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Fitness
Hikes

Hike around Mauvoisin lake

Hikes · Wallis
Responsible for this content
Valais/Wallis Promotion Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • Mauvoisin dam with open-air art gallery.
    / Mauvoisin dam with open-air art gallery.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
  • / Mauvoisin dam.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
  • / Mauvoisin dam.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
  • / View from the Mauvoisin dam to the Val de Bagnes.
    Photo: Valais/Wallis Promotion
  • / Mauvoisin lake.
    Photo: Valais/Wallis Promotion
  • / Inside of the Mauvoisin dam.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
  • / Stable (Giétro) on the hike around the Mauvoisin lake.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
  • / Stable (Giétro) on the hike around the Mauvoisin lake.
    Photo: Verbier Promotion
m 3000 2800 2600 2400 2200 2000 1800 1600 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km Das Naturschutzgebiet … Bagnes

Demanding hike around the Lac de Mauvoisin in the wild landscape of the Haut Val de Bagnes nature reserve. Spectacular alpine scenery and a welcoming mountain refuge.
difficult
22.2 km
8:00 h
924 m
925 m

The Lac de Mauvoisin is a man-made reservoir in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty. The trail begins below the foot of the Mauvoisin dam: at 250 metres, the second-tallest in Switzerland. Illustrated panels show how a network of tunnels deep in the rock connect the reservoir with hydro stations as far away as the floor of the Rhône valley, to maximise electricity generation. Around fifteen double-sided panels are erected on the concrete giant to present thirty large-scale works of art during the summer months.

The trail soon disappears into an opening in the mountainside and follows a former construction gallery for 392 metres through the rock, decorated with photos telling the story of the dam. Walkers emerge at the top of the structure – in summer an open-air art gallery featuring large-format photographs by international artists.

Today’s reservoir is man-made, but lakes have formed here naturally in the past – with catastrophic results. In 1818, ice falls from the Glacier du Giétro to the east had blocked the river, eventually creating a lake 200 m long and 60 m deep. Attempts to drain it failed, and on 16 June the ice dam gave way. A wall of water devastated the valley, killing more than 40 people; the subsequent investigations mark the birth of glaciology.

The trail leads high above the eastern shores of the reservoir and deep into the heart of a vast wilderness: the Haut Val de Bagnes nature reserve, the second largest in Switzerland (150 sq. km). An exceptional variety of flora includes rare alpine flowers as well as chamois, marmots and ibex.

The southernmost point of the trail is the Cabane de Chanrion, offering a welcoming stop for refreshments. From here, the trail leads along the western shores of the reservoir back to the dam and the start of the walk.

 

Highlights

  • Barrage de Mauvoisin – 2nd tallest dam in Switzerland
  • Dramatic ascent to the summit through former construction tunnels
  • Haut Val de Bagnes wilderness – Switzerland’s 2nd largest nature reserve

Author’s recommendation

Walk just beyond the Hôtel de Mauvoisin to see the monumental land art sculpture by the US artist Michael Heizer.

Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
Col de Tsofeiret, 2629 m
Lowest point
Hotel Mauvoisin, 1841 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

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 destination:  

Start

Hotel Mauvoisin at the foot of the dam (1842 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
46.002488, 7.342287
UTM
32T 371645 5095659

Destination

Hotel Mauvoisin at the foot of the dam

Turn-by-turn directions

Starting at the Hôtel de Mauvoisin, follow the information trail to emerge at the top of the dam. The route then leads across the top of the dam and along the eastern shore of the reservoir – initially through tunnels and galleries cut in the rock, and then zig-zagging up towards the Giétro stables, a witness to the valley’s heritage.

The track continues climbing steadily along the eastern slopes of the valley to reach a cluster of alpine lakes, the Lacs de Tsofeiret, and the highest point of the hike, the Col de Tsofeiret (2,635 m), before descending to the Cabane de Chanrion (2,462 m).

From here, the trail heads steeply back down to the floor of the valley, before leading above the western shores of the reservoir back to the dam and the start of the hike.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Public transport

Train to Martigny, change on to local train to Le Châble. Postal bus to Mauvoisin. Find full timetable information at sbb.ch.

Getting there

A9 motorway, exit 22 (Gd St-Bernard). Follow signs to Verbier as far as Le Châble; at entrance of village, turn right to cross bridge and follow signs for Mauvoisin. Continue as far as the Hôtel de Mauvoisin at the end of the Val de Bagnes.

Parking

Free parking near the Hôtel de Mauvoisin.
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendation by the author

The tourist office in Verbier has got brochures and information material about hiking in the region.

Author’s map recommendations

SwissTopo maps 1:25’000: 1346 Chanrion

Equipment

We recommend: 

  • good footwear
  • clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
  • hat or cap
  • sunscreen
  • bottle for water
  • picnic
  • camera
  • binoculars (optional)
  • hiking poles (optional)
  • printout of this hike (click “Print” icon, to download) 

For certain walks:

  • Swimwear

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Photos from others


Difficulty
difficult
Distance
22.2 km
Duration
8:00h
Ascent
924 m
Descent
925 m
Loop Scenic Refreshment stops available Cultural/historical value Geological highlights Botanical highlights Faunistic highlights Insider tip

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