Khao Phanom Bencha - trailhead to mountain (and some updates).

24 Jun 2019 12:18 - 24 Jun 2019 12:19 #5268 by wvwv
It used to be possible according to some sources to walk up to the mountain summit (same name as national park) from the main waterfall - Huay To/Tho. But I tried all the trails there and there is no sign of a trail up and I cant find any recent stories of anybody summitting from that direction. The tourismthailand website says:

"Phanom Bencha’s Peak – It is absolutely a destination for those who love hiking. There are two routes to go the peak. Both routes give you a good sight of natural vegetation, wild animals, caves, waterfalls, streams, and even a sea of cloud"

Other sources seem to suggest the only trail up is from a village at the north of the park, very far away from the VC. Does anybody have any knowledge about that trail i.e. where exactly the trailhead is?

The place to start seems to be called “Bang Saran Village” or "Ban San Tourist Service Center". So possibly could be spelled Ban Sarn or something similar. But I can't find any of these on Google Maps.

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24 Jun 2019 16:20 - 24 Jun 2019 16:27 #5270 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Khao Phanom Bencha - trailhead to mountain?
Never been but there seem to be the tracks on Gaia that may be it, looking at the route it took whoever recorded it quite a while to find the trailhead based on the backwards and forwards they were doing. Track is in light green.


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24 Jun 2019 18:46 #5271 by wvwv
The elevation isn't high enough on that track, showing max about 400m. The peak should be in the clouds at 1400ish. My guess is that's the nature trail at Huay To Waterfall, there is a viewpoint there through the trees and after that viewpoint you can walk another 50m (past a no entry sign) before the track peters out. I think that track is an old route to the summit so I searched around there extensively last time but definitely no trail.

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25 Jun 2019 09:06 - 25 Jun 2019 09:34 #5273 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Khao Phanom Bencha - trailhead to mountain?
Ahhhh. I see the one from the north you mentioned it goes to 1350+ on the map but shown on the base map rather than as trail someone has done on the system. I noted that is some other parks I know, some of the these base trails on Gaia do not exist in reality anymore or have succumbed to the zero track maintenance issue that plagues the NPs.

Anyway heres hoping someone can help you with this. Great write-ups by the way, makes me realize there's so many places I have not been.

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11 Jul 2019 01:48 #5310 by wvwv
Update on this before I try and hike it tomorrow/Friday...

I've found a few more references to village names where the trail supposedly starts from but none of these can be found on Google Maps when searching in English. So I forgot all those and found reference to a waterfall called Yod Maphrao on the other side of the NP to Huai To Waterfall. Apparently it was/is possible to hike from near the Huai To Waterfall (from a lesser waterfall not far away called Huai Sakae - can't find on Google Maps) to the summit and then back down the other side past Yod Maphrao Waterfall.

Again searching Yod Maphrao in English returns nothing but searching 'waterfall' over the rough area where I expected it to be came up with this place - น้ำตกต้นหาร - which I believe must be it (though a Google Translate comes up with 'Tod Han'). Yod (tod?) means the summit/highest point so that's promising.

Also looking at Google reviews for the summit marker (ยอดเขาพนมเบญจา จังหวัดกระบี่) there is one particularly helpful one posted by Sakda Thelion which I've copied below, it's only 18 months old so seems this summit is currently possible (at least from this side) on some sort of trail:

If you want to hike to the peak you should start the collasped dam Fai-gan-nam-ton-han (ฝายกั้นน้ำต้นหาร) and walk through rocky river, try to keep left and then you would find forest entry as seen in my first and second picture. From here you walk till you're meet a river, cross it and the next entrance is a bit higher, then keep walking to the camp site which is a level ground near a river.
The water at the camp site is clean and clear. The weather is wet and cold at night so a sleeping bag and sweater are advisable.
There's a trail from the camp site to the mountain top, you just need to pay some attention. hiking from the dam to the top takes around 6 hours and another 2 hours to the peak.

ฝายกั้นน้ำต้นหาร works on Google Maps so we already have two waypoints for the track and when plotted together they look like a likely route to the summit:

Start at ฝายกั้นน้ำต้นหาร (dam) and go approx 3km to น้ำตกต้นหาร (waterfall).

I'm struggling to find where the campsite might be. On the pictures where they have tents set up it is open and right next to a river. I think it might just be the same river but further upstream from the waterfall.

I'm also not sure if the trail goes to the actual highest point or if it skips it as there are no views there. So the trail below is a rough guide. Hopefully I'll be able to get up there and I can post an actual GPS track.

Also this is where I think Huai Sakae Waterfall is, a reference on a website said it was 300m from the visitor centre and this is the only river bed I can see from Google Earth that fits that description. The trail from the summit down to Huai Sakae/Huai To is completely approximate, I have no idea of the exact route down that side of the mountain.

I mentioned in a previous post that if you follow the nature trail up past Huai To Waterfall and to the viewpoint there there is a sign 20 metres past the viewpoint saying go no further. I think perhaps that trail used to link up with the trail from Huai Sakae, but from what I've read and seen it is better to start from the Huai Sakae route if you are starting from this side of the mountain. If I have time I will check out Huai Sakae as well.

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19 Jul 2019 11:48 - 19 Jul 2019 12:13 #5313 by wvwv
A beautiful hike. In terms of the walk up, one of the most scenic I have done. It is a very wide river bed with huge trees towering over either side and because the river follows a straight course, more or less, you can always get views back and forward.

Views at the actual summit possibly a little anti-climactic due to localised smog and the surrounding topography being quite flat which means you are basically looking down at mostly agricultural land. On a clear day you would be able to see across the sea towards Phi Phi and although I was able to make out some islands, the smog definitely restricted visibility. The views were still very good and I would rate 7/10, I was just expecting an 8 or 9. I rented a motorbike from Krabi Town and there was often the smell of burning in the air whilst driving. You don't go to the actual summit of Khao Phanom Bencha as expected, it'd be a detour for no views. Overall I would rate the whole day as an 8.5/10 and the trail as 'hard'.

Hard - physically demanding, steep hillsides, difficult terrain throughout, for those who have experience in moderate trails already.

It turned out there is a preloaded track on backcountry navigator which I noticed the night before, as I was downloading offline maps for the area. I should have checked that in the planning stage. Without that track I'm not sure I would have made it to the top. Certainly it would have taken longer. You start from the dam as mentioned in previous posts (which is now repaired). The track tells you to follow the river course until the campsite. However the trail is not obvious. I first tried a trail to the right (when facing the mountain) near a broken portable toilet. Don't bother with that. There is a trail but it is never clear in the first place and eventually disappears without you having made much progress. The left side of the river (when facing the mountain) seems more likely for trails. On the way back down I did follow a trail on this side which brought me out quite far from the river, it might be worth taking that route if you want to be hasty. And on the way up I did join a trail on the left of the riverbed a couple of times. But I really think it is better just to walk straight up the river bed for the most part. There is a bit of hopping from rock to rock and you will get your feet wet but it's the most direct route, the most scenic, and it's not as slow going as you would expect - it's mostly walking up waterfall cascades where the rock is flat and not so steep. I think possibly when you get closer to the campsite there is no trail on the left of the river, at least I couldn't find one going up or down.

When I was doing this hike the water level did not seem that high, so the above might not be advisable after prolonged heavy rains (August/September?).

The backcountry navigator track only really became a necessity once I got to the camping area. Before then the track isn't clear if you should be on the left or right of the river or in the riverbed itself. But once at the campsite the river forks into two (this is the first fork in the river you will come across, after about 2 hours) and you would not know where to go without the track - you should take neither fork and instead enter the jungle in the middle; this is the first time you will be in forest (assuming you hiked up the riverbed from the start).

Even with the track I did not see the path because it was overgrown at the entrance. So I took the left fork knowing that later I would have to cut back to the right to try and find the path. However the track is there, you just need to take a few minutes to find it, and once on it it is only overgrown for a few metres. After, the track is easy to follow right to the summit. This is clearly a trail that is in current use and there must be fairly regular hikes to the top, judging by the condition. I cut back another 1km or so further on and that wasn't easy without a machete but I found the trail where the app said it was going to be (a relief as up to this point I had not actually been on a proper trail so was not sure if it was going to be easy going or even exist). Until you get to the ridgeline it is very steep without any respite.

I think this is a hike you can do without a guide, up and down in a single day. I started at 11am and was down by 6pm, and I wasted 30 minutes at the bottom looking for tracks and another 30 hacking through jungle just after the campsite. I walk faster than the average person and also jogged back down, but I think starting at 8am, most people could get up and down before 5pm. I wouldn't advise anybody to try this hike without a guide if you do not have good experience using GPS apps and trekking in Thailand/jungles, because it's a little too long and a little too physical. If you want a hike in Krabi you can do yourself which actually has better views than this one, try the Tubkaak Hang Nak Nature Trail.

If you want to test your hamstrings without spending a full day doing it, try the 1260 steps to the top of Wat Tam Suea. (That's Phanom Bencha on the horizon).

When you get close to the ridgeline you start to get viewpoints opening up and there is another campsite before the final push to the main viewpoint. You can see Phanom Bencha's actual highest point behind you. There is still running water here and for the whole hike you do not really need to carry a lot of water. One small bottle would be advisable only for the jungle part after the first campsite and for the very final stretch after the last campsite. You can fill it up each time you reach a stream.

When at the summit there is 1 sidetrail for 50 metres or so which should not be missed as that's an impressive viewpoint. But the main event is a bare outcrop of rock with sheer drops beneath you. You can see the dam below you where you started from and track your path up the river and you can see the fork in the river where you entered the jungle etc.

Here is my GPS file for the hike. Don't pay any attention to the distance (24km), my GPS kept jumping around. Overall distance for round trip is probably not over 13km. Start point is 150m elevation and summit is 1300m, so total elevation gain will be about 1.4km.

File Attachment:

File Name: 07111128kpb0719.gpx
File Size:181 KB

The aforementioned Bang San is indeed the start place for the hike and here is the name in Thai if anybody wants to try searching it, but you just have to head for the dam really, you can forget the village names.


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19 Jul 2019 12:17 - 31 Aug 2019 11:44 #5314 by wvwv
A better idea of where the trail is after the campsite on the below photo. Note that this area does not really look like a campsite, but you might find a few bits of litter or an old campfire. The campsite near the summit is perhaps more frequently used as people have left some equipment there, presumably local guides who come regularly.

Google Earth view of track:

View from the top showing way walked:


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20 Jul 2019 11:40 #5318 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Khao Phanom Bencha - trailhead to mountain?
Fantastic write up!!

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10 Sep 2019 10:07 #5338 by peyronnel
Replied by peyronnel on topic Khao Phanom Bencha - trailhead to mountain?
Big thanks to the GPX trace we were able to do the itinerary in a day. Everything was perfectly clear even though we still got lost a few times.

The main reason for this post is to signal the path has been cut in the jungle. Maybe 500m after you enter the jungle few of trees with lot of branches and leaves fell on the track and you have to literally climb and walk over these for about 15 metres before you can see the path again. We wasted quite a lot of time there.

The second time we got lost is when you get out the jungle to cross the river again, you need to cross it and go up slightly , there are 2 cairns (stones piles) and need to re enter the jungle next to this second cairn.

It took us 9h30 car to car but we had heavy rain all the way down and it was very slippery. It was fun in the jungle but not so much in the river bed.

It was a first time for me doing "jungle mountaineering" and it was success. Make sure you have enough baterry to follow the GPX both ways and dont forget to bring a machete.

Thanks again to all of you on the forum who made this outing possible.

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12 Sep 2019 20:06 #5343 by wvwv
You're welcome, any pictures? Animal sightings? How was the river level; September should be quite high so maybe riverbed route not so much fun as when I went...

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