Exploring the gorgeous trails at Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval

After an amazing two days in the Jura region, it was time to continue our roadtrip to another region of France. Yay! A colleague of my friend told us about a place in the Haute-Savoie called the Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval, an amphitheater-like valley close to the Swiss border. We only needed to see one picture to add that place to our itinerary.

Once back down from our climb up Mount Dôle, we continued along the Swiss border (we didn’t cross through Switzerland as we would have to buy a special vignette for that) until the beautiful peaks of the Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval appeared in front of us. Marvelous!

On Google maps, we had spotted a camping area that was right at the end of the Cirque. No need to convince us any further. We drove straight to that place: ‘Camping Le Pelly‘. The view was that mesmerizing that we immediately booked two nights and set up our tent at the end of the campground, with a spec-ta-cu-lar view on the mountains. I was already looking forward to waking up the next morning and opening up our tent to this glorious wonder of nature.

When we arrived at the entrance of the Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval, no one was at the booth that collects the entrance fee. It costs five euros to enter the site, but no one seemed to be around to collect our money. Weird. We did however pick up a hiking map of the area that was available there. We were immediately drawn to two of the available hikes; the one to Bout du Monde (literally ‘End of the World’) and the one to Lake de la Vogealle. The two biggest ones, of course. Choosing one seemed like an impossible task, so we figured out a way to combine them.

Once the sun was up and we had enjoyed a hearty breakfast – with an amazing view from in front of our tent, duh! – we were ready to tackle this hike. We started by following the trail along the river, which ultimately led to Bout du Monde. The first four kilometers were easy and mostly flat so you don’t have to be very fit to get to that point and the surroundings from the valley are already exquisite. The last kilometer to the furthest point within the valley was a bit steeper, but still no mountaineer skills are needed. And the view was ab-so-lu-te-ly amazing!

According to the name of the sight, you are supposedly at the ‘End of the World’ but do not be fooled! The path still continues on your left. Instead of going back through the valley, we followed that trail as it could also bring us to Lac de la Vogealle, our second hike’s destination.

While the first part of our hike along the river was easy, this trail definitely wasn’t. You have to conquer a lot of altimeters, going up and down and up and down again, but the surroundings are absolutely to die for. It makes having to stop to catch your breath a little less annoying. That is if you don’t have your breath taken away again from the stunning vista. Ha!

Along the way to the lake, you pass the Chalet du Boret at 1390m. where you can buy food and drinks if necessary. They also have a very lovely terrace. But we were prepared enough and excited to see the lake, so we continued. And after that point, the steepest parts came. Yes, even steeper! To get to the lake, we still had to go 611 meters up, so time to test our physique! Phew!

But we made it, right on time for lunch! The view over the Lac de la Vogealle itself was very pretty, but in my opinion the sights along the hike itself were more spectacular. Nonetheless it was a nice place to catch our breath and refuel our energy levels for the hike back to the camping.

We took the shortest route back to the camping which fortunately offered more gorgeous views. I was completely in awe of this area. It’s just so beautiful!

From Lac de la Vogealle back to the camping, the hike gets a whole lot more technical however. I’m not a beginner, but I found myself shaking on my legs on one specific part that was so steep down and quite slippery, so do keep that in mind if you plan to take the same route. Make sure you definitely have appropriate footwear!

It was around 3pm when we made it back to our tent. Sad to have finished, but so fulfilled by what we had experienced. After 19,18 kilometers, a shower (and toilet!) and some rest was very welcome! We enjoyed some down-time before we realized we didn’t even have anything on had to have a celebration of our day. Un-ac-ceptable! So crazy like we are, we got the bikes out of the van, and cycled the six kilometers to Sixt du Fer-à-Cheval where the nearest supermarket was. This way we’d also have a quick view of the town, not that it was much. But we got our drinks and snacks, so mission accomplished!

And then it started raining. And our tent wasn’t entirely closed. And it was uphill back. So I may have died a little on the way back to the camping. Now I can laugh about it though as no harm was inflicted! We moved our camping chairs under the roof of the sanitary and watched the rain pelt down over the mountains while the sky turned a dreamy orange. All was well in the world!

It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to our lovely camping the next day. It seemed like there would be quite a challenge in finding a better spot for the rest of our trip. For only 16 euros a night we had the most spectacular view and a really clean campground with all we could possibly want. But shocker, our next spot wasn’t that bad either. But for that, you’ll have to stay tuned! 😉

♡ Ellen


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