Valais is one of Switzerland’s most popular destinations, stretching from its vineyard-filled main valley all the way up to the 4000m+ mountains surrounding Zermatt and Saas Fee. There are so many large mountains, in fact, that the average altitude in Valais is over 2000m.
Conquering the highest peaks isn’t really our focus today though – instead we’re going to look at some of the best small hikes that Valais has to offer. The combination of varied terrain and good infrastructure in Valais means that there are plenty of options for small hikes, both in the valleys, where the summers are hot and sunny, and up in the mountains, where the ski infrastructure, particularly in places like Zermatt and Saas Fee, allows you to get right up alongside famous mountains like the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa with minimal effort.
So – here’s a list of our favorite small hikes in Valais!
- Sion Castles
- Klein Allalin
- Baltschiedertal Valley
- Griespass (near Nufenenpass)
- Grand Dixence Dam
Gornergrat is a ridge above the famous holiday town of Zermatt, and is popular for its spectacular mountain views. This ridge is at 3000m and surrounded by even higher mountains, offering magnificent views of many of the highest mountains in the Alps, including the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.
A train heads up to Gornergrat from Zermatt, so there’s no need for any large hikes here. You can simply get off at the top station, Gornergrat, and walk up the peak of the same name, which gets you some great views but will only take you a few minutes. If you want a bit more exercise, though – and more views – you can get off in Rotenboden, a couple of hundred metres lower down, and walk up to Gornergrat from there.
If you’re not accustomed to walking at high altitude, you may find the walk more comfortable if done in reverse, starting at Gornergrat and walking down to Rotenboden.
Gornergrat Route Info
|Getting there by public transport||To Zermatt from Sion: 1h 50mins, from Bern: 2h 10mins, from Lausanne: 3h. Allow about 45 minutes more for the Zermatt to Gornergrat train.|
|Getting there by car||Zermatt is car free, so park in Täsch. Täsch from Sion: 1h 15 mins, from Bern 2h 30mins, from Lausanne 2h 15mins. Allow about an hour more to get the train from Täsch to Zermatt and then Gornergrat.|
|Start point||Rotenboden station|
|High point||Gornergrat 3135m|
|Finish point||Gornergrat station|
|Season||July to October. If you’re looking for a winter alternative, try this winter walk from Rotenboden: https://www.schweizmobil.ch/en/winter-hiking/paths/route-0831.html|
|Hiking time||1h 30mins|
|Altitude difference||About 300m up, 50m down|
The town of Sion is dominated by a pair of hills, Valère and Tourbillon, both of which are capped by large castles. If you start from the center of the modern town of Sion, you end up walking through the old town of Sion on the way up the first hill, Valère. This first castle (more of a chateau really) is in a relatively good state of repair and is actually a history museum.
The neighbouring second hill, Tourbillon, holds an older castle. You can walk into the outer grounds of the castle freely, but access to the inner part of the castle is restricted here as well. Even if you’re not interested in entering the two castles, the hills offer picturesque views and the walk up through the old town is also worth the effort.
|Getting there by public transport||From Sion: n/a, from Bern: 1h 30mins, from Lausanne: 1h.|
|Getting there by car||From Sion: n/a, from Bern: 1h 40 mins, from Lausanne: 1h 10 mins.|
|Start point||Sion station|
|High point||Tourbillon castle 650m|
|Finish point||Sion station|
|Hiking time||1h 15mins|
|Altitude difference||About 200m up, 200m down|
Heading back into the high mountains, Klein Allalin is a peak that’s easily accessible in the winter from Felskinn, one of the cable car stations in Saas Fee. A winter walking path is normally maintained during the winter ski season – no snow shoes required here. The path stops just short of the summit at Britanniahütte, where you get huge views of the glacier-covered mountainsides and the frozen-over Stausee Mattmark below.
In theory this walk can also be done in the summer, but bear in mind that it’s actually harder in summer – it’s marked as an Alpine path and the first portion crosses a glacier. We tried once in the summer but couldn’t get off the glacier safely so had to turn back. Best to go in the winter when the ski resort maintains the path!
|Getting there by public transport||To Saas Fee from Sion: 1h 40mins, from Bern: 2h, from Lausanne: 2h 45mins. Allow perhaps 30-45 minutes extra to get to the cable car and up the cable car to the start point.|
|Getting there by car||To Saas Fee from Sion: 1h 15mins, from Bern: 2h 30mins, from Lausanne: 2h 15mins. Allow perhaps 30-45 minutes extra to get to the cable car and up the cable car to the start point.|
|Start point||Felskinn cable car station|
|High point||Britanniahütte 3027m (or Klein Allalin 3069m if conditions allow)|
|Finish point||Felskinn cable car station|
|Season||Winter – about November to May|
|Altitude difference||About 300m up, 300m down|
|Difficulty||T1 – prepared winter track so quite easy (but high altitude)|
You can pack quite a lot of variety into a short walk if you try! This short stretch will give you views across the valley of Valais, several pedestrian tunnels and bridges, a close-up look at an impressive railway bridge over a gorge, and a look at one of the bisses (water channels) coming down from the mountain streams around Valais.
This was part of a larger hike we did – see our post here for more details.
|Getting there by public transport||From Sion: 45mins, from Bern: 1h 15mins, from Lausanne: 2h.|
|Getting there by car||From Sion: 45mins, from Bern: 2h, from Lausanne: 1h 45mins.|
|Start point||Eggerberg station|
|High point||925m up in Balterschiedertal|
|Finish point||Eggerberg station|
|Season||About April to December|
|Hiking time||1h 30mins|
|Altitude difference||About 150m up, 150m down|
|Difficulty||T1 (mostly on a vehicle track)|
Griespass (near Nufenenpass)
Right at the eastern end of Valais, you’ll find the Grimselpass, Furkapass and Nufenenpass, three impressive passes taking you out of Valais. The Nufenenpass is perhaps less famous, but is the highest of the three, and is also one of the highest road passes in Switzerland.
At this kind of altitude, good views are pretty much guaranteed. For a small walk here, we recommend stopping at the bus stop ‘Griespass, Abzw.’ (there’s also a small car park here) just before the top of the Nufenenpass on the Valais side of the pass. From here you can walk up past a couple of huge wind turbines and a dam, Griessee, before reaching Griespass on the Italian border. Despite the road relatively nearby and the wind turbines behind you, the stony landscape up here can feel pretty remote!
This is the largest walk on this list. Just the first half of the walk is already worthwhile though if you’re after something smaller – just go up the road and track to the wind turbines, where you can see down on Griessee and across to Griespass.
Finally, bear in mind that this is very much a summer-only walk as the road over the Nufenenpass is covered in deep snow for much of the year.
|Getting there by public transport||In the online 2021 timetable, the bus doesn’t seem to stop at Griespass, Abzw. at all, so you might have to walk from Nufenen Passhöhe if you come by bus (which adds an extra 45 to 60 mins of walking in total). To Nufenen Passhöhe bus stop: from Sion: 2h 35mins, from Bern: 2h 55mins, from Lausanne: 3h 40mins.|
|Getting there by car||From Sion: 1h 45mins, from Bern: 3h 10mins, from Lausanne: 2h 50mins.|
|Start point||Griespass, Abzw. bus stop|
|High point||Griespass 2486m|
|Finish point||Griespass, Abzw. bus stop|
|Season||July to October|
|Hiking time||2h 15mins|
|Altitude difference||About 350m up, 350m down|
Grand Dixence Dam
The Grand Dixence dam is an absolute monster – the tallest dam in Europe and one of the tallest in the world. It’s so large that there’s actually a cable car to take you from the bottom to the top, but we recommend walking up the path from the car park at the bottom to get the views on the way up as well and to get a real sense of the size of the dam.
At the top you can walk across the dam, and you can also walk a little way along the side of the lake if you want, along a track that winds in and out of some tunnels.
|Getting there by public transport||From Sion: 1h 10mins, from Bern: 2h 40mins, from Lausanne: 2h 25mins.|
|Getting there by car||From Sion: 40mins, from Bern: 2h 10mins, from Lausanne: 1h 40mins.|
|Start point||Dixence, Le Chargeur bus stop / Dixence car park|
|High point||Grand Dixence dam 2370m|
|Finish point||Lac-des-Dix (téléphérique) – top cable car station (or you can walk back down)|
|Season||July to October (access road seems to be closed for the rest of the year)|
|Altitude difference||250m up, 0m down|
There are loads of good hiking options in Valais, and we might do another post sometime with some larger Valais hikes. For now, we’ll stick to the theme – here’s a couple of other good small hikes in Valais!
- Saltina Gorge – an impressive walk into a steep-sided valley just south of Brig.
- Aletchgletscher views – there are several fairly short walks above Riederalp and Bettmeralp where you can look down on the Aletschgletscher, the biggest glacier in the Alps.
- Pyramides de Gypse – a short walk up a very unusual stony landscape (this is technically a few kilometers over the border in Vaud, but hey – Vaud is a nice place too 🙂
- Gemmipass and the Daubensee – walk to or around the Daubensee from Gemmipass for Alpine lake views. You’ll find some details in our post on the area here.
- Mattmark Stausee – just behind Saas Fee, this is a relatively easy walk around a large lake high in the mountains.