From Croix de Culet over the Col de Cou pass to Champéry
Panoramic hike to a dramatic border pass at the top of the Val d’Illiez. Scenic cable car ride, working alpine farms, idyllic Barme plateau, charming mountain restaurants.
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The top of the Val d’Illiez forms the border with France. The lowest crossing point is the Col de Cou (1,921 m), popular up to the 1950s as a smuggling route for sugar, butter, tobacco and watches. During the Second World War, locals helped smuggle refugees across the border, along with Resistance fighters and weapons. The views along the hike to this col are as dramatic as the region’s history. A scenic ride by cable car from Champéry leads to the summit station of Croix de Culet, starting point for the hike. The panoramic restaurant terrace offers jaw-dropping views of the Dents du Midi – a feature of the entire trail. The path traces a broad sweep across the mountainside, linking a sequence of alpine pastures. At Le Lapisa, walkers can taste cheese made daily over an open wood fire with milk from the cows and goats that graze on the flower-filled meadows all around. In autumn, the farmers make their own sausages; all the produce is available for sale at the friendly restaurant. Eventually the path climbs steeply to the windswept Col de Cou. The views of the mountains both sides of the border are magnificent, but the skies offer a thrilling spectacle, too: the aerial ballet of migrating birds. The Swiss Ornithological Institute runs a research station at the neighbouring col, just 1 km to the south, where every year volunteers ring 10,000 to 20,000 birds of more than 100 different species. From the Col de Cou, the route turns east, following the high ridge of the Arête de Berroi – one of the most exhilarating trails in the whole region. The path then drops down to the idyllic plateau of Barme – home to a sleepy hamlet, once a smugglers’ stronghold – before following the valley to Grand Paradis and eventually Champéry. Highlights Varied walk starting with panoramic cable car ride, magnificent views Excellent bird-spotting on one of main migration routes across the Alps Working alpine cheese farms, welcoming restaurants, delightful Barme plateau