Phu Kradueng National Park in Loei Province is one of the best-known national parks of Thailand. Its high elevation is 1,316 m (4,318 ft) at Khok Moei.
The park is closed to visitors during the rainy season (1 June - 30 September).
Phu Kradueng was proclaimed a national park on 23 November 1962, the second national park of Thailand after Khao Yai National Park.
Phu Kradueng mountain, made up of Jurassic and Cretaceous sandstone formations, takes the form of a mesa towering some 1,000 m above the surrounding valleys. The summit plateau is roughly square-shaped and 60 km2 (37,500 rai) in size, with an average elevation of about 1,250 m. Sloping slightly to the north, its western, southern, and eastern edges are fairly straight and formed by abrupt sandstone cliffs, while the northern part is deformed in a more irregular shape, containing a number of streams and (seasonal) waterfalls. The summit itself, in the southwestern part of the plateau, is inconspicuous. The park occupies an area of 348 km2 (217,575 rai).
Flora and fauna
The mountain's steep sides are home to a succession of tropical forest tiers, namely (in ascending order): deciduous (Dipterocarpaceae|dipterocarp), mixed deciduous, dry evergreen, and hill evergreen forests, interspersed with bamboo. In contrast to that, the plateau at the mountain top consists of a sandy pine savanna landscape. Dominant tree species are Siamese sal (Shorea obtusa), Shorea siamensis, Diospyros spp., Lagerstroemia spp., Podocarpis nerriifolius, maple, Pinus murkusii, and Pinus kesiya. The grass fields support a variety of flowers, such as Hydrocera triflora, Torenia fournieri and marigolds. These flowers bloom at different times of the year. Some grow well in the rocky fields including Dendrobium sp. Close to the ground are ferns, mosses, and Serissa sp. Phu Kradung, with its variety of forest types and vegetation, provides abundant food for wildlife community, including elephants, bears, sambar deer, barking deer, serong, squirrel, fox. Birds include White-rumped Shama, black eagle, silver pheasant, red-wattled lapwing, Chinese francolin, and minivets. There is one rare species of turtle called "Tao Poo Loo" or "Tao Hang" which has a long tail and lives in high elevations along streams in the forests.
Phu Kradung is a cool and comfortable all year round. The average temperature is 15°C. In the cool season, temperatures on the coldest nights reach freezing. In the rainy season, the weather can change quickly. Fog and low clouds tend to hang low over the landscape. Cliffs may collapse under their own weight after the soil which underlies the sandstone cap is eroded by heavy rain. Heavy rains can also cause flash floods in the streams which run down the mountain. Thus, the park is closed during June and September every year for visitor safety and forest rejuvenation.
From Bangkok, get on the train at Hualamphong Railway Station and get off at Khon Kaen Railway Station. Then, take the Khon Kaen-Loei bus and get off at Pha Nok Khao or Phu Kradueng Bus Terminal and then take a songthaew to the park.
From Bangkok, take the Bangkok-Loei bus at the Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) and get off at Pha Nok Khao and then take a songthaew to the park.
The park office closes at 15:00, as climbers leaving later will not have enough time to climb the mountain before dark.
Fees and permits
Admission is 400 baht for foreign adults, 200 baht for foreign children. For Thai adults, it's 40 baht and for children 20 baht. The Department of National Parks has been raising prices for foreigners.
While you are on the top of the plateau there will be no car for you to travel around the plateau. You need to walk all the way long while you are on Phu kradueng (Total distance around 30 km).
Even though, it is about 30 km to walk, but it is worth walking all the way. There are plenty of beautiful trees and flowers for you to take photos.
You can’t bring you own bicycle up to the plateau but you can hire a mountain bicycle while you are up there. The price is around 360 baht.
The main trail to the top from the park office
This is a very old and historic trail, about 5.5 km in length, climbing the southeastern flank of the mountain. It starts from the main park office at an elevation of about 300 m. There are many places to rest on the way up. These rest plateaus are called Sam. At each there are several vendors selling food and drinks, and some provide toilet facilities and/or medical services as well. There are eight of these on the way up. In order of ascent, they are:
- Sam Haek - This rest area is approximately 1,000 m from the starting point, on an intermediate plateau immediately above a very steep section of the trail. Most Thai visitors believe the word haek means "to be out of breath", "to pant", because of its resemblance to the sound made when out of breath. However, the real meaning is sacred or holy object in the local dialect.
- Sam Bon - Approximately 700 m from Sam Haek.
- Sam Kok Kork - Approximately 440 m from Sam Bon.
- Sam Ko Sang - Approximately 200 m from Sam Kok Kork.
- Sam Kok Wa - Approximately 580 m from Sam Ko Sang.
- Sam Kok Phai - Approximately 460 m from Sam Kok Wa.
- Sam Kok Don - Approximately 300 m from Sam Kok Phai.
- Sam Khrae - Approximately 450 m from Sam Kok Don.
The last 1,300 m from Sam Khrae to the top is the hardest and steepest part of the hike. There are ladders and ramps at parts where it would otherwise be impossible to walk. Once reaching the highest point of the trail (1,288 m elevation) at the edge of the summit plateau, it is still a 3.6 km walk over flat terrain to the Wang Kwang Visitor Center and campsite, where tents and rooms are available.
Many climbers hire porters to carry their belongings to the top of the mountain for them. As a result, the main trail is often crowded with long lines of porters and following climbers.
