The Jura Mountains, in the north of Switzerland and extending into France, are a relatively small but very pretty mountain range. With a highest elevation around 1700m, at first sight they do not seem as impressive as the neighboring Alps. However, they actually hold several hidden treasures. The Gorge de l’Areuse is one such treasure.
The Jura Mountains were formed over millions of years, as part of the same process that created the Alps (i.e., the African plate pushing up against the European plate). Their name is derived from an old word for “forest”. Indeed, these mountains are densely forested, with oak and beech at lower elevations, and firs and maple higher up. They consist primarily of limestone, which was deposited between 200 and 145 million years ago, when the area was under water. The designation “Jurassic” for that time period comes from the name of these mountains.
Because of its soft and porous rock, the Jura mountains are easily eroded by water. As a consequence, there are several beautiful narrow canyons that cut right through them. One of those canyons is the Gorge de l’Areuse, carved by its namesake river. A walking path extends from one end of this canyon to the other, sometimes passing over suspended bridges and walkways between and along the canyon walls. It makes for an easy but exciting afternoon stroll.
The upper end of the canyon starts near the small hamlet of Noiraigue, and it ends at the town of Boudry. Both these places are easily reached by car or with a little local train from Neuchatel (which has fast intercity connections with Bern, Lausanne, and Geneva). The walking path itself is well marked and easy to follow. It’s a perfect alternative for when hiking higher up in the mountains is not possible because of snow or bad weather.
I’ve done this little hike quite a number of times already, but this is just one of those places that are always fun to return to, no matter how often. It certainly makes for some great Jurassic Joy 😉