The Swiss National Park is a natural preserve protected from all human influence
and interference. Since its founding date there is no more hunting, fishing,
exploitation or maintenance of forests and meadows on its premisses. All plant
and animal life is left to its own natural development. Any interference with
the natural processes is deliberately kept off limits. Research does have its
place in the park in the form of surveys of the plant and animal species, as
well as the examination and mapping of bodies of water, soil and rock formations.
The interconnection of plant and animal population (ecology) is closely monitored.
The National Park contains a rich and varied flora and fauna. It
corresponds to the natural environment that would be typical of the
subalpine and alpine regions of our country. The National Park is not an
exhibit area of specally collected plants and animals, but a natural alpine
habitat. It must not be confounded with an alpine, botanical garden or with
an animal reserve. The climate is rather dry and rough, showing only little
precipitation. It is characterized by intense insolation and low humidity.
The landscape is distinctly mountainous (5,000 - 10,500 ft / 1,500 - 3,174
m). The highest peaks are the Piz Pisoc 10,474 ft (3,174 m) and the Piz
Quattervals 10,408 ft (3,154 m). Simply put, the National Park is composed
of roughly equal parts of one-time meadows and pastures, forests, and not
cultivable terrain such as screes and firn covered areas, which, however, do
host life forms all the way to the highest peaks. The meadows and pastures
have a dense growth of grasses, herbs and flowers. Old marks of cattle
keeping are still apparent today and in some places there even are leftovers
of one time mining activites.
About 650 species of higher plant life (flowering plants) have been
recorded in the park. Among them the multi-coloured alp flowers in all their
magnificient diversity. In addition, there are many thousands of genuses of
lower plant life such as lichen, moss, fungi, ferns and algae. Over 5,000
animal species are living in the park. Among them all the invertebrate
classes such as for example spiders, worms, snails and all insects, which
make up about 95% of all the local animal population.
1,400 species of butterflies, 600 species of beetles, 30 species of ants.
The vertebrates are composed of about 150 classes. Among them 4 species of
fish, 2 species of reptiles and amphibians each, 60 species of nesting birds
and 40 species of migrators and summer residents.
Moreover, 30 species of mammals. For example 1,800 red deer, 30 roe deer,
1,100 chamois and 300 ibex. The purpose of the National Park is to offer an
opportunity for people to discover and observe the integral make-up of the
local wildgrowth and wildlife from as many angles as possible.
The Swiss National Park (SNP) is located in the very east of Switzerland in
the Canton Graubünden (Engadina) its official name is "Parc
The easiest way to get to the SNP is by railway, then take a coach of the
postal service into the park. It takes about 2.5 hours from Zürich to
Zernez (one way) . By car, it takes about the same amount of time if the
road conditions are perfect, but expect delays due to traffic jams or
difficult road conditions, especially in winter.
There is one road that runs through the national park, it is called "Pass
dal Fuorn" (or "Ofenpass" in German) and connects Zernez with
Müstair, a remote valley close to the Italian border. It is open to
public, but we suggest to take the postal bus. There are nine parking lots
(P1 to P9) and many bus stops along the road which provide access to the
The major activities are hiking and watching. There are no bikes, no tents
and no fires or stoves allowed in the park and there is no such thing as an
overnight permit! - See also park rules above.
However, there are a number of hotels along the "Pass dal Fuorn"
road and there is one great opportunity to spend a night inside the national
park: The "Chamanna Cluozza", a beautiful hut with rooms of
different sizes. Reservations are required or at least strongly recommended,
depending on the season. They provide food, accommodation and a gorgeous
view of the clouzza valley and the surrounding mountains. It takes about 3
to 4 hours to get from Zernez to the hut and another 3½ to 4½
hours the next day from the hut to Vallun Chafuol, a parking lot and bus
stop at the "Pass dal Fuorn" road. See trip to Chamanna Cluozza
for more information and some pictures and check with the mountain
associations for reservation.
There are three different categories of trails in the park,
they are marked with different colors and require different equipment and
(Type of Trial - Required equipments - required skills)
Regular trail -
No special requirements - No special skills
Mountain trail -
Hiking boots, Windbreaker or similar - Good shape,
skill - include steep and/or slippery trails.
