The Rappetal is a secluded, wild valley in the Binntal Lanscape Park. Today it is a sheep shelter with the old pasture huts in ruins. Mühlebach, at the mouth of the valley, is Switzerland’s most ancient wooden village. Ernen, the stage’s arrival point, is Wallis’ most beautiful village. An imposing square, surrounded by stately mansions, still stands testimony to the importance of the former chief town of Goms district.
In Ausserbinn take the road to Ernen. After a short stretch on bitumen, the road winds along the old mule track. Cross the sunny slope where grass and aspen conquered what were once farmed corn fields. You now have a full view of the Rhone River valley, the Binna stream banks, the traditional farmlands of Hockmatta and Binnachra. Mown meadows and pastures on both sides of the Binna are part of an ecological networks project aiming to convince farmers to convert to biodiversity-friendly farming by, among other things, cutting hay only after the blooming period, or refraining from using dung-water, fertilizers or insecticides.
Just before the ruins of the abandoned “Zur frohen Aussicht” inn, turn right along the mountain ridge towards Eggen among biodiversity-rich mown meadows. Dry pinewood is replaced by thick spruce. After a few more zigzags you will reach the village of Eggen, with its wonderful mown meadows and a breath-taking view over the Bernese Alps. The trail, framed by typical hedges, passes by several settlements, the idyllic view somewhat disturbed by a concrete compensation reservoir.
In summer the big white wooden cross of the Frid pasture (1936 m) is visible from afar. The milk of the pasture’s many cows is not worked into cheese on site but is funnelled down to the valley through a conduit. A dirt track will take you to a small plateau surrounded by larch, where black grouse perform their mating dances after snow thaw. Turn left at the fork in the track and enter the wood. Wild Rappetal opens in front of you. Follow the flat track for a few kilometres through alder, scree, landslide tracks, and alpine pastures until you get to a stream. By Z’Mühbach a shepherd shelter can be found. A footbridge will take you to the opposite bank. Follow the Mühlebach stream to its namesake village, through alpine pastureland and small peat bogs, by abandoned farming buildings, and through larch and spruce.
The historical centre of Mühlebach is a real gemstone. In no other Swiss town or village will you find so many ancient wooden buildings. All the sunburnt larch houses and barns bear plates with the dates of construction. Most buildings date back to the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. One house bears a larger sign reading “Birth home of Cardinal Matthäus Schinner, 1465–1522”. On a hill above the village stands a blindingly white church. You can rest on one of the numerous benches before heading to Ernen, the stage’s destination.
Walk through the village towards the west, cross the Mühlebach stream on the main road. Turn right behind a recently built barn on a country road. The hamlet with a conspicuous wooden structure is called Ze Kännle. Large wooden conduits were built on stilts to transport water to the pastures and fields of the Mooshubel. Walk over the Mooshubel through spruce and then over its summit covered in steppe-like vegetation. On the hill’s western slope three imposing stone pillars can be seen, what is left of Ernen’s old executioner’s ground. Leave that macabre place behind you and walk through a narrow alleyway to the “Bergland” organic farm, where panels in the fields will provide interesting information on the farm’s herbal production. You are now in Ernen, Wallis’ most beautiful village, with a wide and inviting square, stately wooden mansions and a small stone town hall. The 16th century parish church, set on a high scenic terrace, is a jewel in itself. Several museums will invite you to dive into the long history of Goms’ old chief town.
Trail description: Andreas Weissen
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected areas
Landscape and nature
This varied excursion will take you to the Rappetal, the most secluded valley in the Binntal Landscape Park. In a short distance you will cross very diverse habitats: pine, spruce, and larch forests; pasture and grassland, high mown meadows and Alpine pastures. On the shady slope of the Rappetal only alder grows; the ground is very steep and numerous avalanches and landslides do not allow trees to root. On the sunny side, by the creek, wide pastures exists, the fruit of centuries long tillage. With the abandonment of pastures dwarf bush (rhododendron, blueberry) and larch are making a return.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000sites
• Binntal Landscape Park
• Federal Inventory of Landscapes, Binntal, IFP n. 1701
Wildlife, Natura2000 species
Wildlife, Emerald / Natura 2000 species found along the trail
Birds: Aquila chrysaetos (ca), Dryocopus martius (ca), Cinclus cinclus (ca), Monticola saxatilis (RL CH), Tetrao tetrix (ca / S).
More species of interest
Adonis aestivalis (RL CH / §), Agrostemma githago (RL CH), Paradisea liliastrum (RL CH / §), Parnassius mnemosyne (RL CH), Chenopodium bonus-henricus (ca), 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), Aster alpinus (ca), Leontopodium alpinum (ca), Nigritella nigra (RL CH / §), Gentiana kochiana (ca), Juncus jacquinii (ca), Pulsatilla vernalis (ca), Ranunculus kuepferi (ca).
RL CH: Switzerland’s Red List of threatened species
§: Species enjoying national protection
E: Endemic species
ca: Typical species
More information on plants and animals
Regional habitats: traditional farmed fields, mown meadows and extensive pastureland, rich meadows and hay fields, dry meadows, spruce and larch forests, matgrass and other grassland, bush hedges, and wind-exposed areas.
• Plants and habitats in the Binntal Landscape Park
”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
The Ausserbinn trail on the Binnegga, with the abandoned “Zur frohen Aussicht” inn, belongs to the Arbola trail. Until the late Middle Ages the Arbola mule track was the main trade thoroughfare from the Po River Valley to transalpine Switzerland and Bern, through the villages of Binn, Ausserbinn and Ernen, and the Furka and Grimsel Passes.
Ernen owes its historical importance to the trade traffic going through the region’s passes From the 16th to the 18th century Ernen’s main families played a major role in the entire Wallis economy and society. From those families stemmed bishops, regional governors and standard bearers who influenced the region’s destiny. Ernen’s many stately mansions are a testimony to its past wealth and influence.
Mühlebach also stands on an important road of the past. Contrary to what happened in many other Wallis villages, Mühlebach was never destroyed by fire. Its precious and unique architectural heritage was therefore preserved to our days. Both Ernen and Mühlebach are mentioned on the National Inventory of Protected Sites (ISOS). The municipality of Ernen, to which Mühlebach belongs since 2005, is responsible for the conservation of its precious legacy.
Recently Ernen gained international renown as a “music village”. Composer and pianist György Sebök created “The Future Festival”, inviting young musicians from all over the world to the small mountain village. Every summer world-class concerts are held in Ernen’s parish church.
• Mühlebach: Switzerland’s oldest wooden village; site of national relevance;
• Ernen: Wallis’ most beautiful village: square, mansions, church; view over the Rhone River Valley
• Most ancient William Tell frescoes (16th century) in the “Tellenhaus”
• Jost Sigristen Museum in the residence of the last governor of the state of Old Wallis (1798)
• Zenden Museum by the Town Hall with precious parchments and documents dating back to the 13th century
• Museum and treasure of the church with precious chasubles, chalices, crosses, etc.
• “Music village” Ernen: concerts, composition workshops, classes, etc…
Information on museums - Welcome Centre (Ernen Tourismus und Post)
tel. ++41 27 971 17 42
Information on events in music village Ernen
tel. ++41 27 971 10 00
Next Stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 5
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 3