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Fitness
Hiking trail

La Fouly to Champex

Hiking trail · Orsières
Responsible for this content
Macs Adventure Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • Switzerland's Val Ferret
    / Switzerland's Val Ferret
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Precipitous Path
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Scattered Swiss Chalets
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / View Through Valley
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Traditional Swiss House
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Les Arlaches
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Champex-Lac
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Champex Lake
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
m 1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km

Pine forests, alpine meadows and charming Swiss villages are all in abundance today on this, the easiest day of the trip, as you hug the river through the valley with only a modest climb at the end to reach Champex-Lac.

moderate
14.9 km
4:45 h
499 m
632 m

Today’s trail is unique because rather than heading high into the mountains, the path keeps to the valley hugging the Dranse de Ferret river and skipping from one idyllic spot to the next. As the easiest section of the Tour du Mont Blanc, it provides an opportunity to relax in the rejuvenating nature of pine forests and alpine meadows. Enjoy it, for this respite, is only brief and tomorrow there are new cols and mountains to tackle!

Walk through the valley which is punctuated with Swiss villages that time appears to have forgotten. As a whole each village is a scattered collection of wooden chalets that seem to set the scene for a fairy tale. Zoom in and you’ll discover that each individual lodge oozes character and tells a story, from the neat jumble of firewood that props up the side wall, to the jaunty angle of the roof, to the deep smell of pine forest as you wander past; this is an enchanting place far removed from the world many of us know.

Finish in the village of Champex-Lac which appears well-deserving of its nickname, ‘Little Canada’. Surrounding a glacial lake with vivid turquoise tones and set against a backdrop of pine trees that roll up the mountain slopes, you could indeed be across the Atlantic and in Canada. It’s a splendid spot to spend the night or enjoy a picnic on your arrival!

Author’s recommendation

Dip your feet in the Champex-Lac. It may not be as cold as you think, and it’ll do them a world of good (as long as you don’t walk with wet feet immediately after)!

outdooractive.com User
Author
Josiah Skeats
Updated: February 12, 2020

Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
1610 m
Lowest point
1028 m

Safety information

There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.

 

Equipment

Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.

Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.

Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.

This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.

Tips, hints and links

Points of Interest

Champex-Lac

Champex-Lac is known as ‘Little Canada’ for its vast forests, rugged mountains, wooden chalets and turquoise-hued alpine lake. You can walk around the lake, go for a swim, rent pedalos or SUP’s (Stand Up Paddleboards), try your luck with a fishing rod, or just sit back in a bar and admire the view with a cool beer or local wine.

 

Traditional Swiss Villages

Today’s trail passes through the villages of Praz-de-Fort, Les Arlaches and Issert, each a scattering of antiquated wooden chalets that overflow with flowers, prop up logpiles and wouldn’t appear out of place in a fairy-tale or the front of a postcard. Despite, or perhaps because of, the remoteness, they each appear a most idyllic place to live.

 

Sentier des Champignons

As you approach Champex the Tour du Mont Blanc joins with the Sentier des Champignons or ‘Path of Mushrooms’. There are information boards detailing the existence of mushrooms in this valley, though these are written in French only. But, you will be able to enjoy the sculptures carved into tree stumps along the trail, and perhaps even spot a few of the well-camouflaged mushrooms!

 

Transport

If you wish to skip walking completely today you can catch the Swiss Post Bus via Orsières to Champex. Timetables available at the bus stop in La Fouly or,

La Fouly – Orsières/Orsieres to Champex timetables are available here: http://www.sbb.ch/fahrplan.html 

 

Food and Drink

There are several opportunities to buy food today. The villages of Prez-de-Fort, Les Alarches and Issert have a few options for small stores, cafes, and restaurants. You will pass them in quick succession between 8.5 and 10.5 kilometres.

You don’t need to carry too much water today as each village has taps and fountains where you can fill up easily.

Start

La Fouly (1608 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
45.933090, 7.098645
UTM
32T 352597 5088371

Destination

Champex-Lac

Turn-by-turn directions

Continue walking through La Fouly in the same direction as yesterday, heading downriver with the river on your left. After 330 metres, just before reaching a large car park, turn left to head downhill through woodland, and then cross the over the river. Once across the river, turn right along the paved road, and then after 100 metres, opposite the playpark, turn right onto the gravel road, following the sign to Champex.

This path continues through meadows and woodland, keeping the stream on your right and large slabs of rock (popular with climbers) on your left. Three paths will cross the main stream with bridges but you can ignore these, keeping the river on your right and following the regular signposts to Champex.

At 4.3km, beside a bridge, turn left onto the narrow footpath into the woods, following the yellow sign. This path will begin climbing high above the river, and with views to scattered Swiss chalets on the far side of the valley. At 4.9km there is a section with a steep drop on your right; walk carefully and hold the chain provided for your safety.

At 6.1km, as you emerge into a small clearing, turn right and follow the straight path that will head downhill towards the stream. At the bottom, don’t cross the bridge, but walk with the river on your right and follow the road that winds through the charming village of Praz-de-Fort ignoring all side roads. At 7.9km, turn right onto Chemin de la Vallo and follow the TMB sign which winds on narrow roads through the antiquated wooden chalets in the centre of the village. This will eventually emerge onto the main road, where you cross the river and then turn left onto the paved road, now walking with the river on your left. This road will continue through Les Alarches.

At 9.5km bear right to leave the road and head diagonally downhill towards a wooden bridge in the centre of Issert. There are some impressive chalets visible here including one built atop a boulder, which you will pass on your left. Once across the bridge, bear right to walk on the verge of the main road. After 300 metres bear left from the main road and follow the yellow arrows to begin the climb to Champex. There are abundant junctions here, but signposts and yellow blazes of paint on trees and rocks will help guide you.

As you emerge onto a paved road, turn left to immediately pass the ‘Welcome to Champex-Lac’ signpost. This road winds uphill towards the centre of Champex, though there are a few trodden shortcuts which you can take. Upon reaching the lake you will see a pleasant gravel footpath that encircles it. To head into the centre of the village, bear right to walk along this footpath with the lake on your left. Why not enjoy a picnic on the banks of the lake or, for a more civilised affair, stop in one of the cafés that overlooks it.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
14.9 km
Duration
4:45h
Ascent
499 m
Descent
632 m

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