Huai Nam Dang National Park
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One of the best trekking areas in North Thailand
Huai Nam Dang National Park is about 70 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. It takes about 1,5 hours to drive from Chiang Mai to the park. In 1995 Huai Nam Dang National Park became the 81st national park of Thailand, covering 1,252 square kilometers. The park covers areas in the Pai district of Mae Hong Son Province and Wiang Haeng and Mae Taeng districts of Chiang Mai province. Elevation ranges from about 400 up to almost 2,000 meters above sea level. Doi Chang is 1,962 meters the highest mountain. The park is an important watershed area and feeds the Pai, Ping, and Taeng rivers. By the way, it is often spelled as Huay Nam Dang.
Trekking in Huai Nam Dang National Park
The park has a long history of tourism and trekking. There are very few paved roads in the park, and no accommodation other than camping and homestays, so it is not suitable for mainstream tourism. I made my first trekking in the park in 1994 and the last in 2019. In the early days, the standard Huai Nam Dang trekking took four days and three nights. The trip included elephant riding and bamboo rafting. Nowadays, most trekkings are two days or a maximum of three days. Elephant riding is not being offered anymore, but the bamboo rafting on the Taeng River is still the best in North Thailand. The villages are restricted in their development, so they are not that much different from 25 years ago.
Trekking with Green Trails in the parkWe have several trekkings in the park, such as The Huai Nam Dang Family trekking and the two- and three-day Huai Nam Dang trekkings. I would love to offer more tours in the park. Due to the variety of activities, the adjoining Mae Taeng area is heavily visited. You can still ride elephants in the Mae Taeng area, but there is also whitewater rafting, zipline, and other activities. Huai Nam Dang National Park is quieter due to the 300 THB entrance fee for the park. The landscape is mountainous, which makes trekking relatively difficult. The forest is superb, though, and you will be rewarded with magnificent views. Huay Nam Dang National Park is also ideal for Jungle Trekking.
Tribal villages in the National Park
There are many hill tribe villages in and around Huay Nam Dang National Park. The majority of these are Karen villages, but Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, and Akha communities. Most of the trekkers spend the night in Karen or Lahu villages.
The villages in the park are very “authentic,” to use a controversial term. When the area became a national park, authorities allowed the tribal people to continue living within the park boundaries. There are limitations to development and construction. The villages only have solar power, and it is not allowed to construct roads. To spend the night in the park is living making a journey to the past.
The attractions of Huai Nam Dang National Park
The park boasts several waterfalls, including the Huai Nam Dang Waterfall, but these are not easy to reach. All Huai Nam Dang trekkings stop at the Mork Fah waterfall along the way, but these falls are part of Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park.
Another attraction of the park is the Pong Duat Hot Spring. Both our two and three-day treks start here. There is accommodation at the Hot Springs and several mineral baths. The Tha Pai Hot Spring is also within the boundary of the National Park.
The park is mountainous, and, depending on the route taken, trekking can be challenging. The views are magnificent. One of the popular viewpoints is the Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint which is located along road 1095 from Mae Malai to Pai. If the weather is favorable, you can see Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the third highest mountain in Thailand, in the distance.
Bamboo rafting on the Taeng River
Bamboo rafts were a means of transportation in the days when there were few good roads. When trekking became a significant tourist activity in the late 1970s, bamboo rafting became an integral part of trekking. The heydays of trekking are over, and there are not many places left where you can do bamboo rafting. Rafting on the Taeng is still a fantastic experience. The trip starts close to the Karen village Pak Khao Lam and ends at the Shan village Sobkai. Depending on the season, it can take two to three hours. Wearing a life jacket is compulsory.
The scenery is lovely, and there are a couple of excellent and exciting rapids. At the height of the rainy season, we might have to cancel the rafting because the river can become very wild and dangerous. Very few accidents have happened, but we have to remain alert. Our guides know the river very well and will take care of you.
Flora and Fauna of the National Park
Huay Nam Dang has deciduous dipterocarp forest, deciduous bamboo forest, mixed deciduous forest, and evergreen forest that are all fairly typical of Northern Thailand. At higher elevations, tall pine trees of the Pinus Merkusii (two-needle pine) and the Pinus Kesiya (three-needled pine) variety are prevalent.
According to information on other pages, wild animals live in the park, such as elephants, bears, tigers, gibbons, and monkeys. Don’t count on seeing much wildlife in the park. You might encounter wild boar or sambar deer in remote areas of the park. I have never seen wildlife on my treks. There are quite a few bird species in the park, but you need time, a trained eye, and binoculars to observe them.
Why you should go trekking in Huai Nam Dang National Park
These are the tours in Huai Nam Dang we offer: