Waterfalls and mountaintop shrines
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th June, 2018
Khao Kitchakut National Park’s peaks rise to 1,085 metres and burst with jungle and wildlife. The main attractions are a series of mountaintop shrines drawing Buddhist pilgrims for only two months per year, and a waterfall, Nam Tok Krathing, that’s easy to reach from park headquarters all year round.
The park’s 59 square kilometres follow a mountain range that’s clearly visible from Chanthaburi town, located 30 kilometres to the south, and these continue into the adjacent Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. The mountains source the Chanthaburi River while adding much to the province’s scenic appearance.
The park is home to barking deer, serow, gaur, elephant and more than 50 types of birds along with many reptiles and other creatures. While the area close to headquarters is fine for birding and there’s always a chance of spotting a snake or two, you’re unlikely to see larger animals. Unlike larger parks like Khao Yai or Kaeng Krachan, Khao Kitchakut is not much of a trekking destination and most of the terrain lies untouched by humans.
Beginning a few hundred metres from the car park at headquarters, Krathing Waterfall features 13 tiers ranging from water splashing over a boulder to a dramatic 10-metre drop followed by a longer plunge down a steep rock face. The well-maintained trail begins at the relaxing lower tiers where the clear, cool water flows into pools filled with brook carp.
From there the trail steepens for a climb that we didn’t find all that strenuous, mainly because we could stop to rest at all of the different tiers along the way. Do try to make it up to tier nine and above—only from these upper points can you appreciate the full glory of the falls and take in a vista of farmland stretching all the way to the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia. At several spots you’ll find small pools deep enough for a dip.
During a weekday visit we shared the trail with only a handful of Thai visitors in a tranquil scene that was totally different from the crowded falls at Nam Tok Phlio National Park. In addition to drawing a tiny fraction of the visitors that hit Nam Tok Phlio, we found Nam Tok Krathing more impressive. The water tumbles year round and we were surprised to find so much of it at the tail end of dry season. Expect thunderous falls late in the rainy months.
The area near the falls hosts a visitor centre, eatery and first-aid station along with a lovely pond-side campground with cold-water showers and squat toilets. You’ll also find a handful of newish concrete cabins with private bathrooms that fetch 600 to 1,800 baht per night. The park staff we encountered spoke a little English, renting out tents for 225 baht (30 baht if bringing your own). Also check out the footbridge spanning the pond draped in trees.
While most foreign travellers hit the park specifically for Krathing Waterfall, it’s best known among Thais for the Phra Phutthabat (Buddha footprint) shrine found at the top of Khao Kitchakut. Along with tremendous views, this area contains boulders shaped like an upside down alms bowl, a stupa, a tortoise and other objects that explain why Buddhists first deemed the mountaintop sacred centuries ago.
The pilgrimage is only possible from Chinese New Year to Makha Puja Day, a span of roughly two months that falls late in dry season around February and March, with specific dates depending on the lunar cycle. The mountaintop is closed to the public at other times of year. Thai Buddhists believe that reaching the top brings merit by way of perseverance.
Those wishing to undertake the pilgrimage start at Wat Phluap, a temple set nine kilometres southeast of Krathing Waterfall and accessed by a different road. There you pay 50 baht per person to pile into a pickup for a bumpy eight-kilometre climb to a trailhead, from where it’s another 1.2 kilometre hike to the top on fairly steep terrain. Expect slow going on weekends, when the pilgrimage draws crowds of Thais donning white in the Buddhist custom.
The park also contains Nam Tok Khlong Phaibun, a medium-size waterfall flowing eight kilometres north of headquarters off a separate side road. We were told that camping is possible there as well.
If going from Chanthaburi town on your own, take Highway 3249 north for 30 km and look for signs pointing right to Krathing Waterfall a few km after passing through Khao Kitchakut town, where Wat Phluang is easy to find if you’re doing the pilgrimage. Expect to pay around 800 baht for a round trip by songthaew (total not per person) from Chanthaburi town.
Address: 30 kilometres north of Chanthaburi on Route 3249
T: (081) 945 0049;
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º7'9" E, 12º50'18.77" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: For foreigners: 200 baht for adults 100 for children
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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