Lake 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

With a bit of luck and patience, you’ll be able to spot the silhouette of one or other of these animals living in the region.
Can you recognise them?

1. Deer, 2. Raven, 3. Badger, 4. Ibex, 5. Eagle, 6. Owl, 7. Squirrel, 8. Lynx, 9. Chamois, 10. Deer, 11. Fox, 12. Hare

The path here leads through the partially wooded scree on the south-western slopes of Catogne. The mainly spruce forest is interspersed with treeless stony corridors. You can also discover Scots pine, larch and more locally, the Swiss stone pine.

Just listen!
If you hear a call that’s as unobtrusive as it is melodious, try to spot its author: the spotted nutcracker. It’s a member of the crow family. You’ll easily recognise it by its dark colouring. The underside of its tail is black, with white margins.

Nutcrackers feed on Swiss stone pine seeds and, like squirrels, help to spread them. Sometimes they get a little distracted and forget the food they have gathered in their hiding places. Their forgetfulness allows young Swiss stone pines to germinate in excellent conditions.

During the appropriate season you’ll be able to admire a multitude of attractively coloured flowers among the stones and rocks, typical of rock gardens and borders.

Barberry, Bloody cranesbill, Rock silene, Yellow foxglove

A. Glaciation phase
Val d’Entremont glacier, Val d’Arpette glacier, Overflow into the Champex valley, Catogne Peak emerging from the ice (=Nunnatak)

B. Retreat phase
1. Moraine, 2. Cold steppe

C. Today
Moraine of the Val d’Arpette glacier, Moraine of the Val d’Entremont glacier, Lake Champex

Lake Champex was formed more than 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers retreated and left two lateral moraines, isolating a basin in which water accumulated. The bottom of the lake was sealed by the deposition of clay.

The dark spots you see in the lake are aquatic plants: Canada waterweed and pondweed.

The spotted woodpecker : You hear it more often than you see it. It does not drum on tree trunks to find food, as is generally believed, but to mark out its territory.

Won over by the beauty of this site, Mr Jean-Marcel Aubert, a businessman from Vaud, acquired 600 sqm of this estate in 1923/24. The first infrastructure work began in 1925-1927. In 1967, the Alpine Garden became a Foundation, with the City of Geneva (botanical conservatory and garden), the State of Neuchâtel (botanical institute) and the State of Valais and the municipality of Orsières as legal partners. In 1991, the Foundation set up the “Centre alpin de Phytogeographie”, with the aim of promoting botanical research in the Alps.

Through successive, uninterrupted developments, the Alpine Garden has grown to its current size of 10,776 sqm.

This botanical Noah’s Ark contains a selection of over 3,000 varieties of both local flora and plants from far-flung corners of the world.
Of particular note are the collections of conifers, botanical roses and highland rhododendrons, as well as the complete series of houseleeks, primroses and saxifrages. Species belonging to Swiss flora are appropriately labelled and protected plants are displayed in a well-defined area.

Houseleek, Saxifrage, Rhododendron, Primrose

The Flore-Alpe Alpine Garden is open daily between 9 am and 6 pm from May to October. The entrance is 300 metres away.

A spruce forest is called a “pessière”.

Take a good look at this chart. It will teach you how to tell the difference between a spruce (also called a red fir) and a white fir?
1. The position of the cones
2. The shape of the needles
3. The position of the needles around the twig

Have you seen that bird perched on the cones like an acrobat? It’s a crossbill. Using its scissor-like beak, it cuts the spruce cones to extract the seeds.

Be careful where you step. In the right season, you can feast on blueberries which grow well here because of the soil’s acidity.

In Valais, almost half the forests are made up of spruce. This undemanding tree will grow in any soil that gets a little light. There are spruces in Switzerland that are over 350 years old.

Heart-leaf twayblade, Stiff clubmoss

This looks like a sponge carpet that has filled in this part of the lake. Due to a lack of oxygen, the plants did not decompose properly and a strange moss formed the peat.

These peat mosses, or sphagnum mosses, are curious plants swollen with water (15 to 20 times their weight). They come and go all the time. In fact, while the upper part of the stem grows, the lower part withers and turns into peat.

Sphagnum moss, Water, Swamp peat

Even if it looks like a soft carpet, don’t step into the bog, as it is very sensitive to trampling!

When the pads of the sphagnum mosses come together to form a thick carpet, the peat bog bulges out like a waterlogged sponge, hence the name high marsh.

The large marsh grasshopper : This large cricket with red streaks under the hind femur is not very rare in the Valais, but it is considered endangered in Switzerland as a whole.

The alpine newt : This is not a water lizard. The lizard is a reptile, while the newt a batrachian. It is well known in small mountain lakes throughout Europe.

Cranberry, Bog bilberry, Marsh violet, Leech

This is the low marsh, representing the transitional phase between the lake and the peat bog. Unlike the peat bog, you can see water flowing here.

This marshy meadow is essentially made up of tall sedges (around 15 species).

Common hawker : This dragonfly belongs to the suborder Anisoptera. Unlike zygopterans, it holds its wings open when at rest.
Marsh marigold
Red frog
Cotton grass
Water clover
Bird’s eye primrose

I’m the male. I like to be admired, especially by females!

Me, the female, prefer to be discreet, because of predators, as I incubate the eggs and bring up the young.

Mallard duck
Several pairs of mallard ducks nest on the north shore of the lake. They need a minimum amount of vegetation to build their nests. The mallard is certainly the only water bird that breeds here.
Don’t disturb it!

River trout (fario), Rainbow trout, Brook trout , Lake trout

The “Société de pêche du lac de Champex”, founded in 1945, supplies the waters with fine fish. It also treats invasive algae and takes part in lake clearance and clean-up operations.

Coltsfoot, Butterbur
These plants love cool, damp places..

Grey heron

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