Hike to Gorges du Chéran, Tours Saint-Jacques & Semnoz

Around the end of spring, I went on a hike to Gorges du Chéran, Tours Saint-Jacques and Semnoz (climbing from the southern flank this time). Here is the path I walked (download KML):

In the morning, I took a train from Annecy to Albens then boarded a LIHSA bus (line 171) to reach Alby-sur-Chéran. I made a quick detour to the medieval quarter but was soon on my way. I had planned to pass through the ruins of the Château de Pierrecharve, a castle in Alby. However, the path was closed because of unstable rocks so I walked along the paved road for some time. I then left the road to take a trail that followed the course of the Chéran river. There was the occasional view of the river but it was mostly in the forest. Once I reached the Passerelle de Cusy / Gruffy, a pedestrian bridge across the river, I walked on the Boucle du Pont de l’Abîme (Pont de l’Abîme loop) to the Chaos du Chéran, a place in the gorge beneath the Pont de l’Abîme bridge. I then walked the trail up to the bridge, where I had already been some time ago (by car). There was a great view from there. The loop continues on the other side of the bridge, but instead, I kept going up, using the paved road to get to Allèves and then a car park below the Tours Saint-Jacques (Saint-Jacques Towers). They are a natural rock formation on the southern flank of Semnoz. I started on the ascent and passed by the Tours, but I didn’t spend much time there since I was behind on my schedule. I arrived at the Plateau du Semnoz after a while. The weather had soured by then: It was very cloudy with a bit of rain. I took the SIBRA summer shuttle (Ligne d’été) to get back to Annecy.

Above, near the train station in Albens.

Above, highway bridge in Alby-sur-Chéran.

Above, Chéran river.

Above, medieval quarter (bourg médiéval) of Alby-sur-Chéran. The town was renowned for its expertise in leatherwork and shoe making.

Above, blocked trail to the castle.

Above, poppy field.

Above, cows.

Above, Montagne de Bange.

Above, leaving the paved road.

Above, more cows.

Above, Chéran river at the Moulin Janin.

Above, lilium martagon.

Above, first view of the Tours Saint-Jacques.

Above, Passerelle de Cusy / Gruffy.

Above, at the Chaos du Chéran, looking at the Pont de l’Abîme.

Above, steep trail to the bridge.

Above, Pont de l’Abîme.

Above, Chaos du Chéran from the bridge.

Above, on the way to Allèves.

Above, Tours Saint-Jacques.

Above, beneath the Tours.

Above, cows on the path at La Figlia.

Above, Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Vie.

Above, on the final part of the ascent to Plateau du Semnoz.

Above, Chalets de Gruffy on the Plateau.

Above, Crêt de l’Aigle.

Above, Roc des Boeufs.

Above, Chalets de Leschaux.

Above, Bauges.

Above, Crêt de Chatillon.


Fort l’Écluse

Fort l’Écluse is a fortress near Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. It guards the Rhône valley between the Vuache hills and the Jura Mountains and is a natural entrance into France from Geneva. The fort was founded by the Duchy of Savoy in the 13th century and, after it was ceded to France along with the Pays de Gex during the reign of Louis XIV, completed by Vauban. It was destroyed by the Austrians in 1815, but was rebuilt by the French and considerably strengthened and heightened. The fort is open to visitors during summer.

Above, the fort seen from Rocher de Léaz. It has 2 parts: A lower fort, whose buildings can be visited, and an upper fort, which can be accessed from the lower fort through stairs in an underground gallery. A road from Longeray can also be used to get to the outside of the upper fort.

Above, Porte de France (France Gate) at the lower fort. This is the main entrance for visitors. The courtyard can be entered freely but a ticket is needed to enter the buildings and the underground gallery to the upper fort.

Above, Vuache.

Above, start of the visit.

Above, photo exhibition.

Above, exhibition about bats. The fort is a good habitat for them.

Above, a lot of butterflies.

Above, terrace with a good view.

Above, Rhône and Viaduc de Longeray.

Above, looking towards Geneva.

Above, Rocher de Léaz and Viaduc de Longeray.

Above, Salève in the background.

Above, lizard tail.

Above, in the underground gallery to the upper fort. There are many steps to the top (almost 1,000).

Above, Rhône and Pays de Gex.

Above, first outdoor terrace, almost at the top.

Above, artificial beehives.

Above, at the upper fort. A few rooms with no view are open.

Above, on the way down.

Above, Vuache.

Above, Rhône.

Above, the gallery took many years to build. The year of construction is engraved on a wall in each floor.

Above, back at the lower fort, visiting the barracks built in the cliff.

Above, exhibition of sculptures by Yvon Raisin.

Above, back at the courtyard of the lower fort.

Above, train tracks to Geneva.

Above, Porte de Genève (Geneva Gate).

Above, upper fort seen from the road to Léaz.

Above, outside the upper fort, coming from Longeray.

Above, view of the Fort and Grand Crêt d’Eau from Rocher de Léaz.

Hike to Pertes de la Valserine, Fort l’Écluse, Rocher de Léaz & Pont de Grésin

Earlier this summer, I went on a hike in the Bellegarde-sur-Valserine area: I visited the Pertes de la Valserine, Fort l’Écluse, Rocher de Léaz and Pont de Grésin.

Here is the path I walked (download KML):

In the morning, I took a LIHSA bus from Annecy to Bellegarde. I first walked along the Valserine river to the Pertes, which I have already mentioned in my previous post. After that, I walked to Fort l’Ecluse, using paved roads and forest paths. I first visited the upper fort then took a a trail down and spent some time visiting the lower fort, for which I needed to buy a ticket. There was a great view from there. I then walked a forest trail along the Rhône in order to get to the Rocher de Léaz (Rock of Léaz), the site of a former castle. Some ruins remain but the main interest is the view: The Rhône, Fort l’Ecluse, the Vuache, the Grand Crêt d’Eau could all be seen. For the final part, in order to catch the bus back, I crossed the Rhône using the pedestrian Pont de Grésin: I arrived in Eloise in Haute-Savoie and walked to the bus stop.

Above, Bellegarde train station. The bus stopped there.

Above, Valserine river, on the way to the Pertes.

Above, canyon at the Pertes.

Above, Viaduc de Bellegarde.

Above, walking through Lancrans.

Above, Grand Crêt d’Eau above.

Above, Plateau de Retord on the other side.

Above, Grand Crêt d’Eau. There is a path starting next to there.

Above, Vuache.

Above, cutting through a field.

Above, power transmission towers.

Above, upper fort of Fort l’Ecluse.

Above, statue of Saint James (Saint-Jacques in french) by Yvon Raisin, on the path from Geneva to Compostela (Camino de Santiago) through Nantua.

Above, at the upper fort.

Above, Rhône.

Above, Vuache.

Above, trail to the lower fort.

Above, lower fort of Fort l’Ecluse. The courtyard can be entered freely, although a ticket is needed to enter the fort building itself.

Above, Porte de France (France gate).

Above, a lot of butterflies.

Above, I actually walked back up to the upper fort using the underground gallery.

Aboe, Rhône, looking toward Geneva.

Above, Porte de Genève (Geneva gate).

Above, goats.

Above, on the way to Rocher de Léaz.

Above, the Rocher.

Above, ruins of Moulin de Condière.

Above, Nant de Condière.

Above, in Léaz.

Above, Fort l’Ecluse.

Above, final ascent to the Rocher.

Above, ruins of the castle of Léaz.

Above, statue of Sainte-Victoire by Yvon Raisin.

Above, Rhône.

Above, Grand Crêt d’Eau.

Above, there was a lot of wind.

Above, Vierge de Léaz.

Above, Vuache.

Above, on the way to Eloise.

Above, Pont de Grésin, a bridge across the Rhône.

Above, church in Eloise.

Above, Grand Crêt d’Eau.

Above, LIHSA bus stop in Eloise.

Promenade des Pertes de la Valserine

The Promenade des Pertes de la Valserine in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is a short and easy walk that follows the Valserine, a river that takes its source in the Jura mountains and empties into the Rhône. Starting near the train station in the city, the path goes upstream to the Pertes (French for “losses”), where the river disappears in natural canyons dug into limestone rocks.

This page has proposals for additional exploration of the area (beyond simply walking there).

Above, start of the walk.

Above, Valserine.

Above, Pont du Moulin Convert.

Above, Métral dam (Barrage de Métral).

Above, machines for electricity production.

Above, fish ladder.

Above, waterfall.

Above, at the Pertes.

Above, Pont des Oulles.

Above, canyon.

Above, the rock has been shaped by past floods.