Switzerland explained For Members

EXPLAINED: 8 rules nature lovers should follow in the Swiss countryside

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: 8 rules nature lovers should follow in the Swiss countryside
Don't disturb the cows. The outdoor rules you need to follow in Switzerland. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Many people living in Switzerland enjoy taking a trip to the countryside in the warmer months - but not everyone leaves forests how they found them and some even damage nature. Here’s everything you should pay attention to when exploring Switzerland's natural wonders.


Pay attention to signs

Whether you’re going for a casual stroll or a more challenging hike, in Switzerland you should always pay close attention to and follow the hiking trail signs as they indicate what (difficulty level) awaits you on your chosen path and help keep you safe.

Adventurers should also make sure to keep out of so-called quiet zones, or wildlife sanctuaries, which function as designated retreat areas for wild animals to avoid them being disturbed by humans. It is also vital to keep your dogs on a leash near the quiet zones as well as during hunting season. The latter takes place at different times depending on the canton.

Shhhhh….be quiet

It may not come as a surprise that the Swiss love their quiet time – and so do their animals. It is therefore recommended to be mindful of wildlife when out on hikes or busy enjoying a barbeque.

It's generally recommended to refrain from blasting loud music, shouting or conversing in a loud manner so as not to disturb the animals and other hikers who may have ventured into the forest seeking peace and solitude.

Stay on your path

Both hikers and bikers should stay on their designated paths for several reasons. While it can be dangerous to choose an off-the-beaten track and Switzerland's diverse nature should not be underestimated – there are signs for a reason – it can also be harmful to vegetation and the animals residing forests whose habitat we should protect.

Don’t disturb the cows

As wholesome as these herbivores may look – and you will meet many as you journey through Switzerland – you should always keep your distance from cows and walk around them calmly even if they are used to people. This is essential as any sudden moves on your part could make you come off as a threat to them.


Though these large animals do not usually attack unprovoked, they may choose to do so (at a speed of 40 kilometres per hour) if they think you’re eyeing up their offspring for a portion of the popular Zurich dish Zürcher Geschnetzeltes that's made with veal. 

Bag your trash

While you are more than welcome to enjoy a sandwich or even grill a whole pack of Cervelat in designated forest spots, trash, meaning all material that does not belong in a forest, should always be disposed of elsewhere – or else the forest owners will have to do this in your stead.

If you happen to leave a large chunk of trash behind, however, the forest owner will contact the police and you may be liable to pay a fine - if the cows don't get you first.

READ ALSO: Cervelat: What is the Swiss sausage that creates a 'sense of identity'?

Don’t start a fire

If you’ve ventured into your local forest for a get together with friends and family, be sure to remember that fires in the forest must always be kindled with the necessary caution, even if there is only a low or moderate risk of a forest fire.

In Switzerland, you may only burn completely dried, natural forest wood if only little smoke is produced. You may under no circumstances burn old and residual wood as well as any material (waste) you may be eager to get rid of in a haste.


On that note…don’t smoke

In Switzerland, you may only smoke in so-called settlement areas which are areas designated for respite and barbeques. However, if you step outside of those areas remember that it is illegal to smoke in Swiss forests and you will be fined, or worse, could cause a fire.

No motor vehicles

According to Switzerland’s Forest Act – yes, that’s a thing – driving motor vehicles in its forests, whether the latter belong to the municipality or a (wealthy) private individual, is not permitted unless you’re on official forestry business.

Still, a canton may grant you an exception, for instance for motocross courses and the like, though this is rare.


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