A part of the North Truong Son range, which crosses the middle of Vietnam from the border with Cambodia to almost the coastline, Bach Ma National Park covers a total area of nearly 37,500 hectares. Bach Ma means “white horse”, named after the white clouds that surround the mountain top – or from the legend that fairies used to ride white horses down to Bach Ma mountain to play Chinese chess. Or perhaps both…
As they played, the horses became more and more engrossed in looking for grass. They became so dedicated to the grass that eventually the fairies could not wait any longer and they returned to heaven alone. The horses were bewildered and they wandered through the mountains, turning into clouds as they waited for their owners on Bach Ma mountain.Bach Ma National Park: A special journey
The highest point of Bach Ma National Park is Hai Vong Dai (or informally Bach Ma peak), at 1,448 metres above sea level. A short hiking trail leads to the an observation point, which offers some great views.
Hiking in Bach Ma National Park
There are a number of short hikes in Bach Ma National Park, which all start from the main road through the park that winds up from the Visitor Centre to just below the summit. The trails below are listed in order of their starting point along the Bach Ma National Park Road (The Trailhead is the number of kilometres from the HA1 Hue to Da Nang highway.)
|Thuy Dien Falls Trail||1.1km||Easy||Short walk to small cascade (outside park entrance)||Km3|
|Pheasant Trail||2.5km||Easy||Trail to a series of waterfalls; good for bird-watching||Km8|
|Do Quyen Waterfall||2.8km||Easy||Paved path to tall waterfall (+0.8km for steep descent to base)||Km16||Map|
|Five Lakes Trail||2.2km||Easy/Moderate||Adventure trail past a series of spectacular pools & cascades||Km17||Map|
|Five Lakes Loop||6km||Easy/Moderate||Combines Do Quyen waterfall with the Five Lakes Trail||Km17||Map|
|Summit Tower||1.9km||Easy||Easy trail to the highest point in the national park||Km19||Map|
Rhododendrum Trail (Do Quyen Waterfall)
A fairly easy, paved “out and back” trail to the 300m high Rhododendrum Falls (Do Quyen Waterfall). It gets its name from the rhododendrum plants that flower in March and April. A (very) steep set of steps takes you down to the base of the falls, where you can see the main drop.
Distance: 2.8km return or lollipop-loop
Grade: Easy (Moderate if descending to base)
An “Adventure Trail” that goes past a series of spectacular pools and cascades, offering numerous opportunities for a swim in a jungle setting. The trail alternates between timber boardwalks and easy scrambling as the trail follows the river.
Distance: 1.9km return
Summit Trail to Bach Ma peak (Hai Vong Dai)
An easy hike up a paved trail to the Bach Ma peak (officially called Hai Vong Dai)- the highest point in the Bach Ma National Park at 1,448m above sea level. Sweeping views from the summit. The trail passed one of tghe Bach Ma Tunnels dug duroing the Vietnam War.
Distance: 2.2km return
History of Bach Mã National Park
Bach Mã National Park started as a hilltop station for settlers arriving from France in the early twentieth century, with its altitude offering a cooler climate than the coast. Large colonial villas in the middle of the forest is evidence of this early occupation (the villas were abandoned after Vietnam gained independence from France in 1945). In 1925, during this French colonial period, the local government submitted a proposal to the French Colonial Ministry a project to establish a national park to protect the Edwards’s Pheasant (Lophura edwardsii). As a result the area around Bach Ma was protected as a series of forest reserves in 1937 and declared a protected area by the government of South Vietnam in 1962.
During the Vietnam War, the national park became a battleground between the north and south Vietnamese armies, with the Viet Minh digging long tunnels (the Bach Ma tunnels) which were used from December 1973 to April 1975. The area was established as a national park in 1986.
Flora and Fauna of Bach Mã National Park
Bach Ma National Park is rich in biodiversity, hosting a wide array of plant and animal species: it’s located in an area that is considered a centre of plant diversity in Vietnam. The park is home to over 2,400 plant species, including rare and endemic ones. It protects over 1,700 animal species, including several endangered species such as the red-shanked douc langur, Annamite striped rabbit, Owston’s civet, and Edward’s pheasant.
Best time to visit Bach Mã National Park
Bach Ma National Park has with two distinctive seasons, caused by the monsoon winds. The best time to visi is from February to August, which is the dry season. The wet season is from September to January, when some of the hikes may be too dangerous to undertake. The average rainfall in the peak area of Bach Ma is about 8,000 mm / year, while the average annual rainfall at the bottom is about 3,500mm / year – most of it falling between October and December.
Getting to Bach Ma National Park
The Bach Ma National Park Road is off the HA1 Highway, which is between Hue and Da Nang – it’s about 55km (1:30min drive) from Hue, 70km (1:45min) from Da Nang and 100km (2:45min) from Hoi An. The national park Visitor Centre and gate (where the entry fee is paid) is 3km from the highway, and it’s just under 19km to the parking area near the summit. There are some nice views from the very windy road. (Motorbikes are not permitted past the Visitor Centre – cars only.)
Hai Van Pass
If you’re coming from Da Nang or Hoi An, consider taking the incredibly scenic Hai Van pass (“ocean cloud pass”) – recognised as one of the world’s top ten most beautiful coastal roads (the most direct way goes through three tunnels). Marking the end of the Truong Son Range, the Hai Van Pass is Vietnam’s highest pass at 500 metres above sea level).
The pass was featured in Top Gear’s 2008 Vietnam Special, where presenter Jeremy Clarkson called the road “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world.” It offers some spectacular views over Da Nang Bay to the city of Da Nang, and towards Hue to the north.
You can organise a driver to take you to the national park and explore it yourself (most of the hikes are well signposted), or join a guided tour from Hue or Da Nang.
- The Budget Twitcher’s Guide to Birdwatching across Vietnam – Bach Ma National Park
- Top Gear – Vietnam Special