Summary: A loop walk combining the Rhododendrum Trail and Five Lakes Trail, this hike in the Bach Ma National Park (between Da Nang and Hue) offers some spectacular swimming holes and waterfalls. You can do this hike on your own or as a guided tour.

There are many spectacular waterfalls and swimming holes around Da Nang, but the Five Lakes Trail in Bạch Mã National Park (which translates to “white horse”) is one that you can do on your own… or with a guide. Combine it with the Rhododendrum Trail to Do Quyen Waterfall (aka Rhododendrum Falls) – one of the highest waterfalls in south-east Asia – and you end up with a magical hike that passes multiple idyllic swimming holes and cascades.

Rhododendrum Trail

The signposted Rhododendrum Trail starts from a small parking area near the end of the road that goes steeply up to Bạch Mã peak (Hai Vong Dai).

This part of the loop walk is a paved trail and it’s the least interesting part of the hike – so I’d recommend starting here and finishing with the spectacular Five Lakes Trail. There are many signs along the way in English and Vietnamese, explaining some of the things you may see along the trail.

What’s not so obvious is the hidden temple: after about 800m, take a side-track that branches off the main trail across a sturdy bridge. Follow this path, and you’ll soon see a set of stone steps leading up to large statue of Buddha and a small shrine.

This side-track soon rejoins the main track just before the junction with the track that connects to the Five Lakes Trail.

There’s another 500m to the waterfall, with the (still) paved trail passing a large and picturesque pool before crossing the river about the falls.

The top of the Do Quyen Waterfall / Rhododendrum Falls is pretty spectacular, with the river dropping of the edge of the cliff and a vista of mountain peaks in the distance.

You can also reach the base of the falls, via a seemingly never-ending set of stones steps.

The official sign states there are a total of 689 steps, but it feels more like 6000 steps – and that’s going down! It’s not difficult walking but strenuous with the humidity and slow-going as you really don’t want to slip.

The waterfall is more spectacular from the top… but from the base of the falls you get a pretty good view of the main drop.

It’s then back the same way up, with a refreshing swim at the top in one of the small pools below the bridge.

It’s then back along the trail to the junction with the Five Lakes Trail…

Bạch Mã Five Lakes Trail

The real fun begins here! While not officially part of the Five Lakes Trail, this connecting track heads into the jungle ands swaps concrete for a rough track through the jungle.

About halfway along the 800m between the Rhododendrum Trail and the start of the Five Lakes Trail is a small clearing, where the track crosses a small creek on a very well-engineered bridge.

The track then follows the creek, which it crosses again on a slightly-less-well-engineered bridge.

There’s one last creek crossing – this time with no bridge, but a steel cable and a few stepping stones, before the trail reaches the Five Lakes Trail.

I’m starting the Five Lakes Trail at the end, so to speak, with the fifth lake: “truly a masterpiece of nature, a carved product of water, stone, trees, and space”. Photos don’t really do justice to this swimming hole, which is surrounded by greenery and has a small waterfall dropping into the deep pool.

The Five Lakes “Adventurous trail” passes the upper waterfall and continues up the river. It’s the first (or last, depending which direction you’re doing the hike) section with chains that assist with the easy scrambles.

The next “lake” is my favourite: the small but deep pool has a picturesque waterfall at the far end, a wide rock ledge that’s perfect for a break and offers easy access to the water. The hike’s taking me a bit longer than expected, but I can’t resist a quick swim here.

The trail climbs above the waterfall with the help of some more chains, providing a look back at Lake 4 and down over the chute formed by the waterfall. I encounter a small group here – the first time I’ve seen anyone after almost three hours of hiking.

The next and middle pool (Lake 3) is arguably the most photogenic, and has been described as “the most beautiful”. It’s an almost perfectly circular pool, with a beautiful waterfall cascading into it.

The downside of this pool is that it’s a bit more exposed to the sun, and the trail here is a rather imposing walkway that takes away a little from the otherwise natural ambience of the pool.

At the top of the steel and timber walkway is Lake 2: it’s the smallest of the five, with the small pool at the base of a narrow, mult-tiered waterfall.

The steel and timber walkway continues up alongside the river, with a sturdy timber ladder and rope up the steepest part.

There’s another steel and timber staircase that passes a nice cascade, before reaching the last pool.

Lake 1 is a wide and tranquil pool, with a very small cascade at the top.

The walkway follows the top of the pool.

From the upper end of Lake 1, the Five Lakes “Adventure Trail” soon reaches the trail that goes directly to Lake 5 – this enables a much shorter loop walk than the one I am doing.

The last 500m of the Bạch Mã Five Lakes Trail ascends steadily up to the top of the valley. There are are now a fair few groups descending the trail.

The trail levels out for the last couple of hundred metres, as it passes a lookout tower. From the top there’s a nice view over Bạch Mã National Park.

A couple of abandoned buildings sit next to the trail: the first most likely an old French villa, and the second one the Kim Giao Villa which was until recently a hotel.

It’s taken me almost three and a half hours to cover about 7km – the actual distance walked is longer than the map suggests, the descent & ascent to the base of the Do Quyen Waterfall is slow going and you’re going to want some time to enjoy the five pools along the Five Lakes Trail. If you have a driver, the best way to do this walk is to get dropped off at the Rhododendrum Trail and picked up at the Five Lakes (Ngu Ho) trailhead. If you can, an early start means you’ll probably have this walk to yourself.

Getting to the Do Quyen Waterfall and Five Lakes Trail

Both the Five Lakes Trail and Rhododendrum Trail (Do Quyen Waterfall) start from the road that ascends from the Bạch Mã National Park Visitor Centre to the peak (Hai Vong Dai). It’s about 55km (1:30min drive) from Hue, 70km (1:45min) from Da Nang and 100km (2:45min) from Hoi An. If you’re coming from Da Nang or Hoi An, taking the incredibly scenic Hai Van pass – recognised as one of the world’s top ten most beautiful coastal roads – adds another 45min.

The trails are fairly well signposted so you can organise a driver to drop you off and pick you up and do the hike on your own (but I would avoid using Grab or a taxi, as mobile coverage is fairly patchy, and it’s a long walk back down to the Visitor Centre…). I used local guide Phạm Quốc, who organised a car & driver. You can also join a guided tour.


  • An entry fee is payable at the Bach Ma Visitor Centre – 60,000 VND/person for adults.
  • Motorbikes are not permitted past the Visitor Centre (cars only).

For more information and all the hiking trails, please visit Guide to Bach Ma National Park

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hiking the World, and receive notifications of new posts by email. (A hike is added every 1-2 weeks, on average.)

Join 1,187 other subscribers

Featured Guides

A list of hiking guidebooks I've researched, purchased and used. Each is rated based on it's overall value.

1 Comment

Great views from the Bach Ma peak (Hai Vong Dai) | Hiking the World · August 28, 2023 at 9:30 pm

[…] got just enough time after the spectacular Five Lakes Loop for a very short walk in Bach Ma National Park to the Bach Ma peak, officially called Hai Vong Dai. […]

Leave a Reply