Alpine trail Technical hike-
alpine equipment required- Good
physical condition, may require climbing or glacier traversal.
There are about 80 km (50 miles) of trails available in the park. Founded
in 1914 as one of the first national parks in Europe.
The Swiss National Park is a sanctuary in which nature is protected against
all interference by men, and the entire flora and fauna are left to their
Major attractions :
Unequaled alpine scenery, re-introduced bearded vulture, golden eagle,
capricorn, chamois, stag, marmots, alpine forests and flowers. There is only
one national park in Switzerland.
172.3 km² (0.42% of the area of Switzerland)
Between 1400 and 3173 meter above sea level
Tree line -
2200 meter above sea level (Engadin only, around 1900
meter in the rest of Switzerland) 80 km of trails.
1/3 alpine forest 1/3 alpine meadows 1/3 rock
Switzerland's only national park is a testimony to the foresight of
environmentalists and the resilience of nature.
The Swiss National Park is located in the Engadine valley in the eastern
canton of Graubünden. The canton is Switzerland's largest, but despite
its size is only sparsely populated, largely due to its mountainous and
rocky terrain. The inhabitants are dependent on tourism, hydroelectricity
and agriculture for their livelihoods, and speak one of three languages.
German is most common, but entire valleys can be either Italian or Romansch
speaking, reflecting the isolation which historically enabled these
languages to persist in the area. As a result the canton is known by several
names: Graubünden in German, Grischun in Romansch and Grigioni in
Italian, although rather confusingly it is frequently referred to by its
French name, Grisons.
The Engadine runs on a slant across the east of the canton following the
valley of the En river. It is divided into two distinct parts. The Upper
Engadine is fringed by the Bernina massif. It contains several resorts,
including chic St Moritz, and its high alpine passes lead to Italy. The
Lower Engadine is narrower and wilder, and contains some of the best walking
in the country. It is in the southern part of the Lower Engadine, bridging
the Ofenpass route to Italy, that the Swiss National Park lies.
Conserving history The area now covered by the park would have seemed,
initially, an unusual candidate for protection, as it had been heavily
scarred by man. Evidence that people lived in this region dates from 3000
bc, although the number of settlements increased around 400 bc. The Romans
invaded in 15 bc and it is from Latin that the Romansch language has
evolved. Until the 19th century, mining, forestry and farming were the main
occupations, marking the land and stripping away vegetation.
It is due to the resolve of a few individuals that the park exists today.
The original impetus came from abroad with the foundation of Yellowstone
National Park in America in 1872. Hoping to emulate this, a group of Swiss
conservationists obtained a private lease of the Cluozza valley in 1909 for
the purpose of forming a park. In 1914 the park was formally established and
over the years has grown by a process of gradual accretion to its current
Recent discussions have focused on further, large-scale expansion. As the
only national park in Switzerland it is felt that a wider area is needed to
fully protect the flora and fauna, and to bring currently excluded
environments within its ambit.
The purpose of the park :
The Swiss National Park is a strict natural reserve. Many activities which
might normally be allowed within a park are banned and no human intervention
is permitted 'that does not serve the purpose of protection itself'. As a
result, the park has become Switzerland's wildest region, although it
remains challenged by hydroelectricity schemes and by the busy Ofenpass road
which cuts through it. Camping, lighting fires, picnics and parking are all
strictly prohibited beyond designated areas. Similarly, walkers are
forbidden to leave the marked paths, of which there are twenty colour-coded
Escaping the snow Due to protective measures, many areas are totally
inaccessible to visitors and the park is closed completely from November
until May. Winter begins in earnest in October with heavy snowfalls raising
the risks of avalanches. During the other seasons though, the climate is
generally warm and dry. The park's inter-alpine location means it enjoys low
rainfall and humidity, and high sunshine hours. When visitors choose to
visit the park will depend upon their interests. Its alpine nature means
that spring plant growth does not start until mid-May, although by June and
July the flora will be at its best, with autumn colours beginning in August.
For walkers, the snow can come as early as September and several of the
higher level paths do not clear until July. Huts are generally open from May
until October although they are not always manned.
June and July are the best times for bird-watching, and there are over one
hundred species in the park. For visitors hoping to spot game birds, such as
ptarmigan, capercaillie and black and hazel grouse, October, when the larch
trees begin to glow ochre and gold, is a good time to see them in their
forest habitat. October is also best for spotting ibex, chamois and deer,
all of which come down the slopes for the winter, whilst stags can be heard
belling in the valleys.
forests & grasslands The high rocks are predominately dolomite, which
weathers in the harsh winters into strangely shaped rocky protrusions. The
gradual creeping of scree slopes causes solifluction, a characteristic sight
in the park, when the thin vegetative layer is carried downward with the
rock to create lacy scalloped patterns on the hillsides. Beneath the peaks
are the many valleys down which water flows into the River En and from there
eastwards to eventually reach the Black Sea. These valleys are narrow, their
slopes covered with blankets of mountain pine, a legacy from the days of
forestry. In places though, twisted Cembra or Arolla pines are gradually
re-establishing, as is larch. Above the forests, stunted shrubs give way to
alpine grasslands and plateaux where the pervasive edelweiss and spurred
pansies grow. Higher still is the rock and scree of the permanent snow
zones. From here views stretch south into the Bernina massif and east into
the Ortler mountains in the Italian Stelvio National Park which abuts the
Swiss Park at Livigno.
Margunet A walk from Ofenpass to Margunet combines areas of animal,
botanical and geological interest. The path passes through forests once
planted for making charcoal. In accordance with the park's
non-interventionist policies these forests are now being allowed to die and
naturally regenerate. Beyond the forest, the path crosses meadows before
entering the rocky gorge of the Val Stabelchod, with its massive banks of
A viewpoint at the base of an avalanche slope is a favoured spot for
watching bearded vultures, which were reintroduced to the park in 1991.
Their release was part of a sustained programme across Austria, France,
Italy and Switzerland to reinstate the birds in the Alps. Within the park
young vultures can often be spotted making their maiden flights. From the
viewpoint the path climbs to the Margunet saddle where fingers of dolomite
rock poke their way through the sparse grass. This is a grazing area for
herds of chamois, and walkers are most likely to spot them at dusk when they
feed. Marmots are a more common sight during the day with the path passing a
colony which has made its home in a pile of debris left by a scree slope.
Chamanna Cluozza The village of Zernez, at the entrance to the park, is
home to the main headquarters and information centre. From here an
interesting walk leads to the Chamanna Cluozza, near to where footprints of
some of the park's oldest residents, dinosaurs, were found in the Üerts
da Diavel (Devil's Gardens). The footprints are thought to have been left by
two different types of dinosaur, the herbivorous prosauropods and the
dangerous three-fingered theropods, and date from the Triassic period. They
are imprinted in a huge limestone slab, acutely balanced at 2,450m on the
side of the Piz dal Diavel. While the slab is too perilous to be accessible
to visitors, the footprints can be seen via binoculars from Chamanna
Cluozza. There is also a large hut here, allowing walkers to break the route
into two days and to enjoy a night at altitude.
From Chamanna Cluozza, a route leads upwards to Piz Quattervals. This is
the only peak within the park which it is permitted to climb. Unlike most of
the park's routes, it is only scantily marked and is a strenuous ascent for
which climbing experience is needed. In spring, hard snow can cover most of
the route, while in summer there is danger of rock falls.
If, however, these challenges are broached the views from the 3,165m summit
are rewarding. Walkers will also find hardy Swiss androsace, its pale
flowers scattered on a water-retaining green cushion. Golden eagles, of
which there are six nesting pairs in the park, can be seen circling, or, on
the way down, a skylark may be startled from its nest.
Special features :
In the National Park nature is left to develop freely. Humans remain in the
background and are merely witnesses of the evolution that contributes so
greatly to the incomparable landscapes of the Park.
The Swiss National Park is the largest protected area in Switzerland and
the country's only National Park. Itis designated by the International Union
for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a category 1 nature reserve
(highest protection level - strict nature reserve/wilderness area).