Top North Vietnam's 3 Best National Parks
Ba Vi National Park
Ba Vi National Park is centred on Mount Ba Vi, situated about 50 km to the west of Hanoi. The mountain rises steeply out of a plain that rarely exceeds 30 m in elevation. In general, slopes on the western side of Ba Vi mountain, at an average of 25°, are steeper than those on the east. Above 400 m, the slopes on the western side may reach a gradient of 35° and rocky cliffs are present. Mount Ba Vi has three peaks: the highest is King Peak at 1,296 m, followed by Tan Vien Peak at 1,226 m and Ngoc Hoa Peak at 1,120 m. Because of the mountainous topography, the climate at Ba Vi varies with altitude. Above 500 m, fog enshrouds the top of the mountain on most days.
During the French colonial period, Ba Vi was developed as a hill station, and around 200 villas were constructed on the mountain. In addition, a road was built up the mountain to an elevation of 1,100 m. With a relatively favourable climate, good infrastructure and close proximity to Hanoi, Ba Vi already attracts large numbers of visitors. With a total area of over 10,000 hectares, Ba Vi National Park has everything to offer, from an amazingly biodiverse area of tourist resorts, a string of mysterious French ruins to a host of intriguing mini-hikes and trekking trails. Ba Vi National Park is also an important site for education and scientific research.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park lies at the south-eastern extent of a limestone range that runs north-west to Son La province. This limestone range predominantly comprises karst, marine in origin and perhaps 200 million years old.
Cuc Phuong National Park has an extremely rich flora, including 1,980 vascular plant species in 887 genera and 221 families have been recorded at the national park. In terms of number of species, the best-represented families in the flora of Cuc Phuong are the Euphorbiaceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae, Moraceae, Lauraceae, Cyperaceae, Orchidaceae and Acanthaceae. The flora of Cuc Phuong contains elements of the Sino-Himalayan, Indo-Burmese and Malesian floras. The high known floral diversity at Cuc Phuong can, however, be partly attributed to the high level of survey effort directed at the site.
Cuc Phuong National Park is an important site for biological research and for training scientists: many undergraduate and graduate students visit the national park on field courses. If you are looking for some of the best Vietnam national parks to plan your adventure trip, don’t forget to put Cuc Phuong National Park into your bucket list.
Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park is located in Cat Hai district, Hai Phong city. The national park is centred on Cat Ba island, a 28,500 ha island, which lies 20 km due east of Hai Phong city and immediately to the west of Halong bay.
Its most famous inhabitant is a subspecies of the critically endangered golden-headed langur, a monkey found only on Cat Ba and now probably numbering around sixty individuals. Cat Ba National Park possesses a rich diversity of plant species, including some 350 of medicinal value, as well as birds, snakes and plenty of mosquitoes.
There are 2 main trails through the park. The “short trek” (about 3 hours there and back) takes you to a viewpoint at the top of Ngu Lam Peak. The path is easy enough to follow, but it’s a steep climb, scrambling over three roots and rocks in places, and extremely slippery in wet weather. If you’ve got the time and energy, the “long trek” (about 6 hours) is a rewarding experience. It involves a strenuous 18km hike via Frog Lake, over a steep ridge for a classic view over countless karst towers, then dropping down to Viet Hai Village where groups usually stop for lunch. From there it’s about an hour’s walk through lush scenery to the jetty, then back to Cat Ba by boat with a stop for swimming and snorkelling or kayaking through cave tunnels to find secret lagoons.