Swiss National Park

The Swiss National Park, located in the western Rhaetian Alps within the canton of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland, spans an area of 174.2 km², making it the largest protected area in the country. This park, bordering the Stelvio National Park in Italy, is situated between the localities of Zernez, S-chanf, Scuol, and the Fuorn Pass in the Engadine Valley. This site is notable for being the only national park in Switzerland, with ongoing proposals to establish more similar areas. Opened on August 1, 1914, coinciding with Switzerland’s National Day, the park was one of the first to be established in Europe. In 1979, UNESCO recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve, highlighting its ecological importance and role in environmental conservation.


History of the Swiss National Park

In 2014, the Swiss National Park celebrated its centenary. Founded in 1914, it is also known as the Parc Suisse Biosphere Reserve.

Swiss National Park

The history of the Swiss National Park is marked by a series of significant events that contributed to its development and expansion. At the beginning of the 20th century, following the effects of industrialization and agricultural expansion that transformed much of the Swiss landscape, there arose a need to conserve natural areas. In 1904, prominent individuals such as Dr. Fritz E. Bühlmann and others promoted the idea of establishing a nature reserve. After deliberations, the area around the Fuorn Pass was selected for its isolation and ecological richness. In 1909, the Cluozza Valley was leased from the municipality of Zernez, marking an initial step toward the creation of the park.

In 1914, coinciding with Switzerland’s National Day, the Swiss National Park was officially inaugurated. The initial leasing costs were covered by the Swiss coalition for nature protection, later known as Pro Natura. In response to the financial difficulties of the private enterprise in 1913, the Federal Government assumed these costs.

During the 1930s and 1960s, the park underwent significant territorial and administrative changes. In 1936, Val Tavrü was excluded from the park at the request of the municipality of Scuol. The park’s legal structure was redefined in 1959 with the approval of a federal law, which included the indefinite extension of leasing contracts and prohibited high-voltage power lines in the park. In 1961, the park expanded to 166.5 km².

Robert F. Schloeth, appointed director in 1964, played a crucial role in the park’s evolution during his tenure of more than 25 years. Under his leadership, a new visitor center was opened in Zernez in 1968, and an educational trail was established in 1976. It was also during his directorship that the park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and categorized as Ia by the IUCN.

The most recent expansion occurred in 2000, when 3.6 km² of the Macun Lakes and surrounding areas were added to the park. Despite a proposal to create a less regulated zone around the park, it was rejected by the public. In 2008, a new visitor center opened in Zernez, marking another milestone in the park’s history and its commitment to environmental education and conservation.

This Swiss park can also be referred to by the following names:

  • German: Schweizerischer Nationalpark.
  • English: Swiss National Park.
  • French: Parc National Suisse.
  • Italian: Parco Nazionale Svizzero.
  • Romansh: Parc Naziunal Svizzer.

Its founders aimed to create a completely natural area for observation and scientific study. A century later, the park has established itself as a reference point for both locals and visitors who wish to experience European nature in its purest state. The park’s initiators were pioneers in environmental conservation, seeking to preserve a portion of the Swiss mountainous landscape for its natural evolution, with all changes subject to scientific studies and analyses. Today, this project is recognized as a vital field laboratory and a symbol of environmental protection.

With 170 km² of area, it is the largest protected area in Switzerland and the only national park in the country. It stands out for its exceptional diversity of alpine fauna, including chamois, deer, and marmots, and its flora composed of numerous species of alpine plants that adorn the landscape with vibrant colors. Additionally, it offers a variety of trails adapted to different difficulty levels, allowing all visitors to explore its natural beauty at their own pace.

Declaration as a Biosphere Reserve

The Swiss National Park, known as the Parc Suisse Biosphere Reserve since 1979, is located in the easternmost part of Switzerland, specifically on the right bank of the Inn River and near the border with Italy. Originally, the reserve covered 17,030 hectares, all categorized as Zone 1 or "Core Zone," which includes ecosystems such as forests, alpine meadows, and bare rocks. In this zone, typical species such as Scots pine, Pinus cembra, larches, and Norway spruce can be found. Beyond the tree line, alpine flowers such as the pasqueflower (pulsatilla) and edelweiss (snow flower) can be seen.

The Engadine Valley, part of the park, is notable for being the only valley in Switzerland that flows into the Danube. This area is characterized by its strict protection and the absence of permanent human settlements, thus preserving its natural state.

In 2010, the reserve expanded to include a "Buffer Zone" (Zone 2) and a "Transition Zone" (Zone 3) to the east of the Core Zone. These new zones incorporate nearby localities, including especially Val Müstair in the southeast of the reserve. The expansion led to the reserve being renamed Reservat da Biosfera Val Müstair-Park Naziunal. Further expansions are planned as part of an ongoing collaborative effort between the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme and Swiss authorities to strengthen and expand this important protected area. This park is one of the most important areas for the Swiss along with the Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve.

Recommended Excursions and Activities

Powered by GetYourGuide

What to See and Do in the Swiss National Park

Discover the natural wonders within and around the Swiss National Park: guided tours, mining exhibitions, the most touristically interesting localities, and exciting bear routes. There are experiences for all tastes and ages.


With its winding cobblestone streets, hobbit-style houses, and numerous fountains, Guarda, located 11 km west of Scuol, has great charm and attracts many Swiss visitors for a stroll.

Guarda, Switzerland

With a population of 160 inhabitants, it is situated on a terrace, a 30-minute uphill walk from its station at the bottom of the valley. The Hotel Piz Buin offers an excellent lodging option if you are thinking of staying. A trail leads 8 km north from Guarda to the foothills of Piz Buin, 3312 m high (famous for sunscreens), which dominates the Silvretta glacier range on the border between Switzerland and Austria.

Corvatsch 3303

Corvatsch 3303, Switzerland

Take the impressive Corvatsch cable cars from Silvaplana-Surlej (1870 m) to the central station of Murtèl (2702 m), then from Murtèl to the top, reaching an impressive 3303 m. The views are astounding. You can enjoy excellent skiing in winter and magnificent hiking in summer. There are restaurants at both Murtèl and Corvatsch 3303. Take a postal bus from St Moritz (2.80 Swiss francs, 25 minutes) to Surlej-Corvatschbahn.

Kirchner Museum

Kirchner Museum

This enormous museum cube exhibits the world’s largest collection of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), the German expressionist who painted extraordinary scenes of the area. When the Nazis classified Kirchner as a "degenerate artist" and emptied galleries of his works, despair overtook him and he took his own life in 1938.


Diavolezza, Switzerland

This cable car, with its own station on the Bernina line (Bernina Diavolezza) and a huge parking lot at its base, takes passengers from 2093 m to Diavolezza at 2973 m, where you will find stunning views of the highest peaks of the Bernina range, including Piz Bernina (4049 m) and Piz Palü (3905 m). It is absolutely impressive on a good day. You can stay at the Berghaus Diavolezza or take a guided glacier hike to Morterasch. You can also enjoy excellent skiing here in winter.

From High to Murtersattel

Taking advantage of the early hours of the day to ascend to Murtersattel. Hans Lozza, who has been working for the Swiss National Park for 22 years, describes it as "a magical place." During the journey, you can hear the whistles of marmots, and with binoculars, it is possible to identify dinosaur tracks on a stone slab in Val dal Diavel. At the selected viewpoint at the top of the pass, we will stop to observe deer and chamois on the southeastern slope of Piz Terza, just 500 meters away. Can you also spot the heraldic animal of Graubünden behind the rock? With renewed energy, we will descend again.

Hiking – From Murtersattel to parking lot 3, 3¾ hours, route no. 8 in the Swiss National Park hiking guide.

Towards Il Fuorn

The Hotel Parc Naziunal Il Fuorn used to serve as a hostel for miners of the Fuorn Pass mine, but today it is known as a base camp for those seeking relaxation. After dropping off your luggage, enjoy freshly prepared Capuns for lunch and then continue with an afternoon tour on the park’s nature trail.

Hiking and Learning: Il Fuorn–Margunet-Parking Lot 8 Nature Trail, 3–4 hours, hike no. 17 in the Swiss National Park Hiking Guide.

