A journey through the 19 nature parks of Switzerland

Travel Guide

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1 Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park

Nature is a precious commodity. Apart from our world-famous chocolate and the versatile Swiss army knife, it is an important trademark of Switzerland.

Who doesn't think of snow-covered mountains, green meadows with grazing cows, or sparkling mountain lakes when he - or she - dreams of the small confederation in the Alps?

Cliché, I know. But it doesn't come from nowhere.

Some of these typical Swiss landscapes are part of a support program launched by the federal government in 2007. Within the framework of this program, a total of 19 parks of national importance are currently receiving financial support. A distinction is made between three categories: National parks, regional nature parks and nature discovery parks.

Thus, parks that are characterized by "beautiful landscapes, rich biodiversity and high-quality cultural assets" are supported throughout Switzerland. Regions, cantons and municipalities can apply to the federal government for this label and, if the required criteria are met, may benefit from financial support for their nature park.

If you are interested in starting your own nature park in Switzerland, you can find the requirements here. However, if you're more interested in an overview of the parks that already exist, here's where to start with the first park of national importance.

1 Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park

1.1 Facts and figures about the Schaffhausen regional nature park

Celebrating its entry into the federal funding program in 2018, the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park covers an area of 213 km² and around 28,600 inhabitants live in its territory. The nature park covers 15 municipalities, two of which lie across the Swiss-German border

1.2 What to expect in the regional nature park Schaffhausen

Since the nature park is not located in the Alps, you should not expect high mountains, steep rock faces and roaring mountain streams here. On the contrary. The area around Schaffhausen is characterized by green hills, numerous vineyards, the banks of the Rhine - although the Rhine Falls fall just outside the perimeter of the nature park - and small villages.

1.3 How to best explore the Schaffhausen regional nature park

The highest point of the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park is only 900 meters above sea level, which makes it ideal for long walks and leisurely bike rides

Here is a list of possible tours and hikes:

  • The Randentour is a 48 km bike tour that starts and ends in Schaffhausen
  • The Route Verte, a bike tour that leads from Schaffhausen to Geneva through six Swiss nature parks, has its first stage in the regional nature park of Schaffhausen
  • The Reiatweg is a 19 km circular hike starting and ending in Thayngen.
  • The leisurely Rhine-Vine Route leads on 13.5 km from Jestetten (D) to Buchberg (CH)

You can also enjoy the park on the Rhine. Be it on board of an inflatable, self-brought rubber construct or on a ship of the Untersee und Rhein Schifffahrtsgesellschaft

More ideas for excursions on foot, by bike, by inline skates or on horseback can be found on the very appealing and clearly arranged website of Natourpark. The Website of the Schaffhausen Nature Park offers even more information on discovery possibilities, fireplaces and other experiences.

1.4 How to reach the regional nature park Schaffhausen

All communities that are located in the regional nature park Schaffhausen can be reached by public transport. Be it by bus, train or boat. By car, it is best to drive via Schaffhausen and then make your way to your destination.

2. wilderness park Zurich Sihlwald

2.1 Facts and figures about the Zurich Sihlwald Wilderness Park

With an area of 11 km², Wildnispark Zürich Sihlwald is the smallest Swiss nature park. It is the first nationally recognized nature discovery park. It has been part of the federal government's funding program since 2010 and covers the area of five municipalities, with only 80 residents living within its boundaries

2.2 What to expect at the Zurich Sihlwald Wilderness Park

There are a considerable number of paths and trails in this rather manageable area. In total, park visitors have 72 km of hiking trails, 58 km of biking trails and 54 km of horseback riding trails at their disposal. The Tierpark Langenberg, which is located just a few kilometers north of the Zürich Sihlwald Wildlife Park, is home to 19 native - or formerly native - animals

These include the Alpine marmot, the European otter, the red deer and even the European brown bear - to name just a few of the Sihlwald inhabitants.

Both parks are open 365 days a year for 24 hours free of charge, with the paid visitor center and nature museum closed in winter. For more information on the wilderness park as well as the zoo, click here

2.3 How best to explore the Zurich Sihlwald Wilderness Park

The Zurich Sihlwald Wilderness Park is a very popular recreational area for the people of Zurich. The ideal way to explore it is either on foot, by bike or on horseback. If you want to get an idea of the park in advance, their website offers the possibility for an interactive visit with 360° panoramic images

You also have the option to participate in the varied program of the wilderness park. Guided tours on specific topics, walks with a ranger, adventure days or other interesting lectures take place every now and then.

2.4 How to reach the Zurich Sihlwald Wilderness Park

Both parks are easily accessible by public transport from Zurich, Thalwil and Horgen. It is also possible to get there by car, although parking fees are a flat rate of CHF 10 per day for the zoo and CHF 5 for the wilderness park.

3 Jurapark Aargau

3.1 Facts and figures about Jurapark Aargau

Jurapark Aargau has held its nature park title since 2012. It covers an area of 241 km², includes the territory of 28 municipalities and is populated by 42,000 inhabitants. In the north it extends to the German border, which is formed by the Rhine. On the eastern and southern edges, the park is bordered by the Aare.

3.2 What to expect in Jurapark Aargau

Green meadows, blossoming cherry trees, pretty river landscapes, forested hills of the Jura mountain range and numerous vineyards: the Jurapark Aargau is very diverse and offers something for everyone

Be it a walk along the Fricktaler Chriesiweg - which almost rivals the Japanese cherry blossom season during the blossoming season - a leisurely picnic along the Rhine or a hike to the viewing platform on the Wasserflue.

The park is especially characterized by lightly populated hills and valleys, which can make you feel like you're far away from the larger population centers. However, the cities of Brugg, Aarau but also Basel and Zurich are not too far away, which makes the park very easily accessible.

3.3 How you can best explore Jurapark Aargau

You've probably guessed it already. Jurapark Aargau is also perfect for exploring on foot or by bike. Here is a short selection of possible tours you might enjoy:

  • You might remember the Route Verte that I mentioned at the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park? The first stage ends in the heart of the Jurapark Aargau - more precisely in Herznach.
  • The 13.5 km Aare-Tour from and to Bad Schirznach is perfect if you like it leisurely on your bike.
  • The Fricktaler Chriesiweg is very popular, especially during the cherry blossom season in spring.
  • The Höhenweg im Tafeljura takes 4-6 hours and covers a length of 20 km

You will find a large variety of other possibilities on the Website of the Jurapark Aargau. Whether you have a few hours or several days at your disposal; the right hike, bike tour or theme trail is sure to be there. Or maybe you are more interested in a culinary event such as a beer or wine hike? You'll find that too in this diverse area.

3.4 How to reach Jurapark Aargau

All communities of Jurapark Aargau can be reached either by car, by bike - for example on the Route Verte - or by public transport from Aarau, Brugg, Zurich or Basel.

Jurapark Aargau is also ideally located for travel by car and can be easily reached via the freeway from Aarau, Brugg, Zurich, Basel and Bern.

4. Thal Nature Park

4.1 Facts and figures about Thal Nature Park

Another old hand in the business is Thal Nature Park, which has been one of Switzerland's nature parks since 2010. It covers an area of 139 km² and eight municipalities in the canton of Solothurn. A total of about 15,000 inhabitants live in this area. With its location in the triangle between Bern, Zurich and Basel, it is very easy to reach.

4.2 What to expect in the Thal Nature Park

When you turn off from the densely populated Mittelland - with its busy A1 freeway and industrial areas - in the direction of Balsthal, you will be surprised at the beautiful landscape that opens up before your eyes. You could almost say that the park is an insider's tip that you don't just discover by chance.

Unless you miss the highway junction in Egerkingen and make your way off the A2 through the Jura to Basel.

The Thal Nature Park is located between the two southernmost branches of the Jura mountain range and is a true paradise for nature lovers. Numerous forested hills and lush meadows await you, but also rugged limestone cliffs and impressive gorges as well as isolated castle ruins

The Thal Nature Park is also home to native animals. So keep your eyes open for chamois, lizards or stoats.

4.3 How best to explore Thal Nature Park

The Thal Nature Park has a lot to offer. Various hiking trails, biking routes and bicycle paths lead through the park. Between May 1 and November 1, the Nature Park Bus, which is especially geared towards hikers, runs on Sundays and holidays. Paragliders are also attracted to the Jura mountains time and again.

A selection of hikes and bike tours can be found on this list:

  • The Route Verte passes through the Thal Nature Park, among other places, on its way from Schaffhausen to Geneva. The third stage starts in Balsthal and ends in St. Ursanne in the canton of Jura. Apart from this route, the park is more suitable for bikers than for leisurely cyclists, as the flanks of the Thal are very steep in places.
  • The Holzweg Thal, which was prepared by an artist, is especially aimed at families and children. It starts in Balsthal and ends in Holderbank, about 5 km from its starting point
  • The steep ascent of the Höhenweg von Balsthal auf den Weissenstein is rewarded with wonderful vantage points and, in clear weather, views of the Alpine panorama. The hike is 18 km long and takes about six hours
  • The same route can also be done by mountain bike. The mountain bike route Weissenstein-Balsthal is on the Schweizmobil Route 44 and is rather something for advanced bikers
  • The organizers of the Thal Nature Park have also come up with something for children with various theme trails.

The Nature Park website offers a wealth of further information on experiences, accommodation, mountain restaurants, hikes, sports activities and events.

4.4 How to reach the Thal Nature Park

The Thal Nature Park can be easily reached from several directions by public transport. Be it by train via Oensingen and Balsthal, by cable car via Solothurn and Weissenstein or by post bus from the canton of Basel-Landschaft

The park is also easily accessible by car, as it has direct access to the A1 freeway via Oensingen and is not far from the Egerkingen freeway junction.

5. Parc du Doubs

5.1 Facts and figures about the Parc du Doubs

If the Doubs has already failed to find a place in my enumeration of water bodies in Switzerland, it will at least be duly mentioned here. This river characterizes the northern part of the nature park and is responsible for its naming. At the same time, it forms the border to France north of the Jura mountains

The Parc du Doubs accommodates on its area of 294 km² just 14'200 inhabitants spread over 15 communes, which is little compared to certain other parks in this article. What this means, you can imagine. A large portion of nature and no densely populated towns

But all the more horses.

5.2 What to expect in the Parc du Doubs

When I think back to our family vacations in this area, three things come to mind. Endless coniferous forests, freezing cold nights - yes, even in summer - and horse pastures as far as the eye can see. For me as a Wendy fan at the time, of course, an absolute paradise.

Because of its location, nestled between the Franches-Montagnes and the Doubs, the Parc du Doubs has a variety of different landscapes. On the one hand, the Doubs meanders through the area like a canyon in the north, while further south the Franches-Montagnes stretch out after a steep ascent

So in the Parc du Doubs you will find all kinds of things. From wild gorges and waterfalls, medieval towns such as St-Ursanne, plateaus with stone walls and pastures with the aforementioned horse pastures to moor lakes and rough Jura rocks

Seraina's tip: Be prepared for cooler temperatures in the Franches-Montagnes rather than on the banks of the Doubs. Even on sunny days, appearances can be deceiving and having an extra layer of clothes up your sleeve is certainly not a bad idea. I'm not saying it's always cold in the Jura, but the shivering nights in the tent in Saignelégier are still in my bones today.🙂

5.3 How to get around the Parc du Doubs

Apart from the usual ways of getting around, such as on foot or by bike, there is another important point. If you've always wanted to get on horseback and go for a long ride, this is the place to be. In addition, you can visit various horse farms and learn more about the local Freiberger.

By the way, up to 5'000 horses graze here in summer. However, since they can move freely, they are not always in the same places. The organization "Horses in the Jura" has created an interactive map that allows you to find the current location of various herds.

I say yes; it is a horse paradise here.

