About 40 kilometers to the south of Hue city, Bach Ma mountain is nestled in the Truong Son mountain range which looks like a white horse stretching its legs towards the vast sea (Bach Ma means white horse in English). Not only does this area have charming scenery, a cool climate, and French-style villas, but it is also gathers many rare and precious animals and plants of the tropics in the vast primitive forests with spectacular streams and waterfalls.
Legend has it that in the old days, fairies used to ride white horses down to Bach Ma mountain to play Chinese chess. As they played, the horses became more and more engrossed in looking for grass. They became so dedicated to the grass that eventually the fairies could not wait any longer and they returned to heaven alone. The horses were bewildered and they wandered through the mountains, turning into clouds as they waited for their owners on Bach Ma mountain.
In 1932, the summit of Bạch Mã was selected by the French engineer Girard to become a hill station for the colonial administration of Hue. In the following years, a village including 139 villas and hotels was created. To accommodate holidaymakers and to avoid commuting on the steep, 19-kilometre-long (12 mi) road to the next major town, there was a post office, a market, and a hospital. By 1937 the number of holiday homes had reached 139 and it became known as the “Dalat of central Vietnam”. Most of the visitors were high-ranking French VIPs. Not surprisingly the Viet Minh tried hard to spoil the holiday – the area saw some heavy fighting in the early 1950s. After independence from the French, Bạch Mã was soon forgotten and the villas abandoned; today they are in total ruin and only a few stone walls remain. At an elevation of 1250 meters above sea level, the national park is a popular summer retreat for the Vietnamese, who come to feel the relief of the cooler temperatures of Bạch Mã.
The area around Bach Ma was first protected as a series of forest reserves in 1937 and was declared a protected area by the government of South Vietnam in 1962. In 1986 the area was established as a national park. The forests of the park, like Cát Tiên National Park, suffered from the use of defoliants like Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.