Get out there
Published/Last edited or updated: 10th January, 2017
Budget travellers after more challenging mountain climbs and deep-jungle treks may be disappointed, but those seeking a solid day or two of hiking to waterfalls and wildlife observation towers can get by without a local trail guide.
Beginning at a footbridge off the north side of the visitor centre car park, a sealed trail leads to the small Kong Kaew Waterfall after just over a kilometre, with signs pointing out flora and fauna in the area. Best for visitors who want a taste of the jungle without going too far, similar trails are found at Pha Diao Dai Viewpoint and Haew Narok Waterfall. Another sealed trail begins at the Haew Suwat Waterfall car park and runs for three kilometres to the small Orchid Waterfall.
A good option if you’re looking for something a bit more “natural” than the sealed trails is the three-kilometre hike from Pha Kluai Mai campground that runs along a stream to the falls of the same name. The waterfall is little more than a few metre-tall boulders with some splashing water, but the hike takes you past some massive dipterocarp trees and is worth a couple of hours, especially if you only have time for one extended hike while visiting the park on a day trip. Keep an eye out for crocodiles along this trail and do not swim!
A few kilometres north of the visitor centre and marked by a small car park and info board, another three-kilometre trail leads to the Nong Pak Chi observation tower and takes you past some massive trees. If looking for a longer hike to this tower, start further south at a trailhead that begins behind the park’s main eating area across the road from the visitor centre. A second trail runs south for three kilometres from the visitor centre dining area and comes out next to the main road at Sai Sorn Reservoir.
For something more challenging, head east over the footbridge at Kong Kaew Waterfall for an eight-kilometre hike that passes several small waterfalls before ending at Haew Suwat Waterfall. This trail is steep in places and requires hikers to cross a stream more than once. If wanting to go this route, park officials suggest that visitors hire a guide at the visitor for 500 baht per three hours.
We were told that other trails pierce deeper into the jungle but are not well maintained or signposted; TonTan Travel and Khao Yai and Beyond are a pair of local tour companies that have good reputations for taking visitors off the beaten paths (contact details in the Khao Yai tours listing).
Park officials hand out basic maps and info on hiking trails at the visitor centre. The maps are not to scale and do not include topography. Bring a compass and don’t set out on the non-sealed trails late in the day; inexperienced hikers have gotten lost overnight.
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.
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