Alp Trupchun Route

Hiking route Alp Trupchun in Switzerland

The seven-kilometer hiking route in Alp Trupchun is one of the most frequented trails in the park’s 80-kilometer hiking network. Again, it is not permitted to stray from the path, but binoculars help locate animals on the opposite side of the valley. We enjoyed listening to and smelling the deer for the last time this weekend. If by chance a bearded vulture soars among the clouds, it only makes you want to shout for joy.
Hiking – Alp Trupchun, from September to October, 3 hours, hike no. 1 in the Swiss National Park Hiking Guide. Rafting trips for bachelor parties in September.

Champlönch Children’s Trail

Champlönch Children's Hiking Trail

The Champlönch children’s trail offers a completely new experience. Equipped with the Swiss National Park app, available for free for iPhone or Android, and with the children’s trail booklet with an audio CD, we set off from parking lot 1 at Ova Spin (bus stop P1 Champlönch) towards Il Fuorn (hiking routes 12/13, postal bus stop P6 Il Fuorn). During the journey, we will hear an acoustic signal in 10 different places. On the screen, a figure or an animal will appear and tell us an interesting story directly related to the surroundings. The Champlönch booklet is available at the National Park Center in Zernez (phone 081 851 41 41) or in our online store.

Bike Routes

Bike routes in the Swiss National Park

The region surrounding the Swiss National Park is a perfect place for electric mountain bikers. The terrain offers a balanced mix of slopes and flat terrain, making it the ideal setting for a multi-day bike trip. Over four days, you will explore mountain passes, forest trails, and solitary paths, passing through sites of cultural interest and a wild, unspoiled natural environment. This fascinating bike tour is essential for both experienced cyclists and those just beginning to venture into this world.

Schmelzra Museum

Schmelzra Museum

In the old administrative building of the S-charl lead and silver mines, now stands the Schmelzra Museum, which houses an exhibition dedicated to mining and bears.

In the basement and on the ground floor, there is an extensive display about the mining industry. The upper floor, under the roof, is leased to the Swiss National Park. Here, in this authentic setting, you will find our fascinating Bear Exhibition. This was complemented in 2010 with the bear adventure trail (Senda da l’uors). In the surrounding forests of the building, the last native bear of Switzerland lived, which was shot near there in 1904.

Guided tours of the exhibition and excursions to the mines are offered.

Hiking Routes

One of the main tourist attractions of the Swiss National Park is its incredible hiking routes. There are a total of 21 well-defined and signposted routes and trails, where you can hike through the park’s natural surroundings, enjoying wonderful landscapes adapted to different levels of difficulty.

Hiking routes in the Swiss National Park

Route 1: Trupchun Alps

This 9.5 km route offers a three-hour experience through the Trupchun Alps, where you can enjoy vast alpine landscapes and opportunities to observe local wildlife, especially during the deer migration.

Route 2: Fuorcla Trupchun

At 3 km long, this approximately 2-hour and 15-minute hike leads through Fuorcla Trupchun, offering panoramic views and challenging terrain for mountain enthusiasts.

Route 3: Fuorcla Val Sassa

This demanding 17.5 km trail takes about 7 hours and 30 minutes to complete, traversing Fuorcla Val Sassa with impressive views of the park and its geological formations.

Route 4: Piz Quattervals

Reach the summit of Piz Quattervals, the highest peak in the park at 3165 m, on a 5 km hike that lasts around 5 hours. Ideal for those seeking alpine challenges and spectacular views.

Route 5: Val Tantermozza

A short 1.5 km walk taking 40 minutes, perfect for a quick excursion exploring the tranquil Tantermozza Valley with its rich flora and fauna.

Route 6: Murtarol

This 8 km route takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes and offers a journey through varied landscapes, ideal for photographers and nature lovers.

Route 7: Chamanna Cluozza

Similar in length and duration to Route 6, this trail leads hikers to Chamanna Cluozza, offering charming views and close contact with alpine nature.

Route 8: Murtersattel

With a 7.5 km course and a duration of 3 hours and 45 minutes, this route challenges hikers with its varied terrain and rewarding views.