But even for those who don't experience a heightened pulse at the sight of a free-grazing Freiberg horse, there's plenty to do in the Parc du Doubs:

  • Here we go again. The old familiar Route Verte. The fourth stage of this cycling route starts in St-Ursanne on the Doubs and climbs a few meters in altitude before crossing the expanses of the Franches-Montagnes.
  • On the ridge walk to the Sommêtres you pass a climbing paradise and rugged limestone cliffs.
  • There are countless hikes and trails through the meadows, though I recommend you just start walking and see where you come out. If you want to do more advance planning, you can find more suggestions on the Switzerland Mobile Map.
  • The famous and popular Etang de la Gruère is a pretty bog lake near Saignelégier. The perfect place for a mystery writer looking for inspiration.
  • For a spectacular view of the Doubs, visit the Rock Arena of the Creux de Moron.

For more information, discoveries and suggestions for this area, visit the website of the Parc du Doubs.

5.4 How to reach the Parc du Doubs

You can reach the Parc du Doubs by public transport, but not quite as easily as the Jurapark Aargau, for example. However, if you have a little more time, this is not a serious problem

The cities of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle and St-Ursanne are on the SBB network and various villages in the Franches-Montagnes can be reached by train. Also buses and cable cars provide access to the park

With your own car you are of course also in good hands here. In this case, it is best to travel via Biel or Neuchâtel via La Chaux-de-Fonds.

6. Parc régional Chasseral

6.1 Facts and figures about the Parc régional Chasseral

For the time being, we will stay in the Jura mountains for the Chasseral Nature Park. It was named after the Chasseral, the highest elevation in the Bernese Jura, which is also considered the viewing terrace of the Swiss Jura. You'll find out why in a moment.

The park covers an area of 388 km² and is home to a total of around 38,700 inhabitants in 21 municipalities. It has held its title as a regional nature park since 2012

6.2 What to expect in the Parc régional Chasseral

The park, which lies in the triangle between Neuchâtel, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Biel, shows itself from different facets. Plateaus, pastures and vineyards alternate with valleys and gorges. It is also known for its many dry stone walls. But this region is also of great culinary importance - especially with regard to the production of famous chocolate and cheese varieties

If Ragusa and Torino or Tête de Moine mean anything to you, you know what I'm talking about.

Of course, the Chasseral Nature Park is a true hiker's paradise with viewpoints where, on a clear day, you can marvel at a stunning Alpine panorama from Säntis to Mont Blanc

That would be about 400 km of mountains strung together. The name "Aussichtsterrasse der Schweiz" is certainly not stolen here.

6.3 How to best explore the Parc régional Chasseral

The Chasseral Nature Park can be explored on foot, by bike or on a mountain bike. But the park is also accessible by public transport and if you don't feel like physical exertion, I recommend you to take the train from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Sonceboz-Sombeval. Of course with a stop at the Camille Bloch chocolate factory in Courtelary.

Hiking trails are scattered throughout the park, while your best bet by bike is the Jura Route

  • The fifth stage of the Route Verte starts in the heart of the Chasseral Nature Park and takes you past La Chaux-de-Fonds, the cradle of the Swiss watchmaking industry, among other places.
  • One of the 17 hikes published on the nature park's website is the Chasseral Panorama Route. It impresses above all with the view of the countless mountains of the Alps. 398 km, to be exact. You remember?
  • In the valley near St-Imier, the Sentier du Vallon is a leisurely, short hike for those who like it easy and less steep
  • The Bike Route Erguël is an 18 km loop trail for mountain bikers of average fitness who want to do their training in a varied and impressive landscape

For more information on discovering the Chasseral Nature Park, with up-to-date details and offers, visit this website

6.4 How to reach the Parc régional Chasseral

If you are not on your way from Schaffhausen to Geneva by bike, you can also reach the Chasseral Nature Park by public transport. From Biel, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Neuchâtel you can reach the park in less than 20 minutes. You can either take the train, the bus or your own car.

7. Jura Vaudois Nature Park

7.1 Facts and figures about the Jura Vaudois Nature Park

The Jura Vaudois Nature Park has been part of the Swiss nature parks since 2013. It is the westernmost park in Switzerland and thus the last in our list to be located in the Jura mountains. It covers an area of 531 km², extends over an area of 30 communes and has about 35,800 inhabitants.

Thanks to its proximity to the densely populated coast of Lake Geneva, it is a popular destination for the people of western Switzerland. The 523 km of signalized hiking trails also make it easy to return again and again to discover something new.

7.2 What awaits you in the Jura Vaudois Nature Park

Here, too, you have a lot to look forward to. Since we are still in the Jura, the landscape is not significantly different from the two previous nature parks. Medieval towns, lonely forests, mysterious moors, craggy rocks, kilometers of dry stone walls, countless pastures and impressive views await you

In addition, there are over 200 alpine huts in the Jura Vaudois Nature Park, which serve as tourist accommodations on the one hand, and cheese production and alpine farming on the other.

Two strong attractions of the nature park are the Lac du Joux - the largest lake in the Jura - and the Dent de Vaulion, from where at 1,482 meters above sea level you have an unrestricted view over Lake Geneva far into the French Alps

7.3 How best to explore the Jura Vaudois Nature Park

As you might have guessed from my mention of the 523 km of hiking trails, the Jura Vaudois Nature Park is ideal for excursions on foot. But the park is also a joy to explore by bike or mountain bike. Here is a selection of possible tours and excursions:

More suggestions and inspirations can be found on the website of the Jura Vaudois Nature Park. However, the site exists exclusively in French, although the many pictures fortunately speak a globally understandable language

7.4 How to reach the Jura Vaudois Nature Park

The park is very easy to reach from various starting points. Whether you start in Geneva, Nyon, Morges or Lausanne, you will have easy access by public transport

Within the park there are several train and post bus lines, which makes a car practically unnecessary. Although you can of course also reach the park by choosing any access road from the direction of Lake Geneva.

8. UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch

8.1 Facts and figures about the Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve

There are around 700 biosphere reserves worldwide, with one of them located in the canton of Lucerne. The Entlebuch Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers an area of 395 km². It extends over seven municipalities and is home to around 17,700 inhabitants

Since 2001, the Entlebuch has been a UNESCO Biosphere and since 2008, when the federal program began, it has been one of Switzerland's regional nature parks.

