Huai Nam Dang National Park

Table of Contents

view on mountains and forests during sunset
Huai Nam Dang NP panorama

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 kilometres. The park covers areas in 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 with 1,962 meters the highest mountain. The park is an important watershed area and feeds the Pai, Ping and Taeng rivers.

Guide with tourists in the forest Chiang Mai Jungle Trekking Huai Nam Dang
Huai Nam Dang jungle

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 home stays 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 maximum 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.

Three kids going to raft on the Taeng River
Kids on raft in Huai Nam Dang National park

Trekking with Green Trails in the park

We 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.In the Mae Taeng area you still can ride elephants but there is also whitewater rafting, zipline and other activities.

Huai Nam Dang National Park is more quiet due to the 300 THB entrance fee for the park. The landscape is mountainous which makes the trekking relatively difficult. The forest is superb though and you will rewarded with magnificent views. Huay Nam Dang National Park is also ideal for Jungle Trekking.

Tourists at Mork Fah Waterfall Huai Nam Dang National Park
Mork Fah Waterfall in Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park

Tribal villages in the National Park

There are many hilltribe villages in and around Huay Nam Dang National Park. The majority of these are Karen villages but there also Hmong, Lahu, Lisu and Akha communities. Most of the trekkings 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 par, 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.

Man and woman in traditional dress Huai Nam Dang National Park
Elderly Karen couple in Huai Nam Dang National Park
Overnight during trekking
Typical overnight in a Karen village in Huai Nam Dang National Park

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 make a 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 are the Pong Duad Hot Springs. Both our two and three day trekkings start here. There is accommodation at the Hot Springs and several mineral baths.

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 one called 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 of Thailand, in the distance.

Trees with a view of mountains and forests North Thailand flora Huai Nam Dang
Huai Nam Dang National Park vista

Bamboo rafting on the Taeng River

Bamboo rafts were used as a means of transportation in the days when there were few good roads. When trekking became a major 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 bamboo rafting is being offered. 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 in 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 nice and exciting rapids. At the height of the rainy season it is possible that we have to cancel the rafting because the river can become very wild and dangerous. Despite this very few accidents have happened but we have to remain alert. Our guides know the river very well and will take care of you.

Tourists on a bamboo raft on a river
Rafting on the Mae Taeng
Rafting on a river Huai Nam Dang
Rafting on the Taeng River

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 very common.

According to information on other pages there are wild animals living 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.

Blue skies and forests
Huai Nam Dang National Park

Why you should go trekking in Huai Nam Dang National Park

The park has everything: fantastic trekking, great bamboo rafting, lush forest, amazing views and welcoming traditional villages. It is still one of the very best areas for multiple day treks. If you have a bit more time, I would definitely go for the three day trekking. This will give you a more in-depth experience with the local people and the lovely environment.
 

These are the tours in Huay Nam Dang we offer: