This 50-square-km national park is named after Khao Phanom Bencha mountain, a rugged 1,350-metre-high peak that's the source of many of the area's rivers and tributaries.
If you need a taste of dense old-growth jungle after the islands and beaches, this is your place.
The main attraction is Nam Tok Huay To, a spectacular 11-tier waterfall. On the largest tier, water cascades for some 70 metres down a jagged rock face. If the lowest natural swimming pool is too crowded, take the steep trail to the right if facing the falls to discover several more secluded swimming spots higher up. These take some effort to reach but reward you with views over the towering trees. The waterfall is an easy 500-metre walk from the visitor centre and the smaller Nam Tok Huay Sa Khe is even closer.
Numerous hiking trails lead into the mountains but many are not well maintained and serious trekkers are encouraged to arrange for a park ranger to accompany them. Rainforest thins to moist evergreen forest as you get higher. Keep an eye out for wild boar, tapir, asiatic black bear, clouded leopard, panther and a range of tropical birds, including the extremely rare Gurney's Pitta, a yellow-bellied bird thought to have been extinct until a pair were discovered here in 1986.
Simple cottages and camping tents can be rented at park headquarters and a basic Thai restaurant opens for lunch and dinner. On the way into the park, you might make a side trip to nearby Khao Pheung cave.
How to get there
The park cannot be reached by public transport. Most choose to either pay a motorbike taxi or tuk tuk around 500 to 1,000 baht round trip, or rent a motorbike. If going on your own, head north out of Krabi town on Uttarakit Road and take a right on to Phet Kasem (Route 4). The turnoff (a left if heading east) is well sign-posted. From here it's another 20 km to the front gates and signs lead you right to the park. Admission for foreigners is 200 baht plus another 20 for motorbikes. The park is open daily from 08:00 to 16:30.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 19th December, 2016.