As a hiking region, Valais offers a range of terrain for serious hikers and more leisurely ramblers alike. Climb your way to high peaks, breathe in the scents of fragrant larch forests, stride out over suspended bridges, follow ancient mule paths or explore vineyard trails - the Valais has a hike for everyone.
With more than 8000km of signposted hiking paths across countless high routes and circuits leading through lush alpine meadows, across rushing mountain streams, past deep-blue tarns and up peaks with magnificent views, this lush region of Switzerland is a delight for hikers of all ages and abilities. With a little luck, you may even encounter marmots, chamois or mountain goats.
Where is Valais?
Situated in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Valais is the perfect summer destination for nature lovers drawn to its spectacular scenery. And getting here is simple. You can fly to Geneva airport from many UK airports, take advantage of the easy car hire and drive the two and a half hours to the Valais, or let the reliable Swiss railways whisk you there in under two hours.
Highlights of the Valais region
The Valais has many highlights for hikers, in particular the Aletsch Arena - home of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Aletsch Glacier - the high alpine outdoor paradise of Saas-Fee, with its 18 four-thousand-metre peaks that surround the valley, the mythical mountain range of the Dents du Midi, home of one of the oldest hiking tours in the canton of Valais, the Tour des Dents du Midi, and Nendaz & Veysonnaz, where the wonderful high-altitude walks are made more accessible by the opening of the ski lift links from Siviez to Combatseline, and Haute-Nendaz to Tracouet.
Plus, Nendaz & Veysonnaz are known for their eight unique bisses - historic irrigation channels - which serve as paths for hikers which are easy underfoot, but offer spectacular views.
This fantastic Swiss region is packed with opportunities for hikers as well as bikers, families, thrill seekers and more. To make the most of everything on offer here, find hotels, book excursions and find exclusive offers, head to Valais' online shop to organise your perfect trip.
Eight unmissable hiking routes in Valais
Here are eight of the best hiking trails to explore in Valais.
One of the most liberating natural experiences in the Alps awaits you in the Aletsch Arena. Looking out over the majestic Great Aletsch Glacier and the unique mountain panorama, you get an overwhelming sense of space and freedom.
Ridge path from Moosfluh to Riederfurka
You'd be hard-pushed to find a hiking trail with better views than this spectacular hike which shows you the best of Aletsch Arena. You start at the viewpoint Moosfluh, with its fantastic vista over the 20km long Aletsch Glacier and to the Matterhorn.
On the ridge path which leads westwards via Hohfluh onto Riederfurka you will see why Aletsch Arena is part of the UNESCO heritage site. The imposing Villa Cassel which you'll see along the way is well worth a visit. Once the summer home of British financier Sir Ernest Cassel who worked with Winston Churchill and whose grand-daughter, Edwina Cassel, married into the Mountabatten family, it has a rich history, including having been run as a hotel for several decades, it is now Switzerland's first Alpine environmental education centre, the Pro Natura.
Head onwards and the glacier stretches out on the right-hand side and in front of you the iconic peak of the Matterhorn.
Along the Adventure Trail, five stops give you the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The informative and playful presentations look at the themes of wilderness and civilisation, from Alpine farming in a nature reserve and water shortages to safety on the glacier and nature conservation and tourism. Several beautiful lookout points turn this easy themed trail into a real experience. The last stage of the hike is the descent from Riederfurka down to Riederalp.
UNESCO high-altitude trail from Bettmerhorn to Eggishorn
This trail is ideal for keen hikers who want to combine one peak with the other. Walking a high-altitude trail from viewpoint Bettmerhorn to Eggishorn offers you a spectacular panorama on both sides of the trail. On the one side you can drink in the magical Aletsch Glacier and on the other side the valley stretches away beneath you.
Care is needed on this route as it is a high-altitude trail. Reward yourself at the end of the hike with a delicious lunch. The mountain lunch package is the ideal ticket for this as it includes not just all cable cars but also the lunch in one of the restaurants. Less experienced hikers can do a similar hike with the same phenomenal view walking around the viewpoint Bettmerhorn.
For more information and to book, go to aletscharena.ch
The views of many towering mountain peaks in this high-altitude paradise are pretty much unsurpassed.
The Ibex Trail
This trail is one of the most wildly romantic hiking trails in the Saas Valley and got its name for a reason: this is a popular area for ibexes - the mountain goat with the distinctive long curved horns - and, with a bit of luck, walkers who stay quiet are often rewarded with the chance of a close-up photo.
The trail leads over the stony Mällig ridge where hikers can enjoy a wonderful view over the Saas Valley and the majority of its 4,000-metre peaks. Head into the wild and romantic Bider area and through the lovely larch forest back to Saas-Fee. One particular highlight of the trail is the way it switches between wooded and rocky mountain paths. This is a demanding tour - best started early in the morning - and is not very suitable for children.
Find out more about the route at saas-fee.ch
Monte Moro Pass
On centuries-old traders' and Walser paths this route goes from the Mattmark dam up to Monte-Moro, the border pass between Switzerland and Italy, where hikers are greeted with a breathtaking view of the majestic east face of the Monte Rosa. The Mattmark dam was built between 1960 and 1965 and is Europe's largest earthen dam - it also has the tragic distinction of claiming more lives during its construction than any other in Switzerland, when an avalanche killed 88 workers.
The Golden Madonna - the golden statue of Mary - watches over the pass. From the pass you can also take the cable car down to the Italian village of Macugnaga. If you're an early riser, it's well worth booking a sunrise ride with breakfast at 3,500m on the top of Mittelallalin.
For more information about the trail, go to saas-fee.ch
Région Dents du Midi
The Région Dents du Midi encompasses 6 charming villages perched high in the Swiss Alps near the south eastern end of Lake Geneva. Nestled in the spectacular Val d’Illiez, these villages are part of Les Portes du Soleil, the world’s largest international ski area, offering over 1,000km of natural beauty year round.
In summer, some 800km of hiking trails and 600 km of mountain bike trails await outside your front door, with quaint alpine restaurants and sunny terraces at strategic intervals along the way. In winter, the snowy landscape is a study in stark contrasts, from the hushed mystery of the frozen back country to the invigorating hustle and bustle of 600 kilometres of state-of-the-art groomed ski slopes.
Tour des Dents du Midi
A walking classic. Very popular amongst the inhabitants of the Région, this emblematic route, inauguarated in 1972, takes you across 57km of diverse landscapes with a 3700m vertical gain. And if you don’t feel up for the whole 57km straight away, don’t worry, there's also the option of tackling the route over several days, including a stay on the trail, leaving from Champéry, which you can book here.
Along the route, the shady forests, steep rocky mountainsides, rivers, lakes and glaciers here are home to countless species of flora and fauna, so keep a watchful eye out for wildlife; you might spot a chamois, ibex, marmot or ptarmigan. If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a rare bearded vulture or its 'bald' cousin, the griffon vulture.
Find out more at regiondentsdumidi.ch
Tour des Dents Blanches
This trail for nature lovers lies between France and Switzerland and used to be the route taken by the smugglers at the beginning of the 20th century. This is the Dents du Midi region’s other iconic trail, a rugged and austerely beautiful hike over the untamed alpine landscape. Some stretches are equipped with chains and even ladders where the terrain is particularly tricky, so it pays to be surefooted; you may want to hire a guide for this one.
It’s well worth the effort though, as the panoramas are striking. Alpine huts provide rest and refreshment and a welcome night’s sleep along the way. You can book 3 or 5-day packages departing from Barme (Champéry) with accommodation, evening meals, breakfasts and picnics. Take a look at some options at tour-dentsblanches.com. You can also sign up for an afternoon on the farm - great fun for families! - at regiondentsdumidi.ch.
Find more information about this route at regiondentsdumidi.ch
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Nendaz & Veysonnaz
Located right in the heart of the Valais, Nendaz & Veysonnaz not only offer breathtaking views of the Rhône Valley and the Alps, but are the gateway to the 4 Vallées, the biggest ski area in Switzerland. During summer and autumn, discover the region by walking along the many mountain irrigation channels called bisses, or explore the area on more than 250km of hiking trails.
Bisse de Chervé to Cleuson
This magnificent high-altitude walk on a spectacular bisse offers sumptuous views of the Cleuson dam and its striking turquoise-coloured water. The Bisse de Chervé is the highest and most Alpine of the bisses in the region of Nendaz, with the entire path above 2,200m. It is no longer used for irrigation and therefore no longer carries any water. If you have enough energy and time you can take a detour hike up to Cabane St-Laurent.
Get more details about the route at nendaz.ch
The Tour of the Mont-Rouge
A truly wonderful high-altitude hike, between the ‘Val d'Hérémence’ and the 'Val de Nendaz’, the tour of the Mont-Rouge will give you the incredible experience of walking along mountain ridges. You can recognise the Mont-Rouge by its cross, which looks out over the mountain pastures. Simple and welcoming, it invites you to a well-deserved rest and offers a magical panoramic view. It's a challenging hike, so you should allow about 3hrs for this one.
To book a 3 or 4 day hike, sleep 2 or 3 nights in cozy mountain huts with delicious food, go to valais.ch/shop.
Find out more at veysonnaz.ch
Six other activities to try in Valais
Mountain Bike the Stoneman Glaciara
127km and 4700 spectacular meters of elevation gain among glaciers, countless 4000m peaks and the enchanting mysticism of centuries-old mountain villages. This is the Stoneman Glaciara. There are only about three trails like this in Europe (and only one per country) and the only one in Switzerland is located in Aletsch Arena and the surrounding Goms valley. If dramatic terrain and spectacular surroundings are what you look for in a MTB adventure, this is a must-do.
Via Ferrata on the Jegihorn (Saas-Fee/Saastal)
1000 metres of steel rope, five ladders, 400 hooks (steps, holds), a steel rope-bridge - this is the thrill of via ferrata in Saas-Grund, a compelling mix of hiking and climbing. An additional leg was added to this route in summer 2016: a 120 metre-long rope-bridge with wooden steps, a 15 metre-high net and 50 metre-long climbing route section with a class 4 degree of difficulty.
Feed the marmots in Saas-Fee
A fun family activity if you are visiting the area of Spielboden or the Stafelwald, you will probably come across marmots. These cute little creatures hibernate for six to eight months during the winter, but from mid-april they venture out and like to be fed with peanuts and carrots all summer long.
E-bike the Grand 8
A 40km loop accessible to all! Head on a ride under the warm gaze of the Dents du Midi and take a gourmet break in Les Crosets or Champoussin. This loop will take you through 4 villages of the Région Dents du Midi and is the perfect way for families to explore the entire area.
Canyoning in the Chavalet River
Have a go at this fast-growing sport! In Champéry, the Chavalet River is a perfect spot for canyoning - safe for beginners but offering plenty of fun water slides, jumps and rappels! alternatively, the Roc Coupé Canyon in Grand Paradis is nothing short of spectacular, with a magnificent alpine setting and impressive vertical drops.
Walk the Yoga Path
The Yoga path in Veysonnaz is inspired by the surrounding natural elements such as the flow of the bisse and the luxurious larch forest. The Petit Yogi aspect of the path was designed with children in mind.
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