About Khao Yai
Khao Yai is no doubt the best national park in Thailand for regular visitors where it is relatively easy to see number of interesting animals.
Established in 1962 as Thailand's first national park, it is the third largest national park in Thailand. Situated mainly in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Khao Yai extends into Prachinburi, Saraburi and Nakhon Nayok provinces. Khao Yai checkpoint is just 2.5 hours away from Bangkok.
The park covers an area of 2,168 square kilometres, including rain/evergreen forests and grasslands. 1,351 m high Khao Rom is the highest mountain within the park. The average altitude of the national park ranges from 400 to 1000 m above the sea level.
Khao Yai is part of Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO, covering 5 protected areas from Khao Yai to Cambodian border. The other protected areas are; Pang Sida National Park, Thap Lan National Park, Ta Phraya National Park and Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Some often seen mammals include elephant, macaque, barking deer, sambar deer, gibbon, porcupine, civet. Other relatively common, but not often seen mammals are bear, gaur, otters, dhole, jackal, There haven't been any sign of tiger activity in the park for a while, but camera traps has revealed a significant tiger population in neighbouring Thap Lan and Pang Sida National Park. There is only one single siamese crocodile in the national park and it can be seen on the same location along the one of trails. According guides operating in the park, the crocodile was released to the park by the park staff in the past.
The national park is home to around 300 resident and migratory birds and has one of Thailand's largest populations of hornbills. Some of the interesting birds that can be found in the park are barbets, scarlet minivets, broadbills, pittas, mountain scops-owls, great slaty woodpeckers, collared owlets, blue-winged leafbirds, Asian fairy bluebirds, trogons, drongos and magpies. Many ground dwelling birds such as silver pheasants, junglefowls, green-legged partridges and Siamese fireback are common on the roads and trails. Best time to visit Khao Yai for birdwatching is during the dry months and during March April when the big bird migration happens.
Khao Yai is also a good destination for watching reptiles. The best time is around March-April but with still good activity until October, during the cold seasons it takes a bit more effort to spot them. Reticulated python, Ahaetulla prasina, Chinese ratsnake, Chinese water dragon, water monitor and crested lizards are only few of many species that can be found in the park.
To see a long list of species in the park, visit our Wildlife at Khao Yai page.
The park is open 6 am to 6 pm everyday all year round, vehicles already inside the park can leave until late hours. The park is a very popular destination for both foreign and local tourists, it can be very busy on the week-ends and extremely busy on some holidays.
The main entrance is at north with nearest city Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, the second entrance is at south in Nakhon Nayok province. The entrance fee is 400 THB for adults and 200 THB for children. As of March 2015, Thai driving licence, work permit or student card holders can't get in for Thai price. When camping or staying at one of bungalows, the entrance fees will be valid for 3 days.
It is possible to explore the park by private car or motorcycle/scooter, but best experience gained by exploring via a tour company. Khao Yai is one of most popular destination for bikers in Thailand, frequently seen on the roads, quite often in groups. The Park visitor center is nearly 13 km from the northern checkpoint.
Public services - It is possible to get to park entrance by public transportation from Bangkok, but the attractions are 14 km further inside the park, it is not possible to enter the park by foot. There are no public transportation services to the visitor center area inside the park. Visitors from Bangkok need to take minivan or bus from Bangkok to Pak Chong and then change to Songtaew that operates to the checkpoint at north. Public transportation options that starts from a hotel in Bangkok and ends at north of Khao Yai could take around 4-5 hours, for more info visit Get there & Stay section of Khao Yai pages.
Private transportation - A single trip from any hotel/airport in Central Bangkok to north of Khao Yai costs from 2,300 Baht up. The trip takes around 2h 15 mins to 2h 30mins in good traffic. For more detail or online booking of private transportation visit our taxi details page.
Group tours - Cheaper group tours with up to 10-12 people can be arranged on arrival to various resorts or tour operators in the area. These tours are less flexible, following a strict itinerary.
