Backpacking in Kaeng Krachan National Park

Kaeng Krachan is a natural highlight of Hua Hin

Kaeng Krachan is a natural highlight of Hua Hin

Kaeng Krachan is one of the largest park in Thailand and home to an astounding variety of animals, birds and plants. Situated two hours southwest of Bangkok, it’s a haven of mountainous and forested terrain. And you’re unlikely to find too many tourists there either. Getting there might be a bit of a riddle but it’s an adventure off the beaten track as you head south to the islands.

Kaeng Krachan is mainly made up of rainforest along the eastern slope of the Tenasserim Mountains, and even the trees represent an interesting section of bio-diversity, from continental oaks and maples to Malay palms. It sits right on the Burmese border among mountainous terrain with dramatic scenery. Established back in 1981, it’s one of the newer additions to Thailand’s many stunning conservation areas and its remote, unspoiled atmosphere is second to none in this typically bustling country.

Around 57 types of mammals and more than 400 different species of bird have been spotted in the park, including barking deer, Asian elephants and tigers. The Banded leaf monkey is one of the more common sights, whilst the Siamese crocodile which nests along the banks of the Phetchaburi River is now on the endangered species list.

It’s best to visit during the the cooler months of December through to March when trekking and adventurous activities feel less strenuous, whilst the morning mists which blanket the park at this time of year provide some of the most spectacular views.

The trails of the forested park offer ideal trekking and hiking, with the fantastic panoramas and wildlife-spotting making for a truly rewarding experience. For a manageable day walk, head to Phanoen Thung Mountain from KM 30 or Tho Thip Waterfall from KM 36.

There are also some more high-octane activities available, including excellent white-water rafting from Bong Luk to the Petchburi Reservoir, although it is no longer permitted from KU Camp to protect the rare Siamese crocodiles.

How to Get There

Kaeng Krachan is only three hours drive from Bangkok so, with an early start, it’s possible to reach on a daytrip from your base in the capital. But we suggest you first go to Hua Hin, stay overnight in a hostel, and arrange things from there.

From the center of Bangkok, travelers can take a bus to Petchaburi (from the Southern Bus Terminal). And, from here, you can charter a songtaew out to the park entrance.

There is no off-road vehicle access allowed inside the park, however, in order to preserve the delicate natural habitats. To reach the heart of the forest, backpackers must trek along the trails which lead off from the main access road.

The gate opens as early as 6am and closes at 7pm, leaving plenty of time for quite a lengthy hike within the park area. Backpackers are advised to leave before dark, though, in order to avoid the danger of elephants on the road!

Where to Stay

Although it is accessible from Bangkok, there’s so much to see in the area that it’s worth staying near Kaeng Krachan for a few days. There are defined camping zones in the park for adventurous backpackers, but most travelers opt to stay in the nearby popular town of Hua Hin.

With cheap Hua Hin hostels available, plus a decent stretch of attractive beach and dozens of traditional seafood restaurants, it makes an excellent gateway for exploring the park.

About the Author

Andrew Bond is a travel writer who has been living in Thailand and writing about the region for more than 10 years, contributing to numerous local magazines and major web travel brands. He travels around South East Asia by tuk-tuk, bicycle, cyclo, jeepney, taxi, moto, elephant or foot in search of new smells, sounds, sights, and atmosphere. Share your travel bits with him on Google +

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