8.2 What to expect in the Entlebuch Biosphere

The Entlebuch Biosphere is characterized in particular by its many moorland landscapes. The "wild west of Lucerne", as the area is also called, consists of a quarter of moors of national importance. Nowhere in Switzerland will you find more moors than here

But also alpine meadows, wild mountain streams and the imposing Schrattenfluh are part of this nature park. It is not for nothing that the Entlebuch is considered a model and showcase region by UNESCO

Due to the wide range of leisure activities, the Entlebuch is a popular vacation region that offers something for almost every taste. If you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation, you will unfortunately be disappointed here. But otherwise you are sure to find something that suits your preferences.

8.3 How best to explore the Entlebuch Biosphere

If you are on foot, there are many different hikes and themed trails that you can walk on your own. Furthermore, there is the possibility to organize a private tour with local Martin. He will be happy to show his guests around the Entlebuch and answer any questions you may have.

Also by mountain bike or bicycle you have the option to see the Entlebuch alone or on guided tours. An overview of possible excursions I list you here:

  • Around the water you can choose from various activities such as canoeing, gold panning, fishing or a visit to the Chessiloch waterfall
  • The hike to the ridge of the Brienzer Rothorn is also part of the nature park. Along with 34 other hikes you can find on the Biosphere website
  • Various theme trails inform you about the moor landscapes and other details of the Entlebuch.
  • For mountain bike and bicycle fanatics, there are adventures of all levels of difficulty, and transportation or guided tours can be organized.
  • If archery, geocaching, paragliding, llama trekking, climbing and many other activities are among your interests, you will find a selection of outdoor experiences offered in the nature park here

The assortment of ways to pass the time in Entlebuch is immense and you will not find it difficult to occupy yourself here for a few days. Especially for families, the nature park offers a lot of options, which makes it a suitable destination for active family vacations.

You can find more information on topics such as accommodation, gastronomy, packages, events and much more on the website of the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch

8.4 How to reach the Biosphere Entlebuch

The nature park is easily accessible by public transport from various directions, be it by bus or train. Trains run regularly from Lucerne and Bern to the Entlebuch, and various post bus routes lead to the more remote villages. By the way, the Entlebuch belongs to the validity area of the Tellpass, which you can find described in more detail in this article about regional tourist passes in Switzerland

The biosphere is also easily accessible by car via Lucerne or Bern.

9. Gantrisch Nature Park

9.1 Facts and figures about the Gantrisch Nature Park

Things get far more mountainous in the Gantrisch Nature Park, which has been one of Switzerland's nature parks since 2012. Covering an area of 404 km², it extends over the territory of 19 municipalities and is home to around 37,400 inhabitants

The park was named after the Gantrisch chain, a mountain range in the Bernese Alps southwest of Thun. Unlike the parks in the Jura Mountains, the peaks here are considerably higher, at more than 2,000 meters above sea level

9.2 What to expect in the Gantrisch Nature Park

The Gantrisch Nature Park advertises many features, one of which immediately catches the eye. Due to the low light pollution, you can experience clear starry nights in the park and hunt for shooting stars. So make a note of your most urgent wishes and go on a shooting star hunt.

Also during the day there is a lot to see and discover in the Gantrisch Nature Park. On the one hand, there are deep canyons and gorges through which the river "Schwarzwasser" meanders. On the other hand, you encounter vast moorlands, the striking Gantrisch chain and endless forests. The importance of the forest must be especially emphasized here

The Gantrisch Nature Park is home to one of the largest contiguous forest areas in Switzerland. In addition, four times more people work here in the agricultural and forestry sector than the Swiss average.

From a cultural-historical point of view there are some treasures to be found here. Throughout the park you will find castles, various baths in the Gurnigel area - which bear witness to the old bathing culture - but also the Schwarzenburg chapel, a part of the Way of St. James with the Rüeggisberg monastery and various farmhouses built in the style typical of the region. In addition, the Gantrisch Nature Park has eight museums and three observatories

You remember the clear nights? That was no joke.😉

9.3 How to best explore the Gantrisch Nature Park

The Gantrisch Nature Park can be experienced in various ways. On the one hand, there are the usual suspects such as on foot or by bike. But there is also the possibility to rent a convertible and cruise through the park for a day. Further, you can sign up for a carriage ride and spend a few hours on the road with 2 horsepower

So you see, the choice of pace is entirely up to you

Here is the obligatory selection of hikes, bike tours and other specialties:

  • The Gantrisch Panoramaweg, which is 22 km long and takes about six hours, overcomes about 1,000 meters in altitude and is rather something for hikers with a strong physical condition. The cramp is definitely worth it and is rewarded with breathtaking views
  • On the Flower Walk Schwarzenburg you will learn everything about the local flora. Download the app on your cell phone and plunge into the interactive lecture
  • For more suggestions, starting with a leisurely stroll and ending with a park hike lasting several days, click here
  • By bike, mountain bike or rented e-bike, there are various tours in the Gantrisch Nature Park. Among them is the King's Route, from which you can see the Mittelland and the Jura from the other side
  • For climbers the nature park offers a via ferrata as well as a high rope park.

For the full range of excursions and information on meals, events, accommodations and more, visit the Nature Park website

9.4 How to reach the Gantrisch Nature Park

The Gantrisch Nature Park is well accessible by public transport. On the one hand by train from Bern or within the park with various post bus lines. In winter there is even a snow bus

If you arrive with your own car - no matter if you come from Bern, Thun or Fribourg - there are various paid parking spaces at your disposal

10. Gruyère Regional Park

10.1 Facts and figures about Gruyère Regional Park

We are cheating a bit with this park. Its full name is "Parc naturel régional Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut". A tongue twister that I would like to spare you and me. Therefore, for the moment, we give it the pet name "Regional Park Gruyère"

It has been part of the inventory of Swiss nature parks since 2012 and covers an area of 503 km². Its territory includes 13 communes and about 14,700 inhabitants. It extends from the shores of Lake Geneva in Montreux to the Gruyère region and the Saanenland near Gstaad.

10.2 What to expect in the Gruyère Regional Park

Well-known cheeses such as Gruyère, l'Etivaz and Fribourg Vacherin come from this region, so it is not surprising that there are several opportunities to follow in the footsteps of one of Switzerland's most important trademarks

Other features of the Gruyère Regional Park are deep valleys, lush alpine and mountain meadows, numerous wooded areas but also rock faces and steep scree slopes

The medieval town of Gruyères and the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc are located just outside the park. Just in case you get a craving for chocolate after a long hike, followed by a photo stop in Gruyères

10.3 How best to explore the Gruyère Regional Park

The park is a true hiker's paradise. By bike, you are less well off here than in most other parks, although there are nevertheless isolated bike routes. So I can only recommend you to mount your hiking boots and choose one of the many hikes.

  • On the route Les Granges - Gérignoz - l'Etivaz you are in the largest nature reserve in western Switzerland. This five-hour hike will challenge your legs as you will climb over 1,000 meters in altitude
  • The cheese trail from Allières to Montbovon is a bit more leisurely. Yes, there are indeed cheese trails in the Gruyère Regional Park. Here you'll find more candidates
  • This hike through the moorland at Col des Mosses leads past alpine huts, cow pastures and last but not least the enchanting mountain lake Lac Lioson
  • For an excursion on a bike, there are two signposted routes from Schweizmobil. On the one hand there is the Alpine Panorama Route for cyclists and on the other hand the Panorama Bike Route for mountain bikers

More route suggestions and details about the Parc naturel régional Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut - seriously, who came up with that name? - can be found on this website

By the way, the Golden Pass Line, one of the five big panoramic trains, passes right through the Gruyère Regional Park on its way from Montreux to Lucerne. If you're not much of a hiker and more of a connoisseur, this would be a calorie-saving option to visit the park.

10.4 How to reach the Gruyère Regional Park

The Gruyère Regional Park is well connected by train and several post bus lines. Be it from Fribourg, Gstaad, Montreux or Bulle. If you like winding roads, you will also be happy here with your own car

However, there is no direct road from the heart of the park down to the southern part on Lake Geneva. For that you would have to take the highway from Bulle via Vevey to Montreux or the train through the mountains

11. Jorat Nature Park

11.1 Facts and figures about the Jorat Nature Park

Small but mighty takes on a whole new meaning in connection with the Jorat Nature Park. Strictly speaking, it is not a nature park, but only a nature park candidate. It has been on the list since 2016 because it would like to be a nature discovery park

Registered or not, no one is left out here. At a manageable 9 km², it is located in a single municipality and only 20 people live in its territory

11.2 What awaits you in the Jorat Nature Park

One thing above all awaits you in the Jorat Nature Park.

Forest.

At 40 km², the Jorat forests are the largest contiguous forest area in the Swiss midlands. Since it rains a lot here, the forest is considered a water reservoir that could temporarily guarantee the region's water supply in case of pollution of Lake Geneva.

In addition, the Jorat landscape provides a home for a variety of insects, amphibians, birds and mammals. Since the park is not far from the last metro station of the Lausanne Métro, it registers about one million walkers per year

So you see. Small, fine but very busy.

11.3 How best to explore the Jorat Nature Park

The best way to discover the Jorat Nature Park is on foot along one of the numerous walking trails, paths and boardwalks. Cyclists pass the southern edge of the park on the Swiss mobile route from Lausanne to Payerne.

For more information on the project around the Jorat Nature Park and its goal of earning a place in the federal program, visit this French-language website

11.4 How to reach the Jorat Nature Park

With the Métro to Epalinges and a subsequent bus ride, the Jorat Nature Park is easily accessible from Lausanne.

12. Diemtigtal Nature Park

12.1 Facts and figures about the Diemtigtal Nature Park

On the other side of Gstaad, midway between the Gruyère Regional Park and Lake Thun, lies the remote Diemtigtal. With its 136 km², the nature park is rather one of the smaller ones of its kind. It has been part of the Swiss nature parks since 2012, is located on the territory of two municipalities and has about 2,400 inhabitants

Somehow also small and fine - although not in the same style as the Jorat Nature Park. The 19 km long valley stretches from Oey-Diemtigen - which, by the way, is also on the route of the Golden Pass Line - to the Landvogtehore, a 2,616 meter high mountain peak at the end of the valley

12.2 What awaits you in the Diemtigtal Nature Park

With around 140 alpine farms that lead more than 10,000 cows, cattle, sheep and goats to the Diemtig Alps in summer, the Diemtigtal is one of the most important communities in the Swiss alpine economy. The concert of bells during the hikes and mountain bike tours is therefore pre-programmed.

What you can also look forward to are magnificent flower meadows, a wild mountain landscape, beautiful views wherever you look, ice-cold mountain streams, glittering mountain lakes and a diverse animal world. So keep your eyes open on your hikes for ibexes, chamois, marmots and other mountain creatures.

Particularly impressive are the many beautiful Diemtigtaler houses, which are decorated with elaborate carvings and paintings. By the way, these are connected in various themed trails that can be walked with the help of an app. But we'll get to that in a moment.

12.3 How best to explore the Diemtigtal Nature Park

The range of things to do in the Diemtigtal Nature Park is very comprehensive. You can explore it on foot, by bike, on a mountain bike, on horseback or along one of the many themed trails

As you can see, the Diemtigtal offers something for everyone. No matter whether you are looking for peace and quiet and a few beautiful photos or for a proper adrenaline rush. You can find more information about the nature park on this website

12.4 How to reach the Diemtigtal Nature Park

The Diemtigtal is only accessible from one side. Unless you are on a hike and come marching up one of the many mountains standing around. Otherwise you can take the train to Oey-Diemtigen and change there to the post bus

If you are traveling by car, drive via Spiez in the direction of Zweisimmen and take the turnoff to Diemtigtal in Oey.

13. Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

13.1 Facts and figures about the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

In the canton of Valais - which, along with Ticino, is one of the two southernmost cantons in Switzerland - there are two nature parks. One of them is the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park, which covers an area of 277 km² and 12 communes. It has been part of the inventory of Swiss nature parks since 2013 and is inhabited by about 11,000 people

The special feature of this park is that it is located on the language border between the German and French speaking parts of Switzerland. Moreover, the altitude differences within its territory are considerable, since the lowest point is at 500 and the highest at 4,153 meters above sea level. As you can see, this is a very contrasting region.

13.2 What awaits you in the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

The variety of landscapes and habitats in the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park is impressive. On the one hand, glaciers, rocky steppes, some of the highest mountains in Switzerland and several alpine huts can be found in the park, while not far away are endless pine forests, stately castles, various floodplain areas and the fertile Rohnetal valley with its numerous vineyards.

The core of the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park consists of the Pfynwald protected area. This forest is one of the largest pine forests the Alps have to offer and is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in Switzerland on 17 km². The park is also a paradise for ornithologists, as it is home to a large number of different bird species. Even eagles can be observed in the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park.

If you have a little sommelier slumbering inside you and would like to give it some exercise, you will get your money's worth here. Over 80 wine shops offer their regional products and wine tastings, most of which can be found in the wine village of Salgesch and on the wine island of Varen

13.3 How to best explore the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

With over 450 km of signposted hiking trails, there are more than enough options for exploring Pfyn-Finges Nature Park on foot. You can also make good progress by bike or mountain bike. If you don't have your own bike, you can rent one in Leuk or in Sierre.

The nature park website has numerous route suggestions, excursion ideas and themed trails posted. These include the following:

  • The Wine Trail from Sierre to Salgesch takes 2-4 hours and leads through the heart of the Valais wine industry.
  • On the Birdwatching Tour, which is about 15 km long, rare bird species such as the kingfisher can be observed with a bit of luck.
  • A completely different landscape is revealed on the Lämmeren Glacier Trail, which leads through a floodplain landscape of national importance.
  • Various biking routes meander through the park. Be it leisurely along the water or on hair-raising trails at higher elevations.
  • The Soundwalk focuses on the fact that you can perceive the area not only with your eyes, but also with your ears.

For more information, inspiration, interesting facts and descriptions about the nature and landscape center in Sangelsch, visit the website of the nature park Pfyn-Finges.

13.4 How to reach the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

Along the Rhone Valley, the nature park is accessible by fast and regional trains. Since the park is somewhat remote - of course, this is always a question of perspective - you have to allow about two hours for the journey from the larger Swiss cities such as Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne or Basel. From Bern, you can reach the park in a little more than an hour.

Within the park you will find various post bus lines and cable cars that will take you to your destination. By car, you can either reach the park via the Lake Geneva region via Montreux or by car transport through the Lötschberg tunnel, if you don't want to take the detour through western Switzerland.

14. Binntal Landscape Park

14.1 Facts and figures about the Binntal Landscape Park

The second nature park in the Valais is the Binntal Landscape Park. This comparatively small park is located on the border with Italy and covers an area of 181 km². Its territory extends over five municipalities and about 1,200 inhabitants call it home.

This side valley of the Valais, once used by smugglers as a route on their way to Italy, has held the title of natural park since 2012.

14.2 What awaits you in the Binntal Landscape Park

No other Alpine region is as rich in minerals as Binntal and it is not for nothing that Binn is known as the "Mineraliendorf". So far, more than 300 different types of minerals have been found in this area, far beyond the well-known rock crystals. If you are interested in these fascinating gems, you can find more information here.

Otherwise, the Binntal Landscape Park presents itself at its best with its enchanting views, authentic villages, extensive wildlife, the unique Grengj wild tulip, sparkling mountain lakes and breathtaking mountain landscapes.

14.3 How to best explore the Binntal Landscape Park

The best way to get around the Binntal Landscape Park is on foot or by mountain bike. In addition, the Alpin bus runs during the summer months and transports excursionists from Binn to Fäld and back to Binn after the hike

On one of the numerous signposted hiking trails you can reach every corner of the landscape park, whereby you also have the option for a guided tour or a theme trail. Here's a small selection of possible pastimes:

  • On the Hike to Schaplersee you'll see the Swiss mountain landscape from its chocolate side.
  • If you are interested in the history of the world-famous hotelier Caesar Ritz (Ritz-Carlton, ring a bell?), the theme trail "The Life of Caesar Ritz" offers a cultural excursion
  • For those with a head for heights, the 92-meter suspension bridge Goms Bridge is an impressive experience
  • Choose one of the more than 30 further hiking suggestions to discover the Binntal Landscape Park on foot.
  • On one of the guided tours you will be shown the park by a professional. Most tours take place in winter as part of a ski tour
  • Bicyclists and mountain bikers will find a selection of tours and routes here
  • Of course, there are also several offers dealing with the Binntal minerals. These include guided hikes on the topic, grinding courses and mineral hunts or a visit to one of the two museums.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and you can find more ideas for all kinds of experiences in the Binntal Landscape Park on the park website

14.4 How to reach the Landscape Park Binntal

Reaching the Binntal Landscape Park is a bit of a hassle, but you can still get there easily by public transport. From Brig or Göschenen, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn takes you directly to the park. The suspension bridge is also accessible by train. In addition, there are regular buses and in summer the Bus Alpin within the Binntal.

By car you arrive in the same way as to the nature park Pfyn-Finges. Either via the Lake Geneva region via Montreux or by car transport through the Lötschberg tunnel

15. Parco Val Calanca

15.1 Facts and figures about Parco Val Calanca

Another nature park, which for the time being is only a candidate for the title and is waiting to be included in the federal inventory, is the Parco Val Calanca in the canton of Grisons. It covers an area of 120 km² and extends over the territory of four municipalities. With only about 400 inhabitants, it is very sparsely populated.

The sunny valley is open towards the south and is protected in the north by mountains up to 3,000 meters high. In addition, the park is home to a small mountain lake in the shape of a heart, which the organizers immediately incorporated into their logo

15.2 What to expect at Parco Val Calanca

Some of the features of the idyllic Parco Val Calanca are the traditional stone and wooden settlements, well-preserved mule tracks, a wild and unspoiled nature with a diverse wildlife, two very remote villages that can be reached only by cable car and a crystal clear river landscape in the bottom of the valley.

