Hiking The Grande Caricaie, Switzerland’s Largest Wetlands

Wherever we travel, we’re always on the look-out for animals, hoping to spot a black bear foraging for berries, elk browsing, or otters playing in the waves. Even a surprise visit from a curious wee mouse in our campsite is enough to turn an ordinary night into an entertaining and memorable evening. We tend to be less enthusiastic about birds unless they’re birds of prey. Nonetheless, birds are critters too and after two months in Switzerland, we’re feeling the lack of wildlife. So despite looming rain clouds, we headed to Lake Neuchatel for a day of hiking at the Grande Caricaie, the largest wetlands in the country.

Hiking the Grande Caricaie wetlands on Lake Neuchatel during a storm
From the Grande Caricaie, clouds roll over Lake Neuchatel on a fall day in September.

Needless to say, Lake Neuchâtel is beautiful.

Map of Our Hiking Route in the Grande Caricaie Wetlands

After some semi aimless driving down one tiny country road after another, we headed in the general direction of the lake until we arrived in a small dirt parking area right at the Grande Caricaie.

Jetty in the Grande Caricaie wetlands, Lake Neuchatel
A jetty extends far out into the lake from the dirt parking area.

The parking area is at the northern end of our hiking route on the map below.

Animals You Might See in the Grande Caricaie

The wetlands are protected from development and overuse.

They’re accessible mostly on foot or bicycle via 40 kilometers of trails along the lake.

Swans sleeping on Lake Neuchatel in the Grande Caricaie wetlands
Swans are common in Switzerland. These young ones still cloaked in juvenile feathers nap on the lake.

Beavers, deer, and wild boar all call the wetlands home. In fact, forty-five out of Switzerland’s eighty-three mammals have been spotted in this single wetland area. 

Sadly, the last otters that lived here are thought to have died out. The last sighting was back in 1991.

Though the main trail through the Grande Caricaie doesn’t follow the edge of the lake, it’s a nice path through the woods with intermittent side trails to the lake’s edge.

Hiking the Grande Caricaie on Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland

Venturing down several of these small trails allowed us to admire the heavy storm clouds as they rolled down off the Jura Mountains, converging on us from both the north and northwest.  

Within a span of 15 minutes, our blue skies turned to black as sheets of rain whipped across the lake, sending sailboats scurrying for home port.

Rain clouds roll across Lake Neuchatel during an autumn storm in Switzerland
Rain clouds roll across Lake Neuchatel during an autumn storm.

We found a great little shell beach to sit and watch the show.

Shells on a beach at Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland
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Hiking at Grande Caricaie wetlands in Switzerland during a storm
The waves turn frothy brown as clouds roll down the lake.
Carrie at Grande Caricaie wetlands on Lake Neuchatel during a summer storm
Wind whips the warm autumn downpour sideways across the lake.
Black clouds roll over Lake Neuchatel during a storm in Switzerland
Black clouds swallow the last of the blue sky over Lake Neuchatel and the Jura Mountains.

After leaving the wetlands, we struck off down a new road to explore a different route home. What started out as a narrow gravel, then dirt road became a narrower path just barely wide enough for our borrowed Toyota Yaris.

We were a bit stumped when that essentially dead-ended in what could only be a walking trail.

With no turn around, we backed the quarter-mile or so to the last fork in the road and found a new, new route home. We figured our friends who loaned us the car would appreciate it if we didn’t take their Yaris 4byin in the Swiss wetlands.

The Grande Caricaie was such a surprise for us. We didn’t expect to find a wetlands in the heart of Switzerland!

It’s definitely a beautiful place for any nature-lover to while away an afternoon.

Don’t miss these other great things to do around Lake Neuchatel.

Know Before You Go
  • Parking is free, as are the wetlands.
  • Swimming, canoeing, and kayaking are allowed in some areas of the lake. They’re marked with giant yellow buoys to indicate no public access or wooden pilings to mark public access.
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