The Complete Guide to Switzerland's Nature Parks

Scenic view of lake and mountains against clear sky
Urban Uebelhart / 500px / Getty Images

Switzerland is famous for its natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Nearly 60 percent of the small European country is covered by the Alps mountain range, while the Jura range makes up another 11 percent; in fact, Switzerland's population lives on just 7.5 percent of the nation's total territory. So for Swiss residents and visitors alike, huge swaths of the mountainous country are untainted natural areas prime for outdoor exploration and recreation.

The Swiss Parks system currently consists of 19 parks selected for their ecological, cultural, and historical significance, and in some cases, their proximity to urban areas. Switzerland has long prioritized sustainable travel, and these 19 Swiss nature parks—listed here in alphabetical order—should be tread on lightly, treated with respect, and enjoyed responsibly.

01 of 19

Beverin Nature Park

Piz Beverin in Beverin Nature Park

Patty Ho / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Casti-Wergenstein, Switzerland
Phone +41 81 650 70 10

In an area of 515 square kilometers, the Beverin Nature Park encompasses four valleys, 11 communities, and two cultures and languages—the German-speaking Walser culture and Rhaeto-Romansh, a Latin language descended from the ancient Romans. The park is also home to a population of Alpine ibex, a species of long-horned mountain goats. Highlights of this high-altitude park include traditional villages, dramatic river gorges, and sweeping vistas of Swiss mountains and pastures. Hiking, canyoning, and mountain biking are popular activities here.

How to get there: Beverin Nature Park is in the Graubünden (Grisons) canton of southeast Switzerland. It can be accessed via the Viamala, the #13 road that runs from Reichenau to Bellinzona.

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02 of 19

Binntal Landscape Park

The village of Binn, Binntal Regional Park, Valais, Switzerland, 2018
Pawel Toczynski / Getty Images
Dorfstrasse 31, 3996 Binn, Switzerland
Phone +41 27 971 50 50

Every Swiss natural park is unique, but Binntal Nature Park offers something none of the others do: the chance to mine rock crystals, which are abundant in this geologically rich area. The park is also home to the village of Ermen, which hosts the classical music Festival Musikdorf Ernen every summer. In May and June, fields of wild tulips bloom near the village of Grengiols. You won't find any big attraction in the Binntal, just traditional settlements, abundant hiking paths, and visitors with hammers and chisels in hand, anxious to take home a sparkling piece of crystal.

How to get there: Located in the northeastern Valais canton, Binntal sits between the Italian border and the Furkastrasse road (#19) that connects Brig to Obergoms.

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03 of 19

Chasseral Regional Park

Chasseral Park

Henna K. / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Flickr

Pl. de la Gare 2, 2610 Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Phone +41 32 942 39 49

With nearly 40,000 residents living in 388 square kilometers, Chasseral Regional Park is one of Switzerland's most densely populated nature parks. Visitors come for high-altitude hiking, as Chasseral is the highest point in the Bernese Jura, the French-speaking part of the Bern canton. Some of the biggest attractions here are man-made, including a mountaintop communications tower and the scores of windmills that dot the rolling landscape.

How to get there: Wedged between Bielersee (Lake Biel) and the French border, Chasseral is accessed via the Route de Sonvilier (#30) that runs through the eastern part of the canton of Bern.

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04 of 19

Diemtigtal Nature Park

Scenic view of lake and mountains against clear sky
Urban Uebelhart / 500px / Getty Images
Bahnhofstrasse 20, 3753 Oey, Switzerland
Phone +41 33 681 26 06

Diemtigtal Nature Park is a 16-kilometer-long ode to Switzerland's pastoral beauty. Highlights include the Diemtigtal House Trail, which allows hikers, cyclists, and even those driving through the park to discover the intricately carved and painted farmhouses of the valley. A water playground, open in the summertime, contains a system of sluices, streams, and fountains; not only do kids get to splash around, but they also have the opportunity to learn about the flow of water through the park.

How to get there: Tucked into a valley west of Lake Thun, Diemtigtal Nature Park is accessed via the Oeystrasse and the Diemtigtalstrasse, the rural road that runs through the valley. There's also a train station at Diemtigen.

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05 of 19

Doubs Nature Park

Saut du doubs biggest waterfall in the region of doubs
IAM-photography / Getty Images
Place du 23-Juin 6, 2350 Saignelégier, Switzerland
Phone +41 32 420 46 70

Water plays a key role at Doubs Nature Park, located on the French border and straddling the cantons of Jura, Bern, and Neuenberg. The river Doubs runs through the 294-square-kilometer park, which is known for its waterfalls, riverine landscape, and verdant forests. Canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, biking, and hiking are popular pursuits here, and in the winter, groomed trails await cross-country skiers.

How to get there: Exit Swiss Route 18 at Saignelégier and take the Route de France (also served by buses) to enter the park.

