(Tour du Val d'Anniviers) A cloud inversion over Zinal

The Tour du Val d'Anniviers: A guide to the trek

Walking guides - see all our background pages


Alpine Exploratory's Tour du Val d'Anniviers is a 4-stage trek in the Swiss Alps. Specifically we trek a circuit in the Val d'Anniviers, one of several North-South valleys that run off the main Rhone valley. This is the real Swiss Alps, the wooden barns in everyday use and flowers hanging in baskets from chalet balconies.

This route is one of our less challenging. The total distance over 4 days is 36km or 22.5 miles; several options exist for extending the walking, to choice each day. We chose the Val d'Anniviers for this trip because of its network of villages linked by good paths. To get about in the valley needs some element of ascent and descent, sometimes steep.. this is hard to avoid in the Alps proper.. but overall the trek is manageable and modest.

We start at the high village of Zinal, the end of the line, and trek to Hotel Weisshorn, St. Luc, Grimentz and back to Zinal. The famous Hotel Weisshorn is an Alpine institution, a grand Victorian hotel in the location of a hut.

The lie of the land

The bus from Sierre in the Rhone valley - mainline trains - climbs in steep hairpins, tooting its horn at corners. It reaches Vissoie, base town for the two separate valleys that branch off towards the spine of the mountains. (These are the Pennine Alps.) One branch is to Grimentz and the Barrage de Moiry - a spectacular dam. The other branch is to Zinal. Directly up the hill from Vissoie is the hillside village of St. Luc. The Hotel Weisshorn is on a rough level with St. Luc, in between it and Zinal.

Best bits

The view back to Zinal is locally famous; a hill race goes in the opposite direction along this high balcony path.

On the last stage, above Grimentz an optional route climbs to the Col de Sorebois for high views of the Lac de Moiry and the barrage.

Photos from trips: Tour du Val d'Anniviers

Climbing out of Zinal
Climbing out of Zinal

Is it for me?

The Tour du Val d'Anniviers might suit trekkers used to multi-day walking, who would like to see this dramatic part of the Alps but avoiding the harder trails and the need to cross cols.

The feeling of walking into the next village, your home for the night, is hard to beat. The mission is ongoing to complete the loop, each night bringing a new choice of restaurants - except for Hotel Weisshorn at which we include dinner.

Can I manage it?
We plan the Tour du Val d'Anniviers to be at the easier end of Alpine trekking. It would not suit walkers used only to flat or smooth trails. If you have walked at the difficulty level but not over consecutive days, then 4 days is a reasonable length to aim for.

What's it like underfoot?
The trail is often hardpack, dusty in normal conditions but liable to be muddy in rain. On ascents or descents, the path can be slightly rooty or rocky, with significant steps in places. Other stretches are on country lanes (tarmac) or wide forest paths.

Optional variants bring a different mix of terrain including open hill paths, and these are noted in your routecards.

A typical mountain path above St. Luc
A typical mountain path above St. Luc

Are the routes obvious?
Most of the paths in this part of Switzerland - indeed the country in general - are well-marked with regular flashes of red and white paint, in between junctions with the yellow Swiss Alpine Club signposts. These are a treat compared to many walking areas, signposts typically showing distances to the nearest 5 minutes to likely destinations.

Although the navigation is generally easy, it is essential for all parties in the Alps to have at least one navigator who is happy with a map and compass, for those situations where the route is not marked at a turning or where the clouds have closed in. Our routecards, notes and maps give you all you need to complete the trek under your own steam.

During each summer season, snow falls on typically two or three or more occasions. It tends to go away equally quickly and tends not to be deep at the altitude of our Tour du Val d'Anniviers route, even on the optional variants, but for the time that it remains it can make navigation quite challenging. Under a cover of snow, ground features are hidden and reliance on map and compass skills is key.

Is the walking technically difficult?
The main challenge on this four-day trek is a rooty stretch of path, or the gradiant itself of a climb or descent. Generally it is a simple route to walk.

Climbing high above Zinal
Climbing high above Zinal

When to go?
Our Tour du Val d'Anniviers season runs from early July to mid-September.

This short season is imposed by the weather. The route is lower than most of our others in the Alps, so the chance of late-Spring snow patches remaining into early July is small, but to be safer we keep to early July. At the other end of the season there is a chance of the weather deteriorating into late September. Because we can't predict the weather for the coming summer, we have to set these dates in advance.

A turquoise Lac de Moiry
A turquoise Lac de Moiry

Where to stay

The Swiss villages are replete with cheery hotels. This is a good area for hotels, the villages doubling as ski resorts in Winter albeit relatively small scale ones. Standards are comfy, breakfasts quite hearty. The immense spreads of the Austrian Alps are not so common in the French-speaking Alpine areas, if we may generalise, but you should be well-fed and ready for the walk.

Each of your nights is in a hotel; all of your nights are in a private room, not dormitories.

Edelweiss above Lac de Moiry
Edelweiss above Lac de Moiry

The Tour du Val d'Anniviers in context

The Tour du Val d'Anniviers relative to treks in the UK
A good all-round trek like our North Lakes Circuit has some similarities to the Tour du Val d'Anniviers. Both these treks mix valley paths with higher ones, crossing country to gain the next village. Compared to our big UK treks such as the Coast to Coast and the Pennine Way, the Tour du Val d'Anniviers is much less challenging - though in places the path can still be steep.

The Tour du Val d'Anniviers relative to the Walker's Haute Route
The 4 stages are in fact 2 of the Haute Route (one by an easier route, the other only as far as the Hotel Weisshorn) plus 2 other stages that form the circuit via Vissoie. Thus some paths of the Haute Route are walked, and thus for the duration the terrain is the same. However, the length is very different, and thus the overall challenge. The walking away from the Haute Route is at a substantially easier level of terrain.

Trek the Tour du Val d'Anniviers with Alpine Exploratory

Alpine Exploratory offers this self-guided Tour du Val d'Anniviers in four stages. We're also pleased to book shorter or longer sub-sections of the routes according to your available dates, including to add stages either side.. becoming more like a mini-Haute Route. Please contact us to discuss options.

Our self-guided holidays give you what you need to complete the route under your own steam. We book your accommodation in hotels and we give you our detailed routecards, the local maps, and lots of notes. Our private guided trips are similar but give you the benefit of an Alpine Exploratory leader to show the way.

Guided and self-guided holidays - see our full range

Research 2017

Keith Miller at Alpine Exploratory Keith Miller
Keith will lead Alpine Exploratory's 2017 Val d'Anniviers research, in July

Trips 2017

Alpine Exploratory offers the following holidays based on our Swiss Valais research:

Tour du Val d'Anniviers

City breaks after trekking

Our Tour du Val d'Anniviers holidays come with notes on the following cities, in your info pack:

Geneva in Switzerland
Lucerne in Switzerland
Zurich in Switzerland

City breaks after trekking

Map showing the route of Alpine Exploratory's Tour du Val d'Anniviers walking holiday

Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.
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