A Hike to Lac de Salanfe with Kids
Lac de Salanfe (Lake Salanfe) is a mountain dam (1,925 m) within a dramatic setting overlooked by the Dents du Midi and the dramatic Tour Sallière. Many mountaineers sleep at the auberge by the lake allowing for an early start the next day to accomplish a larger hike or even one of the many multiple day hikes which start from there.
What we liked about this place is that you have to hike to see the beauty on offer, as there are no car roads leading to Lac de Salanfe.
On a clear day stand next to the chapel, look back the way you came and see if you can spot the Mont Fort and the Matterhorn mountains.
Where is Lac de Salanfe?
You will find Lac de Salanfe at the end of Vallon de Van in Valais, high up at an altitude of 1925 m. The lake is at the foot of the Dents du Midi in a blissfully peaceful and idyllic alpine landscape.
Enjoy our video from when we hiked Lac de Salanfe with kids
What to expect hiking up to Lac de Salanfe
This is an uphill hike. You will be covering about 600m altitude each way. We hiked it with our just turned 4 year old twins and they managed very well.
Just take your time and make some breaks whilst hiking up.
At first you will hike along a small stream and quickly the climb starts. You will have to negotiate steep ladder staircases, a lot of switchbacks on a narrow path with large steps in between. You will gain altitude quickly and the views down the Vallon de Van valley are pretty.
When you have reached the end of the switchbacks you will climb a metal ladder staircase and arrive at the old construction road. Turn right, continue walking up and soon you will see the dam wall.
As you walk along the path you will again walk parallel to the glacier stream which at one point presents you with a great spot for a well-deserved break.
The kids and we, loved playing in the stream and I can imagine on hot summer days, this would be a perfect picnic and swimming spot.
But our goal was the lake, Lac de Salanfe, so we carried on and shortly reached the foot of the massive dam wall.
When you look up to your right you can also see the chapel you will be heading to. From now on we had to motivate the kids with the promise of a well deserved large ice cream when we finally reached the mountain auberge.
Reaching Lac de Salanfe
When you have reached the top of the dam wall you will have been hiking uphill for 3.4km. For us this was more than enough so we enjoyed the lake shore, walked across the dam and back up to the chapel, before having an ice cream at the charming Auberge de Salanfe.
The path around the lake looked pretty ok and on the far side you would be at the bottom of the glacier which looked really great. But with young kids in tow and another 3.4km downhill we opted out for the circuit this time. If you choose to include a round of the lake it will be a total of 11km hiking.
Heading back down from Lac de Salanfe
You will return down the old construction road until the split point where the steep and narrow path meets the road. If you prefer you can just stay on the road, but it is also steep and zig-zags down the mountain. Check warning signs for conditions.
There is a sign saying take the path at your own risk. We wondered why, but further down we saw that there were quite some drop offs next to the road, and rock falls are possible as the walls are not protected with netting like in other places on the mountain.
We still made the choice to take it. At that moment we felt it will be safer for us as a family with younger kids. We did not want to descend the steep ladder and steps we encountered on the path we ascended on.
The way along the old road passes sheer rock walls where water was running out of the wall. Pretty cool and eerie.
We were all happy when we reached the bottom of the Vallon de Van again. It is quite a hard walk for little kids, but we’re proud they did it.
How to get to the Lac de Salanfe hike
The access road to the start of this hike at the campsite of Van d’en Haut is already an adventure in itself. Be prepared for narrow, hang on, very narrow road with narrow tunnels. But it just belongs to this hike and makes it even more enjoyable.
From the Valais Valley floor head up direction Salvan/Les Marécottes and then follow the sign posts for Van d’en Haut.
The road finishes at the foot of the Vallon de Van, so even if you miss the campsite where you should park, you will eventually get to the end of the road and a sheer rock face.
If for any reason there is no parking at the campsite there are some further spaces only 1-2 minutes’ drive further up the valley. You can then start the hike from there.
Hiking Map to Lac de Salanfe - with Kids
How the map works:
Click on "Learn More" to get to the full map layout with profile and interactive route indicator.
Lac De Salanfe
Location:: Van d’en Haut – Valais - at the campsite (1395 m )
Length:: 3.4 km to the lake / 11km full loop including the whole lake circuit.
Level:: moderate uphill hike
Highest point:: 1925m
Ascension about 530m / Descent 530m (to/from the dam)
Also check out our Swiss hiking map!
Good to know ::
- There is a restaurant at the top for refreshments, and if you feel like you can even sleep at the Auberge.
- I would not call it push chair friendly, not even up the ancient road as it is just super steep
- Some people cycled up to the dam, honestly not quite sure how they managed, as it is a very steep road. But then again I am not really the mountain biker.
- For people that do not like to negotiate steep staircases, they have the option to take the ancient road that was used to build the dam. Although they do say that rocks can fall. We hiked down this road as we felt with the kids it is safer than negotiating the ladder staircases.
You may also like the following easy family hikes in Valais with kids
I hope that the information provided here will prove itself useful when planning your family hike up top Lac de Salanfe with kids
If I have left anything out, please ask your questions in the comments below so that other readers can join in the conversation and profit from your queries also.