Walking the Jura High Route

It could be said that the Jura are Switzerland’s unknown mountains. Unlike their dramatic neighbours, the Alps, and considerably lower in altitude, (their highest Swiss summit, Mont Tendre, is 1,679m) they long ago traded their glaciers and permanent fields of snow in favour of pastureland and forest. Now they run in parallel crests of green hill and scooped valley in a long arc down the western rim of the country to form a natural frontier with France. Indeed, the Jura belongs as much to France as it does to Switzerland, and long after the white cross has ceased to fly over isolated farms, the Jura continues as a ridge of limestone above French valleys and French villages with Mont Blanc saluting from afar.

This great rectangle of hills contains a lush series of landscapes; friendly, welcoming, pastoral. There are wild flowers in abundance, rich meadows, dense forests, glorious beechwoods. And views off to the Alps, beyond the levels of the Mittelland.

Across these hills there’s a long-distance walking route that explores the very best of the Swiss Jura; the Jurahohenweg to German-speaking Swiss, Chemin des Cretes du Jura in French. To English speaking hill walkers it is the Jura High Route.

The Jura High Route (JHR) is 299 kilometres long, stretching from Dielsdorf, outside Zurich, to Borex, a small village to the north of Geneva. Along the way it passes over the highest summits of the Swiss Jura. (Mont Tendre, La Dole, Chasseral, each over 1,600 metres.) it traverses meadowland and forest and visits isolated farms, secluded villages locked in a world of their own, historic small towns, ruined castles. There are stretches of riverside walking, and belvedere paths that trace the very crest of the ridge with huge views to embrace an ever-varies panorama. There are time-moulded pastures, soft under foot, and limestone terraces smoothed by wind and rain and ice-sheets that once bore down from the Alps. For much of the route the hills and their valleys are virtually empty of people. There’s an aura of solitude that can rarely be experienced among the higher Alps where the paths are too often crowded.

Here in the Jura it is possible to take a walk in the sky undisturbed by the crowds.

The Jura and its High Route offer an unhurried sense of calm, a pedestrian adventure in a world of green.

The Jura: Winter Ski Traverses

The purpose of this section of the book is twofold. First to point out the vast possibilities for enjoyable winter walking on skis in the Jura; and second to persuade those walkers and backpackers who have not yet taken to skis that they are missing an unforgettable experience. ...

There is so much skiing in the Jura that this guide can only touch the surface. The French call it the grandes espaces and truly when covered in dep snow you travel long distances without taking skis off. There are few walls, fences are buried, the occasional road is crossed with care, but generally you travel long unbroken mountainsides, combes and forests.

In this guide I have attempted to give you enough information to set you in the right direction and to assess whether you think you will enjoy the nature of skiing. Much is left to individual initiative. There is no point giving day-to-day descriptions as times, and even routes, will very enormously with conditions and your preferred approach of lightweight gîte d'étape or the heavier loads of spartan backpacking.