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Swiss Hike - Chasseral

Hike time:

6 to 6.5 hours

Approx dist:

21 km

Start:

St Imier station

Finish:

Orvin

Season:

Most of year

Profile:

from 800m up to 1600m, and back down to 700m
up:870m, down:970m

Rating:

medium to hard difficulty, with steep ascent

Greeting:

"Bonjour"

Summary

You don't have to go to the Alps to enjoy them. Instead, you can go to the Jura, and gain quite incredible views of the Alps, as they are laid out like a vast wall in all their majesty. They may be dozens of kilometres away, but from the peak of Chasseral the views are just spectacular. The Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau form the most recognisable trio, but scores of major peaks are visible from here, even (just) the Matterhorn.

The climb up through the gorge is quite a strenuous climb, but is rather spectacular and gives a great payoff when you can suddenly see over the other side of the ridge. The longer descent with its open, windy aspect, is extremely pleasant.

The pics

looking towards the Combe Grede

Looking from Villeret up to the Combe Grède

climbing the gorge

Path up the Combe Grède

panorama from the top

Quite an expansive view from the summit. Yes, those are the Swiss Alps.

ridgetop views

Following the ridgetop into the blue yonder

Getting there and back

The start of the walk is in the small village of St Imier, which is on the train line between Biel/Bienne (why they can't agree on just one name I don't know) and Le Chaux-de-Fonds. There are hourly trains along this route. Or if you wish, you can change to the local train along the way, and take the slower train to Villeret, cutting out the first bit of the walk.

The end of the walk is another small village of Orvin, which has fairly frequent post buses to Biel/Bienne - but check the times before you go.

From Zurich, there are regular direct trains to Biel/Bienne, making the travel times about 2 hours each way. If you get a return ticket to Biel/Bienne and then two singles (to St Imier and from Orvin), the total cost with halbtax is about CHF 45.

Hike map

For a zoomable, scrollable map of this hike, see this online map using Openstreetmap or Opencyclemap.

You can also download this kmz file chasseral.kmz to open it in Google Earth or view it in Google Maps in your browser. Or of course you can use programs like Prune to transfer the track to your GPS.

 

The walk

St Imier - Villeret - Combe Grède - Chasseral - Pierrefeu - Le Grillon - Orvin

profile of the hike
3D plot of the hike, starting from St Imier

The first stretch of the walk is a pleasant, but incidental, downhill stroll from St Imier to Villeret, which as mentioned above can be omitted by taking the train instead. By foot, just follow the signposts to Villeret, looking out for the tiny yellow arrows at strategic junctions. Jink left-right to pass the Renault garage, then again right-left past the football stadium, following the "Tourisme Pédestre" down residential lanes. The gorge Combe Grède, to which you are heading, is an obvious 'notch' in the ridge to your right. Shortly you turn off right, signposted Villeret, taking the steps down under the train track to reach Villeret station after around 25 minutes.

From Villeret, follow the signs to Combe Grède, leading down to the village, across the main street, and up the left hand side of the Thai restaurant "l'Elephant". This path leads steadily upwards through a small car park, and up into the gorge itself. Continue up to reach the signpost for the Combe Grède after around 40 minutes.

Follow the signs for the Chasseral Hotel, climbing up the steep side of the gorge in narrow, rocky switchbacks, zigzagging up past the trickling waterfalls. Metal ladders, handrails and cables help along the way. The path then levels out at Pré aux Auges after around 45 minutes.

Still heading for the Chasseral Hotel, bear to the right, still climbing towards the now-visible ridgetop with its red-and-white tower, and then cut back leftwards to climb diagonally up the slope. Reaching the ridgetop, after around 45 minutes, you receive a sudden, immense panorama over the other side to the South, which is quite breathtaking. Given a clear day, the peaks of the Alps form a massive, white, snow-capped wall of mountains in the far, far distance, in overwhelming contrast to the miles of low flatland and lakes inbetween. It's quite enough to make you exclaim your amazement, but watch your language because unfortunately you won't have this view to yourself just here. Just as you reach the ridgetop and are confronted by the spectacular view as reward for your strenuous climb, you also reach the car park of the hotel at the top, with throngs of car passengers also enjoying the view. Few seem to venture beyond the confines of the car park and the restaurant however.

In case of doubt, the panorama board near the hotel entrance will point out the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau for you, as well as Mont Blanc and a whole host of others. Quite a sight. And the views to the North are still there as well, over rounded Jura ridges with wind turbines and across into France. From here the route onwards should be fairly obvious, the signposts to Orvin lead along the ridgetop towards the huge telecomms tower at the actual summit of the Chasseral, about 20 minutes away.

Pass underneath the tower, and continue along the ridgetop, descending gradually with views in all directions. The well-worn path leads down to a signpost at Les Colisses du Haut after around 1h15 from the tower.

Take the signpost towards Clédar de Pierrefeu, and from there continue along the ridgetop towards Orvin. In places, this path is not so clear, but keep to the right to drop down to a car park ("Place Central") at the Crête du Chasseral after around 30 minutes.

Take the track out of the car park, signposted for Les Prés d'Orvin, and take the signposted path to Orvin, down to the right. Cross the fields full of flowers, heading towards the distant Eiger, and descend to meet a track. Turn right here, and follow the track down to Le Grillon after around 50 minutes.

Still signposted Orvin, the route follows the road for a short way before taking an old, serene track up to the left. This goes parallel to the road, before crossing it, and descending down to the village of Orvin in around 45 minutes. The buses stop just opposite the small village square.

The waypoints

The following are the coordinates for waypoints along this route, obtained from GPS. They can be used either in another GPS, or along with a map, to provide additional references if necessary.

                           Latitude       Longitude    Altitude(m)
       St Imier           N 47°09'07.0    E007°00'03.7     793
       Villeret           N 47°09'37.1    E007°01'08.7     760
       Combe Grède        N 47°08'41.5    E007°01'48.2     911
       Pré aux Auges      N 47°08'08.8    E007°02'18.7    1265
       Chasseral Hotel    N 47°07'38.4    E007°02'44.7    1548
       Chasseral Signal   N 47°07'59.1    E007°03'34.7    1607
       Colisses du Haut   N 47°08'57.4    E007°06'57.9    1325
       Pierrefeu          N 47°09'05.7    E007°07'20.8    1293
       Place Central      N 47°09'20.0    E007°08'13.6    1288
       Le Grillon         N 47°09'03.6    E007°10'20.2    1070
       Les Prés d'Orvin   N 47°09'11.7    E007°10'42.4    1005
       Les Voigières      N 47°09'21.2    E007°11'11.8     975
       Orvin              N 47°09'38.9    E007°12'49.7     669

More info

For information about the hotel on the summit, see chasseral-hotel.ch. For longer hikes in the area see the Jura Höhenweg which goes in the opposite direction from Orvin over the Chasseral and over to Vue des Alpes.