Parco Val Calanca is far from the transit traffic between the northern and southern Alps, which makes it a very quiet destination. For wildlife, the park offers an ideal habitat and if you keep your eyes open a bit, you may be lucky enough to see ibexes, deer, chamois and even golden eagles or black grouse

Waterwise the park has a lot to offer. On the one hand there is the Calancasca River, but also several waterfalls and mountain lakes can be found in this small area.

15.3 The best way to explore the Val Calanca Park

In the Parco Val Calanca you are ideally on foot. Bicycle and mountain bike routes are not really found here, but there are several beautiful hikes that will lead you into the hidden valley:

  • The Via Calanca is a hike that can be done in three stages.
  • The Panoramic Calanca Valley Trail is a leisurely hike that is also suitable for families.
  • In the Lower Calanca Valley there is a circular hike that is perfect for nature lovers who are in good shape.
  • Other trails start in Rossa, a village at the end - or beginning? - of the Via Calanca

Additional information about this park candidate can be found on the website of Parco Val Calanca.

15.4 How to reach Parco Val Calanca

With public transport it is a bit of a cramp to reach the Parco Val Calanca. With the post bus from Chur or Bellinzona you can get to Rossa, a good starting point for various hikes, with one or two changes

The Calanca Valley is easily accessible all year round via the A2 and A13 freeways. Here](https://www.parcovalcalanca.swiss/de/) you will find a more detailed description of your journey to the Parco Val Calanca

16 Beverin Nature Park

16.1 Facts and figures about the Beverin Nature Park

Let's move on to a somewhat larger park for a change. The Beverin Nature Park covers an area of 515 km² and extends over nine municipalities. It has been a regional nature park since 2013 and has about 3,700 inhabitants

Ibexes excluded.

The park is named after Piz Beverin, a 2,998-meter-high mountain that dominates the image of this nature park in the canton of Graubünden. The area comprises four valleys and two linguistically distinct settlement areas

16.2 What awaits you in the Beverin Nature Park

In the Beverin Nature Park, incomparable landscapes of the Grisons mountains await you

Deep gorges such as the Rhine Gorge - also known as the "Swiss Grand Canyon" - imposing mountain landscapes around the Piz Beverin, a hunting reserve that is home to over 350 ibexes, and regionally important mining areas are among the features of the nature park.

One of the three gorges that make their way through the valleys is the famous Viamala Gorge. The name means something like "bad way". And it is not by chance. If you find yourself on the well-prepared hiking trail with bridges and wooden footbridges in this unlovely gorge and imagine how dangerous this obstacle on the way south used to be, the pessimistic naming will hardly surprise you.

16.3 How to best explore the Beverin Nature Park

The Beverin Nature Park can be explored on foot, by bicycle or mountain bike. But certain gorges are also available for a trip in a canoe or a canyoning tour. It all depends on how much adrenaline you want to release during your stay in the park. Among the options you can choose from are:

  • The Via Capricorn is entirely dedicated to the ibex and takes you on a 51 km hike, covered in three stages, across the ibex territory at Schamserberg. The overcoming of 3,400 meters of altitude should not stop you if you want to enjoy this hike.
  • Information and suggestions about the Rhine Gorge, which touches the northern edge of the Beverin Nature Park, can be found on the Ruinaulta website
  • On the Heinzenberger Gratweg you will be accompanied by wonderful views of the Grisons Alps
  • By bike, the Graubünden Route leads you in several stages through various parts of the canton. The fifth stage from Thusis to Splügen runs, among other things, through the Viamala Gorge and along the Hinterrhein.
  • Several mountain bike routes, such as the Alpine Bike Route, can be found on the interactive map from Schweizmobil.
  • Offers for rafting excursions or guided mountain tours are listed on the website of the Beverin Nature Park.

Hiking trails and other activities are rather sparse on the park website. Nevertheless, you will find helpful information and details about current offers

16.4 How to reach the Beverin Nature Park

The Beverin Nature Park can be reached by car on the A13 via Chur, or by train on the Rhaetian Railway, also via Chur or Thusis. Within the park there are several post bus lines and regional trains

17. Parc Ela

17.1 Facts and figures about Parc Ela

Parc Ela is also located in the canton of Graubünden and, with an area of 548 km², is the largest nature park in Switzerland. It covers the territory of six municipalities and unites whole three language cultures - German, Romansh and Italian. In total, only about 5,200 inhabitants live within its borders.

Parc Ela has been part of the Swiss nature parks since 2012 and directly borders the Beverin Nature Park to the west. The lowest point is in the Schin Gorge at 745 meters and the highest point is on Piz Kesch at 3,418 meters above sea level.

17.2 What to expect in Parc Ela

In Parc Ela you will encounter a wild landscape, steep mountain peaks, moor landscapes of national importance, beautiful Graubünden villages - such as Bergün - and vast landscapes surrounded by glaciers and mountain lakes. In addition, the Albula mountain line, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rhaetian Railway, runs over the Albula Pass. With all its helical tunnels and loops that the train passes through to overcome the altitude, one can quickly lose one's orientation.

With over 70 species of mammals, Parc Ela provides habitat for a rich diversity of animals. Starting with the dwarf shrew weighing 3 grams and ending with the red deer weighing over 200 kg. By the way, since 2009 wolves can be detected in the park again. Bears have also found their way in sporadically, although this has not happened since 2008.

