Kep is a quiet, coastal province just southeast of Kampot, which seems to be known chiefly for its seafood and the abundance of small, seaside resorts that dot the coastline. The laid-back beach town is a peaceful retreat, offering little more than a long strip of sandy beach and a bustling, world-renowned crab market. Because of this, we were shocked to discover Kep National Park – a small, well-maintained park, offering a handful of butterfly-laden hiking trails that cut through the hillside jungles. With few options for independent hikes during our few months in Southeast Asia (due to inaccessibility and, in many places, the danger of landmines), we were delighted to have stumbled across the preserve.

Overlooking Cambodia’s scenic, southern shores, Kep National Park is small but beautiful, offering dense forests and a number of hills for gaining top-notch views of the coastline. In contrast to the other preserves we visited in Southeast Asia, Kep’s park is extremely well-marked and easy to visit without a guide, with helpful maps and signs appearing regularly along the narrow, dirt trails. The park’s careful upkeep is thanks, in large part, to the proprietor of the Led Zep Café, who seems to be fanatical about ensuring all signage is painted and updated frequently. The café is a settled on the edge of a steep hill a few hundred yards from the entrance to the park, and offers maps and snacks for hikers as well as delicious crepes and sandwiches for anyone who’s just looking for a quiet lunch spot with a nice view.

Our hike through the park was very pleasant, with birds, squirrels and butterflies keeping us company for most of the walk. At one point, a troop of macaques shook the branches overhead before leaping gracefully over our path and landing boisterously in the trees on the opposite side. Around nearly every corner overlooks appeared, providing sweeping vistas of the ocean, Kep town below, and the surrounding countryside. While perhaps not the most spectacular or challenging trek, it was a nice way to spend a day and, for us, a great opportunity to finally get out and do a little hiking on our own.

Total distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation gain: N/A