Phu Kradueng National Park is one of Thailand’s most popular national parks, with a hard lengthy climb to get there. Foreign tourists are less familiar with it due to its isolated location. The park is known for its long trails, freezing winter months, and numerous waterfalls and vistas. It is located in the Phu Kradueng District of Loei Province in central north Thailand. Unlike most of Thailand’s other major national parks, Phu Kradueng National Park is easily accessible by public transit from all adjacent provinces as well as Bangkok.
Although Thailand is not the best destination for trekking enthusiasts, it does have dozens of National Parks and mountains worth trekking for one or several days. But they are little known. The only exception is, perhaps, the northern region of Thailand, where many travelers travel through jungles visiting villages of tribal ethnic groups. But the rest of the forests and mountains of Thailand are not usually included on most travelers’ routes.
One of Thais' most popular outdoor experiences, yet little known among foreigners, is climbing Mount Phu Kradueng. We climbed the mountain 2 times, one time 10 years ago and just recently another time. I can tell you its not the easiest mountain to hike
Phu Kradueng, the most famous plateau in Thailand
Phu Kradueng is located within the national park that bears the same name, and it is a plateau rather than a mountain crowned by a peak. It is a 60 km2 plateau with an average height of 1,250 meters above sea level, and a maximum height of 1,316 m. Certainly not an impressive height, but take into account that it starts rising from an altitude of only 285 meters, so the cumulative elevation gain is about 1000 meters. Not bad.
This plateau is located in the province of Loei, bordering Laos, and its top offers spectacular views of the surrounding region. Its sunrises and sunsets are just epic, and very popular with Thais.
Climb and spend one or several nights at the top
Normally the locals spend one, two, or several nights at the top, since up there it is possible to sleep in bungalows and tents. The camping tents are offered and set up by the park staff, and they also rent mats, bags, and even pillows. Of course, you can also bring your own tent if you have one. During Winter and weekends, it's highly recommended to reserve in advance at the website of the National Parks
At the top, there are several restaurants, bathrooms, showers, and even a bike rental service. Everything one could need. The park is very well run and organized.
Since the highest level is not a peak but a large plateau of over 60 km2, reaching the top is not the end of the trip. Once at the top, there’s still plenty to explore, either on foot or by bike, including cliffs with panoramic views, forest trails, waterfalls, and even a beautiful Buddha statue
How to get to the top camping area
It is recommended that guests begin trekking uphill early in the morning. The trailhead is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The higher camping ground is reached via an 8.7-kilometer hard trek that takes an averagely fit person less than 5 hours to walk. The trail is well-marked and does not necessitate the use of a guide; it begins behind the lower tourist center area, where appropriate arrangements can be made. The trail ascends from 285 meters above sea level to 1,275 meters above sea level during the first 5.2 kilometers to the plateau. The trail up is quite steep for the first 800 meters, and the following 1,3 kilometers before reaching the plateau are even steeper and more difficult to walk. Concrete, bamboo, or other wooden stairways are used at the steepest points. On a fairly flat dirt road, it takes another 3.5 km to reach the higher tourist center once you’ve reached the top. The path up is well-marked, so there’s no danger of getting lost. The trail splits into two ways a few times on the way up, but they reconnect soon after; it doesn’t matter which direction you choose at those moments.
There are five rest stops along the way up the path, all of which will be open during peak seasons, lengthier public holidays, and weekends. During the off-season, just three rest spots will be open. These rest stops each offer a number of food sellers, as well as beverages and coffees, so you won’t need to bring more than a couple of small bottles of water with you on this hike. At these locations, there are also some shopping sellers selling souvenirs, t-shirts, raincoats, and other items.
Heavier luggage can be carried by native carriers all the way to the upper visitor center for 30 Baht per kilo. Recommended to not carried your stuff self as the hike is very steep and you will probably not make it. Just let the carriers do their work as they do that every day
With adequate space for 5,000 tents, the top camping field is likely one of Thailand’s largest. During lengthier holidays, such as Songkran Festival or other three or four-day weekend combined holidays, the park becomes quite crowded. The campsite is less active during the weekdays, from Monday to Friday. It’s best to go on weekdays when there are fewer people. Tents may only be rented on the spot and cost 150 Baht for two people, 200 Baht for three people, or 400 Baht for four people. Sleeping bags, mats, and pillows can be rented for 10 to 30 Baht per person, for a total of 60 Baht. Around the camping grounds, there are numerous shower/toilet facilities, all of which are cleaned on a regular basis. At the lower camping ground, you can also hire a tent when you arrive.
Phu Kradueng National Park accommodations
There are a few bungalows to stay in near the higher campsite which we did during our first visit because they say there was a hot shower but everything was broken and dirty so I can't recommend it but I give you the option
-900 Baht/night for 6 persons sharing a toilet outside. -Six people, three bedrooms, and one toilet — 1,800 Baht per night -2,000 Baht/night for 10 persons, 1 large bedroom, and 1 toilet -2400 Baht/night for 8 persons, 2 bedrooms, and 1 toilet
The park’s lodging can only be reserved online through the DNP website, and reservations must be made in advance. It may not be possible to book from abroad since the money transfer must be completed within two days of the booking. Payment can be made at local banks or 7-Eleven convenience stores while in Thailand.
Phu Kradueng is an excellent place to go trekking because, unlike most other national parks in Thailand, there is no need to hire a guide to walk the longer trails. The routes on the plateau are well-marked, well-signposted, and easy to walk between the attractions. On the southern plateau, a grid of dirt roads and paths crosses each other, allowing access to a number of waterfalls and overlooks from various angles. Hiking is an option for those looking for a challenge, but you can also rent bicycles at the tourist center to go. There are approximately 100 mountain bikes available for rent, ranging in price from 360 to 410 Baht. Bicycles cannot be rented during periods of heavy rain because the dirt roads become muddy.
Restaurants at Phu Kradueng National Park
Both the higher and lower campsites have some restaurants. The lower tourist center restaurants are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, while the higher visitor center eateries are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Food and beverages are more expensive at Phu Kradueng’s upper campsite than in most other national parks since they must be carried up at a significant cost on foot. A bottle of water costs 25 Baht, refreshments cost between 30 and 50 Baht, and a large bottle of water costs 50 Baht. A regular lunch in a restaurant can cost anything between 60 and 200 Baht.
All year round, Phu Kradueng is pleasantly cool and comfortable. The average annual temperature is 6 °C warmer than the arctic. The coldest nights of the year are when the temperatures drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The weather can swiftly shift throughout the rainy season. It’s common for the sky to be shrouded in fog or a low layer of clouds. After excessive rain erodes the soil beneath the sandstone crown, cliffs may crumble under their own weight. Flash floods in the streams that flow down the mountain can also be caused by heavy rain. As a result, the park is closed from June to September each year to ensure the safety of visitors and to allow the forest to regenerate.
A variety of waterfalls may be found west and northwest of the camping area, all of which are accessible by a few circular pathways.
Waterfall Wang Kwang
It is a 7-meter-high waterfall located about a kilometer from the higher camping ground. Behind the cascading water, there is a naturally flat stone path broad enough to walk to the opposite side of the stream without getting wet.
Tham Yai Waterfall
Along the same trail, around 2.3 kilometers from the visitor center and 1.4 km before Phen Phop Waterfall. Every year from late November to early December, when maple trees cover the forest floor in crimson, the region around this waterfall becomes breathtakingly gorgeous
Phon Phob Waterfall
The Phone Phob Waterfall is a 30-meter-high, eight-tiered cascading waterfall. The waterfall was named after the first Thai world champion boxer, who used it as a training ground for a competition held in a colder climate.
There are several locations from which to observe the dawn and sunset in varying directions and distances from the campsite. The nearest is roughly a kilometer away from the visitor center, and the others are spread out from east to west along the plateau’s southern edge, up to 9 kilometers away.
Nok Aan Cliff
In the early mornings, this is the closest viewpoint with a sunrise view. It’s 1.1 kilometers east of the visitor center.
Lom Sak Cliff
Lom Sak Cliff, on the southwest side of the plateau and 9 kilometers from the visitor center, is the most popular place to watch the sunset. On busy days, there is a vendor nearby who sells drinks and snacks. The most famous photo of Phu Kradueng: Lom Sak cliff
Lom Sak is a very famous cliff, highly recommended to watch the sunsets. If you visit by bike it definitely makes sense to stay until sunset… but not if you are walking, since you will still have to walk for another 2 hours in complete darkness on the way back.
Mak Duk Cliff
Mak Duk Cliff, on the south edge of the plateau, is the closest viewpoint, about 2.5 kilometers from the visitor center.
Na Noi Cliff
Na Noi Cliff is 1.2 kilometers west of Mak Duk, or 3.3 kilometers by a shorter route from the visitor center.
Yiap Mek Cliff
About 2.1 kilometers west of Na Noi Cliff and 5.1 kilometers from the visitor center.
Tips for climbing Phu Kradueng
Try to go during the week, on weekends and holidays there are many people.
Rent two mats, you will sleep more comfortably.
Be prepared for cool temperatures down to 7ºC.
Bring a power bank with you. There are no electricity sockets at the top.
Also, carry a headlamp-type flashlight.
Bring a good pair of mountain shoes, with a good grip.
Bring at least 1 or 1.5 liters of water for climbing up.
Take cash, water is sold for 30/40 THB at the top.
Don’t forget your towel and toiletry bag, but take as little as possible.
The lighter you go, the better you’ll climb.
Bring energy bars, bananas, or various light snacks.
Don’t forget your hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. The sun is quite hot and you can get easily sunburned.
Getting to Phu Kradueng National Park
The lower visitor center closes at 4 p.m. every day because visitors will not have enough time to go to the higher visitor center before it becomes dark. This is something to keep in mind when you get there. In order to get to the top campsite before dark, you should arrive at the park as early as possible. It’s best to arrive the night before you expect to go up, so you have time to set up camp and get a head start on the hike.
Travel by car: If you’re traveling by automobile, take Highway 1 north from Bangkok to Highway 2, then Highway 2 east to Highway 201 north. When you reach Pak Chong, turn left onto Highway 201 north. The course has a total length of about 500 kilometers. There is a designated space where cars can be parked for a number of days, and the parking lot is adequately patrolled at all hours.
By bus: From Bangkok, take the bus to Loei at the Mo Chit Bus Station 2 and get off at Pha Nok Khao, from there take a songthaew to the park. Buses to Loei are available from a number of firms at Mo Chit 2, including Air Mueang Loei (ticket counter 6), and Phu Kradueng Tour Bus (ticket counter 82) (third floor). Depending on when you want to leave Phu Kradueng, you can choose between four different times: 8:30 in the morning, 10:10 in the afternoon, or 8 in the evening. The 9:30 p.m. bus from Mo Chit 2 Terminal arrives at Pha Nok Khao around 6 a.m.
Fees and hours of operation
Foreign visitors pay 400 Baht (children pay 200 Baht) and Thai citizens pay 40 Baht (20 Baht for children). Cars were charged 30 Baht, while bikes were charged 20 Baht. During the rainy season, from June to September each year, the park is closed for forest recovery, but it is otherwise open every day, including public holidays.
Every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the main visitor center is open.
Every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the upper visitor center is open.
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