By Pat Morton
Just like my article on cross-country skiing, I am going to stick with the keep-it-simple formula. There are nearly limitless places to hike in Switzerland. However, to keep it focused, I have chosen three that are close by, are relatively short, and are beautiful. And, in the skiing theme, one will be a “blue” beginner’s hike, one will be “red” intermediate hike, and one will be “black.” You can choose depending on your desired level of adventure.
Blue – The Versoix River
This hike is a hidden gem. It is very close by and very easy. You will wind through the woods under the canopy of the trees along the clear Versoix river. The hike rewards you with rapids and even a small waterfall. If you go far enough, you can even see a small dam and a small machine-gun nest from the 1938-1945 era. One fun activity for the walk is to throw sticks in the river to see whose will go farther. In short, it is good fun.
Distance: Up-to-you because it is out and back. But, the next road is in 6 km, so the maximum for this stretch is 12 km.
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is flat (your shoes might get muddy, so don’t bring the car with the white carpet).
Navigation: The trail follows the river. When you reach forks, just choose the one that stays by the river (or explore a bit).
Start Point: The French-Swiss border at Sauverny. Park in France on the left just after crossing the bridge (by the church and cemetery). Then, re-cross the bridge on foot and take the rough steps down to the river immediately at the end of the bridge rail.
586 Route de la Douane, 01220 Sauverny, France (46.311850, 6.119708)
Red Trail – Ballade à Béatrix, St. Cergue
This trail involves a little more climbing, but it is a short walk and rewards the hiker with wonderful views of Lac Leman and the French Alps. The hike follows the Balade à Béatrix trail from St. Cergue. Along the trail are 16 signposts that tell the legend of the final chapter of the Castle of St. Cergue that was destroyed during the Burgundian war (all signs in French). At the end of the trail, there is an open area with a large picnic table, so bring some snacks (always a good idea when combining kids and hiking). If you search, you can even find a little evidence of the castle that once was at the top. One of the best parts of this trail is that there is a playground in St. Cergue right where you park. I advise that you use this as a reward AFTER the hike rather than as a warm-up before the hike; this tends to result in better attitudes during the hike.
Distance: 2.6 km round-trip
Difficulty: Medium. The distance is short, but the hike is uphill all the way. Well, until you come back down…
Navigation: Follow the multicolored signs. The main tricky part is finding the start of the trail from the parking lot. See the map for hints.
Start Point: Park by the tourist office in St. Cergue. The part of the parking lot near the office is 2-hour. Further in, the parking time is not limited.
Place Sy-Vieuxville 5, 1264 Saint-Cergue (46.446554, 6.156989)
Are you ready for this? Although the distance is not severe, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The climb is steep and there are places where you feel very close to the edge of the cliff. However, if you take an easy pace and keep your eyes on the trail, the reward of reaching the top is fantastic! Plus, you can always stand at school and point up at the ball on top of the Jura and tell people that you were “up there!”
Bonus: Near the top of the road approaching the La Dôle parking area, if you follow the signs for La Barillette instead, there is a beautiful mountain restaurant. This restaurant is a wonderful destination even without the hike. However, you’ll have to deal with “fondue-guilt” if you don’t include the hike! Note that it is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Navigation: From the parking area facing the cliffs, I like to head to the right up to the saddle and then on to the peak. The ascent this direction is steep and there is one part where it feels like you are near the edge of the cliff. If you would like a little less steep and less “oh no, I am near the edge” experience, then ascend and descend on the trail to the left (again, as you face the cliff). The trail is marked with the yellow paint on rocks and the traditional Swiss trail signs.
Start Point: From Crassier, follow the signs to La Rippe and then La Dôle. Note that this is a steep mountain road that is a very popular route for bicyclists (like me). Please take it easy.
La Dȏle, 1275 Chéserex (46.425628, 6.107446)