Thailand's Best National Parks for Day Trips or Camping Excursions

23 May 2022

Thailand's many national parks impress even seasoned travellers. Each national park offers something unique - from thriving marine environments full of sea creatures and gorgeous coral reefs to tropical rainforests where you can find tigers, elephants, leopards, tapirs, gaurs, bears, porcupines, and pangolins. 

These must-visit destinations offer unforgettable wildlife, flora, and fauna experiences. You can hike trails, visit caverns, and swim in emerald green pools and waterfalls to cool off. Camping in these national parks is an amazing experience for true nature lovers!

These parks offer pristine wilderness and amazing animals. They are the perfect contrast to the built-up areas where hotels and resorts are located. No trip to Thailand is complete without experiencing both. So, browse through the list of best National Parks below to see which you should add to your Thailand vacation itinerary.

 

Ao Phang-Nga National Park

This park is a marine park in the Andaman Sea near Phuket and Krabi in the Phang Nga Province of southern Thailand. 

This 400 km2 park has a lot to see, so plan to spend a few days here. It features 42 karst islands with spectacular beaches, cliffs, caves, and lagoons. It also includes Thailand's most extensive mangrove forests on the mainland, and Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Khao Lak, and Ko Lanta are nearby.

The park's most famous attraction is James Bond Island, the renowned limestone karst island featured in "The Man with the Golden Gun" in 1974. It is also well-known for being a fantastic kayaking destination thanks to its tranquil turquoise waters. Aside from that, there are many beautiful bays and caves to explore, and the mainland areas are great for bird watching and seeing mangrove species. You can even camp overnight on the beaches to ensure a glimpse of all the local wildlife.

 

Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon is one of Northern Thailand's best national parks. It is home to the country's highest mountain and features waterfalls, evergreen trees, breathtaking viewpoints, trails, bird watching, and a comfortably cool climate.

The park entrance is 70 kilometres from Chiang Mai, situated in the Chiang Mai province.  

The park is named after one of Chiang Mai's previous monarchs, Inthawichayanon, who sought to preserve the northern forests. After his death, his remains were laid in the park, and the woodland was christened Doi Inthanon.

The best visit period is during the park's dry, cold months between November to February, whereas the least optimal time is the rainy season from May to October.

In the park's headquarters lies a large campsite. A brief walk from the main road leads to waterfalls, with Sirithan Waterfall being the closest one to the centre.

Siamese sakura blooms blanket trees in pink flowers for a few weeks in late January and early February.

Doi Inthanon's summit is the park's most popular destination for its views, especially during sunrise. Two Chedis not far south of the top, facing west, are more popular for sunset views.

Mae Klang Luang Village, 6 km east of headquarters, offers picturesque rice fields during the second half of the rainy season and delicious eateries in town year-round.

 

Erawan National Park

Erawan National Park is an hour from Kanchanaburi. It was founded in 1975 and encompasses 550 km2. Its main attraction is Erawan Falls, which is Thailand's most visited waterfall. The 7-tiered falls are thought to resemble the erawan, a 3-headed Hindu elephant, hence the name of the park and waterfall. Its crystal blue waters are swimmable in cool and hot weather.

The park also contains caves, streams, and emerald lakes. The breast-shaped hill Khao Nom Nang is another park feature. Around 80% of the park is mixed deciduous forests, and the rest is deciduous dipterocarp and dry evergreen forests.

If you want to remain longer, you can rent bungalows to see the attractions at night. Erawan is home to numerous mammal species, and it is advisable to carry hiking boots for the more hazardous trails and caves.

November to January is dry and chilly, while May to October is rainy. However, the neighbouring mountains shield the park from the eastern monsoon, resulting in less rainfall than western forests.

 

Kaeng Krachan National Park

Kaeng Krachan is Thailand's largest national park, with one of the most diversified animal habitats in the country. It's excellent for dedicated naturalists and famous for its birds and butterflies, boasting over 400 identified species. In addition, there are several mammals, including leopards, wild dogs, bears, monkeys, and elephants.

This national park lies in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces, along the Myanmar border. It is a well-liked destination for camping,  trekking, bird watching, climbing, and kayaking. You can boat on the park's two rivers or lake. Pran Buri and Phetchaburi rivers begin in this park. Baan Krang and Phanoen Thung are great places to camp.

Kaeng Krachan National Park was declared a national park on 12 June 1981 and a World Heritage Site in July 2021. No other protected location has so many animals.

Camping in one of the two core campgrounds is a terrific experience. It's easy to watch wildlife day and night, and lucky visitors may hear gibbons chattering in the morning.

Several Phanoen Thung Campsite sites offer views of the unique 'sea of mist,' which appears between November to February. The white mist covers the lowlands, leaving only the mountain peaks visible.

Some excellent trails lead deep into the beautiful woodland. Unfortunately, getting lost while hiking is possible, so a ranger or private guide is required. You can hire rangers for a modest fee at any campsite.

February through May is the dry season, and May through October is the wet season.

 

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, a three-hour trip from Bangkok, is for adventurers, as you must scale a cliff to experience its views. So bring your boots and expect a challenge. The park is also a popular site for bird watchers, with over 300 different species to be spotted. January and February are prime migration months.

Those who don't like steep hiking can take a boat to the Phraya Nakhon Cave's entrance. The cave, which is covered in spectacular stalagmites, marks the park's beginning. With trees growing from their core, the entry experience is magnificent. In addition, there is a Buddhist temple inside the massive cave.

The marine park features panoramic sea vistas and limestone slopes. It was Thailand's first coastal national park, and its name means a mountain with 300 peaks.

 

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok is the most popular national park in southern Thailand because of its proximity to Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi, and Khao Lak. Otherwise, the park is known for its caves, limestone cliffs, tropical forests, trails, wildlife, waterfalls, and raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake. You can go trekking, kayaking, camping, and encounter elephants. Reserving at least a couple of days of your vacation to explore this park would be wise.

Khao Sok became Thailand's 22nd national park in 1980. The park is part of the 5,316-km2 Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok Forest Complex, which includes some Andaman Sea islands. The park's mountains reach from Phuket Island to Ranong Province along the Phuket Range.

Many trails surround the headquarters and lake. Only a few can be hiked unguided. Several require a guide and shouldn't be attempted alone or without permission as you can easily get lost. Guides can be booked as a package with raft cabins if you wish to spend the night here.

The only accessible waterfalls are along paths from Khao Sok's headquarters and the park's central road, 401. Impressive limestone outcrops can be seen in Khao Sok Village, along the road, and on the lake, and most caves near Khao Sok Lake are accessible by longtail boats.

You can also pair water activities with hiking or cave tours. For example, river tubing and bamboo rafting are possible when the river has adequate water.

The entire park has reptiles and amphibians. You'll see lizards, snakes, and amphibians along the trails to the waterfalls. Reptiles and amphibians are best at night.

The park also features some of Thailand's most interesting mammalian species, yet they're rarely seen in tourist areas. However, longtail macaques and banded-langurs do frequent the headquarters, and trails may offer sights of boars or deer. In addition, you can hear morning gibbon sounds when you stay at nearby hotels.

The rainy season is late April to early December, and the dry season is from January to March.

 

Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's also Thailand's first national park, founded in 1962. It contains trails, waterfalls, and wildlife. In addition, deer, elephant, hornbill, gibbon, macaque, porcupine, and civet sightings are common. It is the country's third-largest park, situated within Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachinburi, Saraburi, and Nakhon Nayok provinces. Bangkok is 180 kilometres from the park's checkpoint.

The park has rain/evergreen woods and grasslands. Its tallest mountain is the 1,351-meter Khao Rom. It is included in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, which spans five protected areas from Khao Yai to the Cambodian border. Other parks in this complex include Pang Sida, Thap Lan, Ta Phraya, and Dong Yai.

There are trails from 800 meters to 8 kilometres long. The majority of the paths are circular and are located northwest of the tourist centre area. Some longer routes require guides for up to three days of hiking.

Although the park is popular with local tourists, most prefer picnic-style camping and only visit the waterfalls and vistas; thus, most trails aren't busy.

The park contains a variety of waterfalls, most of which are easily accessible by vehicle and a short walk. For example, Haew Narok Waterfall in Khao Yai is one of Thailand's tallest.

May to October is the rainy season; otherwise, it's dry.

 

Kui Buri National Park

Kui Buri National Park, not far from Hua Hin near the Burmese border, is known for its elephants. You can view herds of these magnificent animals from the Kui Buri wildlife watching area with an almost 100% chance on any given day. In addition, deer, gaur, jackal, Burmese hare, and other animal sightings are common.

