The dramatic Massa gorge is a gift of the Aletsch Glacier. Ice carved the canyon long ago; later, meltwater polished its rocks. Today, the glacier is invisible from inside the gorge – yet the river of ice remains the mightiest in the Alps. 23 km long and containing 27 billion tons of ice, the glacier forms the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch”, just to the north.
The vertiginous gorge is the highlight of this thrilling hike, which follows the route of a former irrigation channel, the Riederi. First mentioned in historical documents in 1385, it was built to carry glacial meltwater to the fields around Ried-Mörel. The Riederi is no longer in use, but the trail that follows its course – recently blasted out of the rock of the canyon – makes for a spectacular hike. You’ll need a good head for heights!
The hike begins at Blatten, with a climb through forest to reach the Gibidum bridge. Once across the Massa river, the trail turns sharply southwards: first following the course of the gorge downstream, then turning north-west up the valley of the Rhône. Here, the path traverses woodland and pastures to reach the village of Ried-Mörel. The latter stage of the walk reveals sweeping views up and down the Rhône valley.
The route along the former irrigation channel is now a theme trail devoted to water. The ancient methods used to carry water across the landscapes of Valais are similar to those still used in Nepal. Info panels (in French and German) reveal the similarities between the two traditions, show the extraordinary efforts made to create and maintain the networks – and explore the customs and myths linked to them.
- Varied hike through forest, along a spectacular gorge and then across open meadows, with magnificent views throughout
- Short climb at start, then very gently sloping path – but a good head for heights required!
- Water-themed trail exploring the shared heritage of Valais and Nepal
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 and main road to Brig; follow signs for Naters, then Blatten. Signs may show “Blatten bei Naters” or “Blatten b.N.” The hike doesn’t end at the same place as it starts. We recommend to take public transport from Brig.
ParkingParking available at the cable car stations at the start and end of the walk. For most hikers travelling from further afield, the most practical option will be to park in the floor of the Rhône valley – for example in Brig – and make use of public transport.
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: