Devin trail

Welcome to the Champex-Lac nature trails. Pic-Le-Montagnard and Pic-Le-Devin will guide you along these two trails. If you're patient, attentive and observant, you'll discover a host of little wonders that add to the charm of this special site. ENJOY YOUR WALK!

These educational trails have been made possible thanks to the support of:

  • The Bourgeoisie and Commune of Orsières 
  • The Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL)
  • The Forest and Landscape Service of the canton of Valais
  • Espace Mont-Blanc
  • Design copyright / Copydec – Orsières 
  • Mr Egidio Anchisi – Jardin Alpin
  • Bureau Christian Werlen – Sion
  • Champex-Lac Development Society

In the 19th century, the stagecoach was the means of transport used to get to Champex.  At the time, there was no need to be in a hurry: the journey took two hours from Orsières and three and a half hours from Martigny via Les Valettes.                               


Try to find the knotty cranesbill. This is the only place where this rare Valais plant grows.

An ideal alpine resort :
1,465 m altitude.
A centre for a variety of excursions and climbs.
A peaceful and pleasant stay.
Bathing hut on the lake. Fishing – canoeing.

The Devin forest is exclusively composed of conifers bearing needle-type foliage. The dominant species is the spruce or red fir, which can be recognised by its dark green needles arranged around the twig. There are also silver fir, larch and various species of pine. We’ll show you how to tell them apart along these two trails.

Larch cone : Small (3-4 cm) and round, with straight edges.

Larch : The larch is easily recognised by its deeply fissured bark and its soft green needles arranged in clumps on the branches. It is the only conifer in the Alps to shed its needles in winter.

Scots pine or Swiss stone pine?
Here’s a trick to help you tell the difference between these two species of pine. Look at the way the needles are grouped:
By 2 = Scots pine
By 5 = Swiss stone pine

The larch needle arrangement reminds me of fireworks!

Titmouse : The titmouse is a very active little bird. You’ll often see it hanging upside down, incessantly searching for food. It loves to burrow into rotting tree trunks.

Back in the 19th century, the forest was no longer sufficient to meet the needs of a timber-based civilisation that sourced it for:

  • Firewood and construction
  • Tools and utensils
  • Rangelands and grazing for cattle
  • Lime kilns
  • Water pipes
  • Wood exports
  • Charcoal for foundries and glassworks
  • Mine shoring
  • Wood for salt works (Bex)
  • Extraction of resin for turpentine
  • Bark for tanneries

And what happened after more wood was cut than the forest could produce?
The forest could obviously no longer fulfil its protective role and this resulted in terrible disasters: avalanches, floods, etc.

It therefore adopted very restrictive legislation, the mineral coal was introduced thanks to railway development and new materials such as plastic discovered which enable the forests to recover.

Sign 6 will give you more information on how forests are used today.

It is said that, in the past, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages would come to this spring before making an important decision. After drinking the water, which had divinatory properties, their minds would become clearer and they would be able to foresee the consequences of their decisions, encouraging them to make the best choices.

While this tradition has been lost, the spring has doubtless retained its powers and there’s nothing to stop you trying!

You’ve probably already seen this little red and black butterfly, but did you know its name? It’s the six-spot burnet moth. 

You’re in a mixed spruce forest, since larch also grows here. Many terrestrial orchids thrive in the vicinity including field scabious, fly orchid, bird’s nest orchid, broad-leaved helleborine and wood cranesbill.

The impressive rock slabs of the Li Blanche are made up of fine, bluish limestone (late Jurassic Upper Malm epoch). This is a very solid, impermeable sedimentary rock resembling marble. It is thought to have been horizontally deposited in the sea over 150 million years ago. The cliffs were formed by thrusts when the Mont-Blanc massif was born.

The twisting confiers growing along the ravine and on the rocky slabs are mountain pines. Both species grow here: the upright form or hooked pine and the creeping form or mugo pine. They thrive in very poor, shallow and unstable soil.

To thank you for your visit, I’m going to sing something for you!

The raven
Despite its large size, the raven is not a bird of prey but a passerine. It is easily recognised in flight by its black silhouette and triangular tail. On this cliff, it has found rocks to nest on.

Why is this called the hooked pine? Take a closer look at the curious shape of the scales on its cone and the answer will appear obvious.
Heart-leaved globe daisy 
Mountain germander

Society expects more from forests than just products :
Protection of residential areas and infrastructure against natural hazards.
Protection of wood for domestic, construction and industrial needs.
A natural and landscaped area to be preserved in all its diversity.
A recreational area for leisure and sport.

Today’s under-exploitation is causing the forest to age and decay.

I look after the forest to enable it to fulfil its role. I make sure that it doesn’t wither away, but can instead be rejuvenated.

Future expectations are unclear. It is important to maintain the forest in a state that will meet the needs of future generations. Given the rate at which the forest is developing, today’s choices will have an impact almost a century from now.

Have you noticed the large boulders deposited on the slopes by the glaciers?

Listen to the varied chirping of this passerine.

Scots pine cone : You can recognise it by its square scales. 

The pine is highly adaptable. Its pioneering temperament enables it to settle in very poor soils, where other species would be unable to establish themselves first.

Look at these shrubs with prickly needles: they are common junipers. You can distinguish between the “gentlemen” with yellow buds and the “ladies” with greenish buds. Once ripe, these female berry-like cones are used as a condiment.

I always put them in sauerkraut!

Wall lizard, Apollo butterfly, Common rock-rose, Shrubby milkwort, Laserpitium siler

Take a good look at this landscape. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of colours and therefore of the products grown here. Humankind has shaped this land to suit its needs. Much of the land is covered in low-intensity grassland, which is mown at haying time. You’ll also notice some large gardens producing grain crops and berries as well as aromatic and medicinal plants.

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