A country with high mountains, glaciers and snowfields, naturally has lots of rushing rivers and streams cascading down through the millennia, chipping away at the bedrock, carving watery paths with steep walls. This is why Switzerland is blessed with so many gorgeous gorges. (Random fact: in French “gorge” means “throat.”)
Autumn is a fine time to explore these hidden forest-lined places when the stream-side paths become carpeted with yellow leaves – though be careful: slippery when wet!
Gorge walks can last 15 minutes or a whole day. A few suggestions:
Noiraigues, Canton Neuchatel: Gorges de l’Areuse
Like many gorges, the riverbed’s boulders and smaller rocks show the geological processes that have carved this gorge into the lower slopes of the Jura range.
An old stone bridge is right out of fairytales, and a lovely place to propose to your Princess Bride, especially since you can celebrate at the trailside Champ du Moulin restaurant. The whole trail can take nearly a day, or there are shorter segments.
There are two main walks. The short one from Noiraigue or the long one from Saint-Sulpice.
Martigny, Canton Valais: Durnand Gorge
Wood plank walkways and steps are bolted to cliff walls, allowing you, if you are so inclined, to lean over and spit right into the tumbling waters and make a wish. Yes, the noise and thoughts of being being swept away can be a little scary, and, as with all gorge walks, it’s important to be wary of slippery surfaces. But for able hikers who like descending deep into a gorge with thundering cascades and only a strip of sky above – wow.
The Gorge du Durand is a 10 minute drive from Martigny, home to the Fondation Pierre Gianadda art gallery, and Barry Land, where you can sometimes see Grand Saint Bernard puppies.
Zermatt, Canton Valais: Gorner Gorge
Take just a 15-minute walk down the winding rocky trail and steps – or spend hours here on the boardwalks, going down and up and down, scraping your shoulder and shins against rock walls, shouting over the white noise of the rushing narrow river just below.
To get to the Gorner Gorge, or Gornerschlucht in German, you need to hop on the train to Zermatt village.
While you’re in the region you might want to check out the world’s longest suspension bridge in Randa.
Bad Ragaz, Canton St. Gallen: Tamina Gorge
One day an Indiana Jones movie will be filmed in this dramatic narrow gorge lined with over-hanging, sharply corrugated and blunted walls that barely allow any sunlight to penetrate.
After his adventures, Mr. Jones will recover in the grotto fed by thermal mineral springs, then visit museums devoted to the twin joys of religion and spas. Spas? Oh yes. Even including a surreal new multimedia spectacle.
Tamina Gorge is in the canton of St. Gallen not too far from the border of Liechtenstein.
Castel San Pietro, Canton Ticino: The Park of the Breggia Gorge
This 1.5-km trail through Switzerland’s first “geo-park”, is a jagged geological classroom with slanted bedrock serving as a slate upon which are etched more than 80 million years of history.
Embedded fossil deposits reveal that the area was an ancient sea. Human history is written here, too: the ruins of a 14th-century church and 17th-century mill, plus a brewery and cement factory. Seasonal tours of the gorge with a geologist may be organised, as well as of the cement factory and its spooky quarry tunnels. (email@example.com, +41.91.690.10.29)
Breggia Gorge is in Italian-speaking Switzerland just north of the Italian town of Como.
Mendrisio Tourist Office website.
These are just five of Switzerland’s remarkable gorges. For a larger list of these and other similar natural wonders,
see this list.
By Bill Harby
For more stories like this on Switzerland follow us on Facebook and Twitter.