Private wildlife tours - The best way to explore the park is by a private tour where no others will join you. The most popular tour options are;
- 1-day wildlife tour with night safari in Khao Yai
- 2-days wildlife tour in Khao Yai
- 3-days wildlife tour in Khao Yai
Number of other packages can be seen on our guided tours pages. These tours starts from hotels nearby the entrance and ends at the same hotel.
Good to know when booking a hotel north of Khao Yai is that tour operators may not include pickup from hotels too far away from the area. It is wise to ask tour operators if they include pickup from a certain hotel before booking.
Plenty of hotel and guesthouses can be found right outside the national park boundaries. Some of popular ones are listed on our Get there & Stay section of Khao Yai pages. Listed hotels there are ideal for pick up by various tour operators. Some hotels in the area don't like tour operators to pick up their guests and should be avoided for flexibility.
There are few bungalows in two different spots inside the national park, these have to be booked well in advance. The costs 800 Baht (2 people), 2,400 Baht (8 people) and 9,000 Baht (20 people). The bookings must be done through Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation website ideally months before the planned trip dates.
The park has two camping grounds where tents can be rent, see further below "Attractions of Khao Yai" for more info (Camp sites section).
Next to the Visitor Center, there is a restaurant, several food stalls, parking area and a short circular trail. It is a good start point to start exploring the national park. The restaurant and food stalls are open from 7 to 8 am in the morning until 5:30 pm.
Few open grassland areas nearby visitor center, on Yod Khao Kiew mountain and further east increases the chance to see some amazing mammals. There are also few saltlicks along the roads to attract bigger mammals such as elephants, gaurs, deer and many more.
There are many trail options from 500 meters up to 8 km long, all together around 35-40 km making it a great destination for hikers. The circular trail at visitor centre area is the only trail in the park that doesn't require guide accompany. Any other trail must be accompanied by a guide. There are also some longer routes that require guides for up to 3 days hiking. To see some of the popular trails, please open the map of from this page.
Although the park is very popular among the local tourists, the very majority of the local tourists prefer a picnic style stay at camping grounds and only visits the waterfalls and viewpoints, means most of the trails aren't busy.
There are number of waterfalls in the park, most of them easily accessible by vehicles combined with a short walk. Haew Nerok Waterfall in Khao Yai is one of the highest and most impressive waterfalls in the country. The jump scene from The Beach movie starred by Leonardo Dicaprio is from Haew Suwat Waterfall located 8 km east from the visitor center.
Apart from the main restaurant at the visitor centre area, there are three other restaurant inside the park, one at Haew Suwat Waterfall, one at Haew Nerok Waterfall south and one at the junction to the Khao Khiaow road. The Lam Takong Camp Site has also a restaurant but it is not regularly open and the choice of food there during the week-days are instant noodles and snacks, it is more likely to be open on the busier days like week-ends and holidays.
Conservation efforts and issues
Despite the good effort from park officials, the illegal logging of rosewood is still a problem in the national park from time to time, but not as much as in the neighbouring Pang Sida and Thap Lan national parks. Poaching with the fragrant wood species like sandal- and aloe woods are a bigger problem in the park, traces of poaching can be found off the common trails in some areas.
According the World Heritage Committee's 38th session (Doha, 2014), the illegal logging of Siamese rosewood (D. cochinchinensis) and other trees are escalating both in intensity and violence in Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex.
The paved and well maintained roads results in visitors and park officials driving well above the 60 km/h speed limit, which is already too much for a national park. During our multiple visit to the park we have seen park rangers driving above 80 km/h.
Run over by cars, dead or injured snakes is a common sight on the roads, sadly injured pythons are seen far too often. Visitors we have spoken to has seen macaques carrying dead babies killed in accidents, others seen injured adults. We have seen too many times that park rangers and visitors not slowing down when they approach macaques on the roads, driving by very careless, nearly hitting them.
While the high speed issue is an ongoing major problem, we have heard stories from some visitors that they've got fined for stopping by on road side to see wildlife, like gibbons, macaques and hornbills just because they are slowing down the traffic.
The rainy season is May to October with high humidity. Avarage temrepatures are 27 degrees during the day and 13 degrees during the night, perfect season for the waterfalls.
