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What you need to know about Switzerland’s only national park

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
What you need to know about Switzerland’s only national park
Switzerland's many parks are worth a visit. Photo by Adrien Stachowiak.

Whilst Switzerland has many natural parks it only has one designated national park. Needless to say it's stunning and well worth a visit.


Established in 1914, Switzerland's one national park based is located in Engadine, an Alpine valley in the eastern Swiss Alps.

It's imaginatively called the Swiss National Park and was the country's only nature conservation park for many years and is the oldest national park in the Alps and central Europe.

The park is made up of 28 percent forest, 21 percent Alpine grassland and 51 percent unproductive terrain (scree, rocks, high mountain region).

Following a partial revision of the Federal Law on Nature and Heritage Protection in 2007, additional natural parks were later developed throughout Switzerland.

In addition to the Swiss National Park the country also has 19 natural parks that are perfect for a visit.

Today, a distinction is made between four park categories: the Swiss National Park, the new generation national park, the regional natural park, and the natural adventure park.

Though in principle all parks aim to preserve and maintain Switzerland’s natural and cultural landscapes, their approach is slightly different.


READ MORE: 10 waterfalls you have to visit in Switzerland

Swiss National Park

Extending over 170 square kilometres, the Swiss National Park is the nation’s largest protected area – the park is designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a category 1 nature reserve (highest protection level) - but that doesn’t mean visitors aren’t welcome.

Hikers looking to visit the Swiss National Park can choose from among 21 routes which are suitable for casual walkers, seasoned hikers and everyone in-between.


You also have the option of discovering the National Park as part of a guided tour for a cool 380 Swiss francs. The tour lasts around 6-7 hours and is usually conducted in German.

While out and about you will have the chance to see around 20 different animal species depending on the season, including red deer, brown bears, snow voles, and ibex.

However, while you are more than welcome to enter the park during its open season (May-October), you must obey the park’s protection regulations before setting out.

Here are some of the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ pertaining to the Swiss National Park:

First, the dos:

  • Pack a pair of binoculars
  • Stick to the marked trails when observing wildlife
  • Pay attention to information boards
  • Keep calm so as not to upset animals
  • Travel by public transport

And now some of the don’ts:

  • Stray from the marked paths or resting areas
  • Pick up or remove any natural object (animals, plants, sticks, stones, etc.)
  • Make a camp fire
  • Litter
  • Disturb nature
  • Bring a pet along (not even on a lead)
  • Spend the night at the park or inside your parked vehicle (including along the main Pass dal Fuorn (Ofenpass) road)
  • Visit in the winter (November-April)
  • Partake in any no winter sports, cycling or flying of any sort
  • Bathe in lakes, pools, streams and rivers

When is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit the Swiss National Park is definitely during the summer months (July-August) when you can observe a large variety of plants and animals and partake in varied hikes.

The park’s visitor season begins between the end of May and the end of June when nature slowly awakens, and you are able to spot a few animals already.

Meanwhile, the deer rutting season starts around mid-September to early October and you can observe them primarily in park's Val Trupchun area - also known as the stag arena of the Alps. During the summer, the park's deer population is 1,800 to 2,000.

New app to help you visit 

The new SwissPark app includes an interactive map displaying various activities, and makes it possible to find routes between chosen points. They can be downloaded even without an internet connection.

After seven days of testing the application for free, the cost will be 36 francs per year. 


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