Wild Valleys and Gorgeous Gorges near Lausanne

October 4, 2022

Photograph by Damian Markutt, Article by Marc Pettersson

Nature works in astonishing ways, and a prime example is the way water behaves. Flowing water feels soothing when we immerse our hands in a stream, while at the same time this same water can carve through almost any material that stands in its way.

Be it a river meandering like a snake through the landscape or a waterfall eating through solid rock. Over thousands of years, water creates mind-boggling art, and the mountains around Lausanne provide a magnificent setting for it.

When the conditions are right, the rivers dig deep forming spectacular gorges; deep and narrow canyons surrounded by steep rock walls.

Here is a guide to explore gorges all within close range from Lausanne. Blessed with natural beauty and home to several gorges, the Trient valley is our pick. Our starting point is the source of le Trient river; the Trient Glacier in the Mont-Blanc Massif. Stunning, steep mountains line the river with very pretty villages scattered sparsely along the sunny side of the valley.

The Trient valley hosts no less than three spectacular gorges, plus one additional very close by, making it THE place for gorge-spotting.

It sits closest to the source, and is our first gorge. The path leads us steep downhill to the wooden bridge that lines the canyon, where the humidity makes it feel like we are in a jungle. The path terminates at a steep staircase leading down to a hidden basin, where a massive boulder is wedged as a lid between the narrow walls. Continuing downstream to the junction where le Trient and l´Eau Noire rivers merge, we walk straight out onto the bouldery riverbed, barefoot in the soft sand and smooth pebbles immersed in the icy water.

Residing beside the picturesque hamlet Trétien with the path taking us through narrow alleys lined by dark ancient wooden buildings; much like the gorges we just visited. The sound of water pounding the rocks is both roaring and soothing at the same time, drowning other noises out and leaving us with only our thoughts.

Immersed in Scottish pines which release a very pleasant scent, the walk down reveals stunning views of the Alps. The path follows the Salanfe river which has found its way through the granite cliffs which form a massive waterfall before the river melds quietly into the Rhône.

Cascade de la Pissevache is visible from afar and is just a short walk from the Vernayaz station.

These gorges lie just before the confluence of le Trient and le Rhône. Vertical walls hundreds of meters high let in only a trickle of light which makes the smooth, wavy rock walls look even more imposing. This is the only gorge that charges entry, the others are free to access.

Note: All sites are accessible by train from Martigny to Vallorcine providing views along the trip, or by car. For the efficient tourist, several of the gorges can be combined in a day trip. Bring good hiking boots and water. But no particular equipment is necessary, however, the walks are physically demanding and often lack possibilities to bail out mid-route.

Watery Lifelines in the Alps

Hiking the irrigation channels is a great way to discover another side of Switzerland's natural beauty.
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