The Aletsch Forest

The view is unique: in the foreground the lush green of the pines and in the background the gleaming white of the Aletsch Glacier. It is not only the giant ice flow which is unique, but also the adjoining Aletsch Forest at the glacier’s edge.

In 1933, the entire area was designated a special protection area by Pro Natura, Switzerland's nature conservation organization. Ever since, 50,000 to 70,000 visitors have been able to admire this protected area extending over 410 hectares (1.6 square miles) every year. In this forest, attentive hikers will be rewarded with the sight of a variety of flora and fauna. They will also be able to follow the trail of the glacier and get the chance to glance at some of the world's oldest trees.

The pine: gnarled, old, and resistant
The most important part of the Aletsch Forest’s vegetation is the trees. Due to the harsh climate you will mainly find pines (Swiss stone pine) and larches, while the spruce (Norway spruce) favors a rather milder climate. Various deciduous trees, such as birch, European green alder and mountain ash (rowan) complete the picture of the larch-pine forest.

As the main tree species in the Aletsch Forest, the pine deserves special mention. Two distinctive features characterize this tree: on the one hand, it is extremely resistant and on the other, it can reach an exceptional age. Due to the harsh climate, the pines in the Aletsch Forest grow extremely slowly: a tree of 3-4 meters (9-13 ft) height can already be 60 to 80 years old!

Its slow growth is compensated for by its long life expectancy. Tests have shown that the pines in the Aletsch Forest are at least 600 to 700 years old. It is quite likely that some of the pines are considerably older than that - the Aletsch Forest really is home to Switzerland’s oldest trees.