Trek in Cat Tien National Park: an adventure in the heart of the South Vietnamese jungle


In the heart of South Vietnam, nestled between the provinces of Dong Nai and Lam Dong, lies Cat Tien National Park, a vibrant green sanctuary of exceptional biodiversity. Far from the hustle and bustle of urban life, this haven of tranquility invites you to embark on an adventurous and immersive journey.
Did you know that Cat Tien is one of UNESCO's eight World Biosphere Reserves? And here's an interesting fact: of the 19 orders of birds found in Vietnam, 18 of them call Cat Tien home.
A paradise for nature lovers, Cat Tien is also easily accessible thanks to the recent development of its infrastructure and the dedication of its rangers.
So pack your backpacks, lace up your hiking boots and get ready for an unforgettable trek through the lush jungle!
Discover our brand new program! Cat Tien Wild Adventures 3 days 2 nights

Nam Cat Tien - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

A look in the rear-view mirror

Before diving into the depths of the forest, let's take a step back.
The park's history dates back to the 1970s. Prior to its creation, the region was inhabited by the Ma people (notably in the area now known as Cat Loc) and the Stieng people in Dong Nai province. After the park's creation, many people were relocated to the village of Talai, south-west of Nam Cat Tien. The park was initially protected in 1978 as two distinct sectors, Nam Cat Tien and Tay Cat Tien. Another sector, Cat Loc, was designated a rhino reserve in 1992. Cat Tien National Park was officially founded in 1992.
Did you know? The archaeological site of Cát Tiên, located just outside the park's boundaries, has revealed a group of temples belonging to an unknown Hindu Shaiva civilization, which probably inhabited the region between the 4th and 9th centuries AD.
Legend has it that a giant dragon once inhabited Cat Tien National Park. Its benevolent presence watched over the region's inhabitants and protected the forest. One day, a hunter driven by a thirst for glory killed the dragon. Since then, his spirit has roamed the park, seeking vengeance. Locals say they sometimes hear its mighty roar in the night, adding a touch of mystery to the enchanting atmosphere.
Myth or reality, one thing is certain: the spirit of adventure permeates the air of this sanctuary!

The Wild Animal Rescue Station: first steps into the jungle

Opened in 2008, the Center for Endangered Primate Species is located on Dao Tien (Fairy Island), which belongs to the Dong Nai River, about 5 minutes by boat from the park headquarters. Its mission is to rescue, care for and reintroduce into their natural habitat primates that have fallen victim to illegal trade. These include golden-cheeked gibbons, silver langurs, black-necked doucs and pygmy lorises, all endemic to Vietnam (and Cambodia). The center also participates in education and awareness programs for local communities, emphasizing the importance of preserving biodiversity and combating the illegal wildlife trade.
Good to know: The center currently allows a maximum of 30 visitors per day.

Cat Tien, a paradise for Nature lovers - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

Dao Tien: a haven of peace for endangered primates

Our journey begins at the Wildlife Rescue Station, where we learn about efforts to protect endangered animals. Passionate rangers enlighten us on the measures taken to safeguard endangered species such as the spectacled bear, Javan rhino, Asian elephant and yellow-cheeked gibbon, sharing anecdotes about their fight against poachers. With a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of this environment, we're ready to embark on an exploration of the wonders of Cat Tien.
Dao Tien ticket prices (for foreign visitors)
Adults: 400,000VND (approx. US$17)
Children and students (aged 3 to 15): 200,000 VND (approx. US$8)
Under 3: Free

In the footsteps of the gibbons: a weightless trail

Located some twenty kilometers from the Dao Tien center, the Gibbon Trail is a 3-kilometer loop that takes us deep into the jungle. Equipped with our hiking boots and a touch of daring, we venture into the jungle, crossing walkways suspended from the treetops, giving us a unique perspective on the lush vegetation. We were lucky enough to see black-furred gibbons swinging from tree to tree, mischievous acrobats emitting piercing cries that echoed through the forest.
Good to know: The tour takes place every day at 8am from the Cat Tien tourist office. It lasts around 2h30, with an English- or Vietnamese-speaking guide.

The giant Tung Tree: an encounter with a plant colossus

On our way, an imposing giant stands proudly: the Tung Tree. With several centuries under its belt, this magnificent plant reaches a height of over 50 metres and serves as a symbol of nature's strength and endurance. Its majestic presence reminds us of the importance of protecting these natural sanctuaries, while its age-old existence humbles us in the face of nature's grandeur.
You can also read our Guide to top 8 national parks in Vietnam

Bau Sau, the Crocodile Lake - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

Guaranteed thrills at Crocodile Lake

Crocodile Lake, reached by a 4-kilometre trail, guarantees an extraordinary encounter that's sure to get our adrenaline pumping. The place is filled with an eerie silence as we witness the piercing stares and rapid movements of the Siamese crocodiles, at once serene and awe-inspiring. It's a captivating spectacle, but one to be watched from a respectable distance!

Night safari: the jungle reveals its secrets

When night falls, the jungle becomes a magical world. Equipped with headlamps, we set off on a nocturnal safari to meet the creatures that inhabit the darkness. Beady-eyed owls, silent-winged bats and other mysterious animals reveal themselves to our amazed eyes. It's a unique experience that immerses us in the enchantment of the rain-forest.
Learn more about Cat Tien National Park with our Travel Guide !

The best things come to an end...

Our adventure comes to an end... We'll remember that Cat Tien National Park is not just a trekking destination, but an extraordinary adventure that awakens the senses and nourishes the soul. It's a journey of discovery into an authentic wilderness, filled with legends and peopled by fascinating creatures. An unforgettable journey that reminds us of the fragile beauty of our planet and the need to preserve it.
So, if you too are in search of adventure and nature beckons, don't hesitate any longer and set off to discover Cat Tien National Park! I promise you won't regret it!

Bird Watching in Cat Tien - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

Cat Tien National Park - Practical information

  • ♦ Cat Tien National Park is located in Dong Nai province, about 160 km from Ho Chi Minh City.
  • ♦ Access to the park is by bus or cab from Ho Chi Minh City.
  • ♦ Entrance to the park costs around 60,000 VND per person.
  • ♦ It is possible to camp in the park or to stay in bungalows or hotels.
  • ♦ It is advisable to be accompanied by a guide to fully enjoy the experience and discover the secrets of the park.
And for completeness, the best time to visit Cat Tien National Park is from November to April. During these months, the weather is generally dry and temperatures are pleasant for hiking. It's best to avoid the rainy season, which runs from May to October, as trails can become muddy and weather conditions less favorable.

Hiking & Trekking in Cat Tien National Park - Illustration: Cat Tien National Park Website

Appendix: List of proposed hikes and treks in Cat Tien National Park

Low-difficulty trails, for all (walking, cycling, motorized, car, boat)

1. Park headquarters - Old pine tree
An easily accessible itinerary in the magnificent setting of the park headquarters.
Distance: 3 km - Duration: 1.5 h
2. Park headquarters - Heaven Rapid
A hike along the Dong Nai River to discover charming landscapes and colorful bird species.
Distance: 5.5 km - Duration: 1.5 to 2 h
3. Visit the ethnic villages of Ma and S'tieng in Ta Lai commune
Distance: 12 km - Duration: 1-2 h
4. Park headquarters - The hundred-trunk tree
To contemplate an astonishing and unique tree with hundreds of trunks covering a stream of pure water.
Distance: 16 km - Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours
5. Park headquarters - Cat Tien archaeological site
Distance: 20 km - Duration: 4 h
6. Park headquarters - Ta Lai
For a visit to the museum and a meal in a traditional longhouse
Distance: 12 km - Duration: 40 minutes
7. Park headquarters - South Cat Tien local market
Immerse yourself in the local atmosphere
Duration: 1h - Itinerary: Dong Nai river crossing, 1 km walk
8. Night safari
The best time is during the dry season, around 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm when there is no rain or full moon.
Duration: 50 minutes
9. Bird watching
With over 351 species of birds, Cat Tien is the destination for birdwatchers, amateur or otherwise.
10. Center for endangered primate species
11. Wildlife rescue station

Night Safari in Cat Tien - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

Medium-difficulty trails (by car, bike, motorized vehicle, on foot)

1. Park headquarters - Botanical garden
To admire a collection of over 300 species of flora specific to Southeast Asia and Vietnam.
Distance: 2 km - Duration: 1-2h
2. Park headquarters - Elephant Hill
A life-size hike for those who love adventure and climbing.
Distance: 3.5 km - Duration: 2.5h
3. Park headquarters - Crocodile Lake (Bau Sau)
A classic Cat Tien hike. Drive or bike 9km from park headquarters followed by a 5km trek to reach the lake.
Distance: 14 km - Duration: 8h or 2 days 1 night
4. Park headquarters - Bat Cave
Bat Cave was created by the eruption of ancient volcanoes hundreds of millions of years ago.
Distance: 9 km - Duration: 1 to 1.5 h
5. Longhouse - Green Hill
Visit a traditional longhouse at Ta Lai and Green Hill, a volcanic site.
Distance: 7.5 km - Duration: 3.5 h
6. Park headquarters - C3
A hike through lowland jungle, ending with a well-deserved rest in a Ta Lai longhouse.
Distance: 10 km - Time: 6 h
7. Park headquarters - Da Trang Hill - the longhouse
Distance: 26 km - Duration: 6 h

On the way to Dao Tien - Photo : Mr Linh's adventures

Difficult trails (for experienced hikers)

1. Crocodile Lake - Ta Lai
Trek from Crocodile Lake through vast mixed jungle and swamp to the meadow near Ta Lai.
Distance: 14 km - Duration: 6 h
2. Park headquarters - Ta Lai
To immerse yourself in life inside the jungle
Distance: 18 km - Time: 12 h
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