About Kaeng Krachan
Kaeng Krachan was declared as a national park on 12 June 1981. Covering an area of 2914 km² it is the largest national park in Thailand. The park is located in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces, bounded by the Tanintharyi Nature Reserve along Myanmar's border to the west. The park is not only part of the rainforest area north and south of the park in Thailand, but also part of the Western Forex Complex that covers 18,730 km² across 19 protected sites between Myanmar and Thailand.
Kaeng Krachan National Park is famous it's diverse wildlife, but also for the dense morning mist covering the park with hill tops sticking above mist cloud around December-March, creating a spectacular view.
Two main rivers, Phetchaburi and Pran Buri Rivers are both originated from Tanaosri Ranges within the park. At the north side of the park, water streams drains to the Phetchaburi River which flows to Kaeng Krachan dam and flows all the way to Gulf of Thailand though Phetchaburi Province. At the south side the water streams drains to the Pranburi River, which too flows into a dam in Pranburi Province and finally to Gulf of Thailand.
Kaeng Krachan National Park covers a reservoir and mainly rain forests with rich flora and fauna. The highest elevation is a peak along the Burmese border at around 1500 meters. The second highest peak is Khao Phanoen Thung at 1,207 meters used to be accessible by an overnight trekking from Phonoen Thung Camp Site but this trail is closed since 2014 (still is as of Feb 2016, there are no plans to open it anytime soon).
Possibly Thailand's top bird- and butterfly-watching location, over 420 species of birds has been observed in the park boundaries which is the highest number of bird species in any national parks in Thailand. There are 57 known species of mammals and around 300 butterfly species.
Wild mammals such as leopards, clouded leopards, bears, stump-tailed macaques, deers, elephants, wild dogs, golden jackal, gaurs, crab-eating mongoose and many others are relatively common in the park. Even though some of these creatures are relatively common, due to their elusive nature actual sightings are not common. Some frequently seen animals are langurs, porcupines, civets, black giant squirrel, martens and gibbons. There are also tigers and bantengs in Kaeng Krachan but they are not common.
Some of the rare birds that can be found in Kaeng Krachan are ratchet tailed treepie, white-fronted scops owl, giant pitta, whooly-necked stork, great argus and grey-headed fish eagle. The park is also home to seven species of horn bills and all seven species of broadbills found in Thailand. Read more about birds in the park on our Birdwatching in Kaeng Krachan section.
Kaeng Krachan is also home to many of the snake species seen in Thailand. Some species that can be encountered are Oriental vine snake (green morph), white-lipped pit viper, Pope's pit viper, spotted & white-spotted slug-eating snake, siamese cat snake, triangle keelback, red-necked keelback, speckle-bellied keelback or even rare snakes such as Brongersma's short-tailed python, red-headed krait, sawtooth-necked bronzeback, blue coral snake, mountain pit viper, red mountain racer and all three python species found in Thailand.
Access to the main forest area of the park is limited to two roads, the road beyond Dan Khao Sam Yot Checkpoint (checkpoint is 19km from HQ) in the central parts, and one into the area around Pala U Waterfall in the south east. A proper 4WD required beyond 3 km west from Ban Krang campsite, no bikes allowed inside the national park.
Most visitors to Kaeng Krachan stays around the first campsite area next to the HQ where there is not much to see of the real wildlife the park offers. The real beauty of the national park starts approximately 19 km from the HQ at Dan Khao Sam Yot Checkpoint which is mainly a dirt road extending 36.5 km west through Ban Krang and Phanoen Thung campsites, only first 15 km until Ban Krang campsite is paved. Pala-U Waterfall at south edge of the park is a very popular attraction too, easily accessible from the nearby Hua Hin.
