Khun Gon Waterfall Forest Park
(won uthayan nam tok khun gon)
Chiang Rai city is nestled into a high and narrow valley with moderate mountains on both sides crying out for visitors to come and explore them. With your own transportation, there are few better places to visit from Chaing Rai city than Khun Gon Waterfall, only about a 30-minute drive away into the southwestern mountains.
There are 2 routes to the forest park:
1. Take highway 1211 from Chaing Rai. After 18 km turn right and follow the 1208 for another 11 km.
2. Take highway 1 from the city to the 1208 junction at Wat Rong Khun (combine a visit to the temple with your day at the falls). The 1208 then joins the 1211 where you’ll turn left and then make another right to follow the 1208 as it splits off again. From this turn it’s 11 km to the car park for the forest park.
It’s easy to get to the park on relatively flat and straight roads by car or rented motorcycle. On arrival, you’ll have to find a shady place to park and then walk about 30 minutes (about 2km) to the base of the 70m high falls. The trail is well maintained and fairly easy, though it does climb at least 100m of elevation. There is no wheelchair access. This trail hugs the banks of the stream which cuts through the hardwood and bamboo forest.
The final climb of the trail rewards the hiker with a spectacular view of the waterfall, which looks a bit disappointing until you descend to the base and look up at the towering monster! A large pool at the bottom is perfect for swimming and you can even climb through and behind the falls during drier seasons when the cascade is not so heavy. The falls are big year-round, so it’s something of a paradise in the March-May hot season. Remember to bring a towel for drying off and changing clothes. Also be aware that bikinis will probably shock local people – swimming in shorts and t-shirts is a good option!
For the adventurous, an alternative descent can be made along the course of the stream, though this is not recommended during the rainy season due to the danger of high water.
Just outside the park boundary you’ll see a number of small shops set up right in the stream, huai chomphu. These are fantastic places to relax, sitting on wooden platforms from which you can casually dangle your feet in the cool water while enjoying a cool beer and spicy Thai salads or other treats. It’s a good idea to rent a motorbike and plan day to visit Wat Rong Khun, hit the waterfall, and then relax at the stream shops until late afternoon for an excellent and full day in the Thai countryside.