About Nam Nao
Designated as a national park in 1972, Nam Nao covers 966 km² in the mountainous forests of Phetchabun and Chaiyapum provinces in Northeast Thailand. It is the best national park in the area with good wildlife watching, birdwatching and hiking possibilities, supporting a range of IUCN red listed animals and birds.
The flora consists mainly of dry dipterocarp, mixed deciduous, hill evergreen, vast bamboo groves, pine forests and some grassland areas.
Nam Nao National Park is very popular among local tourists for its picturesque viewpoints, especially during the cold season when morning mist covers forests in white. The park can be very busy on week-ends and public holidays.
Western Isaan Forest Complex
Nam Nao National Park is part of Western Isaan Forest Complex including three other national parks and four wildlife sanctuaries covering 4,594 km² all together.
The protected areas within the complex are; Nam Nao National Park, Tad Mok National Park, Phu Pha Man National Park, Phu Kradueng National Park, Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Pha Phung Wildlife Sanctuary, Phu Pha Daeng Wildlife Sanctuary and Taboa Huai Yai Wildlife Sanctuary.
The park is home to many exciting animal species like elephants, gaurs, bantengs, leopards, barking deer, sambar deer, golden jackals, Asian black bears, sun bears, wild boars and many more. Elephant droppings on the roads are a very common sight, proof of how common the elephants are, so common that the camping grounds are surrounded with electric fences.
There are over 300 species of birds reported from Nam Nao National Park. The dry condition of the forests makes it easy for birdwatching. Around HQ area it is possible to see species like red-headed trogons, great barbets, greater yellownapes, grey-capped pygmy woodpeckers, bamboo woodpeckers, large woodshrikes, black-throated laughingthrush, golden-crested mynas, golden-fronted leafbirds, plain flowerpeckers and ruby-cheeked sunbirds. Getting around the park by foot on many trails or driving further away to distinctly different habitats of the park will give more rewarding possibilities to see silver pheasants, blue pittas, bar-backed partridges, collared owlets, collared falconets, blossom-headed parakeets and oriental turtle doves. Of the rare bird species, Austen's brown hornbills, snowy-browed flycatchers, dark-sided thrushes and eared pittas have all been reported from the park.
Getting to the park is relatively easy with many public transportation options available between Khon Kaen to the east and Lom Sak or Phetchabun to the west on Highway 12, buses will stop at the main checkpoint. Headquarters and facilities are located 50 km east of Lom Sak and another 1.7 km north from the checkpoint on the main road. The options to get to HQ from the checkpoint are walking, hiking or asking rangers at the checkpoint to call for a lift if there are any drivers available.
HQ area has a visitor center and other administrative buildings, three spacious camping zones, restaurants, two shops and toilet/shower facilities.
Average elevation of 800 meters makes this park comfortably cool all year-round. Annual average temperature is about 25 °C, frost may occur November to January with night temperatures occasionally dropping to as low as 0 °C. Visitors are advised to have some warmer clothing during the cold season but also a sweater for nights and early mornings the rest of the year.
Entrance fees & opening times
The entrance fees are 200 Baht for foreigners (100 Baht for children) and 40 Baht for Thai citizens (20 Baht children). Cars are charged 30 Baht and bikes 20 Baht.
Nam Nao National Park premises are open from 6 am until 6 pm every day but it is possible to enter the park any time of the day.
Stay & eat
There are 15 park accommodations for rent at the visitor center area with 4 people up to 30 people. The price ranges from 1,000 Baht for 4 people up to 4,000 Baht for the largest option, a significant discount will apply when booked for Mon-Thu. All accommodation options are equipped with a fan and hot shower.
The rooms can be booked through the DNP website in advance. As the money transfer must be done within 2 days and the fact it takes a longer time with transfers from abroad, it is only possible to book from within Thailand only. Payments can be done at 7-Eleven convenience stores or banks.
There are three spacious camping zones next to the headquarters and park visitor center. Tents and camping gear can be rented from the visitor center. Tents for 3 pax cost 225 Baht per night, pillows 10 Baht., mats 20 Baht and sleeping bags 30 Baht.
There are two restaurants with a good selection of foods, open 6 am to 6 pm.