Trail to the top from Amphoe Nam Nao
Travelers can climb the mountain from Amphoe Nam Nao along a trail opened in 2005. There aren't any places to stop and purchase food and drinks on the way up on this trail.
Trails at the top of the mountain
There are many hiking trails to the many cliffs and waterfalls on top of Phu Kradueng. There are two categories of trails on the summit plateau. The first one is the normal trails open to the public, while the second one is the trails in the closed off forest. In the first category, there's a waterfalls trail and a cliffs trail. The closed forest has two areas, named area one and area two.
- Tham Yai Waterfall - Tham Yai Waterfall is 1.4 km from Phen Phop Waterfall. There are maples along the way to Tham Yai Waterfall. From the end of November to early-December, the maple leaves fall and this area become red.
- Than Sawan Waterfall - Than Sawan Waterfal is in Nahaew District, Loei. It is a small waterfall which has a height of 15 m. Than Sawan Waterfall is the nearest waterfall to Amphoe Mueang. Visitors can drive to the waterfall.
- Phon Phop Waterfall - Phon Phop Waterfall is a big and beautiful waterfall. The name of the waterfall, Phon Phop, comes from Pone Kingpetch who was the first world champion boxer of Thailand because he found this waterfall when he went to practice boxing and prepared himself for cold weather in a foreign country. Phon Phop Waterfall is 558 m from Phen Phop Mai Waterfall. This waterfall looks like ladders. The waterfall has eight levels and a height of 30 m.
- Phra Ong Waterfall - Phra Ong Waterfall originates from the Phra Ong Canal which comes from Anodard Pond which has water year round. Phra Ong Waterfall is four kilometres from Wang Kwang Visitor Center.
- Penpobmai Waterfall - Penpobmai Waterfall is a popular waterfall in Phu Kradueng National Park. People love taking photos there because it is rather quaint. Wang Kwang Stream is the origin of another waterfall Phon Phop, eight metres high and four kilometres from accommodations. It cascades over a sharp rock. In the winter, maples from riverside drop their red leaves to the water's surface.
- Tat Hong Waterfall - Tat Hong Waterfall is a big waterfall among dense and impenetrable forest. It's from the convergence of Namphong Stream and Roi Brook. It is 70 m high and 80 m wide. A rainbow is always visible when the sunlight plays on the area. It is an ideal place to relax and swim. This place a path that was used as Seri Thai resistance movement to travel from Loei to Petchabun. It allowed Field Marshal P. Pibulsongkram to escape the Japanese army in World War II. The pathway leads to other interesting spots such as Tat Huai Wua, Hat Sai Khao, Kaeng Hin Tang, Phu Hang (pre-historic color drawings), Phu Lat Mueang viewpoint and Wang Phong Yiam rafting point.
- Wang Kwang Waterfall - Wang Kwang Waterfall is another popular attraction in Loei. It is the closest to the accommodations, only 1 km. It is a small waterfall, only seven metres in height. This is a watering hold for deer, thus is the source of the name "Wang Kwang".
Starting from the visitor center on the mountain, travelers can explore the cliffs trail.
- Pha Nok Aen Cliff – This cliff is on the east side of the mountain, approximately 1.1 km from the campsite and tourist office. This is an important tourist spot, where many people go to watch the sunrise. In the summer and rainy season, this cliff is above the clouds, affording a beautiful view of the sunrise.
- Pha Mak Duk Cliff - This cliff is on the south side of the mountain. It is approximately two kilometres from the campsite and tourist office. Travelers who have little time come here to watch the sunset, due to its closeness to the campsite.
- Pha Jam Sin Cliff - Approximately 600 m from Pha Mak Duk Cliff.
- Pha Na Noi Cliff - Approximately 600 m from Pha Jam Sin Cliff.
- Pha Yiap Mek Cliff - Approximately two kilometres from Pha Na Noi Cliff.
- Pha Daeng Cliff - Approximately 1.5 km from Pha Yiap Mek Cliff.
- Pha Lom Sak Cliff - Approximately 2.5 km from Pha Daeng Cliff. This cliff is on the west side of Phu Kradueng mountain. Most people who climb the mountain will go to watch the sunset at this cliff. On a clear day, it's possible to see Phu Pha Jit Mountain in Nam Nao National Park.
Phu kradueng is known as the second best of Thai national park. This national park is unique because of beauty of nature like trees, flowers, waterfall, and cliff.
Another unique part of Phu Kradueng is restaurant located at the Visitor center and some spots. There are many restaurants for travelers to choose from such as stir fry Kai Land and crispy pork.
After a long walk there will be a dessert waiting for you at Pha Yeab mek (around 30 baht).
- Phu Kradueng National Park, Moo 1, Ban Si Than, Si Than Sub-district, Amphoe Phu Kradueng, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The park has a number of bungalows and "terrace houses" for overnight stays. They can be reserved up to 60 days in advance. Accommodations vary in size and can accommodate from 4-12 persons. Prices range from 900-3,600 baht per night. Booking can be arranged through in this website or telephone booking at +66 2562 0760. Reservation can be made 60 days in advance. Payment at Krung Thai Bank Public Company Limited, needs to be done within two days after the reservation is being made. Foreign clients who perform online accommodation booking from outside Thailand must transfer the accommodation fee (except bank service charge) to Krungthai Bank Public Company Limited, Thailand, account number 039-6-02816-0. 900-3,600 baht.
The park has camping facilities available. The park website has no information on this, but Thai national parks commonly rent tents, sleeping bags, etc., for a nominal fee.
Beware of leeches when the air is humid.