The trail options deep into the pristine forest are very limited, but there are few good trails, especially in the areas around Thorthip Waterfall and the stream of Pa La-U. Hiking the trails must be accompanied by a ranger or a private guide as it is very easy to get lost, rangers can be hired on any of campsites for a small fee on availability. It is possible to walk on the dirt roads, but it is not recommended to walk alone. Rangers can be hired for shorter thails, for 400 Baht 3 hours or 500 Baht 4 hours. It is not possible to book a ranger in advance.
For the typical tourist, the best time to visit the park is November to February when it is cooler and drier but all seasons gives different possibilities from a wildlife watching perspective. During the hot season from end of February to May when it gets dryer, it gets easier to spot some animals along water streams or waterholes. Rainy season is when the forests flourish and animals breed at most, in our opinion the best time of the year for wildlife watching. October used to be end of the rainy season but due to climate change frequent rain may continue into the December, 90% of the annual rain falls during June to July.
While the central parts of the park beyond Sam Yot Checkpoint (Ban Krang and Phanoen Thung campsites) is closed for visitors August to October, Pala-U Waterfall located at southern edge of the park is open all year round.
The 15 km of the road between Ban Krang and Phanoen Thung Campsites is a very narrow and quite steep, it can only be used one way. For that reason the trafic between the campsites regulated, it is open one way to each direction on a strict schedule.
- Sam Yot checkpoint (main entrance) opening times are to 5 a.m. to 5 pm but it is possible to head out from the park until 7 pm
- Pala-U is open daily 8:30 am to 4:30pm
- Heading to Phanoen Thung from Ban Krang campsite; 5:30 am – 7:30 am and 1 pm – 3 pm
- Out from Phanoen Thung (to Ban Krang/checkpoint); 9 am – 10 am and 4 pm – 5 pm
The entrance fee is 300 THB for foreigners (children 200 THB) and 100B (children 40 THB) for Thais (Nov 2013). There will be additional 30 THB fee for vehicles and 30 THB per night if you intend to camp.
There are no bungalows or any other accommodations available inside the national park, but there are tents available for rent at the all campsites. There are though few bungalows being constructed (Feb 2016) near the Pala-U Waterfall camping ground at the southern part of the park. These are only available for rent at spot until further notice, eventually to be arranged online via DNP website.
If you are planning a trip to Ban Krang and Phoneon Thung campsites, bear in mind that the mobile reception is limited to one provider only (AIS) and the reception is occasionally available around the restaurant areas of both camps. So, before getting into the park, let your loved ones know that you will switch off your mobile phone for a while. There is also no mobile reception around Pala-U Waterfalls and the nearby camping ground.
Attractions of Kaeng Krachan
A spacious campsite around the HQ where tents can be rent. There are several clean toilets and showers next to the camp areas as well as a restaurant/kiosk and an ATM. HQ and restaurant offers free WiFi.
Since the camp site is not really located within the rainforest area, it is not recommended to stay in this campsite unless you have arrived too late. Ban Krang (34 km) and Phanoen Thung Camps (49 km) are better choices.
Free internet access is available from the nearest restaurant and at HQ, mobile reception is good in this area.
Ban Krang Campsite
If not the very best, the area around Ban Krang Camp is one of the best places in Thailand for watching rare birds and butterflies. There is a visitor center, a restaurant and toilets/showers within the camp area. Visitors can also rent tents/sleeping bags at the visitor center. The food at the restaurant quite good, their a bit spicy deep fried fish which is not on the menu is an excellent choice but not always available.
During the week-ends the camp may get overcrowded by local tourists, specially around public holidays, but otherwise it is very common with only few tents, sometimes completely empty, making it a paradise for people avoiding crowded places.
Along the road to the east and west of the camp site there are several butterfly and birdwatching spots, also number of trekking routes to discover the jungle.
