If you’re looking for a nice relaxing walk with stunning views, hiking the Bisse du Trient in Switzerland is the perfect option. It is mostly flat, so this is a good choice for hiking with young children. It also has lots of interesting things to stop and look at along the way. Plus, it ends at a huge glacier, which is a very satisfying conclusion to the hike.
The history of the Bisse du Trient in Switzerland
The history of the Bisse du Trient in Switzerland is really interesting. The path follows a route which was built at the end of the 18th century as a railway line used to transport ice from the Trient glacier to the Col de la Forclaz. Up to 30,000 kilos of ice was transported every day. The huge ice blocks were then sent as far afield as Paris, where they helped to cool down customers in fancy restaurants. This really made us appreciate how easy it is to make ice in our own freezers these days!
Years later, in 1895, a group of farmers decided to build a bisse (an irrigation channel) along the same path. The water carried from the glacier was then used to water the surrounding fields.
However, by 1970 the bisse was no longer needed, as newer technology was used on the farms to supply water. The channels eventually fell into disrepair, until 1986 when a restoration project took place. The bisse now runs during the summer months. So it provides a great talking point, as well as entertainment, for children on this hike.
Hiking the Bisse du Trient
Hiking the Bisse du Trient is very straightforward. It is a 6.5km (around 4 miles) round-trip. The path is relatively flat for most of the route. It does say that it is suitable for a pram/stroller, but there were some rocky parts to climb over at the end. So I would recommend a child carrier as a better option if you have a baby or toddler.
The trail starts at the Col de la Forclaz, where there is also car parking. Although just a warning that the parking gets very busy and it can be tricky to find a spot, especially if you’re in a campervan. It is also possible to get a bus from Martigny train station to Forclaz.
A lot of the walk is shaded by huge larches which grow either side of the path. But there are pockets of open space along the way, which provide stunning views of the valleys. A note that if you are hiking with children to keep a close eye on them at all times, as there are a number of sheer drops at the side of the paths.
Also, if you’re not a fan of heights, there is one bit of the trail that I’d recommend being aware of. Due to the original route being destroyed by a rock fall, a metal pathway has been erected around the cliff edge for a short portion of the trail. While totally secure, these walkways where you can see the ground below through the gaps are definitely not my favourite thing. So, if you’re anything like me, I’d advise looking straight ahead and not down at the road below. My little adventurers on the other hand, loved it!
The Trient glacier
Hiking the Bisse du Trient has a very satisfying end at the Trient glacier. It was the first time our little adventurers had seen a glacier, although they were more interested in throwing rocks in the river! But it was also the first time Mr A had seen one too, so he was a little more excited.
Overlooking the glacier there is a refreshment bar, which sells drinks, ice creams and light snacks. As is usually the case in Switzerland, prices are quite expensive. But there is nothing quite as satisfying as cooling down with an ice cream while looking at a glacier!
There are also toilets here and picnic benches if you’d prefer to bring your own food.
A family-friendly hike
One of the things I really like about hiking the Bisse du Trient is that it’s really family-friendly. We did it during our first time campervanning in Switzerland. Our little adventurers were 3 and 5 at the time.
It takes around 45 mins to an hour each way, although obviously allow longer with children. Because of its history as both a railway line and a bisse, there are regular information signs on the route. A mascot called Charlotte the Marmot gives explanations of things along the way. (These are in French, but you can use your phone to download English translations of the panels.) There are also little activities for the children to do on the signboards.
However, what mine enjoyed most was playing with the water in the old irrigation channels. A great deal of time was spent racing leaves along it and splashing their hands in the cold water. We also saw children racing small wooden boats along it. This looked really fun, so that might be an idea to bring if you have some.
At the end of the hike the Trient Glacier is a pretty impressive sight. There is a little bridge crossing over the river and you can walk down to the water’s edge. Keep a close eye on little ones here though, as the water is extremely fast flowing. There are also lots of rocks and boulders in this area, which our little adventurers loved climbing over.
I hope you found this explanation of hiking the Bisse du Trient helpful. Please do let me know if you have any questions about it.