King of the mountain: Via Capricorn/Via Spluga/Walserweg Graubünden
Distance: 48km/65km/300km Days: 3/4-6/multiple Difficulty: Hard
THIS CHALLENGING CIRCULAR route, which skirts close to the Swiss-Italian border, runs through some of the most dramatic landscape of Switzerland’s sensational Graubünden region, home to picturesque Parc Ela and the resort of St Moritz. The track traverses the stomping ground of the Safien-Rheinwald ibex colony.
Capricorn is the Latin/Rhaeto-Romanic name for ibex, the heraldic animal of Graubünden and the undisputed king of the mountains. About 380 of these majestic alpine animals populate the hillsides between the peaks of Piz Beverin and Alperschällihorn, and sighting them nonchalantly nibbling mountain greenery on the edge of precipitous cliffs can be the highlight of a hike.
There are three main stages to this 48km loop, and most fit walkers will complete each day on the trails in 6-8 hours. With 3440m of climbing it’s not for the faint of heart or weak of leg, but efforts are well rewarded with wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities, terrific trails and mindbending mountain views amid the Adula and Lepontine Alps.
The trail begins in Wergenstein, deep within beautiful Beverin Nature Park, a 412km2 reserve that sprawls around the feet of 2998m Piz Beverin. The route rises around Alp Tumpriv, passes the purple waters of the Schottensee and crosses Carnusapass to arrive at Glas Pass, a much-storied segue between the Domleschg and Safien valleys, where a beer (best sipped on the balcony) and a bed awaits at the Mountain Hotel Beverin.
Stage two takes trekkers through high hamlets heavily accented by the Walser culture, which is strong in this area of the Alps. After visiting the village of Safien Platz, walkers continue via Bäch to Turrahus, where mountain hos- pitality can be found at Berggasthaus Turrahus.
Day three delivers deep, gin-clear mountain lakes and views over Schams, as the trail ascends abruptly into Alperschälli – the real hangout of the capricorn – before looping through Höllgrabenbach and Forcletta digl Lai Grand to arrive back in Wergenstein.
For hikers who fancy biting off an even bigger challenge, the Via Spluga is a long-distance, border-crossing trail that follows an old mule track to link Thusis in Switzerland and Chiavenna in Italy via the Hinterrheintal (Upper Rhine Valley). The 65km route passes through Beverin nature park, threads the infamous Via Mala (Bad Path) Gorge, visits Splügen, tops out on 2115m Spluga Pass and then descends into Italy along Val San Giacomo.
Or have a crack at the Walserweg Graubünden, an epic 300km trail that traces the tracks of the Walser folk through the high valleys of Graubünden in 19 stages, starting in San Bernardino and finishing in Brand.
Beverin National Park is a multi-day hiker’s dream come true – on an immense scale.