The second leg of the 5-stage Tour du Val d’Hérens links two side valleys: the Val d’Hérémence and the Val d’Arolla. The first part of the hike is a flattish walk the length of the Lac des Dix. A steep climb leads up to the Col de Riedmatten, which links the two valleys. The final stretch of hike is a steady descent to the village of Arolla.
The hike starts at the crest of the Grande Dixence, the world’s tallest gravity dam. From here it leads along the western shore of the Lac des Dix: Switzerland’s largest artificial reservoir, with a capacity of 400 billion litres of water. The setting is spectacular, with a parade of snow-capped peaks, draped with glaciers, forming a sparkling backdrop beyond the lake.
The trail climbs above one of the glaciers to a pass made famous by the world’s toughest ski mountaineering race. The Patrouille des Glaciers, held every other spring, sees teams of three race from Zermatt across the mountains and glaciers to Verbier, and has won a reputation as the world’s toughest team competition. The steep and narrow climb to the Col de Riedmatten (2,918 m) is one of the contest’s great challenges – although the ascent in summer should not pose problems for experienced mountain hikers.
From here, the trail leads steadily down to Arolla in the neighbouring valley.
Before starting the hike, if time permits, it is worth calling in at the visitor centre at the foot of the dam to learn about the region’s geology and wildlife. The centre also reveals some of the secrets of the pioneering Grande Dixence complex, which unites a vast network of reservoirs, underground tunnels, pumping stations and power plants to form Switzerland’s largest hydro plant.
- Grande Dixence – world’s largest gravity dam, visitor centre (free admission) and cable car
- Lac des Dix – flat trail along Switzerland’s largest reservoir, framed by snowy peaks
- Col de Riedmatten – dramatic climb to an iconic mountain pass
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:
Getting thereA9 motorway, exit 27 (Sion-Est), follow signs for Vex/Hérémence/Grande Dixence.
ParkingAt Grande Dixence. However, for a day trip, it makes more sense to park lower down the valley – e.g. at Vex – and to travel by postal bus to the start of the walk and back from the finish.
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: