There are 147 national parks, each one of them unique in its own way, with its own flora, fauna, and activities. Parks like Khao Yai and Khao Sok are perfect for hiking along the trails of the jungle and try to spot some wild animals like elephants or gaurs. Doi Inthanon, with the tallest mountain of Thailand and more than 300 hundred species of birds, is perfect for birdwatching and enjoying some amazing views when hiking the peaks.
In Doi Suthep-Pui you can also enjoy some pretty high peaks, and you can visit the winter residence of the King, Phubing Palace. Erawan National Park is famous for its seven-layered waterfall. The layers form seven ponds where you can swim while hiking to reach the top.
Finally, Kui Buri. This park offers you a safari-like experience. You can reach several viewpoints with an open-air vehicle while a guide will introduce you to the wildlife of the park. Read our quick guide and learn more about these six wonderful national parks.
National Parks in Thailand
The national parks in Thailand are many and varied, and it can be hard to choose just one. All of them are perfect for hiking and camping (some, like Khao Sok, let you sleep in the middle of the jungle). Doi Inthanon is the place if you love birdwatching and hiking on high peaks; while Erawan offers a totally different experience with its seven-tierd waterfall, where you can swim and have fun.
For wildlife watching, we strongly recommend Kui Buri, with an impressive amount of elephants and gaurs. All the tourists get to see at least one elephant!
||Flora & Fauna
||Central Thailand, 2 hours from Bangkok
||Fig trees, elephants, macaques, civets, bears, jackals, reptiles, migratory birds
||Hiking, canoeing, rafting
||Bua phut, elephants, gaurs, bantengs, great hornbill
||Chiang Mai province
||Siamese Sakura flower, 380 hundred species of birds
||Chiang Mai province, 10 km from the city
||Camping, hiking, birdwatching
||Oaks, dipterocarps, magnolia, boars, macaques, Indochinese serow
||Central Thailand, a few kilometers from Kanchanaburi
||Hiking, waterfalls, swimming, caves exploring, camping
||Indian muntjac, elephants, lar gibbon
||Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
||Hiking, wildlife watching, camping
||Dipterocarps, hopea odorata, palms, elephants, gaurs
Khao Yai National Park
The park, the third largest of the country, was established in 1962. It covers an area of 2,168 km2, and it is home to an impressive variety of animals: elephants, macaques, civets, bears, jackals, reptiles, and many more. It is also home to more than 300 migratory birds, and has a vast population of hornbills.
Various tour operators usually arrange group tours with 10 or 12 people. If you want a more customized experience, opt for a private tour. With this kind of a tour, it will be just you and the guide. You can spend one, two or three days in Khao Yai.
A one-day tour will depart from Pak Chong and you will be driven along, while possibly spotting some gibbons, hornbills, macaques, etc. Then the trek will start inside the jungle and the guide will instruct you about the local wildlife, especially the characteristic fig trees. After a Thai lunch, you will visit a waterfall (where the movie “The Beach” was shot); and then you will visit more places looking for elephants.
Location: Nakhon Ratchasima Province
Khao Sok National Park
The most popular park in southern Thailand is also one of the oldest rainforests of the world. The highlights of the parks are the limestone hills, the waterfalls, the raft houses, and the caves. The park covers 739 km2, and it is home to wild mammals and to the iconic huge bua phut flower, the symbol of the province, that blooms from October to December.
Hiking around the many trails with the aid of a guide is the most popular activity inside the park. Guesthouses will offer other activities such as canoeing and rafting. Some companies offer longer trips with the possibility of sleeping in the jungle.
During the wet season (April-December) the heavy rains make hiking in the jungle difficult. The dry season (January-April) sees temperatures ranging from 22°C to 36°C. Getting to the park from Koh Samui, Phuket, and Krabi is really easy, via both public and private transportation. The entrance fee is 300 Thai Baht.
Location: Khlong Sok, Phanom District, Surat Thani Province
Doi Inthanon National Park
“The Roof of Thailand” covers 482 km2 and its part of the Himalayan mountain range. Its peak is the highest mountain in Thailand, and the weather is humid and cold all year round. Besides the summits of Doi Inthanon, other highlights are the waterfall and the hiking trails, and the two chedis built for the King.
The park is a good place for birdwatching, especially during February and April, when the big migrations happen. A one-day tour starts from your hotel in Chiang Mai around 8 a.m. First, you will reach the peak of Doi Inthanon, and then you will follow a nature trail with a local guide from the Hmong tribe. After lunch, you will visit the two chedis and two waterfalls.
As said above, the park is characterized by high humidity and cold weather, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 12°C (lower during the night) at the peak. You can get there by taking the highway from Chiang Mai. Opening times are from 5:30am to 6:30pm.
Location: Chiang Mai Province
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
The park covers 265 km2 and is characterized by high peaks (the highest one is at 1695 m), waterfalls, caves, and luscious evergreen forests with plenty of oaks and dipterocarps. There are about 2000 species of flowering plants, and more than 300 species of birds, as well as mammals like wild boars, macaques and porcupines.
Inside the park, you can visit the Doi Suthep Temple, built 1055m above sea level, around the 14th century. You can also visit the Bhubing Palace, the royal winter residence, ideal for birdwatching. North of the Palace, you can reach Yod Doi Pui campsite, with tents and bikes available for rent.
The park has cool temperatures all year-round, about 20°-23°C during the day and 6°C at night. August and September see heavy rains almost every day.
Location: Chiang Mai Province, a few kilometers northwest of the city
Erawan National Park
Erawan is one of the most famous parks in Thailand, mostly because of its seven-tiered waterfall with emerald green ponds, where tourists can swim and relax. There are not too many trails, and wildlife watching is very limited. Macaques and monitor lizards are common. Inside the forest, it is possible to see elephants, gibbons, and wild boars.
Besides the waterfalls, you can visit the caves around the main trail: some with stalagmites and stalactites, some with traces of past human habitation. At the visitors’ center, you can rent tents, sleeping bags, mats, and pillows if you wish to camp inside the park.
The park is protected by numerous hills, so it doesn’t see too many rainfalls. The park is open from 8am to 4:30pm, entrance fee is 300 Thai Baht. The park is usually quite busy, especially during lunch. There are many buses departing from Kanchanaburi, and it is recommended to go there early.
Location: 30km from Kanchanaburi
Kui Buri National Park
If you love elephants, Kui Buri is the place for you. The park is the best elephant and gaur sighting place of the country, and other mammals (like golden jackals, leopards, deers) are extremely common as well.
The main activity in the park is, as said, wildlife watching. Private trips inside the park use a safari car. The wildlife watching area is a forested area with many grasslands and viewpoints.
The wildlife watching areas are open from 2pm until sunset, and you cannot enter these areas after 5pm. You will get an open-air car for your day-tour, with a driver and a guide. Slowly driving into the forest, you will look for birds and elephants, stopping here and there at one of the many observation points. The last point is perfect for spotting gaurs and bantengs.
Location: Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, 4 hrs from Bangkok
We believe that planning your trip carefully is a fundamental step in order to get the best out of your experience, especially when hiking and camping in the wild. Start planning with Asia Highlights, and we will help you find the best way to explore Thailand’s parks, arranging transportation and tour guides, and satisfying all your needs.