Since the area a bit further north from camp ground is where the Pran Buri River is originated from, the water flow is low and making it possible to walk along the water stream for most time. It can easily be crossed through, often by stepping on few rocks. Although not so easy, walking along the river may give opportunity to spot some exciting animals down- or up-stream during early morning or late afternoon. Some of animal seen along the river and around the campsite are water monitor lizards, indian muntjacs, sambar deer, elephants, golden jackal, white handed gibbons. Along the trails further out other animals such as gaurs, Asian wild dogs, boars and bears may be spotted with a bit of luck, it is not easy to find these animals. Dusky leaf monkeys are very common, during a day trip several families may be seen, almost impossible to miss. Stump-tailed macaques are regularly seen at km 5 (10 km east from Ban Krang), they have recently been spotted few km west from campsite as well.
If you are unlucky to see any mammals during the day time, there are Malayan porcupines, masked palm civets and large Indian civets visiting the restaurant and whole camping ground from around 7-9 pm every evening, every few days even Malayan sun bear and golden jackals also shows up. Although not very common, brush-tailed porcupines can also be seen in camping ground from time to time.
Officials in Ban Krang has created a minor saltlick at one edge of the campsite (safe to say in campsite) which is attracting couple of solitary elephants during late evenings. These elephants visits the saltlick every few days, sometimes seen several nights in row. Visitors are advised to set up their tents in a safe distance, at least 60-80 m away from the saltlick and keep a safe distance when they show up.
People have frequently seen leopards 7 to 8 km west (km 22-23) from camp site. Clouded leopard sightingh is also relatively common along the road to Phanoen Thung camp site. Few kilometers east of Ban Krang used to be a popular leopard spot, but a sign that marked the spot has been removed and not much leopard activity has been reported from that area recently.
The water stream next to the camp ground and trails are ideal for insects and reptiles, we have spotted quite few reptile species around. The beautiful Bronchocela burmana lizard is common around the stream and on trees in and around campsite, relatively easily found during the night less easily during the day.
Oriental whipsnake, specklebelly keelback among many other are some of more common snakes found around the campsite. It is possible to find various snakes at the camp edges in the evening, during wet conditions always something around. White-lipped pit viper, Asian vine snake, Siamese cat snake, various slug-eating snakes are quite common. Other species seen are green cat snake, mock viper, reticulated python.
Few "resident" tokay gecko's in the restaurant are probably the biggest ones you have seen in Thailand, the personnel will gladly show where you can find them. According rangers, there are even bigger tokay geckos in the forests around.
Birdwatching spots are located on 0-3 km from east and 0-3 km west from the camping site, the west side if more ideal. Some of exciting birds than can be seen around are silver-breasted broadbill, Raffles's malkoha, banded kingfisher, malayan night heron, blue pitta and black-naped monarch, grey peacock-pheasant, partridges and kingfishers are rare birds that can be seen here. The visitor center/restaurant area within the camp is also a great spot to see various birds, hornbills are seen regularly.
Pranburi river crosses the road west from camp in three locations at 0-3 km, all ideal for butterflywatching. Depending on season, sometimes hundreds of butterlies of different species can be seen gathered on ground right next to the water stream.
There are several saltlicks between Sam Yot checkpoint and Bang Krang, few of them within 3-4 km west from Ban Krang where gaurs, elephants can be seen. See marker on the map for exact location of one of smaller ones.
Hua Chang Cave
Located 2 km east of Ban Krang Campsite, accessible by a nearly 500 meters long trail. Hua Chang means 'Elaphant Head', referring to a formation that sad to be resembling an elephant head. The cave has a big rocky opening, two bigger and few smaller chambers. Possibly 50-70 meters in depth.
Khao Pakarang Caves
Twin caves only few hundred meters from each other, accessible by a short trail. The trail to the first cave is moderate to difficult, but the second cave is very hard and needs almost climbing skills. Horseshoe bats can be found on both caves. First cave has an additional chamber, second one is a single bigger chamber. Flashlight is necessary to find eventual snakes hunting bats but also to see some smaller chambers a bit into caves.
The trail can be found on the dirt road approximately 3.5 km south from Ban Krang Campsite, only couple of hundred meters after the second river crossing.
Visitors must be accompanied by a ranger to walk the dirt road or walk up to the caves. Rangers can be hired for around 400 THB on availability for a round trip less than 4 hours.
Phanoen Thung Campsite
Phanoen Thung Camp is 950 m above the sea level, 15 km from Ban Krang Camp Site, 30 km from Dan Khao Sam Yot Checkpoint and 49 km from the HQ. The bit of road from Ban Krang is dirt road, only accessible with 4WD.
A restaurant, information bureau and toilets/showers can be found in the camp area. Tents and sleeping bags can be rent at the camp site visitor center.
The camp is very popular for it's view points and birdwatching locations in and around the camp area. Due to high altitude, the location is ideal for watching many highland birds such as hawks and eagles.
There are no official longer trails around the campsite. There is an approximately 8 km long trail to Khao Phanoen Thung peak, but it hasn't been maintained for a while and closed for the time being. This peak was accessible by a days hiking, normally required a nights stay at the top with a ranger and strict permission from HQ needed.
Like in Ban Krang Camp porcupines visits the restaurant and camping ground every evening from around 7-8 p.m.. Various other species like boars, partridges and also rarely binturongs and bears also visits this spot. There is an interesting spot behind the restaurant where yellow-throated martens frequently visits to eat food leftovers thrown from the kitchen. It can be seen from the view point side of the restaurant. Before deciding to sit and wait for any animals to show up, it is wise to ask personel if any of these or other species seen lately. The area around Phanoen Thung is one of best places to see cloused leopards with a bit luck.
Phanoen Thung Camp viewpoints
There are three view points in the camp area with only few hundred meters distance from each other. The main viewpoint looks out towards Tanaosi Range on Myanmar's border and has a magnificent view. Various exotic birds such as hornbills, barbets, eagles, bulbuls can be seen. Second viewpoint is located next to the restaurant in the camp, looks towards north west and the last one is next to the visitor center, looks towards north east.
Located 700 meters north west from Phanoen Thung at the top of a hill, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej stayed in this place when he visited the national park few times in the past. The flag raised on the hill can be seen from Phanoen Thung. The area has great view on most directions. A third of the way uphill there is a big tree on the right side where the very rare ratchet tailed treepie may be seen. To get there walk west for 400 meters, turn right, walk around the barrier and continue uphill.
Birdwatching spot - #1
Accessible through a trail only few hundred meter east from the camping site through very nice forest area. Birds such as ratchet tailed treepie, white-browed scimitar babbler, black throated laughingthrush, collared babbler, lesser racket tailed drongo can be seen.
Birdwatching spot - #2
Located 4-6 km west from Phanoen Thung Camping Site is very open area with a lovely view. Some of the birds spotted in this area are; mountain hawk eagle, rufous-bellied eagle, crested goshawk, grey-faced buzzard, grey-headed fish eagle and oriental honey-buzzard.
Khao Phanoen Thung, Peak
With 1207 meters above the sea level, Khao Phanoen Thung is the second highest peak in the national park. It has a great view and accessible by a 8km trekking path from Phanoen Thung Camp.
Viewpoint Km. 36
6 km west from Phanoen Thung Camp, excellent view for sea of fog.
A 16-levels falls situated at the southwest of the national park, easily accessible from Hua Hin area by road 3219. There are number of facilities near the falls, including a restaurant, a small souvenir shop and a picnic area.
The tiers are not too high but all tears are accessible through a rocky path. What makes Pala-U area more intresting is the elephant activity. It is far more easy to spot wild elephants along the road here than in the central parts of the park. Elephants seen on the roads every day.
