Bach Ma National Park Travel Guide

Bach Ma National Park protects a unique natural forest stretching from the East Sea to the Vietnam-Laos border

Bach Ma National Park covers an area of about 22,000 ha in the districts of Phu Loc and Nam Dong. It was created in 1991 to protect the centre of the last corridor of forest stretching from the South China Sea to the Annamite mountain range at the border with the Lao PDR . With steep mountains and dense forests this area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants. At the base of the mountains there is tropical monsoon forest, above 900 m sub-tropical forest. There are species from both northern and southern Vietnam , and Bach Ma is recognized as one of the areas of Indochina with high biodiversity. Bach Ma mountain peak is the highest point in the park at 1450 m above sea level and is only 18 km away from the coast.

National Park History
According to Vietnamese tradition, the Bach Ma ridge got its name ("white horse") from the white cloud which continually caps its peak. The area first attracted the attention of conservationists in 1925 when a plan to create a national park protecting the Edward’s pheasant was submitted to the French colonial authorities. On 29 July 1932, the summit plateau was selected by the French chief engineer Girard to become a hill station for the colonial administration of Hue . In the following years, a village including 139 villas and hotels was created, which soon became known as the Dalat of Central Vietnam . After the French left Vietnam in 1954, the hill resort was soon forgotten and the remains of some of these buildings are now being smothered by the returning jungle. The South Vietnamese government designated the Bach Ma – Hai Van National Park in 1962 but the conservation initiatives did not last very long. The Vietnam War saw heavy fighting in the park as the summit was used as an advanced helicopter base by the US Military. The American troops took advantage of the view from Bach Ma summit across the coastline and attempted to control the area between Hue and Da Nang. Evidence of this period remains in the form of unexploded ordinance and some hills still have not fully recovered from the spraying of defoliants. After the reunification in 1976, several projects intended to develop fruit tree and vegetable plantations in the mountains but due to the harsh weather conditions these attempts failed consecutively. Eventually, Bach Ma summit and a surrounding area of 22,031 ha were given the protected status it deserves when Bach Ma National Park was created in 1991.

What to do?
Bach Ma National Park offers a variety of infrastructure facilities for tourists ranging from the visitor centre over marked nature trails to a range of guesthouses. It’s best experienced by hiking some of the trails near the summit; as much time as possible should be spent on the mountain’s trails, which provide the best opportunity to see the wildlife, hear the birds, and smell the flowers. The park boasts eight well -maintained trails and most of the trailheads are along the road to the summit. Bring plenty of water along your trip, use lots of insect and leech repellent and be sure to check yourselves for leeches after every your hike. And please never forget to bring a raincoat along.

When to go?
Although Bach Ma National Park is located in the warmer southern region of the country, the park’s altitude renders it 7 degrees cooler than the surrounding lowland areas. Temperatures in December and January can be quite cool with around 15 degree centigrade. The hottest months of the year are from May to August. The altitude does not, however, protect the park from high levels of humidity or an exorbitant amount of rainfall. The weather conditions in the park area can change very quickly, in the morning being sunny changing to cloudy with heavy rain in the afternoon. Because of the proximity of the sea there are often strong winds. The wet season drenches the park from September to December while March and April are the driest months. The time in February is famous for the red Rhododendron simsii blossoms, well worth discovering and exploring with dry weather and still favorable temperatures. Most people visit Bach Ma in summer to escape the heat, and the park is particularly busy during weekends in June, July and August.

How to get to Bach Ma National Park?
Bach Ma National Park is relatively easily accessible from Hue (40 km), Da Nang (65 km) and Hoi An (90 km). The park headquarters and entrance is about three km from the small town of Cau Hai, where the park road meets National Route 1. There are frequent buses (both local and tourist) from Hue and Da Nang, and there is a railway station in Cau Hai. Private motorcycle taxis can take you for a small fee from Cau Hai to the park’s entrance.