Khao Yai (Big Mountain) attracts one million visitors a year, mostly from Bangkok; a three-hour drive away. One of the largest forests in Southeast Asia, Khao Yai boasts four vegetation zones, spanning elevations from 100 meters to more than 1,400 meters. It consists of evergreen rain forest, semi-evergreen, mixed deciduous, and hill evergreen forest. In its forest and savannah the park supports a wild elephant herd estimated at 300. Another attraction is a vast population of hornbills of various species: great hornbill, wreathed, oriental pied, and brown.
Fifty hiking trails follow the migratory paths of wildlife to scenic waterfalls such as Heaw Sawat and to grassy savannahs where elephants roam. Dwarf and barking deer are easily spotted, as are gibbons, langurs, and rhesus monkeys. Three wildlife observation towers make it easier still, as do nightly truck “hunts” where rangers shine spotlights on night-feeding herds. For those wishing to venture further afield, park rangers will serve as guides.
With the demolition of commercial resorts, visitors must settle for spartan dormitory accommodation at park headquarters at Kong Kaeo camp on the summit of Khao Khieo (Green Mountain). Bring a sleeping bag and warm clothes. On winter nights the temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius. Accommodation that is more luxurious is to be found around the outskirts of the park, at Pak Chong, Prachin Buri, and Nakorn Nayok. From the northern entrance to the park at Pak Chong, tour agencies take groups of campers on excursions lasting from two days to a week.