As the the Bangkok Post story about the couple lost for two days in the jungle of Khao Yai National Park highlights, independent hiking in Thailand can be very difficult! The dense jungle reclaims trails daily, making them extremely hard to follow, and it is very easy to get turned around.
When we hike in Khao Yai, we carry at minimum headlamps with spare batteries, a map of the area, a compass, fully charged phones with emergency numbers and GPS coordinates programmed, an extensive first aid kit, food, and plenty of water. When the trail becomes difficult to locate, we employ a system where one of us stays with the trail while the other explores until the trail is reacquired, always within earshot, before we continue.
This type of hiking is painstakingly tedious and slow. It is more of a mental exercise than a physical workout. If you are looking for a fantastic independent hike that is easy to follow and will allow you to really stretch your legs and get your heart rate up, I can think of no better place than Phu Kradueng National Park.
Located in the province of Loei in northeastern Thailand, Phu Kradueng became the second national park in 1962 (Khao Yai was the first). The best time to plan a visit is during the winter months. The park is closed for safety during the rainy season (June-September) due to slippery conditions. The park visitor center is open from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM. The entry fee is 400 baht foreigner / 40 baht Thai for adults, 200 baht foreigner / 20 baht Thai for children. Parking costs 30 baht.
Phu Kradueng’s strenuous 5.5 kilometer trail to the summit is very easy to follow, and you will have plenty of friendly company along the way.
Many people camp at the summit and it is interesting watching the porters carry people’s gear up and down the mountain. While I have seen porter service rates posted from 15-30 baht per kilogram on different websites, the signs we saw posted listed the current rate for transporting gear at 20 baht per kilogram.
Along the trail you will find signs that let you know that you are on the right track and the distance to the next landmark.
At regular intervals along the hike, you will find rest stops where vendors sell food, drinks, and souvenirs.
The last portion of the hike is very steep and has ladders to help you get to the top.
It could be worse! It is amazing to watch the porters navigate up and down the mountain with their heavy loads.
You have conquered Phu Kradueng!
The views from the top are spectacular and well-worth the effort.
A sign at the top of the mountain lists points of interest at the summit. The summit is a large plateau, and there are many more kilometers of marked trails to explore. We started our hike at noon, so we were unable to explore the mountain top on this trip. It took us 2.5 hours to summit. We took a short 10 minute photo and snack break before starting our 5.5 kilometer return trip.
It took us 2 hours to return to the visitor center – extremely tired and very satisfied!
Not knowing what to expect, we were very excited by the hiking and exploration opportunities in Phu Kradueng. We are already planning a much longer trip to camp and explore the summit hiking!
From Bangkok: Phu Kradueng National Park is located about 7 hours north of Bangkok (1 hour south of Loei) and is easy to navigate. Route 9, Route 1, Route 2, Route 211 (in Chum Phae there is a short section where Route 12 and 201 follow the same route), turn left onto Route 2019 and you will reach the entrance to the park in about 5 minutes.
Phu Kradueng National Park Headquarters @ 16.870720,101.846025
Phu Kradueng Summit @ 16.870952,101.808346
You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.