Phu Kradueng is a giant, heart shaped, sandstone mountain in northeastern Thailand. It is located in a region more commonly known as Isan. Phu Kradueng means "Bell Mountain" in Thai for the bell-shaped peak that makes up the summit. It consist of a lone, steep-sided mountain, which rises out of a flat plain that covers over 134 square miles and is crowned by a 23 square mile plateau.
There is an abundance cliffs, savannas, streams, waterfalls, and forests to explore. Many trails go through these areas with an opportunity to see several different types of vegetation from tropical forests to evergreen and pine trees at higher elevations. The area is the head watershed of the Lam Nam Phong River which is one of the most important rivers in northeastern Thailand. All of these things makes Phu Kradueng a popular mountain to hike for Thai and foreign trekkers.
The mountain is located in Phu Kradueng National Park. This was supposed to be Thailand's first National Park but lack of funding and other circumstances prevented this from happening. It wasn't until 1949 that government funds were finally available, then it took another ten years before Phu Kradueng was granted National Park status. It became Thailand's second National Park after Khao Yai in the Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
Phu Krudueng is in the province of Loei, which is one of the most sparely populated provinces. The name Loei is an appropriate title meaning "land of a sea of mountains." It is a diverse and beautiful place that is one of the country's most geographically scenic areas and is still untouched by mass tourism. Loei is located near the eastern and western Phetchabun mountain ranges and is bordered at the top by Laos and the Mekong River. It consist mainly of mountains both large and small. The area if susceptible to China's winter winds and as a result has some of the most dramatic temperature changes. Summer can reach over 100 degrees while winter nights can drop down to freezing. Loei has the distinction of being the coldest place in Thailand.
The mountain is usually covered in mist from October to February. I found this to be true and was unable to take any pictures of the mountain from far away. It was totally engulfed in clouds and fog when we drove there early in the morning. From February onward color begins to saturate the park. Summer usually bring out the mountain's famous red and white rhondodendrons and many other flowers. In winter the park has green mosses and ferns set against maple tree leaves. I've never seen so many ferns while hiking before. Phu Kradueng is also well known for it's wildlife including asian elephants, black bears, jackals, barking deer, and gibbons. Many species of birds can also be found here.
Thai Airways International operates flights in the United States from the city of Los Angeles. Most people will be flying into Bangkok. For more information go to the website for Thai Airways.
How to get to Northeastern Thailand:
By Plane - Thai Airways Domestic operate flights to the northeastern cities of Nakhon Ratchasima, Sakon Nakhon, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.
By Road - Isan is easily accessible, with four major highways connecting it with other regions. Inter-provincial transportation networks are also among the best and most convenient in the country. Air-conditioned and non-airconditioned buses leave from the north-eastern bus terminal at Talat Mo Chit, Phahonyothin Road, Bangkok.
By Train - Express trains leave from Bangkok's main railway station at Hua Lamphong, daily to Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin, Sri Sa Ket, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani.
How to get to Phu Kradueng National Park:
From the North - Buses from Loei bus terminal are scheduled every half-hour from 6:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. They travel south along Highway 201 and should take about 1.5 hours. From the town of Phu Kradueng, at Pha Nok Khao junction, hop on a sawngthaew to the park visitor center at the base of the mountain. The last bus to Loei from Phu Kradueng leaves around 6:00 p.m.
From the South - Buses from the city of Khon Kaen go to the town of Phu Kradueng. They travel west along Highway 12 to the junction with Highway 201 where they head north to the town of Phu Kradueng. Once in town, take a sawngthaew (pick-up truck with bench seating in the back) to the park visitor center.
The currency of Thailand is baht. About 33 baht = 1 U.S. dollar. An fee of (30 baht) per vehicle is required at the Park Entrance. A national park admission fee is payable near the Visitor Center at the beginning of the trail. The cost is (20 baht) for Thai nationals and (200 baht) for foreigners; called "farangs" in Thailand.
The country of Laos shares borders with Thailand. Travelers should be aware that there have been occasional incidents of violence on Thailand’s northern and eastern borders with Laos. So it is wise to exercise caution when travelling in remote areas near the border.
Thailand is home to many different types of animals. You may occasionally see wild animals in hiking areas. On my trip I saw elephants, monkeys, and several different types of birds.
When To Climb
The best time to hike is during the winter months when it is dry.
During the warmer months from March to June, it's a good idea to start early at sunrise.
* Phu Kradueng is closed to visitors between the months of July - September.
During the rainy season, it is considered too hazardous for hiking because the trail is often slippery and subject to mudslides. It also gives time for trail restoration and forest recovery.
In northeastern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May. In March the temperatures start to warm up considerably. It does get cool during November to February with breezy winds. The months of May to November are dominated by the monsoon season when rainfall is at its heaviest.
Most people can climb Phu Kradueng wearing T-shirt and shorts. During winter you may want to bring a jacket and long pants. On the summit plateau it can get a little windy. There isn't anything available for weather conditions near the mountain. So the best thing I could find are conditions for the two largest cities that the national park is closest to.
Here is current weather for the cities of Loei and Khon Kaen.
There are a lot of accommodations in the park. Camping is available and you can pitch your own tent or rent one. Renting a tent cost 20 baht a night. The park has basic A-frame cabins for 200 baht as well as 4 person bungalows with hot water for 1200 baht. You can call the booking office and make reservations. More information can be found at this website.
More Information1) Phu Kradueng National Park
Wikipedia Page for Phu Kradueng National Park. Good overview and information of the park and trails.
2) Lonely Planet : Thailand (Country Guide) : 14th edition
By China Williams, Mark Beales, Tim Bewer, Catherine Bodry, Austin Bush, and Brandon Presser. Has info on several national parks.
3) Thailand : Nelles Maps : Folded Map
By Nelles Verlag. This is a detailed map that shows major and minor roads and mountainous areas in Thailand.