Introducing Phu Kradueng National Park
Capped off by its eponymous peak, Phu Kradueng National Park covers a high-altitude plateau, cut through with trails and peppered with cliffs and waterfalls. Rising to 1316m, Thailand's second national park is always cool at its highest reaches (average year-round temperature 20°C), where its flora is a mix of pine forest and savannah. Various forest animals, including elephants, Asian jackals, Asiatic black bears, sambar deer, serows and white-handed gibbons inhabit the 348-sq-km park.
There's a small visitor centre at the base of the mountain, but almost everything else is up top. The main trail scaling Phu Kradueng is 5.5km long and takes about three to four hours to climb. It's strenuous, but not too challenging (unless it's wet) since there are steps at most of the steep parts. The hike is quite scenic and there are rest stops with food vendors about every kilometre. Once on top, it's another 3km to the main visitor centre. You can hire porters to carry your gear balanced on bamboo poles (15B per kilogram).
The 5.5km trail that passes six waterfalls in a forested valley, is the most beautiful destination; even after November, when the water has largely dried up. There are also many clifftop viewpoints, some ideal for sunrises and sunsets, scattered around the mountain.
Spending the night atop Phu Kradueng is a rite of passage for many students, so the park gets unbelievably crowded during school holidays (especially the Christmas–New Year period and from March to May). The park is closed during the rainy season (June to September) because the path to the top becomes too difficult to climb.