In the 7 years that I have lived here, I had yet to visit the Swiss National Park. It looked far to get to on the map as the park is right on the Italian border. Well, the SBB train schedule revealed that Scuol and Zernez (the 2 possible entry points into the Park) are only about 2h 30m from Zurich by train – not that far at all! The area is rather well-known for its larches which turn golden in autumn and I had been wanting to see this since last year. We were planning to stay at the National Park hut for a night, but it was closed after October 12th, and many of the trails in the park were also closed due to snow. However, a day trip was still possible and totally worth it! It was my first proper hike this year; we were biking so much that we didn’t have any weekends left to see the mountains on foot!
Like every trip into the Graubunden area, the train followed the southern Walensee shore and rewarded passengers with full views of the Churfirsten. The autumn colours were just amazing.
At Scuol, I met up with my colleague who drove her car to save us the Post bus trip into the valley (this would have taken an additional 30 minutes). The valley road leading to the National Park is narrow with lots of bends and we prayed we wouldn’t meet the Swiss Post bus coming from the other direction! We parked the car near the Val Mingèr bus stop where there is also a good-sized parking lot for visitors who want to hike the Val Mingèr. We started off the hike at 1654m and were surprised to see that there was already snow at that altitude!
The hike was approximately 663m uphill; our destination was Sur il Foss. It’s a white-red-white mountain trail but it wasn’t difficult at all. The National Park website even says it’s suitable for young kids (and we did see many of them with their parents!). We had gorgeous views of the larch trees on our way up but the forest that we hiked in did not really have them.
At Mingèr (2168m), there is a little picnic area where a National Park Ranger was hanging out with a telescope for viewing the wildlife. While Switzerland is full of nature and mountains, it’s quite difficult to spot any animals. (In fact, the last bear in Switzerland was shot in this valley in 1904!). We were hoping we would be able to get up close to some ibex or other mountain animals, but the closest animals were far away on a mountain across! We could barely spot them by eye.
After a quick break to wolf down our sandwiches and spy on the animals, we continued to Sur il Foss. The snow was about a foot high at this point, but a trail of compacted snow was already prepared. The hike was surprisingly easy, even though it was slippery and icy at times. We managed to make it to the top in 2h 30m including breaks. Definitely need to plan for 1000m ascents in the future! In the summer it would actually be possible to hike further and across to another valley, to Il Fuorn where the Park hut is located. However, the trail was closed (but I wonder if we could have snow shoed over… didn’t think of that).
Some gorgeous views of larch across the valley (colours a little muted in this photo).
And we were back down at the parking lot by 4pm. That was a short hike!
I got to take the Vereina Car Transporter for the first time. It’s an open train carriage that you drive into, and in 18 minutes you emerge on the other side of the tunnel at Klosters. Pretty neat.
Check out the rest of the Swiss National Park hiking routes: http://www.nationalpark.ch/go/en/visit/trails-routes/ (or check the german page as it has more information).
Hopefully I’ll be able to find a larch forest this weekend to walk or bike in 🙂