Originally published in 2010
You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy a hike along Switzerland’s Valais Wine Trail, which links the winemaking villages of Salgesch and Sierre. (Although if you are, all the better!)
This magical footpath winds through vineyards for 6.5 km (about 4 miles) and offers exquisite views of the Valais’ Rhone Valley. (You can return by train to your point of departure.)
Open all year, this relatively easy (and educational!) trek links the wine museums in the village of Salgesch (Salquenen is its French name) and in the town of Sierre.
Along the route are signs explaining the history of this Swiss wine region and the different kinds of grapes that grow there. (Alas, these signs are in French and German only. Brush up on your linguistic skills before you go!). There are also strategically located picnic spots and benches along the way.
I hiked the trail from scenic Salgesch to Sierre, and here’s a tip for people with limited time: If you can’t do the whole trail, walk at least 10 minutes up the road from the Salgesch wine museum for spectacular views of the town’s church tower with the mountains in the background.
Strolling Among Grapevines
At first, the road and then gravel or dirt trail leads steeply to the vineyards, then it follows the contours of the terrain and crosses the Raspille River, the demarcation line between the German- and French-speaking parts of this region. It then follows some ancient bisses (ancient irrigation canals), all the while opening up new and glorious vistas.
There’s one spot along the trail with signs labeling the various types of grapes—many of which I had never heard of, but which I later learned make excellent wines, including Cornalin, Petite Arvine and Humagne Blanche.
Later, you pass through the village of Muraz where there’s a good restaurant if you want a meal or a glass of wine. Then, continue on to the town of Sierre, where the trail ends at another wine museum. Just a block away is the Château de Villa, a restaurant that specializes in raclette, a Swiss melted-cheese specialty.
The Château de Villa also has an extensive wine cellar and tasting room devoted to the vintages of the 400 winemakers in the Valais. You could wander for an hour or more inspecting its many bottles—and hopefully sampling a few.
Marche des Cépages
I want to mention an annual wine event that takes place in early September and centers on the Wine Trail. It’s called the Marche des Cépages (which translates roughly into “walking through different types of grapes”) and it attracts thousands of people who pay a fee to get a tasting wine glass. They then walk along the trail with their glass, stopping at tents along the way to sample wines from the very vineyards they’re wandering through.
I was a week too late to do the Marche, but it sounds like a blast—especially after you’ve drunk a glass or two of wine. In fact, on any day, I’d highly recommend you pack along a bottle as you walk the Wine Trail.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Read more about my travels in Switzerland:
- Eating Raclette in a Swiss Castle
- Swiss Wine Country: Picturesque & Superb
- Sleep in the Straw in Switzerland
- Switzerland’s Imperial Crown Mountains
- Adopt a Swiss Cow and Support Sustainable Dairies
- Swiss Farmer Grows Organic Herbs for Ricola
- Swiss Farms: The Source of the Cheese
- Cows on Parade: A Swiss Celebration