Introducing Nam Nao National Park
One of Thailand's most valuable nature preserves, Nam Nao National Park covers nearly 1000 sq km across the Phetchabun Mountains of Chaiyaphum and Phetchabun Provinces, just beyond Khon Kaen Province. Although it covers remote territory (this remained a People's Liberation Army of Thailand stronghold until the early 1980s), Hwy 12 makes access easy.
With an average elevation of 800m, temperatures are fairly cool year-round (ám nŏw means 'the water feels cold') and frost occasionally occurs in December and January. Three rivers are sourced here, the Chi, Saphung and Phrom, and there are both evergreen and deciduous forest mixed with some vast bamboo groves.
The 1560-sq-km Phu Khiaw Wildlife Sanctuary lies adjacent to the park, so wildlife is particularly abundant; however, the animals here are more timid than at nearby Phu Kradueng National Park and so are spotted less often. Lucky visitors might spot elephants, Malayan sun bears, banteng (wild cattle), Asian jackals, barking deer, gibbons, pangolins and flying squirrels. There are even a few tigers. More than 200 species of bird, including parrots and hornbills, fly through the forest.
A fair system of hiking trails branches out from the visitor centre to several scenic overlooks. Haewsai Waterfall is 17km east of the visitor centre, while the best sunrise/morning fog (5km) and sunset (11km) viewpoints lie to the west.
There are campsites, a variety of bungalows and some simple restaurants next to the visitor centre.
Hourly buses between Khon Kaen (115B, 2½ hours) and Phitsanulok travel through the park. The visitor centre is 1.5km from the highway.