Celts, Romans and Walser alike used The Bocchetta d’Arbola (Albrunpass) gap as a relatively easy passage between the Po River Plain and the Alps’ main ridge. Until the late Middle Ages the Arbola was more important for the passage of people and goods than Simplon itself. In the 2oth century the Arbola and the other passes became very popular. Today the Arbola trail is the easiest route between the Val Devero and the Binntal, the most mineral-rich region in the entire Alpine arc.
In the village of Crampiolo (1767 m) turn right after the church. Follow the steep track up to the southern end f Lago di Devero, called Codelago. The natural lake was turned into a huge reservoir in the first decades of the 20th century. You will see its turquoise water shimmer through the larch woods. A wide and relatively level track will take across several creeks. At the end of the valley the southern slopes of the Punta d’Arbola (Ofenhorn) appear like a wide mountain massif.
The winding uphill climb to the Canaleccio glen starts by a cabin. The pasture buildings are situated in a gently sloping hollow surrounded by lush calcareous meadows. Rest a little while before starting your climb to the Alpe Forno Inferiore plateau where the renowned Bettelmatt cheese is produced. Where the trail branches, take the left track cutting across the Punta D’Arbola slope to the Bocchetta D’Arbola (2409 m), where your view will include the Binntall and the giant shapes of the Bernese Alps.
The ancient mule track will take you quickly down to the Binntal Hut, managed by the Delémont Section of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). Right below you lies the Oxefäld peatbog, included in the Swiss national inventory together with the Blatt bog in what is called the “bog landscape of Bocchetta d’Arbola”. Walk through the bogs on a paved track; pass by a waterfall before heading up the steep incline through alder woods and calcareous meadows. Right before the Binna Creek bridge, to the left of the trail, lie the ruins of an old kiln. On the opposite side the trail enters the main road to Freichi and Brunnebiel. You can take the Bus Alpin and cut the walk two hours short: reservations can be made at the SAC hut, where timetables are available. Please note that cell phones do not work in the Brunnebiel area so it is not possible to call the bus by phone. However, more attractive than the main road or the bus trip is the Halsesee track (2002 m) that branches off to the left before the Binna bridge. After a short uphill stretch the idyllic mountain pond is reached. On the distant shore a zigzagging track will take you down to the Alpe Freichi pasture. In 2007 conservation organisation Pro Natura restored the track to save the habitat of Aquilegia Alpina (Alpine columbine). In Freichi the waters of the Binna enter an artificial reservoir and are used for the production of hydro-energy. Keep to the left bank and walk through pleasant alder and larch woods and scree until you get to Figgerscha a typical pasture with fields. Suddenly the trail leads onto the Lengenbach mineral cave road. Here saccaroid dolomia is excavated since the 18th century, at first for iron ore, then for rare minerals. To this day 17 previously unknown minerals have been discovered. The quarry is ten minutes away. An educational trail will inform you on the different stones and rocks of the Binntal. At the Fäld bridge (also known as Imfeld) a nice tavern can be the ideal resting place.
The village of Fäld is on the opposite side of the creek. Time seems to have stopped in Fäld. Among the old houses the chapel dedicate to Saint Martin shines white. The trail at the other end of the village turns west through the meadows. From there stop to give a look at the Binn’s riverine landscape. The river bed was enlarged in 2008 to recreate the river’s natural dynamics and to allow the growth of floodplain vegetation. Plants change at almost every turn along the trail: rich pastures, rocky steppe, old landslides tracks, shrub, and vegetable gardens. The Binn River flows noisily at the bottom of the valley. The San Michele parish church is is already visible in the distance. Turn another bend and you are in Schmidigehischere (also: Binn), the valley’s main settlement where the imposing and long-famed Ofenhorn hotel is located.
Spend the night in Binn (1400 m) or continue to Ausserbinn. The 16th century arch bridge will take you back to the left bank. After a few metres of paved road, a track will branch off towards Ze Binne. The lowest-lying village in the valley has a couple of impressive tall buildings and, obviously, a church of its own.
Walk down to the compensation reservoir and follow the dirt road uphill through a pinewood. The road comes out onto the old carriage road of Santiglais (1380 m) through the Twingi gorges. This is one of the most dramatic natural landscapes in the Binntal Park. The steep cliffs on either sides of the gorge are 1000 m tall! Diverse plant species cling to the rocks. In June the rare Matthiola vallesiaca a down-to-earth pioneer plant that is able to thrive on bare rock or sand is in full bloom. Every turn of the 1938 road offers a spectacular view of wild and dramatic natural landscapes. The last half hour’s walk to Ausserbin is unfortunately all on tarmac. Alternatively wait for the bus at the Steinmatten stop to get to Ausserbinn or back to Binn more easily.
Trail description: Andreas Weissen
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected areas
Landscape and nature
The excursion from Crampiolo to Binn or Ausserbinn, through the Arbola Gap (Bocchetta d'Arbola) is to be considered as the best Emerald trail stage, thanks to the beauty and variety of its landscapes. The trail will take you through larch, dwarf-shrubland, calcareous alpine meadows, peat bogs, fields, rich pastures, and a gorge. On both slopes of the Arbola two regional nature reserves exist: The 30 year-old Veglia-Devero Nature Park, the oldest in Piedmont, and the Binntal landscape park, a shared project of the municipalities of Binn, Ernen, and Grengiols aimed at the creation of a nature park.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000sites
• Binntal Landscape Park
• Swiss federal inventory, Binntal, IFP n. 1701
• Alpe Veglia e Devero Nature Park
• Alpi Veglia e Devero - Monte Giove Natura 2000 site
Wildlife, Natura 2000 / Emerald species
Birds: Aquila chrysaetos (ca), Dryocopus martius (ca), Cinclus cinclus (ca), Monticola saxatilis (RL CH), Tetrao tetrix (ca / S), Lagopus mutus (ca).