Route 9: Margun Grimmels

This 3.5 km path, taking approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, offers a relaxing walk ideal for families, with alpine panoramas and bird-watching opportunities.

Route 10: Val Spöl

Enjoy an 8 km journey taking 2 hours and 45 minutes through Val Spöl, where the landscape constantly changes from winding rivers to dense forests.

Route 11: Alps la Schera

This 3 km trail, which can be completed in approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, is perfect for a quick excursion that still offers impressive views and tranquility.

Route 12: Grimmels

A 6 km trail with an approximate duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes, ideal for experiencing a variety of ecosystems and enjoying the peace of the natural environment.

Route 13: Champlönch

This 5 km, 2-hour route offers an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the alpine environment and enjoy serene and refreshing views.

Route 14: Punt la Drossa – Il Fuorn

A light 2.5 km walk taking around 1 hour, ideal for families and beginners who want to experience the park’s beauty without a significant physical effort.

Route 15: Munt la Schera

Cover 13 km in approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes, exploring the diverse landscape that Munt la Schera offers, from dense forests to open views.

Route 16: Fuente

Enjoy a moderate 5 km walk taking about 1 hour and 45 minutes, leading you through enchanting natural settings and refreshing water points.

Route 17: Margunet

An 8 km route taking around 3 hours, ideal for those seeking a longer hiking experience without being too demanding.

Route 18: Fuorcla Val dal Botsch

This long 17.5 km trail offers about 6 hours and 45 minutes of intensive hiking, crossing the spectacular Fuorcla Val dal Botsch with its panoramic views.

Route 19: Val Mingèr

A 5.5 km walk taking approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, perfect for enjoying a peaceful stroll through the beautiful Val Mingèr.

Route 20: Mot Tavrü

This 6 km trail, taking around 2 hours and 15 minutes, is an excellent option for walkers looking to explore the varied geography of the park.

Route 21: Lais da Macún

The longest trail at 21 km and a duration of approximately 8 hours, is ideal for adventurers seeking a comprehensive hiking experience, exploring the Macún Lakes and their impressive surroundings.

Prominent Mountains and Peaks of the Swiss National Park

Within the protected area of the Swiss National Park, some mountains stand out for their beauty, boasting several peaks above 3000 meters.

Piz Pisoc (3173 m)

Piz Pisoc is the highest peak in the Swiss National Park, offering visitors impressive views of the surrounding alpine landscape. This peak is popular among experienced mountaineers due to its altitude and the natural beauty observed from its summit.

Piz Quattervals (3165 m)

Piz Quattervals rises to 3165 meters and is known for its challenging hiking route that takes adventurers to its summit. From the top, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramas of the valleys and neighboring mountains of the Swiss National Park.

Piz da l’Acqua (3126 m)

At an altitude of 3126 meters, Piz da l’Acqua offers a remote and less frequented mountaineering experience. This peak attracts those interested in climbing and hiking, providing tranquil views of the vast alpine landscapes.

Piz Chaschauna (3071 m)

Piz Chaschauna, reaching 3071 meters, lies on the border between Switzerland and Italy, making it particularly interesting from a geographical perspective. It is ideal for mountaineers seeking a challenging experience with spectacular views towards both countries.

Habitats and Biodiversity

Within the Swiss National Park, the diversity of habitats is remarkable, with forests being one of the predominant ecosystems, occupying approximately one-third of its area. These mountain forests are mainly composed of species such as firs, larches, Swiss pines, and mountain pines. However, the history of logging has transformed part of the landscape, resulting in areas where so-called pioneer mountain pine forests, known locally as the "Pass dal Fuorn" forests, predominate.

Above these forests, the alpine meadows host a fascinating mix of flora, including plants adapted to lower altitudes as well as arcto-alpine species that thrive at higher elevations. These areas witness how different types of soil, local climatic conditions, sun exposure, and altitude influence the formation of diverse plant associations. The composition of these associations is a dynamic phenomenon reflecting the optimal balance between soil, climate, and the present vegetation.

