It’s a challenge to spend an entire weekend in Geneva when there are so many beautiful places just a short train ride away. Rochers Des Naye is one such place, recommended to us by a Swiss couple we met in a mountain hut, and makes for an easy 1.5 hour daytrip from Geneva.
I caught an early train to Montreux, hoping to set foot on top of the mountain while the air was still crisp and clear for a view over the surrounding peaks and Lac Leman. At 9am the scenic GoldenPass train from Montreux to Rochers Des Naye was already so full that half the people in line weren’t allowed to board – this turned out to be the result of a large group clad in traditional Swiss dress who had taken up two entire train cars. I squeezed in among them just as the doors shut.
The ride up the mountain was almost as thrilling as the destination, spiraling along the edge of the rocky face with views stretching far across the peaks, towns, and blue lake waters in the distance. Immediately outside the window we were treated to scenes of typical Swiss life, passing flocks of cattle and sheep being herded across the grass by young men and their crew of australian shepherds. At the top, I followed the uniformed group off the car and watched as they began to pull out large instrument cases from a special caboose and assemble what I recognized as alphorns. They had come to the top of the mountain to send alphorn melodies floating across the alps.
I visited this spot once before in hopes of a nice hike, back in May, and there was a 10 foot wall of snow. But three months later summer had finally arrived, the wildflowers were in bloom, and the marmots were out with abundance. By the time I had done a loop around the alpine gardens at the peak, a crescent of alphorns was being passionately conducted on top of the ridge for a mesmerized crowd of about 20 people, some marmots, and a flock of cattle.
I began my descent down the mountain on the trail to Montreux, also a segment of the magnificent Via Alpina (trail 1), the mellow notes falling around me and landing in all the nooks and crannies of the mountain. The trail began with beautiful views of the mountains and grassy slopes sticking up at a nearly 90 degree angle, looking soft and glossy in the morning light.
The fields along the trail were decorated with a sprinkling of colorful wildflowers – delicate queen anne’s lace, puffy purple thistles, and little yellow flowers blanketing the hills. I stopped for a picnic next to a family cooking lunch over a fire they’d made in the picnic area on the side of the mountain. Ten meters away, a group of students in paragliding school were taking turns running off the edge of the a cliff where they were soon caught by the wind, soaring off for a glorious flight high above the city below.
There were two mountain huts situated along the trail, one on a ledge overlooking a valley and the city of Montreux below, the other placed strategically above the Haute de Caux cog train station, smoke rising up from a cozy fire burning in a raised pit outside, sending a signal to come enjoy a hot lunch at the picturesque tables laid perfectly with fruit and vases of flowers, looking like a wedding was about to take place. I stopped for a minute to chat with the hosts, a friendly older couple relaxing in the sun and poking the fire, before continuing on.
About halfway down, my path connected to a route I had taken before, transitioning from mountain views to small towns and a canopy-covered dirt trail through the forest, before a final descent to the old town of Montreux via a 1005 step trail entirely lined with ripe blackberries – Alone on the trail, I must have eaten an entire jar of jam’s worth!
At the bottom of the stairs I emerged into the old town just a short walk from the train station, and was soon on my way back to Geneva for dinner.