Khao Yai National Park is one of Thailand’s biggest and most-visited national parks. With most of the park located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, it is just a three-hour drive from Bangkok. The park also covers parts of the provinces of Nakhon Nayok, Prachinburi, and Saraburi (also sometimes spelt as Salaburi). The main entrance is close to Nakhon Ratchasima’s town of Pak Chong.
The first national park to be established in the country, it takes its name from the area’s main mountain – Khao Yai (Big Mountain). Popular with locals and international tourists alike, it is home to an abundance of wildlife as well as offering great views and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Here’s a little of what to expect with a visit to Khao Yai National Park:
Magnificent waterfalls that cannot help but impress
You might just recognise the Haew Suwat waterfall from the big screen – it shot to fame after being featured in the hit movie, “The Beach”. Close to the road, you’ll hear the roar of the water as you walk the short distance (around 100 metres / 328 feet) to the viewing point. If you’re feeling energetic, you can follow the trail that leads to the top of the 20-metre high waterfall (65 feet) and see where the tumbling water comes from.
Haew Narok is the largest waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. Standing at 150 metres (492 feet) tall, water cascades down the three tiers and often causes a fair amount of spray. You will probably get sprayed as you admire the waterfall from the viewing area. To get to the waterfall, you need to walk around half a kilometre (0.3 miles) from the road along a well-marked trail, and down some steep wooden steps. Be careful of wet leaves on the steps, as they can be very slippery!
Other beautiful waterfalls in Khao Yai National Park include Sarika, Haew Pratoon, Haew Sai Fai, and Pha Kluaymai.
Lots of fascinating wildlife, with creatures big and small
Many creatures call Khao Yai National Park home. Macaques are very easy to spot, often descending on parking areas to try and steal food from visitors and rummage through litter. Watch out for snatch-and-run attempts on your bottles of water when hiking around the national park!
Deer, otters, and gibbons are also fairly common sights, along with numerous species of reptile, butterfly, and snake. Whilst some of the park’s snakes are harmless, be aware that you may come across huge pythons and venomous cobras.
Bird-spotting is fun, with many varieties of birds flying through the skies, hopping amongst the branches, and scuttling through the undergrowth. If you want to see a mighty hornbill in the wild in Thailand, this is one of the best places to do so.
Tigers no longer seem to live in Khao Yai National Park, although they do roam around neighbouring national parks. Bears, on the other hand, still live in the large mountainous jungle.
Khao Yai National Park has a sizeable elephant population, and sightings are becoming more common. This is, sadly, perhaps due to constant encroachments on their land, leading them closer to human contact. There have been fairly recent elephant attacks on vehicles and premises, so, although you may be itching to see an elephant in the wild, extreme caution is advised if you do spot any of these magnificent beasts.
Stunning views and excellent walking trails
There are several marked viewpoints throughout the extensive national park, with places where you can safely park any vehicle and get out to soak up the beautiful vistas. Taking in the lush jungle and nearby mountains and hills, you cannot help but be impressed by the splendid green views that roll into the distance.
Hiking is a very popular activity in Khao Yai National Park. There are many marked walking trails, and you can get maps and further information from the Visitor Centre (close to the main entrance). Trails vary in length and difficulty, and people of most fitness levels will be able to find a trail that is suitable for them. The shortest routes are around 500 metres (0.3 miles), whilst there are those that stretch over several kilometres / miles. Whilst many walking trails can be enjoyed independently, some of the longer trails can only be enjoyed as part of an organised group and led by an experienced guide. This is for reasons of safety and conservation.
Useful information for visiting Khao Yai National Park
The admission fee for non-Thai visitors to Khao Yai National Park is 400 THB (approximately 11.20 USD) for adults and 200 THB (approximately 5.60 USD) for children. Tickets are only valid for one day; if you plan on spending several days exploring the national park you will need to pay again for each day that you enter the park. Vehicle fees also apply. Cars attract an extra fee of 50 THB (approximately 1.40 USD), it is 30 THB (approximately 0.85 USD) for scooters and motorbikes, and 10 THB (approximately 0.30 USD) for bicycles.
The roads are generally well-maintained throughout the national park. Having your own motorised transportation is highly recommended; you can make the most of your time and often cover greater distances. Visiting on a scooter is, however, only recommended for experienced riders. The roads can be steep and winding, and many people drive faster than they should. Stick to the marked limits in different sections when exploring Khao Yai National Park; this is both for your own safety and to protect the creatures that live in the park.
Numerous tour operators run trips of varying durations to Khao Yai National Park. Some are just for a single day, whereas others include camping in the park, and activities such as guided hikes, outdoor cooking, and other similar items. You can book trips from many agencies in major cities and towns in Isan and Central Thailand. You’ll definitely have no problem finding an operator in places like Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, and Pak Chong. The prices vary and may or may not include the park admission fees.
You can visit the park at any time of the year. The waterfalls are at their stunning best during the rainy season (May to October), whereas the cool season (November to February) is often preferred by people who want to enjoy long hikes.
Toilets and restaurants are spread throughout the park, and are well sign-posted.
Accommodation in and near Khao Yai National Park
If you want to see more than a single day trip allows, there are numerous accommodation options within easy reach of the national park. The town of Pak Chong is a common base, with many guest houses that cater to different budgets. There are also numerous accommodation options on the roads just outside the national park.
Within the park’s boundaries there are two campsites; you can rent tents onsite or pay to pitch your own. There are also several bungalows and chalets available to rent in various spots around the park.
Arrange your visit to Khao Yai National Park to enjoy some of Thailand’s most fascinating wildlife, excellent hiking, spectacular areas of natural beauty, and stunning views.
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