In the higher alpine zones of the park, the forces of erosion are particularly evident. The sparse vegetation at these heights fails to retain the soil effectively, allowing rock blocks, fragmented by intense cold and the action of frozen water, to detach and descend into the valley, creating towering scree slopes. This interaction between geology and climate shapes a dramatic and constantly changing landscape, characteristic of the highest areas of the park.

Fauna of the Swiss National Park

Fauna of the Swiss National Park

Animal sightings in the National Park require a combination of patience and luck. However, understanding species behavior increases the chances of being in the right place at the right time. Binoculars and telescopes available for rent at the National Park Center are valuable tools for this activity.


Marmots can be found in various locations, such as Alp Grimmels or Alp Stabelchod, until the end of September. It is advisable to avoid the hottest hours around midday.

Swiss Marmots


Chamois are more rewarding to observe as they are often sighted throughout the day in different areas of the National Park, especially above the tree line. For example, in Murtaröl or Val Cluozza.

Deer usually remain in open areas between and above the forests during the day, with Val Trupchun being a good place to observe them. Especially on hot days, they tend to move to higher locations.

Ibex (Alpine Wild Goat)

Ibex prefer cooler and windier areas in summer, such as Fuorcla Trupchun. In spring and early summer, they can be found in the valleys but return to higher altitudes when it gets hot.

Bearded Vultures and Golden Eagles

To spot bearded vultures and golden eagles, places like Mot Tavrü or Munt la Schera are ideal, especially at midday and in the afternoon. These birds take advantage of the updrafts during the day to glide in the air.


The lynx, which has been observed in the National Park in recent years, has undergone a reintroduction process for some time, with notable sightings since 2007. Successful breeding has also been recorded, such as in Engadine in July 2023.

Brown Bear

The brown bear, which was exterminated in Switzerland in the past, has undergone a reintroduction process, with several specimens visiting the National Park from the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park in Trentino, Italy.

Flora of the Swiss National Park

In the Swiss National Park, the flora is characteristic of the Eastern Alps. Most of the area is located in the Engadine Dolomites, with predominantly alkaline soils. An exception is the Macun area, with its gneiss and amphibolite rocks.

Flora of the Swiss National Park

Alpine Poppy

The fairy thimbles (Papaver rhaeticum) are light blue. The basal leaves are rounded and toothed. The fairy thimble is a widespread plant that grows on rocks and scree of limestone and dolomite, embedding itself in the soil.

Rhaetian Poppy

In Fuorcla Val dal Botsch, the Rhaetian poppy (Papaver rhaeticum) grows amid steep scree at 2650 m altitude. The limestone remains are an extremely hostile environment where only a few plants can survive. The plant’s long, flexible taproots anchor it in the scree, providing water and nutrients. The Rhaetian poppy is a typical plant of the Eastern Alps and is only found east of the Inn River.

Alpine Toadflax

The alpine toadflax (Linaria alpina) is a delicate yet very hardy plant. It belongs to the figwort family. This robust plant grows on limestone or dolomite scree up to 3000 m altitude. In the National Park, you are likely to encounter it in Murter, the inner valley of Val Plavna, and Fuorcla Trupchun.

Pygmy Buttercup

The pygmy buttercup (Ranunculus pygmaeus) is an Ice Age relic in Switzerland and can only be found in the snowy valleys of the Macun plateau. Its small yellow flowers bloom in July or August.

Glacier Crowfoot

The glacier crowfoot (Ranunculus glacialis) is an arctic-origin plant and grows exclusively in acidic soils, such as on the Macun plateau. It prefers altitudes above 2300 m. The pink tint of the petals varies in intensity or may be absent. At Finsteraarhorn, 4270 m above sea level, the glacier crowfoot holds the altitude record for flowering plants. It is highly efficient in photosynthesis, much more so than plants growing at lower altitudes.

Black Vanilla Orchid

Both the black vanilla orchid (Nigritella nigra) and the pink variety belong to the orchid family. You are almost certain to encounter the dark purple vanilla orchid when walking through grassy and limestone meadows above the tree line in July. You may also find the rare pink variety seen in the photo. Don’t miss the unforgettable vanilla scent of this flower!


