Founded in 2009 and coming in at less than 250 square kilometres, Khun Nan National Park makes a fair bid at being one of Thailand’s most remote and, we suspect, least visited protected areas. The more prestigious Doi Phuka lies just to the west and larger Mae Charim is situated south of here; Khun Nan seems to have been an afterthought.
When we turned up rangers didn’t want to charge us the 100 baht entry fee since according to them “there’s nothing to see”, though when we pointed out we had visited the nearby Saphan Waterfall, which lies within the park’s boundaries, they agreed to let us pay before asking to take photos of us — presumably we were one of the only foreign travellers through in a while. The park headquarters are a bit of a non-event and the visitor centre lacks information in any language, but a set of trails exist and a restaurant is under construction (as of December 2015). If you wanted to stay overnight — though we can’t really think why — they also had some decent accommodation on offer.
The park is close to the Lao border and forms part of the western slopes of the Luang Prabang range watershed containing montane forest and peaks up to 1,750 metres. The park’s main feature for visitors is the scenic Saphan Waterfall, located just off the main highway. Heading north from Bo Kluea village on Route 1081 you’ll see an English-language sign on your right taking you to a small village, from where a short trail leads to the falls. This isn’t the same track as the one leading to the park entrance, so yes you can visit without paying an entrance fee but since the rangers were so pleased to see us it didn’t really seem fair.
The five-metre falls are pretty rather than spectacular but have year-round water and the connecting stream flows through lush forest with further trails heading off if you fancy exploring. Water was verging on icy when we visited in December but pools are suitable for bathing.
Back on the main highway, a short distance further north you’ll see another turn off to your right leading to the park headquarters. Hopefully by the time you visit their cafe should be finished so this would be a scenic spot for lunch. A two-kilometre, clearly marked trail takes you uphill to the east to a hilltop viewpoint.
This is a new park, so perhaps the visitor centre will improve and alternative trails be opened in the near future — there are other waterfalls further afield. At the time of writing, there was no public transport along this route so your only option, if you don’t have transport, would be to try and find a motorbike taxi in Bo Kluea and negotiate a return fare.
How to get there
The park headquarters is located 5 km north of Bo Kluea off Route 1081. There's around a kilometre of dirt track between the sign on the main road and the park entrance. Saphan Waterfall is also to the right off the highway a short distance before the turn off for the park entrance. Both have signs in English.
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 11th September, 2016.