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.
- 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
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, hints and links
More information about the destinations:
Getting thereA9 motorway, exit 18 (St-Triphon) if approaching from Lake Geneva or exit 19 (Bex) if driving from higher up the Rhône valley. Follow signs for Monthey and then Champéry.
ParkingLarge car park by the cable car station in Champéry.
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: