since there are summit signs everywhere. Choose your sign of choice – triangle-shaped signs, Hollywood signs, and summit signs on the base of the flagpole with the Vietnam flag. The flagpole stands tall at 25 meters high. All of the signs are crowded with people so it’ll be impossible to take a photo without people unless you arrive at the summit early.
For completing the Fansipan trek, we received a participation medal and a laminated certificate of completion. What a nice surprise!! The participation medal was worth the trek up. Since we ran marathons (42 kilometers/26.2 miles) in the past, we felt like we just crossed the finish line and then received a medal.
After spending 30 minutes on Fansipan Legend, it was time to descend the mountain. Unfortunately, the top of the mountain was foggy so we couldn’t see any views of the mountains or Sapa city. Looks like we need to visit another time to see the mountain range on a clear day!
**Note: Use the restroom on Fansipan Legend before heading back down the mountain. There aren’t any restrooms along the trails.
The fog grew thicker on the top of the mountain so photos didn’t turn out that great. We took the same path back down and passed by 20 other hikers (most of them were in a group doing the 2 day/1 night trek). This was the most hikers that we’ve seen along the trail. We also passed a bird photographer who used speakers with bird calls to attract birds to come towards him.
Going down is much harder than going up the mountain. Our bodies and feet ached and we slowly trudged our way down the mountain. I was delirious from exhaustion while Justin still had the energy to hold a conversation. The experience descending was not as bad as our Mount Whitney hike but it was close! Our guide, Dung, sped down the mountain, yet he is used to climbing Mount Fansipan at least 3-4 times a month.
Tip: Since portions of the trail can be slippery, do not point your shoes downwards. It’s best to walk in a zig-zag pattern or point your shoes sideways. Hiking poles would be beneficial to relieve pressure from the knees.
We finally reached the car once the sunset occurred! We felt victorious on completing a 1 day Fansipan trek in 12 hours. It was a long day, yet we did it!
Luckily, the weather cooperated with us all day. The weather forecast predicted rain yet the rain appeared after we left the parking lot.
Final Thoughts on Fansipan Hike
Would we hike Mount Fansipan again? Yes, we would consider hiking it again in one day but would go up one-way and take the cable car back down. Our bodies and feet took a few days to recover from the Fansipan hike and we have some black toenails to remember our trip.
We would also change our strategy to prepare for this hike. Weeks before the trip, we did leg workouts and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, yet, it wasn’t enough. We would do more hill work and travel outside of Ho Chi Minh City, such as visiting Chua Chan Mountain, since HCMC is pancake flat.
Hope you get a chance to hike up Fansipan in the future!