The checkpoint, visitor center and the camping ground is situated nearly 4.5 km east. Tents and accessories are available for rent from the visitor center, tent costs 225 per night, accessories from 60 Baht up. If you have your own tent, it will cost 30 Baht per night to use the camping ground. There are no restaurants around the camping ground. The nearest option to get food is the restaurant next to the falls during the opening hours or Huai Sad Yai village 5-6 km east if the checkpoint to the falls is closed.
The road beyond the checkpoint to the falls is open only 8:30 am to 4:30 pm every day. While the central parts of Kaeng Krachan is closed for visitors August to October, Pala-U Waterfall is open all year round.
Mae Saliang Waterfall
A 3 level waterfall which was accessible by a day-hiking from km 27, but the trail is not in any good condition, not recommended by park officials.
A 3-level waterfall located near Pala-U Waterfall. It is the highest waterfall in the park with a height around 150-200 meters.
A three-level waterfall accessible by a easy/moderate trail starting 4 km west from Ban Krang Campsite. There are two smaller waterfalls down and upstreams from the waterfall. Last kilometer of this trail is a moderate trail. The smaller fall upstream is quite difficult to reach. Rangers or guides needed to walk this trail.
Thor Thip Waterfall
9 level waterfall accessible by a steep trekking along Phetchaburi river from Phanoen Thung Camp. The track starts at the end of dirt road 6.5 km west from Phanoen Thung Camp and accessible by a 2.4 km long trail. The 6.5km dirt road offers good views over the mountains, sea of fog, evergreen forest, high land birds and many kind of wild animals. The area around where trekking route begins is a very popular destination for bird watching. The 2.4 km long trail is tough towards the end, very steep down and can be very slippery on wet conditions.
Walking this trail may require leach protection socks during and first few months right after the rainy season. The trail continues another 1.5 km west, passing one of tiers of Thor Thip all the way to Phetchaburi river.
Rangers/guides needed to walk this trail.
Huay Dungla Waterfall
A 3-level waterfall in the northern parts of the national park in Amphur Nong Ya Plong. It is located 8km from a checkpoint at Khao Phu Plu. The area is closed for tourists.
Kaeng Krachan Dam
Holding the reservoir within the Kaeng Krachan National Park, the dam is outside the park, 5 km northeast of the HQ. There are few islands in the reservoir and suitable for number of water activities. There is a viewpoint on the top of dam barrier.
Where to go next?
If you need ideas where to get next after visiting Kaeng Krachan, a few options;
Bangkok is north/east from Kaeng Krachan in around 2.5-3 hours driving distance.
Khao Yai National Park - In opposite direction from Bangkok, one of the top 2-3 best national parks in the country with best possibility to see some impressive wildlife.
Near Hua Hin
Hua Hin is south/east from Kaeng Krachan in around 1.5 hours driving distance.
Kui Buri National Park - Nearly 100% chance you will see wild elephants any given day of the year. Other common mammals; deer, golden jackal, Burmese hare and gaur.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park - To see Phraya Nakhon Cave, few other caves, fresh water march with very impressive view of limestone mountains, viewpoint, boat tour in canal.
The nearest city to Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Visit WFFT - From Phetchaburi Province where most of Kaeng Krachan located. To see rescued wild animals, rehabilitation facilities and attend a tour. Here you will find number of permanent resident animals, and others waiting to be reliesed to wild. Animals like elephants, primates, slow loris and many more, hundreds of them.
Kanchanaburi is north from Kaeng Krachan in around 2.5-3 hours driving distance.
Erawan National Park - Kanchanaburi north from Kaeng Krachan - The most popular waterfall in the country for the foreign tourists.
Sri Nakarin Dam National Park - Where Huai Mae Khamin Falls is located, around 40 km further north from Erawan. It is a similar waterfall, even better than Erawal Falls.
Sai Yok National Park - In over 1 hour driving distance from Kanchanaburi, popular for it's caves and waterfalls.
- Visitore Centre: Tel: +66 (0) 32 459 291
- Park Headquarters: +66 (0) 32 459 293