Bring lots of water, bug repellent, a swimsuit, a waterproof bag for your camera or other valuables, and another bag for your garbage (always try to be a good example of eco-tourism). Wandering Bach Ma makes for a good full day or a few hours to kick the pollution out of your lungs on a stop as you head up the coast.
The trails of Bach Ma are lined with medicinal plants. Ask your guide and look for the Nhe Den (or Curcuma Zedoraria), which is a yellow tuberous root that grows a few meters high and is commonly used to treat cancers of the womb and skin, as well as indigestion. Also keep an eye out for some stunning orchid varieties; in particular, growing out of the trunks of trees high up in the spring is the Vani orchid, with lovely fragrant yellow flowers used as an expectorant.
Keep an eye out for Sambar deer tracks, and you might even spot the shy animals in the dense wood if you're very quiet. You'll also see the crumbling remains of old colonial villas and homes of Vietnamese who came to work on the area's small farms.
The short Summit Trail takes you a few kilometers past the Bach Ma Morin at the terminus of the park road and brings you to a pavilion with 360-degree views of the surrounding area, usually mist shrouded and above the clouds. Quite stunning and an easy, paved walk.
Five Lakes Trail starts just a few short clicks back from the park's highest point (near the Bach Ma Morin); the trail is a stunning descent from the road following a small waterfall -- the five "lakes" are quaint catch basins along the waterfall's cascade. It's slippery in spots and even technical, with guide wires and ladders as needed. Go with a guide.
The Rhododendron Trail is a great walk. In spring, around March and April when the heat on the coast is at its worst -- this was also the busiest time for the old French colonials to visit the high forests at Bach Ma -- the rhododendrons bloom, sending explosions of red and clouds of fragrance onto the trails of the park. The trail begins near the National Park Guesthouse.
Just over 2km (1 1/4 miles) of trail hiking brings you to the terminus of the Five Lakes Trail and to the top of a 300m (984-ft.) waterfall. It's a gradual pitch at the top, and you can test your mettle by looking over the waterfall's edge -- yikes! Just next to the falls is a set of steep stone stairs, and if you've got the chutzpah, the 1-hour hike down (and, more important, back up -- it's a dead-end trail) brings you to the bottom of the fall. The 689 steps are a killer on the knees: Though there is a good handrail (be careful, because it's slippery), the steps are large, so the descent is bone jarring and each step of the ascent is a haul. But the stunning view from the bottom of the cascade is well worth it.
There are a number of other tracks through the park, and you can hire a local guide at a cost of just $10. Check at the park headquarters.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.