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06 of 19

Parc Ela

Switzerland, Grisons, Swiss Alps, mountain village Savognin in Park Ela
Westend61 / Getty Images
Stradung 11, 7450 Tiefencastel, Switzerland
Phone +41 81 508 01 12

At 548 square kilometers, Parc Ela is the largest of Switzerland's nature parks. It takes in dozens of Alpine peaks and glaciers, numerous rivers and tributaries, and the engineering marvel that is the Rhaetian Railway—the historic railway that connects Tirano, Italy to St. Moritz, Chur, Davos, and other cities in the Rhaetian Alps. Hikers shouldn't miss the Landwasser Viaduct and water trail, an 11-kilometer loop that takes in the soaring train viaduct and the Landwasser River.

How to get there: Parc Ela is south of Chur in the Graubünden, or Grisons canton. Take the Rhaetian Railway to any of several stepping-off points for exploration, or drive via Route #3 and secondary roads.

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07 of 19

UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch

Karst area Schrattenfluh, Unesco Biosphere Entlebuch, view of Soerenberg with Brienzer Rothorn, Mariental, Canton Lucerne, Switzerland
Daniel Bartschi / Getty Images
Chlosterbüel 28, 6170 Schüpfheim, Switzerland
Phone +41 41 485 42 50

The first UNESCO Biosphere in Switzerland, Entlebach is recognized for its biodiversity of flora and fauna, its unique karst landscape, and, of course, those sweeping Swiss vistas. Highlights here include children's trails, nature excursions organized by the park, and the 80-kilometer Moorlandschaftspfad (Moorlands Trail), which can be done in small sections.

How to get there: The biosphere is in the canton of Lucerne, southwest of the city of Lucerne. It can be accessed from Schüpfheim, off the #10 Unterdorf route.

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08 of 19

Gantrisch Nature Park

Scenic view of mountains against sky during autumn,Gantrisch,Switzerland
Martin Lightscape / 500px / Getty Images
Schlossgasse 13, 3150 Schwarzenburg, Switzerland
Phone +41 31 808 00 20

Set at the foot of the Alps, Gantrisch Nature Park is characterized by lush valleys and rolling meadows. The mostly small towns and hamlets in the 400-square-kilometer park preserve their rural traditions despite being a short drive from major cities. Highlights include the Rüeggisberg monastery ruins and a boardwalk trail through pristine forest.

How to get there: Wedged between Bern, Fribourg, and Thun in the Bern canton, the park can be accessed via Swiss PostBus or a network of small roads fanning out from those cities.

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09 of 19

Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut Regional Natural Park

Landscape of the Regional Park Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut, Switzerland
Pawel Piotr / Getty Images
Pl. du Village 6, 1660 Château-d’Œx, Switzerland
Phone +41 26 924 76 93

The Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut Regional Natural Park is right smack in cheese country, and several trails and itineraries through the park pass by cheesemakers and dairy farms. Popular among these trails is the Chemin du Gruyère, one of our favorite easy hikes in Switzerland. Meanwhile, fit and ambitious hikers may prefer to tackle the Grand Tour des Vanils, a challenging 11-day hike with overnights at country inns or mountain huts.

How to get there: Park headquarters are in Château d'Oex, which can be accessed by train. There are six visitors centers in the park.

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10 of 19

Jorat Nature Discovery Park

Creek flowing through the forest with fall colors

Jean-Pierre Fleury / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Flickr

Rte des Corbessières 4, 1000 Lausanne, Switzerland
Phone +41 21 903 09 30

An official nature park only since 2021, the Jorat Nature Discovery Park offers a small slice of outdoor recreation for residents of nearby Lausanne, who flock here to escape the city. Highlights of this 9-square-kilometer park include woodlands, rolling meadows, and a wheelchair-accessible nature trail.

How to get there: The park can be reached via trains and buses from Lausanne, or by taking the Route de Berne (#1).

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Aargau Jura Park

Aargau Jura Park

By Abracadabra / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia Commons

Linn 51, 5225 Linn, Switzerland
Phone +41 62 877 15 04

The Aargau Jura Park is in close proximity to Basel and Zürich; visitors from both cities come to dive into lush green meadows dotted with mature hardwood trees, explore traditional villages, and sample regional food.

How to get there: Park headquarters are in Linn, which is served by PostBus. It's off Route 3, the Bözbergerstrasse.

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Jura Vaudois Nature Park

Fields in a Swiss village in Yverdon les Bains in Jura Nord Vaudois Vaud Switzerland
RomanBabakin / Getty Images
Rte du Marchairuz 2, 1188 Saint-George, Switzerland
Phone +41 22 366 51 70

Northeast of Geneva and hemmed in by Lake Geneva and the French border, Jura Vaudois Nature Park sits at the foot of the Jura mountain range. The 531-square-kilometer park is home to 30 small communities, most of which are built around farming. Dry stone walls across the terrain mark ancient perimeters, while more than 200 Alpine chalets welcome hikers and other park visitors.

How to get there: Reached by train and bus from Geneva, Saint-George is the most convenient access point for the park.

