This diverse trail will give you the opportunity to look at the landscape from a cultural point of view. You will follow an old water pipe, walk on pastureland between Hockmatta and Bister, make a detour towards a mid-altitude pasture, and visit the corn fields of Ried Briga. Above Grengiols you will visit the Tulip Hill where, in late May a tulip blooms that is found nowhere else in the world and carries the village name: Tulipa grengiolensis. Spectacular plants occur also in the Ried-Briga corn fields. Our destination is “2008 City of the Alps” Brig-Glis.
You will Ernen’s historical centre on a seldom-used trail. Behind the tourist centre a path bends to the right of the Rappetal. Follow it until you find the sign to the Frid pasture and the “Waldkapelle”, then take the track leading up into the spruce forest. After climbing approximately 120 metres a water pipe crosses the path: it is the so-called “Trusera”, Ernen’s longest conduit, taking water four km away from the Rappetal to the Binnachra Valley. The old pipeline was restored a few years ago. Follow it down and west to the valley through the Aerner Wald forest. These water pipelines, called “Suonen” by German-speaking Wallisers and “bisses” by their French-speaking fellow citizens, are of key importance for the “dry river bed agriculture” of the internal portion of the Alps. A more modern form of water management can be found at Am Wasen (1240 m): a reservoir where water is accumulated before being channelled through a penstock to move turbines for the production of electricity. At Am Wasen leave the “Trusera” and cross the main road by the bus stop, follow the sign to Hockmatta. Through pastures and a small patch of wood, the trail will take you down to the Binna creek and across it on a footbridge. Stop in the middle of the bridge to watch the mountain creek and the gorge wood. After a few turns you will get to Hockmatta (1198), with its square and church. Some 100 people lived here at the beginning of the 20th century, today the tiny village is inhabited only in the summertime. Above the village you will meet the military road that corresponds to the western portion of the Arbola road. Today this is part of the very popular cycling trail “Rhone 1”. The road, recently partially paved anew, and bordered by dry walls, winds through the traditional cultural landscape of pastures and barns, interspersed with patches of wood and landslide scars. The road is unfortunately paved in bitumen above Grengiols from Viertel to Bister. Beyond Bächerhyschere, the Milibach creek bed and the 1904 avalanche memorial you will be happy to enter a good albeit unmarked track by a wooden cross. The trail will lead you directly to the Tulpenhügel, the Tulip Hill. Here, in a cattle pasture, botanist Thommen discovered in 1946 a previously unknown tulip variety that he named after the village: Tulipa grengiolensis. The wild tulip thrives in corn fields and usually blooms in the second half of May. To date between 2000 and 4000 specimens have been counted. The flower attracts hundred of nature lovers each year. From Tulip Hill, by the football pitch, get back on the paved road. Grengiols, set on fire in 1799 by Austrian troops fighting the French and subsequently rebuilt from scratch, is definitely worth a visit. Three bars or restaurants invite you to rest a little before continuing your walk. Back on the paved road by the school in front of the church take the short cut on the right. Continue west beyond Bädel and Ze Hyschere to Bister (1040 m). Along the way you will exit, without being aware of it, the Binntal Landscape Park. The village of Bister is made of different small hamlets. On the left side of the road a sign shows the way to Tunetsch. The steepest track of the day awaits you at this moment and will take you through spruce and the Gifetschgraben to the Tunetsch high pasture (1492 m). The high meadow is now basically a summer pasture for the sheep and donkeys of an organic farmer. Walk down the gentle slopes of the pasture by the place called Erli to the small village of Zen Achru (1120 m). Turn left at the fork in the track towards Termen. Follow the steep and arid slope between isolated birch trees and juniper shrubs to the Tunetschgraben. Through a shady mixed forest you will reach the traditional farming landscape of Termen, where an educational trail provides interesting information on farming activities. From Termen (927 m) follow the bitumen road to Biela, where it branches off towards Brig. In early summer it is worth it to detour shortly to the Achera Biela corn fields. Among winter cereals you will find here the most diverse accompanying flora of all Switzerland. Walk by some mown meadows and a small suburb of terraced houses and the walk down leisurely to Brig (680 m). You will reach the 2008 City of the Alps by Stockalper Castle, the symbol of the city and of the Simplon Pass.
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
Birds: Dryocopus martius (ca), Aquila chrysaetos (ca / S), Cinclus cinclus (ca), Cypripedium calceolus (RL CH / § / S)
More species of interest
Adonis aestivalis (RL CH / §), Agrostemma githago (RL CH), Melampyrum arvense (RL CH), Tulipa grengiolensis (RL CH / § / E), Stipa pennata (RL CH), Mantis religiosa (RL CH), Eresus niger (RL CH), Paradisea liliastrum (RL CH / §), Parnassius mnemosyne (RL CH), Ononis rotundifolia (ca), Limodorum abortivum (RL CH / §), Astragalus excapus (RL CH), Plebejus pylaon trappi (RL CH), Lilium martagon (RL CH / §), Matthiola vallesiaca (RL CH / § / E), Dactylorhiza sambucina (RL CH / §), Orchis ustulata (RL CH / §), Danthus carthusianorum (ca), Libelloides longicornis (RL CH), Erebia triaria (RL CH).
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 village of Hockmatta is splendidly preserved, although from the 1960’s it is uninhabited for most of the year. In Bächerhyschere visit the local chapel with an altar-piece by painter Raphael Ritz and dedicated to “Our Lady of the Alps”. Grengiols is the fifth village of national relevance we meet in the Binntal Landscape Park. Besides steep Dorfgasse alley and the village square, the church is also worth a visit: it is a basilica-like building with surprising pieces of art. Termen’s educational trail will provide a living portrait of mountain agriculture.
Brig is a jewel city with numerous attractions, mostly from the 17th century (Stockalper Castle with its impressive courtyard, the collegiate church, the Saint Ursula convent church) when merchant Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper established a thriving trade route between Italy and France through the Simplon Pass, becoming wealth and a nobleman in the process. Today the local square is abuzz with activity day and night. Brig is also the starting point of the 19.8 km-long Simplon connecting Switzerland and Italy. With the 1970’s merger with a nearby town the official name became Brig-Glis.
• Visit Hockmatta and the Holy Virgin chapel in Bächerhyschere
• Detour to the village of Grengiols, village of national relevance and outstanding religious building
• Detour to the Tulpenhügel (Tulip Hill) with traditional barns and accompanying species-rich flora
• Termen’s educational trail on mountain agriculture
• Educational trail in Achera Biela with biodiversity rich accompanying flora
• Visit Brig’s old town, Naters’ historical centre and the Pilgrim Church in Glis
Next stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 6
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 4