In the nature park there are also numerous medieval castles and churches, which can be visited on various excursions

17.3 How best to explore Parc Ela

In this park, which is large by Swiss standards, you can get around in a variety of ways. There are endless hiking trails and mountain bike routes, pass roads for bikers and motorcyclists, and various Rhaetian Railway lines

One very impressive train ride is on the Albula line, which is on the Bernina Express line. This panoramic train runs from Chur past the Rhine Gorge and along the winding Albula line to St. Moritz in the Engadine. Other possible ideas for excursions and activities are as follows:

  • A hike in Parc Ela is almost a must. Various long-distance hikes, which lead in several stages through the canton of Graubünden, pass the nature park. But also shorter hikes are possible on the more than 100 km of hiking trails.
  • The pretty, small Palpuognasee, which I described in more detail in this article, is located directly on the Albulapass road and is definitely worth a visit
  • On a total of 40 theme trails you can discover the uniqueness of Parc Ela
  • By bike or mountain bike you have an almost endless choice of routes at your disposal

A variety of excursion destinations in Parc Ela - 523 to be exact - are listed at this link. Further information about the park is compiled on the nature park website

17.4 How to get to Parc Ela

Parc Ela is easily accessible by public transport as well as by car from Davos, St. Moritz or Chur. Various post bus lines take you to the places that do not have a railroad line

The park is also popular with cyclists and motorcyclists who take a tour over the passes of the canton of Graubünden

18. Swiss National Park

18.1 Facts and figures about the Swiss National Park

There is only one national park in Switzerland. But this one has it all... Nowhere else in Switzerland will you encounter so many marmots, ibexes and other wild animals in the wild

The Swiss National Park has existed since 1914 and is located in the Engadine in the canton of Graubünden. It covers an area of 170 km² and apart from very rich wildlife, there is no permanent resident population in the park.

Since 2010, together with the municipalities of Val Müstair and Scuol, it forms the UNESCO Biosphere Val Müstair, which you will learn more about later. With over 100 years under its belt, it is not only the oldest national park in the Alps, but also the best protected.

18.2 What to expect in the Swiss National Park

As you can guess, it's all about one thing

Nature.

The national park is open to visitors on around 100 km of signposted hiking trails and a total of 21 routes. You can expect to see a variety of animals such as ibex, marmots, chamois, red deer, foxes, squirrels, bearded vultures and many more. In addition, the park has a rich flora, breathtaking views and unspoiled landscapes.

However, in order to make all the beautiful aspects possible, there is a whole set of rules that every visitor must follow. For example, due to the high protection of the national park, it is not allowed to leave the trails, make an open fire, spend the night freely in the park or take any plants with you

A detailed list of what is forbidden in order to preserve nature in all its beauty can be found here

The only possibility for an overnight stay in the Swiss National Park are on the one hand the Chamanna Cluozza - a simple hut in the middle of the Val Cluozza - and on the other hand the Hotel Parc Naziunal il Fuorn. However, the Chamanna Cluozza will be closed in 2021 for renovation works, so visiting the national park this year is only possible on day hikes or with an overnight stay in the hotel.

18.3 How best to explore the Swiss National Park

Apart from hiking, all sports are prohibited in the National Park. That means: put on your hiking boots, put on your backpack and off you go.

The 21 hiking routes, which are, however, closed in winter, can be filtered on the Swiss National Park website according to marching time, altitude gain and degree of difficulty

The main entrance to the park, through which virtually all hiking trails can be reached, is Zernez. Here is also the Visitor Center, where all conceivable information is served to you on a silver platter

Speaking of information: The Swiss National Park website is your best source to prepare for your trip. Whether it's finding out more about the app created for the park, browsing special tourist offers, or securing a place at the accommodation

18.4 How to reach the Swiss National Park

Due to its peripheral location, the National Park can only be reached with a certain amount of time. However, access is very good with the trains of the SBB and the Rhaetian Railway to Zernez. Detailed information on how to get there can be found here

Arrival by car is also possible, although the number of parking spaces directly at the park is rather limited.

19. Biosphere Val Müstair

19.1 Facts and figures about the Val Müstair Biosphere

This idyllic corner of the world has been part of Switzerland's nature parks since 2011 and covers an area of 199 km². The park is located in a single municipality and is home to around 1,400 inhabitants.

Like the Entlebuch, the Val Müstair Biosphere also carries a UNESCO World Heritage designation. Or rather two of them. The two awards went on the one hand to the monastery of St. Johann in Müstair and on the other to the high alpine biosphere reserve that Müstair shares with the national park and the municipality of Scuol

19.2 What to expect in the Biosphere Val Müstair

The Val Müstair Biosphere is a small world in itself on the other side of the Ofen Pass. Biodiversity is a priority here and several projects are dedicated to endangered animal species and the preservation of existing landscapes, among other things.

Typical Graubünden villages, spectacular mountain landscapes, several museums, a traditional hand weaving, the great variety of wildlife, the famous monastery of St. Johann, crystal clear mountain streams and rivers make up the beauty and uniqueness of the Biosphere Val Müstair.

19.3 How to best explore the Val Müstair Biosphere

The best way to discover the Biosphere is on foot or by mountain bike. A visit is also possible by car or post bus, although you will definitely see more of the park at a slower pace. Here for the last time a selection of possible hikes, mountain bike tours and other specialties:

  • Just before the border with Italy in Müstair, as mentioned above, is the Benedictine monastery of St. Johann. Information about this UNESCO awarded building can be found here
  • On the theme trail A la riva dal Rom you follow the course of the wild river Rom for 18 km. You will see flowering meadows, dense alder forests and impressive landscapes
  • Various guided tours deal with topics such as wildlife, the stories of the local villages or the return of the wolf.
  • The second stage of the Alpine Bike Route leads through the Val Müstair Biosphere
  • Several hikes, such as a stage of the Way of St. James, can be found on the interactive map of Switzerland Mobile

What else is waiting for you in the Biosphere Val Müstair, such as tips on local products or current attractions, you can find on this website

19.4 How to reach the Biosphere Val Müstair

Whether you travel by public transport or individually with your own car, the Biosphere Val Müstair is not easy to reach. Quasi nestled in the very tip of Switzerland, getting to the Engadin and via Zernez is a time-consuming undertaking, but one that is clearly worthwhile.

By train, the journey takes place from almost all corners of Switzerland via Landquart with a subsequent trip through the Vereina tunnel to Zernez. By car you either drive over one of the mountain passes or you send your car through the Vereina tunnel by car transport.

Further practical information

If you have actually persevered and read this article to this point, I would like to congratulate you. I hope you are now more informed than confused and have picked a favorite or two for yourself. Should you still have some capacity for more information, here come three final tips.

In case you're now wondering how much all this fun is costing you, I have some good news to close with

Access to all the parks mentioned here, including the Swiss National Park, is free

So what are you waiting for? Nature is calling!