Summer in the Swiss Alps: Day’s hike from hut to hut, Verbier
A trip to Verbier, in the Swiss Alps, in summer offers the opportunity to try a range of fantastic outdoor activities, including a mountain trail hike.
Usually I visit the mountains of Europe for skiing in winter so it was a fantastic treat to see the slopes mostly clear of snow and looking very beautiful in the summer hues of lush green grass and brightly coloured wildflowers.
A striking feature, too, is the snow that still remains on the mountain tops and, higher up, the vast glaciers. It’s clear to see where the glaciers have been receding in more recent years (at a frightening speed, according to our hiking guide Marie) yet they still provide a magnificent sight.
I enjoyed a day’s hut-to-hut hike in the area called Bagnes with a small group, including Dominic, Jonathan and Sophie, as well as Marie leading the way with her collie dog.
After a stop for lunch (the cabane is also a refuge if you want to stay for the night) we descended 1151m to the village of Fionnay, where we returned by taxi to Verbier. Fionnay is in the canton of Valais and the municipality of Bagnes at a height of 1490m.
Note: The local tourist office can arrange free transfers, or there’s the free postal bus, if you don’t want to pay for a taxi.
Top tip: If you stay in Verbier overnight between June and October, whether it is in a campsite or a luxury hotel, you are given a special VIP pass. VIP stands for Verbier Infinite Playground and it offers a wealth of free and discounted attractions in the area over the summer. The pass allows for free transport by postal bus from Fionnay to Verbier.
Verbier: Cabane to cabane day’s hike
From Cabane Brunet to Cabane FXB Panossiere is around 7km and a vertical gain of 500m. Allow some three hours for the hike if you want to enjoy taking photos and see a wide array of flowers en route.
The path is well-trodden and I would recommend summer walking boots or walking shoes or trail trainers.
We were lucky to have Marie of Animalpes to guide us. She has a huge bank of knowledge and pointed out numerous wild flowers, including some amazing orchids. It was clear to see how the changes in altitude affected what could grow on the terrain and there were surprising natural adaptations, such as the tiny flowers that have five metre long roots to cope with soil that often shifts down the mountain.
We also spotted a marmot disappearing into the vegetation, massive bearded vultures flying overhead (apparently the largest bird in the Alps and one of the rarest) and several chamois.
At Cabane FXB Panossiere we enjoyed a simple but tasty meal.
From Cabane FXB Panossiere to Fionnay is 8km and a vertical drop of 1151m. Allow about two hours for this part of the walk.
The route up and down was not the same but rather formed a hike from A to B taking in a route up one side of the valley and a descent down the other side. This made it more interesting than an out-and-back route although it did mean we descended more than twice the vertical height that we climbed.
Another way to think about it is that the ascent was half as much as the descent. Whatever way you look at it, I loved the journey.
The best format to showcase this hike is in photographs.
The hike up to Panossiere
From Panossiere to Fionnay descent
Dinner at Le Ferme du Soleil
The day was rounded off with a meal at Le Ferme du Soleil, located on a mountain slope above Verbier.
The farm is easily accessible by car from Verbier centre or you can walk, if you have the time and energy.
It is an agro-tourism attraction where you can visit the farm animals – and enjoy a meal from farm produce.
This part is not something I was sure about. We visited calves and baby rabbits and I was that comfortable with the idea of them becoming food for my plate. It was not a direct animal-to-plate thing that evening but rather it does bring home to you where your meat is coming from.
From another point of view, it is good to know that the meat is produced from free range animals and there is the view that you should not eat meat at all if you can’t cope with its provenance.
I have always wrestled with the fact that I eat meat yet somehow wish I could be vegetarian. I was a veggie for a decade so perhaps this is why I struggle a bit with the agro-tourism restaurant concept.
In any case, the meal at Le Ferme was excellent and once I’d sat down to dinner I felt disconnected from the calves I’d seen earlier. It is something to consider, however, and you could choose to eat a veggie meal.
Where to stay?
There are numerous choices of where to stay in Verbier, from campsites to five-star hotels. We stayed at three-star Hotel Farinet. It is a lovely hotel with well-appointed rooms in the centre of the mountain town. The hospitality and breakfasts were superb.
How to get to Verbier
I travelled by EasyJet from Edinburgh to Geneva. I then boarded the very slick Swiss train to Le Chable, changing at Martigny. See Swiss Railways. Le Chable to Verbier is a short taxi ride.
You can also choose a Swiss Transfer Ticket that covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and destination. Priced from 154 CHF/£117 in second class. For more information visit www.sbb.ch/en
- Note: This was a press trip but all the views/opinions are my own.