The park's mountains are part of Thailand and Myanmar's Tenasserim Hills Range. The park's forest contains dry and damp evergreen trees such as Dipterocarpus tuberculosis, Hopea odorata, Terminalia chebula, and palms.

Visitors can drive their own automobiles into the park; however, protected portions require a guided tour: pickup trucks or 4x4s conduct tours. Tents and bungalows are available for overnight stays.

May through November is rainy. June and July are dry.

 

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is a marine national park in the Gulf of Thailand comprising 42 islands, totalling 102 km2 of the area east of Ko Samui. The most excellent way to experience this park is via boat - either speedboat or kayak.

The park is a Ramsar site, a treaty recognizing vital wetlands. "Ang Thong" means "golden basin." Snorkelling and diving are popular. Tents and bungalows are available for overnight stays.

Each island has something to offer. Some feature white sand beaches, while others have mountains with great views, high limestone slopes, sinkholes, caverns, or marine lakes. You may also encounter monkeys, otters, wild boars, dusty-leaf, and macaque monkeys. Ko Wua Ta Lap houses the headquarters and basic facilities.

The islands and surrounding waterways are popular day-trip destinations for snorkelling, canoeing/kayaking, beaches, hiking, etc. In coral gardens, green sea turtles, hawksbill, and yellow-spotted trevallies may be seen.

The best time to dive is February to October, with the best visibility in March to April.

 

Mu Ko Similan National Park (Similan Islands)

Mu Ko Similan National Park is an archipelago of 11 islands around 70 km off the Andaman Sea coast in Phang Nga Province. It became a national park in 1982. 

These granite islands are crowned with rainforests and flanked by white beaches and coral reefs. In fact, the Similan Islands are one of the top diving spots globally due to their rich marine life, pristine waters, and white soft sand beaches. Richelieu Rock is a popular diving destination. You can take planned tours or visit alone. December to April are the clear months for snorkelling and diving.

Some islands provide camping and cottages. Ko Miang and Ko Simlan have hotels and eateries. Khao Lak, Phuket, and Thap Lamu Pier are the nearest popular mainland towns.

However, this isn't the place if you're looking for solitude. There are no "uncharted", "unexplored", or "hidden areas" throughout the national park; they're all packed during high season.

May through October is the rainy season; from December to March, it's relatively dry.

 

Namtok Phlio National Park

Namtok Phlio National Park is located just outside the eastern province of Chanthaburi. Here you'll find emerald ponds and wildlife-filled jungles. Few foreigners visit the park. Remember to bring your swimwear when you want to cool off in one of the numerous pools available.

On your route to the park, you'll find various food carts where you may buy tasty goodies. Bungalows are available to rent if you wish to experience nature at night. Other attractions include King Rama V's numerous stupas and chedis. Although, the park's primary feature is Phlio waterfall, where many carp (fish) may be found.

 

Pha Taem National Park

This national park border Laos and offer magnificent Mekong River views. The river scenery and the park's natural beauty are both stunning. If you like history, this park features handprints and animal drawings estimated to be around 3,000 years old. The designs tell a story, making the experience of seeing them one-of-a-kind.

The park is across the river from Laos' Phou Xieng Thong National Protected Area in northeast Thailand. Pha Taem is renowned for its Dipterocarp forest cover, mushroom rock formations, and the largest flower field in Thailand. Moreover, the park is a favourite site for catching the first rays of sunshine of the New Year.

 

Pranburi Forest National Park

Pranburi Forest Park has winding wooden walkways and mangrove trees growing from a muddy floor. Crabs can be observed on every root, lurking behind branches as you pass. Information huts are dispersed throughout the park to educate visitors.

 

Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam National Park

Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam National Park is near Krabi, Thailand. The name, which translates as "Two Water Canal" in English, refers to the presence of crystal-clear canals along a wooden road flanked by mangrove trees that leads tourists deeper into the park. The highly-recommended thing to do here is take a stroll along the 700-meter track through 4 types of woodlands.

 

Thung Salaeng Luang National Park

Thung Salaeng Luang is a 16sq kilometre park or hiking full of pine trees and wildflowers located six hours north of Bangkok.