Khun Chae National Park, located one hour northeast of Chiangmai, was declared a national park in 1995 due to its important water resources, extensive forests, wildlife, beautiful waterfalls and scenic views. Deriving its name from Khun Chae Waterfalls, this 270 square kilometer national park has been inhabited for approximately 100 years by Thai villagers. Recently, Karen and Laha hill tribes have settled near the borders of the park.
Khun Chae National Park is located in an area where the exposed base rock is of two different types, igneous and sedimentary. Most of the park is covered with granite, an igneous rock common in Northern Thailand. Granite looks like large grains of shiney salt and black pepper. The white part that looks like salt is really quartz and feldspar. The black part that looks like pepper is mica. Anotherigneous rock found in the park is called tuff which was expelled from a volcano as lava, but cooled relatively quickly into a gray, fine grained rock. This volcanic tuff can be found in parts of the eastern side of the park. The sedimentary rocks; sandstone, siltstone and shale are derived from sediments deposited in water and hardened into solid rock over vast periods of time. The sandstone found in Khun Chae is gray, with small grains of sand mixed in a dense, hard rock. The shale is buff colored, soft and splits easily along parallel lines. The landscape of Khun Chae is very steep with many creeks often dropping precipitously into a number of waterfalls. The steep terrain is caused primarily by the high volume of seasonal rain, and highly erodable soil.
The cold season lasts from October until January, the rainy season from May until September. During the hot dry season, February to July, the temperatures range from 22 to 33 degrees Celsius. During the cold dry season, October until January, the temperature ranges from 2 to 29. In the rainy season temperatures range from 19 to 29. Rainfall during the rainy season a verages 60 cm. per month.
The vegetation of Khun Chae National Park is generally related to elevation. From 300-800 meters, the forest is composed of bamboo, deciduous and deciduous dipterocarp-oak associations; from 800-1,000 meters, the forest is mixed evergreen and pine. Most of the forests above 1,800 meters has been burned repeatedly and rarely represents a natural condition. The stream bottoms are often surrounded by lush evergreen trees, wild bananas, ferns, mosses and herbaceous vegetation. These stream bottoms often form a rich oasis of vegetation in a forest that is routinely burned by villagers that hunt wildlife and graze cattle. The ridges and mountain tops are typically covered with grasses, pine, oaks and dipterocarps. Near the eastern boundary of the park, a dry dipterocarp forest dominates the landscape.
Mammals-Wildlife can be seen in several different habitats and times of the day in the park. The prime places to see wildlife are in the lush river valleys and moist forests near the higher parts of the park. Though many species of wildlife have disappeared from Thailand and Khun Chae National Park, the following list of animals have been seen recently within its boundaries: several species of civet; wild pig; barking deer; hog badger; many species of flying arboreal and ground squirrels; bats, hare. Possible species in Khun Chae include, Asiatic Black Bear, Slow Loris, White Handed Gibbon, Leopard Cat, Serow. Birds: Ashy Drongo, Scarlet Minivet, Gray Headed Flycatcher, White Fronted Forktail, Brown Fish Owl, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra, Velvet Fronted-Nuthatch, Blue Throated Barbet, CopperSmith Barbet, Blue Winged Leafbird, Brown Cheeked Fulveta, Red Bungle Fowl. Reptiles: Green Tree Viper, King Cobra, Flying Lizards, Geckos, Skinks.