The cold season is November to February with clear and sunny sky. Average temperatures of are 22 degrees during the day and down to 9-10 degrees during the night.
The hot season is March to April, humid with avarage daily temperatures 20-30 degrees during the day and 17 degrees during the night.
Attractions of Khao Yai
There are several interesting trails to few directions around the visitor center area as well as restaurants and a kiosk. The loop trail behind the visitor center is a short one, around 800m long, there is no guide requirement for this trail. Half way through this loop trail, there is a trail-head for a 8 km trail that will lead east all the way to the Haew Suwat Waterfall. This trail strictly requires a guide as people has lost their way in the past, spent few nights in the jungle until found.
Although the area around the visitor center is known to be very busy it is one of the best places to spot birds in the park, kingfishers and hornbills are quite common.
There are two camp sites within the park boundaries, both with toilets, showers, parking spaces. Tents are available for rent from 250 THB (2 people), accessories such as sleeping bags, pillows, blanket, canvas etc for 20-50 THB each. The area around both campsites are ideal for hiking. (Prices mentioned here updated on April 2018)
When leaving the tents, macaques will visit them soon or later. If the tent-door(s) closed, monkeys may tear it apart. It is advised to leave the doors and any bags inside open. Any smaller bags or anything a monkey may mistake for a food package should be left open. Macaques will only take away food, or anything that clarly looks like a food container.
The first campsite has a minor restaurant which is not always open. It is relatively easy to get to the restaurants around HQ by hitchhiking.
During the cold season November-February the night temperatures may fall down to 9-10 degrees. Warm cloths are recommended for convinient sleep in the tents but also for early morning/late evening hiking or when using motorbikes.
Lam Takong Camp Site
This first campsite 6km from the visitor center is quite central to most other attractions around the national park.
There is a trail over the bridge north from the campsite which leads to some open grassland areas, very ideal for searcing wildlife activity, elephants do show up on the roads around campsite from time to time.
Malayan porcupines visits this campsite every night, so if you have a torch you can easily spot them. If you approach them gently, you can get as close as few meters and observe their beauty.
For visitors with motorbikes more fuel can be bought from the house at the entry if needed. The elder couple in the house also cooks some basic food when the restaurant closes around 5-6p m, often only instant noodles or sticky rice that can be mixed with fish in can.
Pha Kluaymai Camp Site
It is located 3 km east from the Lam Takong Camp Site. Tent, sleeping bags, pillows and mats are available for rent. Cold shower, toilets and restaurant are available. Tolilet/shower facilities are a bit better in this camping ground.
There is a 3 km trail along the water stream towards west from this campsite where the national parks only crocodile can be spotted easily. This route is also home to many great mid size lizards, we saw three different species in same day, one of them Chinese water dragon. The thail ends at the end of main road few hundred meters from Haew Suwat Waterfall.
There are some fruit trees in the camping site frequently visited by some very colourful birds such as bulbuls, barbets, pigeons and many more if it is right season for the fruits. Also, 40 meters downhill the forest from behind the first set of toilets on north side there is a "secret open space" where some exciting birds such as orange-headed thrush, white-rumped shama and Siberian blue robin can be seen frequently.
Pocupines and civets are common at the campsite during the night, good to have flashlights.
There are two watchtowers around the grassland area of the park, easily accessible with several trail options from different directions.
Nong Phak Chi Watchtower
Situated 2.5 km north from the visitor center, next to a salt lick and a pond. There are several trails from the main road through this watchtower. The area is mainly grassland and makes hiking easier.
This watchtower is very popular due to clear visibility 360 degrees, there are good possibilities to se some mammals and birds.
Mo Sing Watchtower
To view the gaur, great hornbills, gibbons and possibly elephants.
Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave
According some sources a million, according others up to 3 million wrinkled-lipped bats lives in this cave. During the sunset a long cloud of bats can be seen out from the cave for hours, creating a spectacular view. Some birds of pray are regularly seen feeding on bats by diving into the cloud.
