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!)

Switzerland’s Wine Country in the Valais is filled with terraced grapevines, old church spires, and medieval castles. ©Laurel Kallenbach

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.

At times the views along the Wine Trail are quite wild. © Laurel Kallenbach

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.

If you get thirsty while hiking, you can refill your water bottle at a pump along the this scenic Swiss trail. © Laurel Kallenbach

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.

Vineyards in Valais, Switzerland  ©Laurel Kallenbach

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.

Signs explaining the characteristics of different grapes grown in the Valais. ©Laurel Kallenbach

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.

In mid-September, the grapes were heavy on the vine in the Salgesch/Sierre wine country.      ©Laurel Kallenbach

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

More info: Salgesch and Sierre are located in Switzerland’s Valais canton. For more info, visit MySwitzerland.com, Wines of Valais, Valais Tourism, Sierre/Salgesch Information.

Next: Eating raclette at the Chateau de Villa

Read more about my travels in Switzerland:

Showing 4 comments
  • Gail Storey

    “Walking through different types of grapes” with a tasting wine glass–does that sound like heaven or what?!

  • Laurel

    Reminds me of the recent post on your blog about how you and Porter scrimped on every ounce you backpacked on your trip, but when it came to the wine–what the heck!

    And I must say I was so-o-o-o impressed with the quality of almost every Swiss wine I sampled.

  • Carol Apple

    If I ever get to Europe this wine trail is definitely on my list of places to visit, except I may not want to go anywhere else. From the beautiful pictures it looks pretty close to my vision of Heaven. I’ll take my husband of course. He can read those German signs.

    • Laurel

      It is indeed helpful to have a working use of German in Switzerland (or French, if you’re in the French parts such as the Valais). And of course there is also the canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland where Italian is spoken! And, Switzerland actually has a fourth national language: Romansch, which is spoken in a few spots in the southeast of the country. That totals to four languages in one country the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

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