Wherever we travel, we’re always on the lookout 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. I tend to be less enthusiastic about birds unless they’re birds of prey. Nonetheless, birds are critters 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.
Scroll to the bottom for a parking info and a map of our hiking route.
Needless to say, Lake Neuchâtel is beautiful!
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 Cariçaie. The wetlands are protected from development and overuse and are accessible mostly on foot or bicycle via 40 kilometers of trails along the lake.
Beavers, deer, wild boar, and 45 of Switzerland’s 83 mammals have been spotted in this single wetland area. Sadly, the last otters are thought to have died out, with the last sighting in 1991.
Though the main trail through the Grande Cariçaie 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.
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.
We found a great little shell beach to sit and watch the show.
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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.
- Parking is free (see map below), as are the wetlands.
- Swimming, canoeing, and kayaking are allowed in some areas of the lake and are marked with giant yellow buoys to indicate no public access or wooden pilings to mark public access.
- Official website for the Grande Caricaie (DE, FR)