Parc Naziunal Svizzer (Swiss National Park)
Parc Naziunal Svizzer (Swiss National Park) Review
Established in 1914, the Parc Naziunal Svizzer covers 173 square km (107 square mi), including the Macun lakes near Lavin. Although small compared with a U.S. or Canadian national park, it has none of the developments that typically hint of "accessibility" and "attraction": no campgrounds, no picnic sites, no residents, and few rangers. This is genuine wilderness, every leaf protected from anything but nature itself. Dead wood is left to rot and insects to multiply. Rangers see that rules are obeyed—no fires, dogs, bikes, skis, or tents are allowed, and picking plants is forbidden. Although the last bear was shot in the Lower Engadine in 1904, the park is home to large herds of ibex (the heraldic animal on the Graubünden flag), chamois (a distant relative of the goat), red and roe deer, and marmots. Don't forget binoculars; without them you might not see much fauna—the animals give a wide berth to the 80 km (50 mi) of marked paths. Remember these are wild animals and not likely to line up for Twinkies by the road. If big game fail to appear, you can just enjoy the scenery and watch out for a bearded vulture overhead. Before heading into the park, visit the three-story Nationalpark-Haus in Zernez, where you can view the permanent exhibition with the help of your English audioguide, stock up on maps, and enjoy the natural history exhibit. Special exhibitions change once or twice each year. Guided walks in German are available Tuesday through Thursday; reserve one to two days in advance to join a group (25-35 SF for adults) or book a private guided walk in English (350 SF).
Trails start out from parking lots off the park's only highway (visitors are encouraged to take buses back to their starting point)—a series of wild, rough, and often steep paths. Visitors are restricted to the trails except at designated resting places. The Il Fuorn–Stabelchod–Val dal Botsch trail marks botanical and natural phenomena with multilingual information boards and leads to a spectacular barren ridge at 7,672 feet; the round-trip journey takes about four hours. A three-hour route from picturesque S-chanf (pronounced ess-chanff) takes you into a deep glacial valley where ibex and chamois often gather; the return, by a riverside trail, passes a snack bar—just across the park border and thus permitted.