Phu Kradeung National Park
Phu Kradeung is one of Thailand’s most famous and popular National Parks. For anyone visiting Loei it is a place that should be number one on the to do list. The views are amazing. Most Thai people make a point of climbing Phu Kradeung Mountain at least once in their lifetime.
Phu Kradeung National park is about 84 kilometers from Loei city. Phu Kradeung is a flat top mountain 1,200 metres above sea level, there is a 5.5 km trail that leads to the top. The climb is quite steep in some places and takes on average about 3.5 to 4 hours. The park actually recommends that people take a health check first before attempting the climb. Once you reach the top there is then another 3.5 km walk to the visitor centre and camp site.
The park opens at 7 am and closes at 2 pm. The park closes for the rainy season which is from 1st June to 30th September because the trail is too dangerous to use when wet and it also gives the plants a chance to recover.
Phu Kradeung is busiest over the New Year period, this is also the coldest so ensure you bring plenty of warm clothing for the cold nights. Most people recommend climbing Phu Kradeung in the cold season, November through to January, because to make the climb in hot weather takes a lot out of you.
To enjoy Phu Kradeung and get the most out of its natural beauty a minimum of two nights should be spent on the mountain top. There are tents and cabins for rent or you can rent space to pitch your own tent.
There is an entrance fee at the entrance to the National Park, once you clear the entrance you will soon arrive at the base centre of Phu Kradeung there are many stations that you need to visit before you proceed to the climb.
If you arrive by car you will need to park your car in the inner car park, the entrance to the inner car park is at the far end of the car park you first enter and is blocked by a manned security barrier. To park your car you need to fill in the registration book that is with the staff at the security barrier and also pay the 30 baht fee.
Once you park your car you will need to enter the visitor centre to buy your tickets to climb Phu Kradeung. There is a fee of 200 baht for foreign child visitors and a 400 baht fee for foreign adult visitors. You also need to pay for your accommodation here as well, tent, cabin or space to pitch your own tent. They will give you a receipt for this, do not lose it!
After this you will need to walk over to the station that asks you to declare what trash you will be taking up the mountain, for example if you have bottled water and crisps you will need to declare that you will bring the empty water bottle and crisp packet back down with you. The staff will write on an envelope what you have declared and ask you to deposit 100 baht, this deposit is returned to you once you bring the declared items back to them. If you bring back more than a kilogram of trash they give you your 100 baht back and also a certificate to show that you helped keep Phu Kradeung tidy.
The next station is the porters station. Here you have all the items that you wish to have carried to the top weighed, the charge is 30 baht for each kilogram. You do not pay the full amount until you reach the top, the fee at the bottom is a 5 baht admin charge per item, again do not lose the tickets you are given here because you will need them to claim your items at the top. There is a temptation to carry your own bags, but the climb is steep and extra weight will drain you as you go up. The porters you see carrying the bags do this day in and day out, they are very fit. Please note that they do not go up at the same time as you, they wait until a certain time and then start the climb so when you get to the top expect there to be a delay on your bags arriving. It could be between 3 and 6 hours after you reach the summit, so if there is something essential that you need please carry this yourself. Once you have checked in your bags then you can proceed to the trail which has a ticket booth to check your tickets are valid for the climb, you will also be asked to register the climber(s) here.
The trail to the top is a 5.5 km and in parts can be steep, at certain points there are steps and handrails but for the most it is dust, grass and rocks so comfortable and appropriate footwear is a must. On the trail there are rest stops, a majority of them have food and souvenir vendors, so you can rest and take in some refreshments. The prices of food and drink is double what you would find locally in Thailand because every single item has to be carried up the trail by the porters so this cost is past onto the customers.
Once you get to the summit you are welcomed by a sign to let you know that you have conquered Phu Kradeung, do not be surprised by the queue of people waiting to have their picture taken by this sign. The faces you see around you are just as red as yours, but are smiling at making it to the summit.
Once you reach the summit there is another 3 to 4 km walk to the visitor centre and camp site. If you would like an alternative to walking then there are bicycles for hire at the summit. You can hire a mountain bike for 60 baht, this fee is for the journey to the visitor centre only, should you wish to hire the mountain bike for a day the fee is closer to 400 baht. The trail to the visitor centre by mountain bike is longer than the trail for walking because the bikes can not go along the shorter route due to too much sand. When you pay for the mountain bike you will get a ticket with the time of your departure, this must be shown to the staff member when you reach the visitor centre to return your bike, they know how long it should take to travel between the two points.
When you arrive at the Visitor centre you will need to organise your bedding, it is here that you need to show you have paid for your accommodation with the receipt you got at the bottom then you can rent mattresses, pillows and duvets. Once you have paid you will be given a receipt to be taken to the hut just outside the Visitor centre at this hut you collect your mattresses and pillows. The duvets are collected from a hut across the field from this first hut on the other side. There are a sea of tents on the field in front of the huts. When you collect your bedding they just say to pick any tent that is open. Most of the tents are pitched in an open field so are directly in sunlight all day which can get hot, some tents are pitched in the tree line so are in some shade and will be cooler during the day.
There is no housekeeping so the tents will be in the same state they were left in so you might have to do a bit of clearing or take the less dirty tent.
Your bags will be taken to a spot just in front of the hut that you collect mattresses and pillows. The porters just put their bags on the grass and wait for the owner to come to them with their original ticket from the bottom of the trail. It is here that you pay the 30 baht per kilogram fee. Expect there to be a delay from when you arrive at the summit to when your bags arrive. Rather than wait you may want to organise your tent, or get your bearings or visit the food and souvenir shops that are set up on the edge of the campsite. Just make the occasional visit to the area for bag collection to see if your bag has arrived. Each carrier will lay their bags on a separate piece of grass so you will be able to recognise your own bag quite easily.
