Jungle Trekking in Khao Yai National Park
Recently I got the offer to go jungle trekking in Khao Yai National Park. In this particular area, the jungle is so dense and difficult to navigate, the only way to make it out again is with a guide.
The Khao Yai National Park is like a really off the beaten track version of the Erawan National Park. It is located three hours north-west of Bangkok. It is still close enough to be one of my recommended destinations near Bangkok.
As a kid, I dreamed of going jungle trekking in Thailand. Getting so deep into the jungle that paths are difficult to find, sometimes having to cut your way through, the possibility of coming across wild animals like leopards and elephants.
The thought of getting really off the beaten track like Indiana Jones or Bear Grylls was exhilarating.
Trekking Trail No. 6
The jungle trek along trail 6 takes us 10 kilometers deep into Khao Yai National Park. The trail takes about 6 hours to complete.
On arrival our guide hands out pairs of long leech socks, bottles of insect repellent and strongly advise we cover up in long pants, long sleeve shirts, and hats. He tells us the jungle in this particular area of Thailand is filled with insects called chiggers.
Chiggers are tick-like insects but smaller and leave behind a bite which itches for up to one year. The worst part is that you won’t even see the chiggers before they bite you. So small they’re almost invisible to the eye.
Consider my jungle trekking outfit; long sleeve shirt loosely buttoned up, shorts, flip-flops, no hat. The guide looks me up and down, laughs and tells my companions how screwed I am in Thai.
Not to worry, I am armed with a huge bottle of insect repellent and cigarette lighter for the leeches.
By 8am we cross a wooden suspension bridge and enter the jungle. The beginning is easy, there is a clear path and I cannot understand why a guide is necessary. The first kilometer passes quickly as we maintain a fast walking pace.
Soon comes the fork in the road and a sign stating “Do Not Enter.” This is a sign of adventure.
Beyond the sign, the path quickly changes to a small dirt trail. It is barely wide enough to walk single file. From here on we are warned not to stray too far from the path as there are wild elephants roaming around the jungle.
The trail winds its way up the mountainside and down into the valley. Some sections are so steep that we almost have to crawl up, in other places the jungle so thick that it becomes difficult for even the guide to find the trail.
After an hour of traversing through thick jungle, there is a scream of horror up ahead. One of the women in our group has a tick burrowed into the skin of her arm. Damn these things really are out here. Time for another coating of insect repellent.
Putting the thought of ticks and chiggers behind we continue on into the jungle. It is all smooth sailing until around the 7km point. Here deep in the jungle, the signs of wild elephants are evident. We are surrounded by footprints the size of your torso, broken trees, and piles of fresh shit large enough to lose your shoes in.
“The elephants have been here in the past few hours” our guide warns “so stay close together.” We’ve been given no guidance on what to do should we actually run into a wild elephant, however, I’ve been told they are quite aggressive.
Making our way through the jungle we crawl up one hill after another. We use tree roots and dangling vines as makeshift ropes. After each ascent, there is a steep descent where loose dirt wants to landslide away under your feet.
Out here the jungle is hot, the insects are loud and the threat of wild elephants is imminent. Chiggers are everywhere and vampire leeches want to drop down your shirt to start sucking your body dry with blood. This is the Indiana Jones jungle experience I was after.
Jungle trekking on a rarely trodden path is not easy work. By 4pm when we hear the first sounds of a huge waterfall crashing down there is a look of relief. Our final rest stop is just up ahead, the Haew Suwat Waterfall.
Check out Chiang Rai for more waterfalls
Emerging from the jungle we pass another “Do Not Enter” sign sealing the other end of the trail. Now I understand the sign and think twice about going in without a guide.
Jungle trekking in Thailand is one of the most amazing experiences you can have, just be sure to proceed with caution.
How to Get a Jungle Trekking Guide
If you want to go jungle trekking off the paved path it is essential to get a guide. You will get lost otherwise.
The cost of the guide depends on the trail. We did trail number 6 which costs about 2000 THB per day (per group). This can be shared among 4-5 people or more.
Jungle trekking guides for Khao Yai National Park can be contacted on the DNP Thai National Parks Website or call the Khao Yai National Park directly on 08-6092-6527. They speak basic English so be prepared with a Thai contact or translator.
Where is Khao Yai National Park?
Khao Yai National Park is located approximately 3hrs north east of Bangkok. The national park is split across the provinces of Saraburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Nayok and Prachinburi. The eastern side of the park is considered Isaan Thailand.
Our jungle trek on trail number 6 was accessed via the national park’s north gate at Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The north gate is the main entrance to the national park.
Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee
As standard in Thailand, there are 2 prices for the entry fees into a national park. Foreigners (400 THB per person) and Thai (40 THB per person). It may be possible for a foreigner to get a discount by showing a student ID card. Work permits no longer apply for discounts since the end of 2015.
How to get to Khao Yai National Park
Minivans and buses run from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus terminal to Pak Chong. This is near the northern gate of the Khao Yai National Park.
There is no public transport available inside the national park, therefore there are only 3 options for getting around:
- Not recommended: Walk or hitchhike. This is slow and quite difficult to do in Thailand.
- Best option: Hire a motorcycle in Pak Chong and ride through the Khao Yai National Park. Motorcycles are quite easy to rent from guesthouses and generally cost 150 THB per day + fuel costs.
- Book a pre-organised tour. These are also available through local guesthouses in the Pak Chong area and small tour operators/agencies. However, a pre-organized tour may not take you to the exact off the beaten trails that you want.
Resorts Near Khao Yai
The following resorts are located on the northern end of Khao Yai National Park either in Pak Chong or near to the north entrance gate. Prices are for a room (i.e. 2 people).
- Sambar Guesthouse from $23 per night
- The Frog Khao Yai from $50 per night
- Lala Mukha Tent Resort from $90 per night
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