Although the routes over the Splügen and San Bernardino passes were used by the Romans, the Rheinwald was only sparsely populated until the High Middle Ages. The Walsers settled here in the 13th century. Their language and culture continue to define the valley community to this day. In Splügen sun-browned Walser houses stand directly alongside Italianate stone palazzi. Due to this heritage, this old Bündner pass village is classified as a place of national importance, and Splügen was awarded the Wakker Prize in 1995.
The Medels circular trail begins at the cross-country skiing centre on the edge of the village. It leads along an open, uphill stretch to Medels. This small, scattered Settlement has fewer than 40 inhabitants. Originally used as an Alpine pasture by Romansh villagers from the Schams, Medels was also populated by the Walsers. From Medels, the trail leads down to the valley floor. After a short bend at the foot of the Guggernüll, it continues along the right-hand side of the Rhine, through a sparse forest and back to Splügen.
This thrilling cross-country route along the Hinterrhein, with views galore, almost didn’t exist: in the 1940s the people of the Rheinwald successfully opposed a dam project that would have meant a 700 metre-long, 150 metre-high dam wall being built over the ruins of Splügen Castle. If they had lost their fight, Splügen and the lower part of the farming village of Medels, including its church, would be underwater
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