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13 of 19

Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

pond in the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park
Margaretha Loretan / Getty Images
3970 Salgesch, Switzerland
Phone +41 27 452 60 60

Wildlife sighting, wineries, and Swiss history can all be enjoyed at Pfyn-Finges Nature Park, which runs along the Rhône River between Gampel and Sierre. The park also crosses from German- to French-speaking Switzerland, offering a glimpse at these two distinct sides of Swiss culture. Walking trails, a Tibetan swinging bridge, Alpine peaks, and the Rhône landscape are highlights here.

How to get there: Set mostly in the canton of Valais, the park is accessed from the Rhone Autobahn (Route #9) or the train line that runs perpendicular to it.

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Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park

Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) waterfalls, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Europe
Achim Thomae / Getty Images
Hauptstrasse 50, 8217 Wilchingen, Switzerland
Phone +41 52 533 27 07

Partially following the path of the Rhine River, the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park actually crosses briefly into Germany, making it Switzerland's only "international" nature park. Half-timber houses line traditional villages within the park's borders, and the nearby Rhine Falls and a wine route that can be hiked, biked, or driven are big draws here.

How to get there: Park headquarters are in Wilchingen, in the Schaffhausen canton right near the German border. Trains reach rural areas, and the Trasadingerstrasse (Route #13) passes through them.

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Swiss National Park

Swiss National Park
Photo by Roman Sandoz / Getty Images
7530 Zernez, Switzerland
Phone +41 81 851 41 41

The aptly named Swiss National Park was founded in 1914, making it the oldest park in Switzerland. And yet, it is the only one classified as a national park—the rest are regional. It's set in the mountainous Engadine, right above the Italian border. The park is known for its comprehensive visitors center, which features a museum and offers guided hikes and interpretive programs. Wildlife abounds here, and the park is especially well-suited to families.

Where Is It: The park center is in Zernez, which has a train station. From there, buses connect visitors to trails and points of interest within the park.

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Thal Nature Park

Bear hole in Thal nature park, Solothurn Jura, Canton Solothurn, Switzerland
imageBROKER/Daniel Baertschi / Getty Images
Hölzlistrasse 57, 4710 Balsthal, Switzerland
Phone +41 62 386 12 30

In the northeastern canton of Solothurn, the Thal Nature Park sits between Basel, Bern, and Zürich. It's known for its rolling meadows at the foot of the Jura Alps, as well as lush, fern-covered forests and dramatic gorges. An extensive network of hiking and biking trails covers the park, making it a favorite weekend destination for city-dwellers.

How to get there: The park office and info center is in Balsthal, which is connected by train to the rest of Switzerland. Routes 12 and 30 run through the town.

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UNESCO Biosfera Engiadina Val Müstair

Biosfera Val Müstair

malavoda / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / flickr

7532 Val Müstair, Switzerland

Organic farms, rural handicraft traditions, pristine meadows and river valleys, and a handful of historic towns typify the UNESCO Biosfera Engiadina Val Müstair. The biosphere sits in quiet Müstair Valley, which is also home to another UNESCO site—the 8th-century Convent of St John Müstair, famous for its frescoes. Park highlights include a historic weaving mill, mine tours, and donkey trekking.

How to get there: Located in the Graubünden (Grisons) canton in easternmost Switzerland, the park is accessed by one main road, Route 28, which runs into Italy. The biosphere is also served by buses.

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Wilderness Park Zürich

A nature trail through a forest with tall trees

Amelia Paige / CC BY 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Alte Sihltalstrasse 13, 8135 Sihlwald, Switzerland
Phone +41 44 722 55 22

The most urban of Switzerland's nature parks, Wilderness Park Zürich still feels a world away from the nation's largest city. The park is divided into two areas that are 4 kilometers from each other: the Nature Discovery Park Sihlwald and the Langenberg Wildlife Park. The former has nature trails, a natural history museum, and observation decks with sweeping views of Lake Zürich and the city. Meanwhile, the latter features a small zoo of native species in natural habitats.

How to get there: The Langenberg Wildlife Park is 12 kilometers south of Zürich and on the S-Bahn line (Wildpark Höfli stop). To reach the Nature Discovery Park Sihlwald, continue on the S-Bahn to the Sihlwald stop.

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Parco Val Calanca

Sunset in the mountains

Courtesy of Parco Val Calanca

Geschäftsstelle des Parkkandidaten Val Calanca, Via Pretorio 1, 6543, 6543 Arvigo, Switzerland
Phone +41 91 822 70 70

Dramatically carved by the Calancasca river, the Parco Val Calanca, one of Switzerland's newest nature parks, is also one of its wildest and most remote. Chamois antelopes cling to rocky cliffs as the river rages below, and just a few small villages—some reached only by cable car—dot the landscape. Note that in winter, access to park trails may be limited.

How to get there: The park is in the Italian-speaking part of the Graubünden (Grisons) canton. A rural road, served by PostBus, runs through the length of the park.

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  1. Swiss Confederation

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The Complete Guide to Switzerland's Nature Parks