Published/Last edited or updated: 19th December, 2016
Reaching up to 1,316 metres, the plateau is embraced by average yearly temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius, with the occasional frosting. A large campground and accommodation zone at the top can, at time of writing, only be reached by what we’ve heard is a fairly challenging five and a half km trail.
The trail loops around the top of the plateau and leads to (or close to) half a dozen waterfalls and numerous viewpoints, a couple of which have been outfitted with Buddha images and shrines. Highlights include the thundering Tat Hong waterfall and Pha Lamsak, a rock ledge that juts out from the mountainside along with a lone pine tree to afford incredible vistas.
Popular with domestic tourists, Phu Kradueng gets swamped with overnight visitors, including busloads of school kids, on weekends and especially on holidays during the colder months. The King’s birthday on December 5 and New Year’s Eve should be avoided completely. A park official whose spent 30 years here told us that April and May are the best times to visit thanks to sparse crowds and an abundance of flowers. October is primetime for waterfalls.
The same official also told us of an ill-conceived plan by the local government to erect a cable car to the top of Phu Kradueng. Though it has been met with resistance, it appears likely to become a reality as Loei province pushes its tourism industry. In our opinion, this would vastly detract from the natural atmosphere while negatively affecting the plant and wildlife. Get here before they turn the plateau into a Disneyland ride.
A visitor centre is located at the base of the mountain, near the trailhead, and is staffed by friendly English-speaking park officials who offer maps and brochures in English and Thai. This is the place to arrange accommodation at the top, which ranges from 150-baht tents to cabins running from 900 up to 3,600 baht and accommodating anywhere from two to 12 people.
You’ll also find a simple Thai restaurant at the top, and basic food and drinks are sold every one km along the trail. Porters can be hired to carry your gear for 30 baht per kilo. Plenty of food vendors also set up down near the parking lot, where you’ll find a display of detailed drawings of the dozens of bird species that you might see in the park.
When visiting the park in September, we were unaware that the trail, accommodation and all of the attractions are closed from June 1 to September 30 each year, so we can’t comment on what the plateau is really like. We were told that the hike up takes three to four hours for most people; plan to spend a couple of nights to make the most of it.
The park's gates are located some five km west of Phu Kradueng town, which is right off Route 201 and 80 km south of Loei town. Loei - Khon Kaen buses run regularly throughout the day and many stop in the centre of Phu Kradueng town (though not all, so make sure to ask first). From here, a ready supply of tuk tuks can take visitors up to the visitor centre; the local rate is 50 baht but expect to pay between 100 and 200 if you're not up for haggling. An ATM and convenience store are located close to where the buses drop off. The gates are open from 8:00 to 17:00 and the fee is 200 baht for foreigners. Open only from October 1 to May 31.
Coordinates (for GPS): 101º50'43.76" E, 16º52'14.34" N
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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.