You are recommended to ask a Thai speaking person to call on your behalf.
- 061 042 8234 - Visitor Center
- 081 962 6236 - Headquarters
The attractions of Nam Nao
Visitor Center & Campsites
There are many circular trails around the headquarters, most of them circular and crossing each other at a few points. Trail options are 1 km, 3 km, 4.5 km and 5.8 km. Elephant activity during the night is high but campgrounds are protected with electric fences. The only area visitors are allowed to walk during the night is the road between visitor center and the checkpoint at the main road, permission needed from visitor center though.
Next to the visitor center there is a parking area, a number of shops and a couple of restaurants serving one of the best foods in any national parks we have visited. Few hundred meters east there are three very spacious campgrounds which can be very busy during the week-ends, particularly during long holidays. Toilet facilities have electricity at all times and are clean.
During the busier days pick-up trucks will make loud announcements in the early morning before sunrise, asking people to join group tours to the nearest viewpoint for a smaller fee.
Nam Nao has a good number of caves. One of the longest caves in Thailand can be found in the northern parts of the park, easily accessible by road and a well maintained trail.
Yai Nam Nao Cave System
With an impressive length of 9,817 meters, descending 76 meter from nearly 700 meters above sea level Tam Yai Nam Nao is the third longest known cave in Thailand. It has 5 entrances, impressive formations of stalagmites and stalactites. There are many other smaller and medium sized caves up to 1,000 metres long in the same area.
Tham Yai Nam Nao is a popular destination among local tourists during the week-end and public holidays. During the weekdays it gets less busy, only a few guides around to assist tourists.
The first part of the cave has a metal ladder and walkway that leads to the second entrance exit. Ascending further up will lead to one smaller entrance, then a bit further up to the "bat entrance" and finally to an entrance called "tourist entrance" which leads to a large fossil passage and bat chambers.
Tam Yai Nam Nao is located on the northern part of the park at Tham Yai mountain, clearly signposted from Highway 2216 in Ban Non Chat and accessible by a 3 km long hiking from nearest ranger station.
Phaya Naak Cave System
Three sub-caves called Tham Wi Mahn Mek, Tham Nop Pa Krauw and Tham Phaya Naak with a total length of 1,285 metres over altitudes of 801 to 875 meters. There are also number of caves around, most notable the 655 meters long Tham Bah Dahn.
Pak Now Cave
Situated at the west side of Tham Phaya Naak Cave System at Tham Pak Now area, accessible from a parking spot and a path that follows the valley floor until cliffs on right.
This 75 meters long cave is a limestone outliner on the western edge of the mountain. The cave has a large chamber about 30 metres across and was used by monks in the past.
Also known as Tree Forest Cave, this cave is located at Khao Tham Yai mountain north in the same area as Tham Yai Nam Nao Cave.
Par Hong Cave
A 105 meters long cave in an isolated limestone outliner about 12.5 km west from HQ on the main road (Highway 12). The cave is signposted well from the road. Altitude: 885 meters.
There is another 10 meters long cave only 100 meters away from Tham Par Hong.
4.2 km west from the main checkpoint near the headquarters, the viewpoint has a good view over east to watch the sunrise.
10.7 km west from the main checkpoint, the viewpoint has a good view over west to watch the sunset. The viewpoint is only a few hundred meters away from Par Hong Cave.
Haew Sai & Sai Tong Waterfall
Haew Sai and Sai Tong Waterfalls are two waterfalls accessible from a trail 17.5 km east from checkpoint at the main road.
Haew Sai Waterfall
A 20 meters tall waterfall, flowing into a pool, 700 meters from the main road.
Sai Thong Waterfall
A 30 meters wide and 4 meters tall beautiful waterfall, 1.5 km from the main road.
Phu Pha Chit Summit
With 1,271 meters asl, it is the highest peak of the park, accessible by hiking on a 6 km long steep trail from km 69. Strict permission from the visitor center needed to hike this trail.
As of late 2019, the trail to the summit is off limits for the tourists for "forest recovery reasons". A road construction is planned to reach the summit easier. The summit will be easily reached by a 3 km long trail from the end of this planned road.