Sukhothai province is nestled in northern Thailand, neatly bisecting most backpacker’s traveling routes from Bangkok to destinations such as Chiang Mai, Lampang and Chiang Rai. Most people venturing to the small city are drawn to the Khmer ruins that used to be Sukhothai’s capital. The historical park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is definitely worth a visit. Renting a bicycle and riding around the old city, including a few mountain temples if you are willing to venture out to the western section- which is highly recommended for the adventurous travelers- is worth the trip.
However, if you are willing to take an extra day or two to explore the province, Ramkamhaeng National Park should definitely be on your list. Located about 50 kilometers outside of the city of Sukhothai, the national park is home to the Khao Luang mountain range. To get to the park, you can rent a motorbike (highly recommended, both for experience and price) for about 250 baht for the day, driving through the scenic country roads adjacent to rice paddies and grazing cattle. If you are willing to spend a bit more (or a lot more) and do not feel comfortable on a motorbike, you can also get a taxi or song-tao, an open air minibus, to take you there and wait until you are done.
Ramkamhaeng National Park, named appropriately for the famous King Ramkamhaeng I, was established in 1980 by the Royal Forestry Department. The park, which can either be hiked in a day or you can set up camp just below the four major summits, is home to a variety of ecology, including a myriad species of butterflies, monkeys and other fauna along with its bamboo forests and high evergreen ecosystems. The four major peaks of the Khao Luang mountain range include Khao Phu Ka, Kho Phra Mae Ya, Khao Chedi and Khao Phra Narai.
The approach to the plateau and surrounding summits includes a steep 4-5 kilometer hike, with an elevation gain of over 1000 meters. Be warned, it is no walk in the park- get ready to sweat and climb the dirt and sandstone trails that shoot straight up the mountain. To see more shots of Ramkamhaeng National Park, explore the photo gallery below!
Note: there are some water refill stations along the way, but it is unclear whether or not that water is filtered. Be prepared to have a water filter or bring extra water, as during the dry season the natural water sources are dried up.