Europe and Middle East, Newsletter, Switzerland, Trip Reviews, Valais

Hiking Around Champéry, Switzerland

20/01/2022 by .
Galerie Defago

Rupert Parker spends a few days hiking in the Swiss Alps using Champéry as the base.

It takes a couple of hours from Geneva on the train before I arrive in Champéry in Switzerland’s Valais Canton. The village tumbles down the Val-d’Illiez in the Lower Valais, overlooked by the Dents du Midi and the Dents Blanches. I already feel I’m in the mountains, at 1050m, and the village has managed to preserve much of its alpine charm. The main street is lined with traditional chalets with carved balconies and small shops, bars and restaurants.

Champery and Dents du Midi

There are over 800km of walks to choose from here, including a 40km trekking circuit around the Dents du Midi, taking three to four days to complete. Unfortunately, I’ve only a couple of days, but in late autumn, the weather is clear and sunny, perfect for hiking.

It’s early afternoon when I arrive but there’s still time to tackle this easy circular route. It starts at the station and descends to cross the Vièze River before climbing up the sheer cliff opposite. It looks impassable but in 1860, a local businessman created a continuous path following a natural ledge above the valley below. This rock gallery has been recently been extended to 600m.

Signpost 1

Of course, it’s narrow and there are points where I have to bend my head, ducking under the rock overhangs. Fortunately, a strong guide rail protects against the vertical drop, and there are spectacular views across to Champéry. At the end of the gallery, I continue on the path, through Les Rives to Les Esserts. Here I drop to the bottom of the valley, then climb up to the village of Val-d’Illiez and catch the train back to Champéry.

The next morning, I take the cable car up to Croix de Culet with stunning views of the Dents du Midi opposite. From the top station, I descend slightly before climbing steadily northwards to reach a col, the Port de l’Hiver. In front of me lies Lac Vert, nestling on a green plateau, and accessible by two gentle paths. On the lakeshore all is calm and reflections of clouds add to its charm.

Lac Vert


Cheese and Meats

I make a circuit of the lake before climbing back to the Col and following the ridge to Portes du Soleil. From here, I loop round above the small resort of Les Crosets back to the cable car station. It would be easy to take the gondola down, but instead, I choose a pleasant descent through lush meadows and pine forest before arriving back in Champery. This is a pleasant walk, not too gruelling.

I’ve saved the toughest until last and today the hike involves an ascent and descent of over 1200m. I start by walking through the village to the Gran Paradis ski lift.  Here I leave the La Vièze River to follow a tributary, La Saufla, upstream to Roc Coupé, a huge boulder. It’s a bit of a slog but the track is good and the trees provide shade. From here I turn left crossing the mountain flank to the Lacs d’Antème at 2032m.

Above me are the serrated pinnacles of the Dents du Midi, with the highest, Haute Cime, flecked with snow. I reach the first of the lakes by a mountain hut, Cabane d’Antème, and pause for breath. The other lake is further on a separate path but I don’t have the energy or the will to explore. It’s then a long steep descent to the Galerie Défago. The vertiginous gallery, cut into the sheer cliffs, takes me all the way back to Champéry. It’s a terrific end to a fantastic walk.

Dents du Midi

The great joy of Champéry is that it offers hikes for all abilities and all weathers. It’s easy enough to take the cable car up to Croix de Culet and potter around up there. If you fancy something more challenging then explore the circuits around the Dents du Midi. That’s where I’ll be heading next time.

Tell Me More About Hiking Champéry

 My Switzerland has information about the country.

Visit Valais has information about the region.

Region Dents du Midi has local information.

Hotel Suisse makes an excellent base in Champéry.

Restaurant At’Home is in the centre and has good Swiss food.

Restaurant Cantine de Barmaz is outside the village in a traditional setting and serves local specialities.

Restaurant La Croix-de-Culet at the top cable car station has excellent fondue.

La Cavagne in Troistorrents sells typical local specialities including cheese and sausage.

SWISS offers more than 160 weekly flights from London City, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London Gatwick (seasonal) to Zurich or Geneva. One way fares start from £76 to Zurich and £54 to Geneva including all taxes, fees and surcharges, one piece of checked and hand luggage.

The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network. This pass also covers scenic routes and local trams and buses in around 90 towns and cities.  The Swiss Travel Pass also includes the Swiss Museum Pass, allowing you free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions. Prices from £186 for 3 days in second class.



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