Amazing Arolla — A 4-day Hiking Trip

Having been stuck at home for most of July, due to unseasonably wet weather, the forecast for the first week of August finally looked quite promising. So I decided to head out to the tiny little village of Arolla, located at 2000m (6600ft) altitude near the upper end of a long and beautiful valley in southern Switzerland.

After a very scenic bus ride up into this valley, I checked in at the Hotel du Mont Collon, named after one of the prominent mountains nearby. This hotel was originally founded in 1862, and has been managed by the same family ever since. You can literally see, feel, and smell history all over this place, which would be my “home” for four days.

Hotel du Mont Collon
Hotel du Mont Collon, with the actual mountain right behind it.

I quickly changed into my hiking clothes, and hit the trail going up to the Glacier de Pièce. This trail climbs up along one of the moraine walls that was left behind by the glacier when it was still much larger, thousands of years ago. After a steady climb, and scrambling up some steep and rocky slopes, I eventually ended up at the bottom of the glacier. I sat down, had my lunch, and admired the impressive views. Then, given that I was all alone and without any proper equipment, I decided to walk just a short little distance on the actual glacier before heading back down again.

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Glacier de Pièce.

The next day started bright and sunny, so I decided to go for the longer hike up to the Glacier d’Arolla. First the trail went all the way to the end of the valley, to the bottom of Mont Collon, from where I had a full view of the lower glacier. Then it climbed up steeply to a col, after which I ended up in an even higher valley that was formed by the upper glacier. Continuing along the moraine fields, I walked straight up to the bottom of this large upper glacier. There are many caves, crevasses, and other impressive ice formations that can be viewed from close up here. After taking in all the grandeur of this place I headed back down again, making a small detour for a view of the Glacier de Bertol in a smaller side valley.

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The lower Arolla glacier.

On the third day the weather forecast warned for rather cloudy and possibly rainy weather in the afternoon, so I went for a shorter but very pretty hike in the morning. The trail I took traverses the mountainside along the main valley, but about 200-300m (650-1000ft) above the valley floor. So the views were quite impressive, and as a bonus I ended up at a lovely little mountain lake with turquoise water (aptly called Lac Bleu). After this enjoyable walk I was actually quite happy to take an afternoon of rest and recover a bit from several days of hiking. Three down, one to go.

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The view across Lac Bleu.

On the last day of my trip the sky was completely blue again, and I made an early start on the trail leading up to the Col de Riedmatten. Once more there were spectacular views and glaciers everywhere, and then a final steep climb up to the col at 2919m (9577ft). From here I had incredible vistas on all sides, with even the top of the Matterhorn popping up above the mountain range on the other side of the valley. I could have stayed up here forever, but alas, I had to catch the bus back home later that afternoon. Reluctantly, but satisfied, I headed back down again, took a last shower (and big sniff of history) in the hotel, and hopped on the bus. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back to Amazing Arolla some day…

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The view east from Col de Riedmatten.

You can view more pictures of this hiking trip, with additional impressions of the mountains and glaciers around Arolla.