Photo: A river runs through it.

Ob Khan National Park

3.5 1

Whether simply swimming, relaxing and picnicking by the river, or doing some full-on hiking and camping, a trip to picturesque Ob Khan National Park will make it feel like you've left Chiang Mai hours behind you.

The park is not one of the nation’s, or even province’s, largest at less than 500 square kilometres, but it does have some great scenery and the major advantage of being easily accessible from Chiang Mai City. Ob Khan is located in Hang Dong district to the south of the city and is also conveniently close to the Ban Tawai handicraft market so it would be easy to make a day-excursion out of visiting both.

Heavy rains bring chocolate brown waters to Ob Khan. Photo taken in or around Ob Khan National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Heavy rains bring chocolate brown waters to Ob Khan. Photo: Mark Ord

Heading along the Canal Road from the junction with Suthep Road it’s around 15 km to a well signposted turn on the right then another 15 kilometres through villages and farmland to the park entrance. Most of this, with the exception of the last couple of clicks, is a good, sealed road so makes for an excellent destination on a rental bike or car. The final section though, particular in rainy season, can get tricky, so go carefully.

Where the tarmac runs out you’ll see a small checkpoint but all they’ll do is note your license plate down and we’ve never seen an entrance fee being charged. The track runs along the scenic Khan River and opens out into a car-park with Visitors Centre, a small cafe with a shady and grassy picnic area along the bank.

Plenty of shady space to relax. Photo taken in or around Ob Khan National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Plenty of shady space to relax. Photo: Mark Ord

In dry season the waters are clear and shallow and it’s a very popular bathing spot for locals on a hot day. Waters turn a murky brown with sediment during the rainy season but it’s still generally ok for bathing unless currents are particularly strong after a big storm. Obviously it’s popular at weekends with picnicking Thai families though on weekdays the park can be very quiet. There is a simple cafe next to the Visitors Centre which can provision weekenders but during the week they had little on offer so you’d have to stock up, (in Hang Dong or Don Phayam markets for example), before coming.

Said Visitors Centre is spectacularly lacking in English language information thought they did provide us with a faded pamphlet and were very friendly. If you’re feeling energetic they will also point you in the direction of a marked nature trail leading from behind the cafe and along cliffs overlooking the Khan to a narrow rocky gorge which gives the park its name. (Ob meaning gorge in North Thai.) Though there is some decent birdlife in the park, you’re unlikely to see any of the park’s smaller mammal species on such a well-worn path, so close to the park buildings.

More than just a river. Photo taken in or around Ob Khan National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

More than just a river. Photo: Mark Ord

The scenery is very attractive though as the river cuts a deep channel between forested slopes and the trail performs a loop bringing you back after 1.6 kilometres to the Visitors Centre. There are longer trails, but this short hike is the one most suitable to a day trip.

There is no public transport to Ob Khan National Park so if you don’t have a motorbike or car then you’d be stuck with splashing out on a songthaew hire. Make this more affordable by finding a few fellow passengers. Price will vary according to time and how many stops as well as how busy the driver is but count an average of 1,000 for a round trip plus waiting time or 1,500 if you’re including Ban Tawai too.

How to get there
From the Old City, head west from Suan Dok Gate on Suthep Road and make a left onto the Canal Road. Drive south as if you're heading to Hang Dong for about 12 kilometres, and look out for a sign on the right to Ob Khan National Park. From here it’s another 15 kilometres to the park entrance.

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Ob Khan National Park

Namphrae district, Hang Dong
T: (086) 181 1068

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