Mostly the trail on the southern flank of the Simplon Pass follows Stockalper’s track until Simplon Dorf, where you will cross to the opposite bank of the Chrummbach to get to Gabi, through Bleike. If you feel like it you can continue on a very scenic way through the gorge to Gondo.
You are on a gentle descent in the Simplon Pass area. The old hospital and the Baralhaus are surrounded by vast Alpine pastures. Vast rhododendron thickets still bear testimony to the forests that were once predominant here. A sparse larch wood awaits you just before Engiloch. The main road disappears in a long tunnel, while here and there the old 17th century pavement appears between dry walls. In Engi you will find the old resting place; by Maschihüs the 1805 Napoleonic bridge. The plant variety in the meadows and pasture is magnificent. Egga (1620 m) developed in the 17th century by the old mule track: the tiny village had its own court of justice, whose building dates back to 1603. The trail enters a scree landscape of unequalled beauty. Larch trees grow on colossal boulders left over by the massive landslide of 1901, when huge masses fell from the Rossboden glacier, on the Fletschhorn peak, to the valley below. The pastures surrounding Simplon Dorf are farmed intensively. The village’s stone houses with granite slab roofs are a reminder of how close Italy is. However, behind the stone casing hide old wooden Walliser houses that were then “coated” in stone to protect them from the wind and frost. The Alte Gasthof, in the village square, houses the Ecomuseum’s information centre and an remarkable exhibition on the history of the pass. Leave Simplon Dorf from its northern end, and walk down to cross the Chrummbach and the up to the main road. Continue along a farm road to the Bleike chapel, among the huge Hittuwald trees. Some of these larch trees are a thousand years old. From Bleike, look south-east towards the Laggintal, a landscape of national importance known for its Erebia Christi butterflies. This inconspicuous swamp butterfly attracts dozens of enthusiastic fans every year. However, it is strictly forbidden to capture the butterflies. After a few bends, an old mule track will take you down to Gabi. Here you can decide to stop for the day or you can choose to add two more hours and cross the Gondo gorges. A few years ago a spectacular ramping route was drawn to illustrate the trade and military history of the Simplon. Along the way you will find two museums: one dedicated to traffic and trade by the old barracks, and the other to the history of the occupation of the border during the Second World War, in the old fortress. A further historical vestige is the old Stockalper’s tower in Gondo.
Trail description: Andreas Weissen
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected areas
Landscape and nature
This pleasant excursion will take you through the vast alpine pastures of the Simplon, through a sparse larch wood and will provide a brief but moving contact with ancient larch trees by Simplon Dorf. Pastures and mown meadows are rich of species in the first part of the trail, but then will give way to rich meadows (that are less rich in species, belying their definition). From far away you will see the Laggintal, a “nationally important site” (from the Swiss national inventory of landscapes and natural landmarks) among other things because of the presence of the Erebia Christi butterfly. An impressive wooded gorge between Gabi and Gondo will leave a lasting impression.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000sites
• Swiss National Inventory, Laggintal-Zwischbergental, IFP n. 1717
Wildlife, Natura2000 species along the trail
Insects: Erebia christi (RL CH / § / E / S)
Birds: Dryocopus martius (ca), Aquila chrysaetos (ca / S), Lagopus mutus (ca / S), Monticola saxatilis (RL CH), Tetrao tetrix (ca / S)
Other species of interest:
Aquilegia alpina (RL CH / § / S), Paradisea liliastrum (RL CH / §), Tulipa australis (RL CH / §), Parnassius mnemosyne (RL CH), Chenopodium bonus-henricus (ca), Saxifraga cotyledon (RL CH), Dactylorhiza sambucina (RL CH / §), Orchis ustulata (RL CH / §), Danthus carthusianorum (ca), pilobium angustifolium (ca), Larix decidua (ca), Gentiana purpurea (ca), Luzula nivea (ca), Pulsatilla apiflora (ca), Erebia tyndarus (ca), Erebia aethiops (ca), Eriophorum scheuchzeri (RL CH), Menyanthes trifoliata (RL CH), Parnassia palustris (ca), Potentilla palustris (RL CH), Drosera rotundifolia (RL CH / §), Somatochlora alpestris (RL CH), Aeshna juncea (RL CH), Nigritella nigra (RL CH / §), Euphydryas aurinia ssp. debilis (RL CH), Androsace vitaliana (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: mown meadows and extensive pastures, rich meadows and hay fields, dry meadows, spruce, larch, peat bogs, mat grassland (and other grassland), wind-exposed dwarf hedgerows
• Larch forests (Engiloch, scree areas, Hittuwald)
”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
Traffic and farming characterise the southern slope of the Simplon Pass. Traces of its long history of trade and travel are everywhere: the 17th century mule track between Engiloch and Maschihüs has survived in its original state; the old hospital below the pass, and Stockalper’s tower are the vestiges of an era when traffic through the pass was of paramount importance; the pass hospice, the old Engiloch barracks, and the Maschihüs will bring you back to the times of the Napoleonic road construction works. The plate in the tavern in Gabi, claiming Napoleon once had a drink there, is unfortunately only a publicity stunt. Traffic noise and the road construction sites are ubiquitous especially on the Southern side of the Simplon and in the Gondo gorges. Egga and Simplon Dorf (Village) are well preserved and still have numerous quality buildings. The Alte Gasthof (the Old Inn), on Simplon Dorf’s square, was built and enlarged between the 14th and 17th centuries and houses the Ecomuseum’s info centre. The exhibition vividly tells the eventful history of the Pass. Other exhibitions are held in the old barracks (namely on traffic crossing the pass) and in the fortress (history of the army and the occupation of the borders, 1939-1945)
• Old hospital, Stockalper’s age, 17th century, Simplon Pass
• Engiloch barracks, Napoleonic age, early 19th century.
• Old resting place, 16th – 17th centuries.
• Napoleonic bridge in Maschihüs
• Egga’s court of justice tribunale, 17th century.
• Simplon Dorf
• Alte Gasthof in Simplon Dorf: Ecomuseum info centre and exhibition.
• Old barracks with exhibition on Simplon’s traffic.
• Gondo Second World War fortress.
• Stockalper’s tower in Gondo, 17th century.
Next stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 8
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 6