Flower-spotting hike up from Montreux + alpine garden + century-old railway

PART OF MY SERIES Natural wonders of Switzerland’s canton Vaud

Even wild native orchids like these are quite easy to spot along this hike. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

A photo story of our hike up to the Rochers de Naye, above the city of Montreux, focusing on the many tens of plant species in full bloom by early July. Moreover, near the summit a whole alpine garden awaits that you can even reach by train.

We started this hike from a train stop called Haut de Caux, which we reached with a 20 minute train ride from the city of Montreux. This train actually makes it to the very top of the Rochers de Naye mountain, but hey, we are here to walk.

As many trains in Switzerland, this train offers magnificent views. Turn after turn as the train climbs you see the lake alternating on one side and the other. On your southwest you get to see the valley of the Rhone river coming from canton Valais, the castle of Chillon (worth visiting!), and on sunny days you see the whole Dents du Midi chain of mountains (to know more about these mountains check this website -in french only)

View from the train on the way up. The Dents du midi (max. 3257m) sit in the back. Getting to the summit is no easy hike but the mountain has a very interesting, easier to rich plateau at around 2500 m, with lakes and a couple of refuges where to sleep. In the bottom left corner, the Château de Chillon, well worth a visit. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

We like to begin the hike at Haut de Caux because from here you can start gently going up in a quite easy hike that already offers a dense forest, tens of colorful flowers, and outstanding views of Lac Léman here and there.

The walk then starts gently through very green scenery decorated with colorful wild flowers on the sides.

Beginning the hike on the easy path that slowly goes up through the forest, which this time was so green that it looked more like a jungle. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
This sign guides you and also ensures you that this part of the hike will be easy (no red bands that would indicate mountain trail, as you’ll see later). In fact in the first part you walk just through a gravel road. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Wild flowers of various colors and shapes abound…

Already the sides of this road are full of flowers of all colors and shapes. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

This part of the hike also offers some free snacks…

Left: Raspberry fruits just starting to grow. Right: wild strawberries, small but quite tasty! Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

With some patience you can find some wild orchids. But pay attention, because they are not like those huge commercial phalaenopsis. This one, for example, maybe just a total of 30–40 cm high of which only the last 10 cm are occupied by flowers. So yes, each flower is quite small.

You can even spot some wild orchids already in the first minutes of hike. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Some flowers have weird shapes. Even weirder than orchids, I’d say. This one for example is quite easy to find in canton Vaud. It always reminds me of plasma balls like those you touch and produce pink/purple/violet flares.

This flower, quite easy to find in canton Vaud, reminds me of a plasma globe. The photo of the flower is my own. The photo of the plasma globe is by Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not all is flowers and colors in the forest, actually the dominating color is green, at least in summer. Ferns give a lot of green color to the ground, together with mosses and all other bushes and plants. The heights are dominated by trees, especially pine trees in this mountain.

Left: Fern on a vertical rock wall. Right: A future king of the forest. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

Some more colorful flowers to keep going, as we keep gaining altitude.

Chicory. Did you know you can prepare a hot drink that tastes similar to coffee by roasting its root? I will show you some day. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
More flowers, more colors. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.
Rosehip, whose fruit (to ripen in around 4 months) is not easy to eat but can be used to prepare a delicious jam. Stay tuned for the story on that! Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

The easy road we were walking through, rather than hiking, at one point gives place to an actual mountain trail. In Switzerland these are shown with red and white flags overlaid onto the yellow signs and posts. FYI, these are mountain trails yet easy and without major risks; but blue colors would indicate more complicated routes that may even require use of the hands and of course more dangerous paths. You won’t see any blue in this hike.

From this point, a mountain hiking trail starts (see red and white bands in the sign). Not really very tough. By the way, we are hiking here through the Via Alpina (national hiking route 1) as defined by Schweizmobil: https://www.schweizmobil.ch/en/hiking-in-switzerland/route-01.html Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

We now gain altitude faster, because the mountain trail is more steep. With altitude and a more rocky landscape, the dominant species slowly begin to change.

Some more flowers… Photos by author Luciano Abriata.
…and the trail becomes more steep. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

In one of the steepest parts of the hike, still before the steepest part at the end, there is a cave. This is not one of the caves named after the mountains (Grottes de Naye) which are on the side of the Col de Jaman and close to the Via Ferrata of these mountains. For more information on the caves see this -in French only.

A refreshing cave on the way up. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

After a quick view of the cave we keep going up and suddenly spot a family of orchids like this one:

More wild orchids. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

And of course more flowers, like these ones I played with using the focus of my camera:

Playing with focus effects. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

Flowers, trees, rocks, mountains, water… and insects are interesting too. Check out this farmer ants managing their “sheep”

Farmer ants. I find this so cool. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Getting higher the signs remind us that we are in a mountain trail. In fact it’s just about to get steeper and full with loose rocks and stones.

Keep walking up the rocky trail… Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

With a more rocky landscape and the high altitude, the plants change quite a bit. See these flowers for example:

…and you get to see flowers that like more rocky areas, (“rochers”). Photos by author Luciano Abriata.
A wild orchid sprouting. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Views are spectacular everywhere:

Quite high already, here we see across the valley the Tour d’AÏ (right) and the Tour de Mayen (left), around the Leysin area in canton Vaud. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
We keep going up as the terrain gets more rocky and the last pine trees tell us that we are passing the 1800 m. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Flowers keep changing shapes and colors as we climb more:

But you still get to see flowers… Photos by author Luciano Abriata.
…even at the very top (this photo was shot at the summit). Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

Until we get to the very top, more than 2000 m above see level and around 800 m above our starting point at Haut de Caux.

Thought this was enough? Well wait for a whole alpine garden at the top: La Rambertia

We easily spotted some tens of different plant species while hiking up. But wait, there’s much more to get to know at the alpine garden (jardin alpin) “La Rambertia” which awaits you at 2000 m with plants from mountains all over the world.

The following are just some of the photos I took in my visits in the summers of 2020 and 2021 to the garden. But they have almost a thousand species, and of course not all of them have flowers at the same time. Maybe worth visiting multiple times from spring to fall?

Just some examples of flowers, among around a thousand varieties they keep. Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

Talking with one of its keepers, he explained that the place was founded in 1896. It is part of an international network of aficionados that share seeds -because they cannot ship plants, of course. Each spring the association gets seeds for new species that add up to those that can reproduce or survive winters by themselves. “In winter there are 2 to 4 meters of snow right here, still most plants survive because the temperature is not much lower than 0 degrees (Celsius) at the level of the ground. Then next spring most of them just grow again.” -he explains. To know more about the garden, visit its website.

Photos by author Luciano Abriata.

Restaurant, marmot park, the alpine garden and even a train station at almost 2000 m, gateway to the summit.

The Rochers de Naye are an important tourist destination, especially because you can reach the summit entirely by train leaving from Montreux on the shores of lake Leman. The ride is an experience in itself, with great views as you climb. At the final train stop, at 2042 m above see level, there is a restaurant, a small park with marmots (not very nice, I prefer to see them in the wild!), the alpine garden just 5 minute walk away, and the true summit of the mountain from where you get to see most of the lake easily appreciating its shape, and also other important mountains of the region.

Right when you get to this flat area around the restaurant and train station, 10 minutes walk away from the very top, this sign shows you all the possible directions you could take. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
Seriously, not a single city from Latin America or Oceania and only one from Africa?? Photos by author Luciano Abriata.
View from the very top towards the north east, where you see the end of the cog railway and an antique hotel/refuge where today only the restaurant and train station operate. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
View from the very top to the south west, with Lac Leman dominating the scene. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.
View from the very top towards the northwest, with the Dent de Jaman. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

About the train from Montreux to Rochers de Naye

I found the history of the train quite interesting. It is a cog train that first served the way from Glion to the summit, already from 1892. To get to the start of the train at Glion, travelers first had to get there with a funicular from Territet, close to castle of Chillon. Then in 1909 the train connection from Montreux to Glion began operations, thus making the trip simpler and faster, right from the “big” city. The two trains where however operated by different companies until the merge in 1987. It is today one of the heritage railways of the country.

I finally share this photo of the console while the train was climbing. See the vintage-but-working gauges marking around 100 Amperes in the lines, 800 Volts, and a speed of 20 km/h which was as much as it seemed to go at least in this trip.

The train console as it pushes up from Montreux to Rochers de Naye. Photo by author Luciano Abriata.

I am a nature, science, technology, programming, and DIY enthusiast. Biotechnologist and chemist, in the wet lab and in computers. I write about everything that lies within my broad sphere of interests. Check out my lists for more stories. Become a Medium member to access all stories by me and other writers, and subscribe to get my new stories by email (original affiliate links of the platform).



LucianoSphere (Luciano Abriata, PhD)

https://www.lucianoabriata.com | Scientific writing, technology integrator, programming, biotech, bioinformatics.| Have a job for me? Contact me in ES FR EN IT