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An Introduction to Walking in Arolla and Zinal

Nestled in southern Switzerland's Valais region, Arolla lies in the Val d'Hérens, while Zinal is high in the Val d'Anniviers. With traditional villages, challenging hikes, and welcoming huts nestled amongst towering 4000m peaks, the valleys offer rugged charm, unspoilt landscapes and adventurous walking in a Swiss alpine wonderland. Here's what you need to know.

Walking in Arolla and Zinal - Front Cover

Walking in Arolla and Zinal

Walks and short treks in the Val d'Hérens and Val d'Anniviers in the Swiss Valais

£17.95

Guidebook describing 35 mountain walks in the beautiful scenery of Val d’Herens and Val d’Anniviers, located to the west of Zermatt. Surrounded by peaks and glaciers the graded walks include traditional villages, lakes and superb views. Most of the walks are of medium difficulty using well-maintained mountain paths. Two multi-day treks are outlined, combining the day-walks described.

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Walking in Arolla and Zinal - Location Map

Where are Arolla and Zinal?

Southern Switzerland. The small village of Arolla lies in the Val d'Hérens, while Zinal village is nestled high up in the Val d’Anniviers. The valleys are next to each other in the French-speaking Valais just to the west of Zermatt. Nudging up against the Italian border, they have excellent summer weather and are easily accessible by car and public transport from Switzerland’s airports and stations. Surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Alps, Arolla and Zinal are fantastic for majestic alpine panoramas.

What are the valleys like?

The Val d’Hérens is an unspoilt traditional Swiss valley, little impacted by tourism with only a single tiny lift. Birthplace of the Arolla pine and Hérens cattle famed throughout the alps, it has a fine authentic feel. The smaller (but steep and glaciated) mountains have an intimate feel.

The Val d’Anniviers has more facilities and bigger mountains – the four 4000m peaks of the Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn and Weisshorn dominate the upper valley and provide challenging walks. Between the two main valleys, the uninhabited Moiry and Réchy valleys offer much remoter walking.

The settlement of these valleys is some of the earliest in the Alps, and many of the early timber-framed houses and barns are lovingly maintained. Farming continues in the villages and surrounding meadows and pastures today, often in much the same way as in times gone by. In summer, sheep, goats and cattle graze the high meadows of the Alps, and in winter the animals live in farm buildings or are taken to the lower valleys. Festivals that celebrate the beginning and end of summer, when animals are moved to and from high pastures, include cow-fighting contests in both spring and autumn, and other seasonal celebrations.

What’s the walking like?

Much of the walking is middle-grade mountain walking, with a few easier and some harder routes. Signage is excellent and there is usually a hut or mountain inn involved. There will be plenty of ups and downs every day, but great mountain views everywhere. Many may know the valleys from a Chamonix–Zermatt Haute Route trek and this gives a great opportunity to explore the region in full. It’s a place where combining walks into hut to hut routes is almost a given.

Who is it for?

Confident mountain walkers looking for walking and hut-to-hut adventures somewhere a bit quieter and cosier than the big centres and resorts, with a lower cost and friendlier feel. The villages are an excellent base for experienced walkers who may be first time alpine visitors.

Where can I stay?

Visitors would normally stay in the traditional villages of Evolène or Les Haudères or the small mountain centre of Arolla at 2000m in the Val d’Hérens. Bases in the Val d’Anniviers are the small resorts of Grimentz and Zinal, well-known to skiers. There are campsites, shops, restaurants and hotels at all these centres. It would also be possible to entirely walk hut to hut on the trekking routes in the book.

What languages are spoken?

The Valais is a french-speaking region, but you may also hear locals speaking in a valley patois when chatting together. English is generally understood and spoken.

Best time of year to go?

The main walking season runs from mid June to mid September. September and October can be attractive months to visit, with good daytime temperatures cooling progressively at night and glorious autumn colours, although mountain huts, accommodation and restaurants will close over the period.

What about travel in the region?

There are no trains in either of the valleys, so public transport is by bus. In each case regular services operate at least hourly, and often more frequently, from Sion and Sierre up the valleys. Frequent services also operate between the various villages and walking locations. Buses are PostBuses, providing a comprehensive transport service in the valleys, running from early morning to late evening. Services are punctual and reliable, and delays are rare.

What does the guidebook include?

Complete planning guide for your visit, 35 day routes split between the valleys and 2 treks taking less than a week, the Tour of the Val d’Hérens in 5 days and the Tour des Cabanes du Val d’Anniviers in 6 days.

In a nutshell?

Adventurous walking in a hut-to-hut wonderland with welcoming Swiss valleys, excellent mountain huts and 4000m peaks.

Walking in Arolla and Zinal - Front Cover

Walking in Arolla and Zinal

Walks and short treks in the Val d'Hérens and Val d'Anniviers in the Swiss Valais

£17.95

Guidebook describing 35 mountain walks in the beautiful scenery of Val d’Herens and Val d’Anniviers, located to the west of Zermatt. Surrounded by peaks and glaciers the graded walks include traditional villages, lakes and superb views. Most of the walks are of medium difficulty using well-maintained mountain paths. Two multi-day treks are outlined, combining the day-walks described.

More information