In the National Park, sedimentary rocks such as dolomite and verrucano are abundant, while on the Macun lake plateau, crystalline rocks like gneiss and amphibolite are found.

Amphibolite gets its dark tone and name from the amphibole mineral. The light spots come from feldspar. It is recognized as the most resistant rock in the area, even being quarried for the construction of retaining walls between Zernez and Susch.

Gneiss, on the other hand, forms when granite experiences high temperatures and pressure. It is a metamorphic rock that retains the chemical composition of the original granite but has a more ordered arrangement of minerals, called foliation, resulting from the stresses during the formation of the Alps. This rock tends to fracture into parallel planes due to this foliation, being the oldest rock in the Macun region.

Natural Processes in the National Park

Since its establishment in 1914, the Swiss National Park (SNP) has been a natural sanctuary in the heart of the Alps, where natural processes unfold without human intervention in an area of approximately 170 square kilometers. Here, nature takes its course without human interference. For over a century, animals, plants, habitats, and natural processes have been protected from our direct influence. As passive observers, we witness how these processes constantly shape and transform this unique alpine landscape. Today and in the future, the SNP is committed to allowing these natural processes to occur, studying them, and documenting them to better understand them.

Below are some of these natural processes and an explanation of what protecting them in the Park entails.

  1. Debris Flows near Stabelchod: Debris flows, also known as landslides or mudflows, are caused by the numerous scree slopes and intense rains in the National Park. These flows consist of water, mud, and rock fragments that move down the valleys due to gravity. They can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h and have significant destructive potential.
  2. Avalanches: Avalanches, a characteristic phenomenon of the Park’s winter landscape, are masses of snow and ice that detach from the steep slopes of the mountains and move downhill at varying speeds. There are different types of avalanches, such as powder, slab, and wet snow avalanches, each with its own characteristics and causes.
  3. Forest Fires: Although forest fires can be terrifying and destructive, they also play an important role in renewing forests by creating nutrients and space for new life forms. However, the vast majority of forest fires today are caused by human activities, posing challenges in terms of how to address them in the Swiss National Park.

Getting There

Map of the Swiss National Park

The National Park covers areas of Lower and Upper Engadine, as well as the Münstertal, in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland. The Pass dal Fuorn (Ofenpass) road runs through the park, and the starting point of the hiking routes can usually be accessed by car. In Scuol, shared vehicle options are available. Additionally, along the Pass dal Fuorn road, several parking lots (from P1 to P10) can be found, although the number of spaces is limited. Preferably, travel by train and bus is recommended.

To reach Val Trupchun, you can take the Express Parc Naziunel (Alpintrans) to the Varusch refuge, located at the start of Val Trupchun. Alternatively, the Engadinbus (line 7) offers service to the Prasüras parking lot, where you can find the S-chanf Parc Naziunal bus stop.

Park Access

Zernez acts as the main access point to the Swiss National Park. The park administration is located in the Planta-Wildenberg castle, which also houses the Schlossstall auditorium and, just across the street, the national park center.

It is highly recommended to visit the National Park Center before embarking on any hikes in the protected area. This center features an exhibition on local wildlife, offering an immediate immersion into the park’s nature. Each year, a special exhibition is renewed, inviting visitors to delve deeper into various topics of interest. The information desk staff is available to provide details on hiking routes, guided tours, upcoming events, and current trail conditions. Additionally, the Zernez Visitor Information Center is located within these facilities, further facilitating assistance to tourists.

Accommodations within the Swiss National Park

Chamanna Cluozza is the only serviced hut within the National Park. Located in the heart of the park at 1882 meters above sea level, it offers simple and cozy accommodations in rooms or dormitories with mattresses. It is an ideal starting point for exploring Val Cluozza, the first valley that the municipality of Zernez ceded to the nascent National Park in 1909.

On the Pass dal Fuorn road, the second accommodation within the National Park is the Hotel Parc Naziunal Il Fuorn. Additionally, there are a variety of accommodation options available around the park, which can be booked through the guest information centers in the villages or through private providers.

Some hotels offer discounts on public transportation for stays of three nights or more. For more information on these special offers, it is recommended to check the tourism offers page.