The top of Phu Kradeung mountain is flat and covers a large area. Half of the area is closed to the public and is strictly for wild animals to roam without interference from people. There are areas that the park rangers will take you in that area but there is a fee and the group/person can only be taken by a park ranger to chosen spots.
In the campsite area a family of wild deers will make frequent visits to scrounge for food, they are used to people and will allow people to touch them and will stay still long enough for photos to be taken. They tend to make most visits during the evening.
In the area that is open to the public there are trails that take you along the cliff edge or inward towards waterfalls and other picturesque sites. The waterfalls are most beautiful just after the rainy season, if there has been a long period of no rain then the water just dries up and are not so beautiful. There are many types of beautiful flowers and plants on the mountain too, the best time to see them in full bloom is March and April.
The walk from one end of the mountain top to the other is about 12 to 13 kilometers so there is an awful lot of walking. There are mountain bikes for hire which makes light work of the distances. The rate per day is about 400 baht, some of the trails have so much sand in places that you will have to push the bike through those sections but generally the mountain bike is the better option. There are also food stalls at most of the view points so there are many places to rest, take refreshments and take in the outstanding views.
At approximately 5 am every morning a Park Ranger will lead people from the entrance of the Visitor centre to Nok Aen view point to watch the sunrise. Get to the Visitor Centre a little before 5 am to be sure. Take a torch with you because on Phu Kradeung there is only lighting at the Visitor Centre and camp site, everywhere else is in complete darkness. The Park Ranger will lead the way with his torch, be wary of your footing the trail is uneven.
The trail is about 2 kilometres long and takes about 40 minutes to walk. Once you arrive it will still be dark so be very wary of where the edge of the mountain is, there are no railings anywhere. Pick your spot and wait for the sunrise, it is outstanding. The whole cliff edge will be full of people with their cameras waiting for that perfect picture.
Once you have taken your pictures of the sunrise you can take the original trail back to camp or you can take another trail which passes a Buddha statue which offers another photo opportunity.
All the food stalls at camp will be open by the time you return so most people sit down for breakfast and decide what the plan is for the rest of the day. The souvenir stalls and visitor centre sell maps of Phu Kradeung which detail where all the view points and waterfalls are they also give you distances between points in kilometres. Most people plan to be at Lom Sak view point for sunset. Lom Sak is the most famous spot of Phu Kradeung, most pictures taken will be of sunset at this point, it is truly amazing. The distance from camp to Lom Sak is about 10 kilometres so a round trip is about 20 kilometres, do not forget if you stay for sunset at Lom Sak you will be walking home in the dark. If you decide to visit a waterfall or two this distance obviously increases. At Lom Sak there are food stalls and a coffee/tea stall. At the coffee/tea stall the owner takes his own pictures and sells them as postcards, but he will give you one of his postcards for free when you return your drinks glass, he also will let you charge your phone for free. The Visitor Centre at the camp site also allows you to charge your phone but they will charge a fee depending on the item to be charged, it is about 30 to 40 baht.
Whether you walk or bike back to the camp site, be careful. There is no lighting on the trail, it is uneven and has thick sand in certain places.
In the morning if you decide you will descend the mountain you can check your bags in to be taken to the bottom from 7 am onwards, it is at the same place as where you collected your bags. It is the same process as the bottom of the mountain, you pay a 5 baht admin fee per item and are given a ticket. The carriers do not leave straight away they will leave at certain times. Usually if you check your bags in at 7 am then you will probably expect your bags to reach the bottom between 1 pm and 2 pm. Our tip is to check your bags in at 7 am and then plan to descend at about 11 am to mid day. The journey to the bottom will take you about 90 to 120 minutes. You will need to return your rented bedding items before you descend. Also do not forget to take your trash with you, the items you declared at the bottom before you started your climb and also any extra trash if you can.
Take your time when you descend, the steep trail will take its toll on your leg muscles, you need to keep stopping yourself going down the trail too fast. Use the numerous view points to rest. Keep an eye out for the porters as well, they will be on the trail too and they have a lot of weight on their shoulders so give them room. You may even see your own bags on the way down.
Once you reach the bottom you just do in reverse what you did before you started your climb. At the ticket booth you will be asked to declare who came down from the mountain, after this booth you will see the porters station further down on your left. All the carriers will find a spot and lay the bags out in front of them waiting for the owners to collect and pay. After this then you can head to the ‘declare your trash’ station, they will find your original envelope and return your 100 baht if you have bought down your trash, if you have a bag of trash they will ask you to weight it and then separate the trash into recycle bins next to the station. For everyone who brings down more than a kilogram of trash they will give you a certificate. You will see someone writing out these certificates in the station, so if there is a queue you may have to wait for a few minutes to get yours.
There are some more food and souvenir stands in this area should you wish to buy something, or you can just look back at the mountain you have just spent two nights on and think about how brilliant it was.
We can not emphasis enough just how great Phu Kradeung is, please do not miss the opportunity if you are in Loei it is a must if you are here.
If we can be of any help with information or general tips please feel free to contact us at any time via email at [email protected] We will reply within 24 hours.
Also, please treat the above information as a guide only! The authorities at Phu Kradeung National Park have the right to change policy and prices at any time they please. To get the most up to date information we would recommend that you contact the authorities directly. Their phone numbers are 0 4287 1333 or 0 2561 4292 – 4.