Flower-spotting hike up from Montreux + alpine garden + century-old railway
PART OF MY SERIES Natural wonders of Switzerland’s canton Vaud
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)
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.
Wild flowers of various colors and shapes abound…
This part of the hike also offers some free snacks…
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.
By the way, if you like wild orchids, you must see this story!
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.
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.
Some more colorful flowers to keep going, as we keep gaining altitude.
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.
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.
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.
After a quick view of the cave we keep going up and suddenly spot a family of orchids like this one:
And of course more flowers, like these ones I played with using the focus of my camera:
Flowers, trees, rocks, mountains, water… and insects are interesting too. Check out this farmer ants managing their “sheep”
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.
With a more rocky landscape and the high altitude, the plants change quite a bit. See these flowers for example:
Views are spectacular everywhere:
Flowers keep changing shapes and colors as we climb more:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).