This dramatic walk packs in tremendous variety, even for Valais: culture and history, spectacular mountain scenery, dramatic gorges, winemaking villages and glorious views of the wildest stretch of the Rhône valley.
The hike falls into two halves. It begins at the spa resort of Leukerbad with a descent of the wild Dala valley. Lower down, the trail diverts through the vineyards of two of Valais’ most charming winemaking villages. The route finishes just short of the river Raspille, which marks the border between German- and French-speaking Valais.
The trail is marked as a Kulturweg – «Cultural Pathway» – for good reason. The ancient Romans came this way to frequent Leukerbad’s hot mineral springs, the most abundant in the Alps. For centuries, the Dala valley was an important trade route into Valais – from the Bernese Oberland via the Gemmi Pass. The very first group package tour to Switzerland, organised by Thomas Cook, travelled up the Dala valley in 1863, and the route is now commemorated as the ViaCook.
Part of our trail follows the route of a disused railway line, which ran between Leuk and Leukerbad from 1915 to 1967. But it was another railway line that definitively diverted traffic away from the valley: the Lötschberg, which opened in 1913. In 2007, the pioneering new Lötschberg tunnel opened: 400 metres lower, it can accommodate trains travelling up to 250 km/h.
The first half of the trail follows a scenic route through the Dala valley, incorporating sections of the old Roman path and former railway line. The second stretch leads through the vineyards of Varen (known for its Pinot Noir wines made with grapes grown by natural methods) and Salgesch (home to one of the two sites of the Wine Museum of Valais).
- Leukerbad spa resort – the most abundant hot springs in the Alps
- Wild Dala valley: Roman path, historical villages, picturesque chapels
- Winegrowing villages of Varen and Salgesch, superb views over untamed Rhône
Safety informationUse of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. My Leukerbad 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 destinations:
Getting thereFrom Basel and Zurich: A1 motorway to Bern; A6 to Spiez; direction Kandersteg; Kandersteg - Goppenstein car transport; direction Gampel; Leuk - Leukerbad.
From Geneva: Motorway A1 to Lausanne; direction Sion/Sierre; Leuk - Leukerbad.
From Milan: Motorway A8/A26 direction Simplon; car transport Iselle-Brig; direction Leuk - Leukerbad.
ParkingDifferent underground car parks in Leukerbad. Follow the local car park routeing in Leukerbad.
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: