Geneva Day Trips: 3 Fall Family-Friendly Hikes

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Happy November!  Fall is just flying right by, which makes me a little sad because it’s probably my favorite season in the mountains.  The colors are just so unbelievably beautiful, the summer visitors have left, and the mountain trails are peaceful and inviting.  To make the most of our favorite season, we spent most of our October weekends doing hikes within 1-2 hours from Geneva.  Whether you live in Geneva or just want to visit, these are three great ways to spend a gorgeous fall day and bonus-all these hikes are family friendly!

Sixt-fer-a-Cheval

A cirque is a an amphitheatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion and the Cirque du Sixt-fer-a-Cheval in France is the largest mountain cirque in the Alps.  About an hour and fifteen minutes from Geneva, the Cirque is one of our favorite destinations for a family walk and we’ve been now in every season.  It’s most magnificent in the spring when the melting snow creates hundreds of waterfalls, but this was our first time visiting in the fall and we were not disappointed!  The colors here are fantastic.

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There is a car park that only charges in high season, so when we went in October parking was free.  There is a picnic table right when you walk up from the car park and it’s probably the best place to take in the amphitheatre-like views.  There is also a restaurant at the beginning as well as some other small restaurants along different hiking routes.  When we come here we like to do the easy 1 1/2 hour loop that is relatively flat and kid (but not stroller) friendly.  It goes on both sides of the river and this time through a flock of sheep, which the boys were thrilled with.  However, we learned after the fact that you’re not supposed to have dogs during the part with the sheep, at risk of fines (oops!)…so if you bring a dog, don’t do the full loop.  The hike is fairly flat but in the spring you do have to cross some water.  Only the last little bit is quite steep, so take care with young children…but overall, it’s quite family friendly.

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Verbier

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Verbier is one of the high flying, glitzy Swiss ski resorts, but in the off season it’s like a ghost town.  At two hours from Geneva it’s just at our limits for a day trip, but the stunning scenery definitely made it worth the drive.  We took the cable car to Les Ruinettes and walked toward La Chaux where there are sculptures on exhibition that you can admire along the way.  You can continue for much longer, but we only hiked about 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back to the cable car.  The part that we walked was relatively flat and stroller friendly.  If you go, make sure you check the opening times of the cable car…it’s only open on weekends in November.

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Also of note, many restaurants are closed in the off season but we did manage to find a place for a decent lunch.  We ended the day with another hike that a friend had told us about, a wildlife treasure hunt for kids that starts at the tourist office.  This took about an hour and a half and the kids loved it.  There were signs posted throughout the forest with clues and the kids had an answer sheet where they had to guess which animal was being described.  It was a bit steep for a kids hike and our 3 year old only made it about 15 minutes before getting in the hiking backpack for a ride.  It might have been better if we’d started with this hike since the other one was easier.  The other somewhat scary part was that the hike went alongside and across mountain bike trails, so if you go with young kids just make sure they don’t get too far ahead of you.  At the end of the hike the kids took the completed answer sheets back to the tourist office for a prize and it was a great way to end the day for our proud little hikers.

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Areuse Gorge

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I have this thing with gorges since we’ve moved to Switzerland so when I read about the Areuse Gorge near Neuchatel, I added it to my bucket list.  Then later I read that the gorge is a great place to see the fall foliage, so we knew we needed to make it happen.  One Saturday we set out to explore and they were so right…stunning colors!  The hike starts at the train station in Noiraigue and if you do the whole walk it’s around 3 hours to the town of Boudry where you can take a train back to your starting point.

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We weren’t sure how much the kids would be up for, so we had a backup plan to hike to the almost halfway point at Champ du Moulin.  Of course we wound up taking this option because we had a picnic lunch along the way and some stops for photos, playing in leaves, etc. so it took us almost two hours to get to Champ du Moulin.  I’d love to go back and do the other half of the hike, but the scenery in this part was still beautiful and the bonus was seeing the stone bridge that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale.

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The hike itself is easy and downhill.  I highly recommend it for a gorgeous fall day out.  The only thing to note is that the trains only run every hour, so it’s a good idea to check the train schedule when you arrive so you know how much time you have to work with.

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The hike is near another wonderful place for a day out, Creux du Van.  It’s basically Switzerland’s Grand Canyon and you can see it from the gorge.  In the picture below, it’s the tall cliffs in the background.

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There are so many options for fall hikes that we are spoiled for choice and every fall I find myself wishing the season would last just a little bit longer!  Do you have any tips for family friendly hiking in the fall?  We’d love to hear them!

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