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Pha Daeng National Park

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One of Thailand’s larger national parks at 1,225 square kilometres but also one of its least visited, remote Pha Daeng lies in the very far north of Chiang Mai province abutting the Burmese border.

To the east, the park includes the southern slopes of Doi Ang Khang and to the west stretches almost as far as Wiang Haeng. It incorporates parts of Chiang Dao District and this is where the visitor’s centre and park headquarters are situated.

We love a good jungle waterfall. Photo taken in or around Pha Daeng National Park, Chiang Dao, Thailand by Mark Ord.

We love a good jungle waterfall. Photo: Mark Ord

The park as a whole is largely rugged mountains reaching up to 1,800 metres and includes dry dipterocarp forest; mixed deciduous, pine and montane evergreen. The wide range of habitats results in a large number of bird species while Asian black bears; banteng, muntjac, serow and Chinese gorals are thought, or rumoured, to live within the park’s confines. The park also includes the watersheds of the Ping, Fang and Taeng Rivers with the Ping slicing through the centre of Pha Daeng. The main park entrance is set up around one of Pha Daeng’s more accessible features—Sri Sangwan Waterfall.

This is a well-organised and laid out park with its headquarters building, ticket office and visitor’s centre all conveniently located around a small carpark from where a short trail to the waterfall begins. There’s also a two and a half kilometre forest trail loop with noted points of interest beginning and ending here too. In addition, there’s a fern house and herb garden, English-language pamphlets and maps, and the little visitor centre has bilingual information. Good on them—and bear in mind very few people actually visit this park, other than a few picnicking locals who come over at weekends to visit the waterfall.

Have a soak. Photo taken in or around Pha Daeng National Park, Chiang Dao, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Have a soak. Photo: Mark Ord

The falls themselves are pretty rather than spectacular but the peaceful setting plus turquoise pools and multiple cascades tumbling between fern-clad rocks all add up to a picturesque scene. The falls descend around fifty metres in total over a series of small drops and some of the lower pools are suitable for bathing. For a hot bath, you need to get back onto the road and head south for three kilometres until you reach the Pong Ang Hot Springs. Also set in a pleasantly landscaped garden, they are not as impressive as the Doi Pha Hom Pok springs in Fang but they’re a lot more attractive than the rather grotty Chiang Dao ones.

Paths and bridges weave between the bubbling pools and bathing ponds, with adjacent showers and changing rooms should you wish to take to the waters. This is another serene spot, and with its remote setting we can’t believe things get too crowded, even on a bank holiday weekend. The springs are part of the national park so one entrance ticket gets you into both places—a good deal for only 100 baht. The park entrance has a campsite and chalets for rent, plus there’s another campsite at the summit of Doi Kham Fa, the park’s highest peak at 1,834 metres. More details can be found on their website.

Water everywhere. Photo taken in or around Pha Daeng National Park, Chiang Dao, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Water everywhere. Photo: Mark Ord

The entrance area, waterfall and springs are all very cute, but Pha Daeng has a lot more out there to offer even if at present it isn’t all easily accessible to the casual visitor. The advantage of this far-flung setting is that nature is still relatively pristine and the park isn’t crowded with visitors but the downside is a lack of infrastructure: no English-speaking guides, no longer trails and no private tours and programmes.

Pha Daeng was formerly known as Chiang Dao National Park. Note that Doi Luang is part of Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary and not part of the park itself.

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How to get there
The main park entrance is clearly marked in English and lies just a few hundred metres off the main road, Route 1178. It's around 15 kilometres from Arunothai or 30 kilometres from Chiang Dao.

Pha Daeng National Park
Moo 3, Muang Na District, Chiang Dao
Mo–Su: 08:00–18:00
T: (053) 046 370
Admission: Adults 100 baht, children 50 baht, motorbike 20 baht.

Location map for Pha Daeng National Park

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