Thailand's Hidden Gem for Nature Lovers: A Travel Guide to Phu Soi Dao National Park
If you like hiking and love traveling like a local, Phu Soi Dao National Park is one of the destinations in Thailand that you should be on your list! Phu Soi Dao is an exotic place that gives you an adventurous sense of traveling. You’ll spend your time in pure nature, camping under the stars. And we’re sure that you will be the only foreigner around!
Phu Soi Dao (ภูสอยดาว) is the 4th highest mountain in Thailand (2,102m) which is located at Thai-Laos Border in Uttaradit province in the north of Thailand. The mountain is famous for its Crested Serpent Flowers which bloom in rainy season. You’ll also get to see numerous wild flowers and Sai Thip Waterfall, a waterfall which is surrounded by mossy forest.
However, our trip in dry season from 20-23 December 2019, we didn’t get to see the two previous mentioned highlights, but as we roamed around the campsite, we could enjoy seeing other highlights such as Thai-Laos Boundary Mark, finding photography spots around the Pine Tree Forest, catching a beautiful sunset around the cliff, watching some shooting stars at night, and taking loads of photos more than we ever needed! And also, you can experience the ultimate climb to the summit of the 4th highest peak of Thailand!
Open for Hiking Season
Rainy Season (August-October)
Dry Season (November-Mid January)
According to our time of travel which was in the dry season,
Daytime: ~30 degree celsius
Night: under 10 degree celsius
The Hiking Route
The total distance from foothill to the camping area (1,633m) is 6.5 km with an elevation gain of around 1,000m.
There are 5 major hills to hike through which are
Noen Song Yard (เนินส่งญาติ 650m)
Noen Prab Sien (เนินปราบเซียน 780m)
Noen Pa Kor (เนินป่าก่อ 850m)
Noen Suer Krong (เนินเสือโคร่ง 1,150m)
Noen Morana (เนินมรณะ 1,410m) which is the steepest.
At the trailhead, you’ll get to see Phu Soi Dao Waterfall before starting the hike. The beginning of the trail is very easy as it is quite flat. The real hike actually starts after you see the sign of the first hill.
Some parts of the trail, there will be some stairs which some are broken and slippery, you just have to be careful with it. The resting spots are provided throughout the course which is perfect a lunch or snack break anytime. Our team had a lunch break at around Noen Pa Kor.
You’ll be walking up in the shade for most of the trail until the last hill, Noen Morana. The very last part of the hike is exposed to the sun and is the steepest part of the hike, but the view starts to pay off after a long hike. Since there is no big trees, you can see a nice view from above.
The very last 1 km after Noen Morana is just a flat trail leading to campsite. There is one junction on the trail. If you go to the left, you’ll get to the viewpoint, but if you go to the right, you’ll go straight to the campsite right away.
Notes: We personally think that it is quite easy compared to our past experiences of trekking (many routes in Nepal, K2 in Pakistan, Salkantay in Peru, and many more). However, this time I brought my friends who have never hiked before and most of them didn't exercise much. All of my team hiked up slowly, but steadily as one of the team members had a cramp on the way up. They finally reached the campsite after 7 hours. They were impressed by the first experience of hiking and proud of themselves that they could hike up this far. For those who don’t exercise had leg soreness and ache. I would suggest people who’d love to hike to prepare themselves for it, so they could have fun all the way without taking painkillers at night.
Hiking up around 4-6 hours
Hiking down around 2-4 hours
Itinerary For Fit People Who Want To Summit the Peak
From Bangkok drive to Uttaradit province which takes around 8-9 hours and sleep at a guesthouse at Phu Soi Dao National Park. (OR take a night train to Phitsanulok and arrive at Uttaradit in the morning, then start the hike to the camping area on the same day.)
Hike up to the camping area (1,633m) which takes around 4-6 hours. Roam around to see waterfall, Thai-Laos Border, or Crested Serpent flower during the rainy season. Enjoy the sunset at the cliff. Sleep at the tent in the camping area.
Climb up to the peak (2,102m) which takes around 4-5 hours (7-8 hours for a round trip) and come back down to sleep at the camping area.
Hike down from the campsite to foothill for around 2-4 hours and travel back to Bangkok.
Itinerary For People Who Just Want To Chill Out And Relax
If you want to chill out a bit and relax, just swap the strenuous hike to the summit to other highlights around the campsite.
Roam around to see Sai Thip waterfall, Thai-Laos Border, or Crested Serpent flower during the rainy season. Chill out at the tent and enjoy the camping moment in nature. Sleep at the tent in the camping area. (OR hike down and travel back to Bangkok.)
Around 8 am in the morning of your hiking day, you’ll have to sign the registration form at the main office. Fill in personal information and things you want to rent.
In case that you want to hire a porter, bring your bag to weigh on a scale, leave your bag there, get the ticket and go back to the office (which is the same area) and pay everything altogether.
The officer will ask you if you would want to climb to the peak or not. You can tell them at this process or later when you reach the campsite. There will be a guide to lead you and the fee is 500 THB.
There will be deposit cost of 200 THB for taking garbage down to the foothill after all the hike.
If you want to rent something more, it is ok to tell the officer at the campsite and rent more, and pay it after you coming down.
After you’re registered and pay, you’ll receive a ticket, then you’re good to go!
You’ll take a transferring truck from the national park to send you off at the trailhead.
You can hire a porter to carry your baggage uphill and downhill for you which costs 30 THB per kg.
The tent is better booked online in advance in order to serve the space. In case that you already hike up to the campsite and don’t have a booking and the tent is fully occupied, you may have to hike down on the same day. Go to this link for booking a tent or a guesthouse at the national park อุทยานแห่งชาติภูสอยดาว
The online payment is applicable only if you have Thai bank account and it can be done by transferring only. If you don’t have Thai bank account, you can make a transaction at the bank.
There are tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, stove, gas, pot, and bucket for rent at the campsite.
Toilet and shower room is the same room, but there is no piping system. You’ll have to rent a bucket, fill the water in, and carry it to the toilet for use.
There is no food sold along the way and at the top, so you need to prepare food throughout your days of camping by yourself.
However, you can order hot pot for dinner one day in advance which will be delivered by the porter of the next day.
Hot pot is for 3-4 portions, and costs 399 THB.
In case that you want to climb the peak (2,102m), you’ll need to inform the officer at least one day in advance. There will be guiding fee 500 THB per person.
The duration of climbing up and down between campsite and the peak is 7-8 hours round trip.
You’ll also receive a certificate of successfully summiting Phu Soi Dao Peak at the foothill.
All the garbage is needed to be carried all the way down to the foothill and you’ll get 200 THB deposit back.
There is some 4G and mobile signal along the way, but when you reach at the camping area, you will need to go to the Thai-Laos
Boundary Mark in case you want to make a call.
Little Advice from Us
Prepare at least 1.5 litres of water on the way up because there is no place to fill up along the way. The last hill is killing it since you’ll probably reach there around noon or later and the sun burns badly, so I would suggest that you better prepare enough water to quench your thirst.
Don’t estimate the weather in the mountain, always prepare warm gears.
There is rainwater at the camping area for cooking and drinking, but you could bring water filter to use if you don’t want to drink it straight away. Otherwise, you could buy bottles of drinking water for porters to carry it up for you.
Bring headlamps with you as there is no electricity in the mountain and the campsite.
How to Get There
From Bangkok, drive up north to Phitsanulok then drive on Route 11. At Tha-Ngarm Junction (ทางแยกท่างาม), make a U-Turn and turn left onto Route 1296. Keep going until arriving at Phong Kae Junction (ทางแยกโป่งแค), then turn right onto Route 1143. Stay on this route until passing Chattrakarn District (อำเภอชาติตระการ). Turn left onto Route 1237 and keep going until the road merge into Route 1268. You’ll finally arrive at Phu Soi Dao National Park.
The distance is approximately 600 km., but the road is winding and uphill, so it takes around 8-9 hours to drive.
The road has no light, so plan out for departure time before it gets dark.
For passengers, be prepared for motion sickness.
From Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok, take train number 107 or 105 which depart from Bangkok at 20:10 or 21:00 and arrive at Phitsanulok at 02:36 or 03:06 relatively.
Take a tuk tuk or motorcycle to the bus station, then take a local bus to Chattrakarn District.
From there, you could find a joined taxi to the national park.
The option mentioned above is the case that you would like to start the hike on the same day, but if not, you could take a normal train during daytime and arrive at Phitsanulok in the evening, stay in the city one night and find the way to the national park in the next morning.
Or in case that you would like to travel all the way through, you could arrive at the national park at night, and stay at the guesthouse there. I recommend you to book a guesthouse at the national park in advance. Here’s the link for booking อุทยานแห่งชาติภูสอยดาว
From my research, I can honestly say that it’s too frustrated to go there by bus, even if for a local.