[This article was written as part of a paid partnership with Nendaz Tourisme. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.]
As an autumn destination, Nendaz, Switzerland, allows me to combine two of my favorite activities: hiking and eating. Known as a skiers’ paradise, outside of the winter season you’ll find scenic trails for long walks with family and friends. Along the way, you can discover a selection of cozy mountain restaurants serving local specialties.
After spending the last weekend of the summer in Nendaz with my family, we have some recommendations to help you plan your trip.
A few facts About Nendaz…
If you’ve never been to Nendaz before, here are some quick facts about this Swiss destination, situated above Sion, the cantonal capital of Valais.
- Elevation: Comprised of 17 villages, the commune of Nendaz lies between an altitude between 500 and 3,340 meters above sea level.
- Population: It has a total population of approximately 6,600. About one-third of the year-round residents live in the ski resort community of Haute-Nendaz.
- Skiing: Part of the “Four Valleys” ski resort, in Nendaz you’ll have access to 412 km of downhill ski runs.
- Hiking: For hiking enthusiasts, Nendaz has about 250 km of marked trails for people of all ages and abilities. These range from meadow walks to more challenging summit climbs.
- Local food products: Due to the favorable climate in the Rhone Valley, raspberries and apricots grown in Nendaz. These are used to make jam, syrup and alcoholic beverages, such as Abricotine (an apricot schnapps). Some other local Valaisan specialties found here include Pain de seigle (rye bread), Viande séchée (dried beef), Jambon cru (raw ham), Lard sec (bacon) and Raclette cheese.
Les Bisses – Historic irrigation canals
Centuries ago, the people of this region built irrigation canals, known as les bisses, running across the mountainsides. Altogether, Nendaz has eight of these historic waterways built between 1453 and 1860. Six of these bisses still have water flowing through them in order to irrigate the orchards and other nearby crops. Today, they also have a recreational component, as the pathways alongside the canals make for pleasant, relatively flat, and very family-friendly walks.
Family-Friendly Hikes in Nendaz
During the weekend my family and I spent in Nendaz, we took each of the following hikes. The first two hikes listed below we completed in one day. The third hike included a memorable lunch at a hidden gem of a restaurant about halfway through the route in the small hamlet of Planchouet.
1. Panorama Path
Distance: 2.5 km
Estimated hiking time: 45 minutes (Alternatively, it could take 2-4 hours if you make many stops at educational signposts along the way).
An excellent hike for families, you can reach the Panorama Path from the top of the Tracouet cable car stop. In the autumn, the fall colors here are exceptional with vibrant red and burnt orange leaves accenting the green landscape. Informational signposts about the plants and animals of this area appear along the path. It also has wooden tables and fire pits, if you want to pack a picnic lunch. The path circles around the Lac Noir (Black Lake), an extremely picturesque spot for photos.
2. Mélèzes de Balavaux – Bisse de Saxon
Distance: 11.5 km
Estimated hiking time: About 3 hours
This hike also starts at the Tracouet cable car station. After which, you descend back to Haute-Nendaz through lush forests and alpine meadows. You will walk through the Mélèzes de Balavaux, which has some of the largest Larch trees in Europe. In the area of Balavaux, there’s also a small farm selling sérac, a local soft cheese made from whey.
Just below the forest of massive Larch trees, you’ll see the Chalet des Alpes, a popular mountain restaurant with a sunny terrace. If you can estimate your arrival time, I recommend making a reservation in advance. Since we had a big breakfast at our hotel that morning, and the restaurant was completely booked, we decided to continue toward the Bisse de Saxon, waiting on lunch until we arrived at Haute-Nendaz. Back in the village, we discovered 3330 alt, a brewery restaurant serving cold beer, satisfying burgers and an Assiette Valaisanne.
3. Bisse du Milieu – Bisse Vieux
Distance: 10.7 km
Estimated hiking time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
A beautiful walk along the Bisse du Milieu takes you to the Restaurant Les Bisses. Having earned 12 points from Gault & Millau, this restaurant should most certainly be part of your culinary hiking agenda in Nendaz. Chef Patrick Fournier prepares local dishes with some extra thought given to their presentation. We took advantage of the La Chasse menu, featuring wild game and seasonal vegetables.
After a leisurely lunch at Les Bisses, which included big slices of fruit tarts for dessert, we started walking back to town via the Bisse Vieux. Written evidence exists to suggest this bisse was constructed before 1658. The water flowing through this canal still helps to irrigate the fruit trees and other crops in this area. With incredible views, the constant sound of rippling water and a staircase along the bisse, our whole family agreed that Bisse Vieux was our favorite trail from our weekend in Nendaz.
Planning your trip
Where to stay:
- Hôtel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa – During our weekend in Nendaz, my family and I stayed at this superior 4-star hotel. My children particularly enjoyed the expansive breakfast buffet and the outdoor infinity pool.
- Interhome – This rental agency manages more than 300 apartments and chalets in the greater Nendaz area.
Where to eat in the village center of Haute Nendaz:
- Taverne de L’Alpée – Good local dishes and great service at this comfortable restaurant just up the street from the Nendaz tourism office.
- 3330 alt – Named for the altitude of the local highest mountain, Mont Fort, this casual restaurant has good burgers and beer made onsite by this small brewery.