Other species of interest:
Cypripedium calceolus (RL CH / § / S), Aquilegia alpina (RL CH / § / S), Paradisea liliastrum (RL CH / §), Parnassius mnemosyne (RL CH), Chenopodium bonus-henricus (ca), Ononis rotundifolia (ca), Matthiola vallesiaca (RL CH / § / E), Dactylorhiza sambucina (RL CH / §), Orchis ustulata (RL CH / §), Danthus carthusianorum (ca), Epilobium angustifolium (ca), Larix decidua (ca), Gentiana purpurea (ca), Luzula nivea (ca), Pulsatilla apiflora (ca), Alnus viridis (ca), Eriophorum scheuchzeri (RL CH), Parnassia palustris (ca), Carex bicolor (RL CH), Linaria alpina (ca), Saxifraga rizoide (ca), Parnassius phoebe (RL CH), Aster alpinus (ca), Leontopodium alpinum (ca), Nigritella nigra (RL CH / §), Androsace vitaliana (RL CH / §), Gentiana kochiana (ca), Juncus jacquinii (ca), Pulsatilla vernalis (ca), Ranunculus kuepferi (ca), Campanula excisa (RL CH / E), Eritrichum nanum (RL CH / §), Loiseleuria procumbens (ca).
RL CH: Switzerland’s Red List of threatened species
§: Species enjoying national protection
E: Endemic species
ca: Characteristic species
Animals, Natura2000 species (not necessarily found along the trail)
Insects and crustaceans: Erebia christi, Euphydryas aurinia, Parnassius apollo, Parnassius mnemosyne, Maculinea arion.
Birds: Aquila chrysaetos, Falco peregrinus, Bonasa bonasia, Lagopus mutus helveticus, Tetrao tetrix tetrix, Alectoris graeca saxatilis, Bubo bubo, Glaucidium passerinum, Aegolius funereus, Dryocopus martius, Lanius collurio, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. Pernis apivorus, Milvus migrans, Milvus milvus, Gypaetus barbatus, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Circus pygargus, Tringa glareola, Alcedo atthis, Lullula arborea, Anthus campestris, Emberiza hortulana.
Mammals: Lynx lynx, Plecotus auritus
More on animals and plants
Habitats: chestnut forests, mown meadows and extensive pastureland, rich meadows, and hay fields, larch forests, flat bogs, mountain bogs, calcareous meadows, mat grassland (with other alpine pasture grass), dwarf-bush hedges, and wind-exposed areas.
”Alpe Veglia e Alpe Devero: conservation of high mountain meadows and bogs”, Dr. Nat. Paolo Pirocchi, Dr. Nat. Giovanna Ianner, Parco Naturale Alpe Veglia e Alpe Devero, 2003.
WWF’s tips for hikers
Plan each stage carefully, purchase a 1:25000 map, use light but sturdy equipment (hiking boots, rain cape, binoculars…). Be sure to carry a small supply of water and food. We suggest you taste local food (possibly organic) at resting places and restaurants.
Do not litter, do not pick up flowers or rocks and in no way disturb the local fauna. It is unsafe for inexperienced hikers to leave the marked trails and it may cause disturbance to wildlife.
History and culture
Codelago, or Devero, reservoir was built in the 1930’s and is among Italy’s oldest hydroelectric buildings. In 1964 on the Swiss side of the trail, the people of Binn decided to protect a large portion of their valley. They signed a 99-year contract with Pro Natura and the Swiss Alpine Club (CAS) whereby they renounced building hydroelectric facilities, ski intrastructure, or secondary homes. The Binn Contract is a pioneering tool in Switzerland for nature protection. In 1977 the entire area was included in the Swiss Federal Inventory of landscapes and landmarks of national importance.
Binn (also known as Schmidigehischere) houses the central secretariat of the Binntal Landscape Park, and the pilot project of the municipalities of Grengiols, Ernen and Binn aimed at the establishment of a regional nature park.
The Binntal is on the southern slope of the Goms, in the Swiss canton of Wallis. The upper side of the valley has three settlements that are inhabited all year round: Fäld (also: Imfeld), Giessen, Schmidigehischere (also: Binn), Wilere e Ze Binne. Fäld and Schmidigehischere/Wilere are classified as being of national relevance. The region, widely considered as the richest in minerals in the Alpine arc has a population of 150. So far 200 different minerals have been found in the valley, with 23 of them being found only here and nowhere else in the world. In the renowned Lengenbach quarry the professional excavation of rare minerals still goes on today.
From prehistoric times to the late Middle Ages, the Bocchetta d’Arbola was an important passage through the main Alpine ridge. Celtic and Roman graves were found in Schmidigehischere and precious archaeological finds were collected in the regional museum, thanks to the Graeser-Andenmatten Foundation.
In 1883 the Ofenhorn Hotel first opened in Binn. This tradition-rich hotel was bought by the Pro Binntal cooperative and restored to its original style. The Ofenhorn is one of the most important vestiges of the Belle Epoque, the birth of Switzerland’s hotel industry
• Lengenbach quarry, near Fäld (Imfeld); guided tour on Summer Wednesday afternoons;
• Hamlet of Fäld (Imfeld): perfectly preserved village of national importance (ISOS Inventory); houses and decorated barns, St. Martin chapel
• Private Mineral Museum in Imfeld (Fäld)
• Regional museum (minerals, folklore and archaeology) in Schmidigehischer (Binn)
• Historical Ofenhorn Hotel in Binn, est. 1883
• St. Michael Parish church in Wilere/Binn
• Schmidigehischere and Wilere: preserved hamlets of national importance (ISOS Inventory)
Next stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 4
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 2