Discover the many facets of the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park on foot: from the idyllic mountain village of Unterems via the dramatic Bhutanese suspension footbridge to the European Energy Award town of Leuk.
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Starting point for the hike is the mountain village of Unterems, at an altitude of 1,003 m, accessible via a small cable car from Turtmann: the ride is an adventure in itself. The trail begins with a descent westward across pastures. Pause to take in the view of the slopes opposite: in autumn, especially, the sight of the fire-red European smoketrees is spectacular. The path leads through the forest down to the Emsbach river, and then follows a “Suone” irrigation channel for a while to reach the Meretschibach. After crossing the river, the path climbs steeply before leading above the hamlet of Feithieren towards the Illgraben ravine. Its river, the Illbach, looks innocuous enough in fine weather but during storms, or when rain combines with meltwater, it turns into a wild torrent carrying impressive quantities of rocks and silt. This rapid erosion has enabled the river to carve a course 1,500 m into the mountain and deposit the rock in the floor of the Rhône valley. Today, the Pfyn-Finges forest and the fields around Susten lie on top of such debris. Because of this geological activity, the Illgraben is a research area of national importance, equipped with monitoring and early-warning systems. A pedestrian footbridge, 134 m long, spans the Illgraben. It was built in 2002 – declared International Year of Mountains by the UN – in Bhutanese style, with support from the kingdom of Bhutan. Decorated with prayer flags, the bridge represents a link of friendship between the two countries. From the far side of the bridge, a gentle descent leads through the Pfyn-Finges forest. This forms the heart of the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park and has enjoyed official protection since 1997. It is one of the largest connected pine forests in the Alps, known for its great biodiversity. The hike finishes at the north-eastern edge of the Pfyn-Finges forest, by Leuk station. Highlights: The Illgraben, a geologically fascinating ravine, whose river has carved a passage 1,500 m into the rock. Bhutanese-style suspension footbridge, 134 m long. The Pfyn/Finges forest, a nature reserve known for its great biodiversity.