The trail follows the entire Stockalper trak to the Simplon Pass. The historical mule track was enlarged in the 17th century by Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper, a merchant from Brig, to facilitate transalpine traffic on pack animals. Stockalper’s mule packs travelled day and night for decades. You will follow their tracks in breath-taking and extremely diverse cultural and natural landscapes. Your destination is the wide-open, overwhelmingly beautiful Simplon pass natural scenery.
Start your excursion by the Stockalper Mansion in Brig. Follow the old Simplon road’s brown direction signs behind the Riedbachstrasse and the Römerweg for 50 minutes uphill until you get to Lingwurm and Brei. After a short stretch on a secondary road turn left and walk uphill on the zigzag road in the dry pine wood. To overcome the vertical wall in Chalchofe, Stockalper had a road excavated in solid rock through the 300 metre-deep Saltina Gorge. The old Napoleonic road will take you to Schallberg (1316) with a scenic view on the branching valleys on Simplon’s northern slopes. The descent from Schallberg to the Gantergrund on Simplon’s south-facing slope cuts across a biologically diverse rocky Wallis steppe to take you to Grund (1072 m). The Gantergrund is a riverine landscape of national importance. In the Middle Ages, Ganter and Grund were autonomous communes. Grund’s barn proves that corn farming is a very old practice in the region. From the autumn 2008 the Gantergrund can be reached directly from Brig through the Grindji (Little Grund) and the dramatic Saltina Gorge. Following in Stockalper’s tracks, the municipality of Brig-Glis used explosives to cut open a road through kilometres of solid rock. From the Gantergrund follow a forest road, then a mule track through spruce and alder, that will take you repeatedly across the Taferna creek. The churning stream’s name comes from a small hamlet situated at an altitude of 1597 m. Here, in Stockalper’s times, there was a tavern whose innkeeper, Johannely Fy, notoriously put water in her wine – at least that’s what the legend says – and is now atoning as a damned soul buried deep in the glacier. Overcome the steep drop towards the Simplon Pass, on a winding road that cuts through larch. You will then reach the gap at Lärchmatte (2004). The view opens up on a wide landscape rich in peat bogs and mountain ponds reflecting the imposing shape of the Fletschhorn (3996 m). Simplon’s high peat bogs are a landscape of national importance.
Trail description: Andreas Weissen
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected areas
Landscape and nature
The trail from Brig to Simplon Pass will take you through diverse landscape, dry pine wood with rocky steppe plants, wet spruce forests and dense larch woods. You will also walk through two landscapes of national importance: the Grund riverine landscape and Simplon’s high peat bogs. In the Laggintal nature reserve the Erebia Christi can be found: Erebia is a rare diurnal butterfly that was discovered in 1882 and described in 1890, living on the Simplon’s southern slope. For decades collectors and enthomologists captured these butterflies causing a decrease in the population. In 1982 and 1983 excavation material dumped on the slopes from a road construction site in Laggintal led to the destruction of the two most representative habitats. In 1985 the government of Wallis banned the collection of butterflies, larvae and chrysalises, and established a butterfly reserve. In 1998 the Laggintal valley and the surrounding territories of the Zwischbergental and Simplon were recognised as landscapes of national importance and listed in the “Swiss national inventory of landscapes, sites, and natural landmarks” (IFP number 1717) (surface: 11.498 hectares)
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000sites
• Swiss National Inventory, Laggintal-Zwischbergental, IFP n. 1717
Wildlife, Natura2000 species
Birds: Dryocopus martius (ca), Cinclus cinclus (ca), Monticola saxatilis (RL CH / S)
Other species of interest
Stipa pennata (RL CH), Mantis religiosa (RL CH), Eresus niger (RL CH), Paradisea liliastrum (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), Epilobium angustifolium (ca), Larix decidua (ca), Pulsatilla apiflora (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), 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: steppes, mown meadows and extensive pastures, rich meadows and hay fields, pine woods, flood plain vegetation, arid grassland, spruce, larch, flat peat bogs, mat grassland (and other alpine grassland).
”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
Stockalper’s trail connectin Brig and Gondo, on the Italian border, is the “umbilical cord” of the Simplon Ecomuseum. Differently from conventional walled-in museums, the Ecomuseum illustrates nature and culture in an open landscape, namely the Simplon Pass. The Ecomuseum does not only present the natural space, but illustrates the region’s history that shaped the natural landscape. In Simplon’s case that history is the history f trade and agriculture. During the excursion on Stockalper’s trail you will experience the region’s historical background: Stockalper’s castle in Brig, the ruins of the old tavern in Taferna, Simplon’s hospice (19th century), the old hospital dating back to Stockalper’s times, and the Second World War stone eagle. Stockalper’s mule track (17th century) is very well preserved; on the contrary the 1805 napoleonic road is hardly visible, since in 1965 route A9 was built upon it. Today many lorries use the pass road, sometimes carrying dangerous freight, although the Swiss Federal Constitution states that freight traffic be transferred to the rail from 2004. On the steep descent to Brig overheated brakes can easily fail and cause catastrophic accidents.
• Simplon hospice, built by Napoleon, currently run by the Grand St. Bernard Augustinian monks
• Old hospital (also: old hospice) with a small permanent exhibition
• Simplon observatory
Next stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 7
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 5