It is located 4.5 km out from the north gate of the national park. See the marker on the map for the location of a trail leading to the cave.
Khao Yai has many waterfalls, most of them easily accessible by car combined with a short trail, some needs longer hiking with guide assistance.
Haew Narok Waterfall
With the highest one at 80 meters, this three tiered waterfall has total altitue of 150 meters and is the biggest waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. It is situated approximately 10 km from south gate towards the north gate on the main road (road 3077). Waterfall is accessible through a 600 meters long trail off the road. There are toilets and a restaurant as well as a parking area where the trail begins.
The short trail is also a great place to find some birds, lizards, macaques and possibly elephants.
Right before walking down the stairs to the view point there is a povilionish rest area where a 600-800 meters long trail starts. The trail has no sign or any imformation. This trail will lead to a much better view point where the waterfall can be seen from a higher point for a better landscape photography.
Getting all the way to Haew Nerok Waterfall may burn significant amount of scooter fuel. If you plan get to Haew Narok with a scooter, there is a small shop 10 km south right outside the south gate where you can buy more fuel if needed.
There are also number of saltlicks on the main road north from Haew Narok Waterfall. Elephant activity in this area is very common compared to other known spots.
Haew Suwat Waterfall
This famous 20 meters high waterfall from Leonardio Di Caprio's The Beach (the novel by Alex Garland) is 13 km from the visitor center. It is easily accessible by scooter or car, only hundred meter off from the end of road. This waterfall can also be reached by a 8km long hike from the visitor center.
There is an alternative trail "hidden" somewhere in the open space next to the restaurant which leads to the top of waterfall where the jump scene was taken, less than 200 meters walk.
Haew Sai Fai Waterfalls
Located only 700 meter North from Haew Suwat Waterfalls, 300 meter South from Haew Pratoon Waterfalls.
Haew Pratoon Waterfalls
Situated 1 km north from Haew Sai and 300 meters north from Haew Sai Fai Waterfalls.
Pha Kluaymai Waterfall
This smaller waterfall is along the 3 km long trail between both camp sites through the jungle. The national parks only crocodile can be seen not too far away from the waterfall.
Nang Rong and Sarika Waterfalls
Both situated in south east of the park in Nakhon Nayok Province.
Between the north gate and the visitor center, 4.5 km from the north gate.
Yod Khao Khieo, Mountain
With 1292 meters asl, it is the highest elevation in Nakhon Nayok Province. It is situated approximately 11 km from the visitor center, accessible by vehicle/schooter all way to the top. There are three good view points and several short trails along the road and at the top. The area around mountain is rich of wildlife, specially birds. Elephants are seen in the area regularly.
It is situated at the top of Yod Khao Kiew, good view to north. Elevation: 1247 meters asl.
Accessible by a 600 meters long trail, beautiful view from top of a vertical cliff to south-east. Serows, silver pheasants and some other ground dwelling birds are in certain periods relatively common here. Elevation: 1142 meters asl.
Good view to the north. Elevation: 1040 meters asl.
Khao Paeng Ma - Gaur viewing area
Khao Paeng Ma is montane reforestation site covering 8 km² area, located 68 km from the northen gate right outside the northeast corner of the park, it is not really part the national park. In the rainy season of 1995, only couple of years after the project started, a smaller group of gaurs showed up on the area regularly. When the sighting brought to authorities attention, Wildlife Fund Thailand (WFT) decided for a more strict plan to protect the area from the poachers. Since than the gaur population in the area increased, but the serious threat from the poachers still continues.
The area is an ideal place with much better possibilities to see gaurs than inside the park. It is a popular place among the locals and can be quite busy during the week-ends. The road through the site to the visitor center is a dirt road and very bumpy, it requires a 4WD. A 1.8 km long trail starting from visitor area will lead to a watchtower 200 meters into the trail and continue to nine scenic viewpoints.
Khao Paeng Ma Ranger Station on the west side of the forest area is a non-hunting area, another very good location to see gaurs.
- +66 (0)8 6092 6529 (visitor center)
- +66 (0)8 6092 6531 (checkpoint north)
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