To reach the Grand Dixence Dam you are up for a treat already on the approach route. I love when the journey to a hike is as stunning as the hike itself. Driving along the Hérémence valley from the valley floor near Sion is spectacular. We really feel how small we are the nearer we’re driving to the end of the road and the start of the massive Grande Dixence Dam wall.
When you finally arrive, you exit the tunnel and on your left is the wall. Take the time and walk to the foot of the dam wall. It is super impressive and I feel you will only get the real feel of its size when you’re actually standing there in person. Photos just cannot deliver how impressive la Grande Dixence Dam wall is. Before we’re heading up to the top of the Dam lets get to understand a little of the environment.
Facts about La Grande Dixence Dam
The Grande Dixence Dam is a gravity dam in the Valley d’Hérémence in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland. At an impressive 285 m high, it is the tallest gravity dam in the world, fifth tallest dam overall, and the tallest dam in Europe. If you have been hiking in this area a bit then you might have come across other dams which are part of the important Cleuson-Dixence Complex. The dam collects melting water from 35 Valaisian glaciers in the region surrounding Zermatt and leading up to Val d’Hérens.
This system provides a large part of the Valais with electricity. If this is of great interest to you, then check out their website and book on a very informative tour of the Grande Dixence Dam.
How to get to La Grande Dixence Dam
If your base is in the centre of Valais near Sion head straight to Val d’Hérémence and don’t stop until you are literally at the foot of the dam wall. You can reach La Grande Dixence Dam by public transport from Sion during the summer months from June to October. Check the SBB website for the exact timetable.
Start your Family Hike at la Grande Dixence Dam
Once you have parked your car as close to the cablecar station as possible to save some valuable energy for your little ones, I suggest to take the cable car to the top.
Kids will love it and honestly do you want to hike up over one hour, most probably much longer with kids, if you can get to the top 4 minutes? No, exactly. The ride gives you an amazing view all the way down the Val d’Hérémence.
After having thrown a few stone in to the lake from the Dam wall, always a must in our family as without it we would not get anywhere, we can now start our family hike at La Grande Dixence along the path toward the Cabane de la Barma.
It is difficult to say how long it will take with little kids to reach the Cabane. It seemed like it took us forever… But we LOVE to stop a lot, seek the butterflies, count how many different flower species we see in one square metre of meadow and so on. For us this is what a family hike is all about.
But if you prefer to have a time I would say if you walk at the rhythm of a 3-4 years old then count a good hour. Remember you need to walk back.
Also don’t stress if you cannot make it all the way to the Cabane you have not really missed anything, turn around whenever you feel it is time so your little ones can walk all the way back and you do not have to carry them.
The hike is kind of split into 3 sections and gives great views of the surrounding mountains and some impressive waterfalls on the far side of the lake.
The first part of the Grande Dixence Hike
The hike is guiding you in and out of some rough man-made tunnels or maybe we should rather call them grottos. It will get quite dark, cool and wet in some places. Bring some flashlights as an interaction for the kids. They will love to show you the way.
The largest tunnels are lit but as the light is on a timer it can turn off whilst you are still halfway through the tunnel. The contrast with the dark of the tunnel and the blue of the dam water against the snowy mountain peaks is breathtaking. Don’t forget to make some cool photos.
The second part of the Grande Dixence Hike
The path is winder and makes its way on a slightly higher altitude than the water level of the lake. Depending on the season when you’re hiking you and your family might have to manoeuvre across some streams which are crossing your path.
The flowers on this hike are out of this world. It is just insanely beautiful.
The third part of the Grande Dixence Hike
It is now time to climb up to the Cabane which you can now see from the lower path. Two paths lead to the Cabane, one a fairly steep direct path and the other a gentle uphill longer path. I will let you be the judge on which one to take.
The cabin is not always open especially on weekdays, but this should not hold you back from including it in your hike. You can use their bench and tables and have your picnic up there without any problem. Just remember to pick all your rubbish up and only leave footprints.
If you fancy a night at a Cabane then this would be possible during the summer months at weekends. How cool would this be. Contact the Cabane concierge for more information.
Voilà, if you and your family have made it all the way to the Cabane then you know the way back. Exactly as you arrived.
End the hike with an ice cream from the coffee shop next to the cablecar station and wait for the next gondola to bring you back down.
NEW FEATURE If you wish you can cross the 700m dam wall or even have a go on the longest zip line in Western Switzerland
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Thank you, never forget to travel!