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.
- 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.
Use of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. Valais/Wallis Promotion accepts no liability for the accuracy and completeness of information on this website.
For all hikes:
- Bring a map. Download full description of this route including large-scale map by clicking on «Print» icon, top right of this page.
- Use marked trails only, and observe all signposting – for your own safety, to safeguard grazing animals and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
- Close gates after passing through.
- Please be considerate to other trail users, and to the plants and animals.
- Do not leave any waste in nature.
For mountain hikes:
- Take extra care protecting yourself from the sun at altitude. UV radiation can be exceptionally strong, even in cloudy weather.
- Plan hike carefully: take into consideration fitness level of each participant, weather forecast and season.
- Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, without warning. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time.
For high-altitude hikes:
- Inform others of the route you plan to take. Whenever possible, avoid going alone.
- Do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
- Take note of the warning signs that point out the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs: water levels may rise rapidly without warning.
Tips and hints
More information about the destination:
Getting thereA9 motorway to Leuk. Ideally, park your car at Leuk and continue to the starting point of the hike via public transport.
ParkingIdeally, park at Leuk railway station and continue to Unterems via public transport. Follow the local directions for parking in Susten/Leuk.
Book recommendation by the author
Author’s map recommendations
- good footwear
- clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
- hat or cap
- bottle for water
- binoculars (optional)
- hiking poles (optional)
- printout of this hike (click «Print» icon, to download)
For certain walks: