The short hike up to the 💦 Cascade de Bérard, located just above the village of Le Buet (near Vallorcine), is the perfect family outing on a hot ☀️ summer’s day or after 🌧strong rain – you’ll either be refreshed or you’ll see 💦 the waterfall in its rawest, most powerful form!
If you head off on this hike in late spring or in early summer, then you’ll be rewarded with glorious 🌸 rhododendron bushes in the forest and 🌼 a carpet of wild flowers in the meadows surrounding the pretty village of La Poya.
[ ➕ added bonuses: you can do 🗺 the La Poya parcours orientation along the way, there are 📷 large photo panels of animals to look at along the way, and there is 🥤 the Buvette de la Cascade de Bérard overlooking 💦 the majestic waterfall!
The hike up to La Cascade de Bérard
The most direct path for families with small children (1) leaves from the left of the Hôtel du Buet. You’ll walk through the traditional village of La Poya, with its stone and wooden houses, surrounded by 🌼 an alpine meadow. Perhaps you’ll pass 🐄 some cows? After the pâturage, you’ll head into 🌲 the larch forest, and continue on up to 💦 the waterfall and buvette.
Alternatively, (2) if you park at 🅿️ Parking de Plan Trepy, then you’ll hike on a path with copious rhododendrons! This is a 4×4 track; and along a rocky and unlevel path, but we loved it, as along the way we saw: tadpoles in an ephemeral puddle, 🐸 a tiny frog hopping across the rocks, and animal photo panels!
We saw so many beautiful 🌸 rhododendrons flowering along this path (🗓 flowering normally from mid-June)!
An we stopped to look at 📷 photo panels of local animals . . .
Whether you leave from Le Buet or from Plan de Trépy, then you’ll see these 🔹blue signs pointing you in the right direction to the 🥤 Buvette de Bérard:
❄️ a winter snowshoe hike to La Cascade de Bérard . . . this is also fun to do!
Buvette de La Cascade de Bérard
Marine and Marion are the new managers of 🥤 the buvette, which is open over ☀️ the summer season and also for ❄️ ski rando and raquettes visitors over the snowy winter months.
There is also a brand new wooden bridge that leads you to 🥤 the buvette and its terrace overlooking 💦 the waterfall.
tel: +33 6 23 80 64 65 or +33 6 80 03 13 40 / FB page;
Here are some ❄️ winter photos taken by La Buvette de la Cascade de Bérard:
La Cascade de Bérard
As you approach 💦 the waterfall from 🌲 the forest path, you’ll get to a junction with two choices:
1) 💦 head directly onto the viewing platform, with its metal passerelle; here you will be overlooking the gushing waterfall, and then there is a rather steep metal staircase leading you up to 🥤 the buvette;
2) 🌲 follow the forest path to 🥤 the buvette;
[ ⚠️ note: be sure to take care with small children; the viewing platform above 💦 the gushing water is exhilharating, but you certainly do not want children to climb on the platform! ]
La Poya hamlet & le parcours orientation
If you leave for this hike from Le Buet, you’ll pass through the pretty hamlet of La Poya, with its 🌼🎋 rich meadows and maybe 🐄🐂 a herd of cows grazing (you can also pass through La Poya if you have parked at Parking du Plan Trepy, simply by coming off main path). La Poya once housed 🐐 goat herders in its stone buildings.
[ etymology: « la poya » in patois means « montée » or « côte », from the Latin podium) – ie 🐄 the montée en alpage, or transhumance in the Alps (summer movement of herds of cows, sheep and goats to higher grazing pastures);
I noticed on our hike a balise of the 🗺 La Poya parcours orientation. We hadn’t printed our maps for this visit, and we were far too busy trying to put a name to all the trees and flowers we came acroos, but it is on our list of things to do! / ⇒ see here to download 🗺 map (or available from tourist office) . . .
[ ⇒ to read more about MBFF’s experience of the Chamonix Valley parcours orientation, see separate article here ]
Details of hiking route & map
🅿️ parking: 🅿️ Parking de l’Hôtel du Buet (Le Buet, 74660, Vallorcine) or 🅿️ Parking de Plan Trepy (a lay-by just before Le Buet, if coming from Chamonix) – both 🆓;
🚞🚉 train: if coming from Le Fayet or the Chamonix Valley (or from the other way, stations on the way to 🇨🇭 Martigny), then you can take the train to Le Buet!
📌 start & finish point: l’Hôtel du Buet or 🅿️ Parking du Plan Trepy (⚠️🚸 be careful crossing main road!);
⏱ duration: 1,5km aller-retour = 30mins up to La Cascade de Bérard and descent less (or more if you take time to photograph all of the wild flowers and plants along the way!);
🏔 dénivelé: +/- 100m (🅿️ 1320m ⇒ 1420m Cascade de Bérard);
🗺 map of hiking route: see Chamonix Tourisme here;
Further hikes nearby
From this same family-friendly trail, there are a couple of extensions that you can do. This is helpful to know if you are hiking within a group of differing abilities; you can send the more experienced hikers off on a tougher trail, but still all hike the first part of the trail together.
- ⛰ Le Couteray boucle – if you want a slightly longer walk, then you can head up a further 100m past 💦 the Cascade de Bérard, to Fontana Freda (1518m), and you can hence do a longer boucle via Le Couteray (1335m) / this walk is 3.9km and will take you 2h, with a +/- 200 dénivelé;
- 🏚 Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard and ⛰ Mont Buet – a further +500m ascent up the valley will bring you to the 🏚 Refuge de la Pierre à Berard – this is a lovely 2h uphill hike (and then back!) through the ⛰ Réserve des Aiguilles Rouges, which brings you to the foot of Mont Buet (1924m). You can often spot some 🦌 chamois or ibex around the refuge. Most hikers undertaking Le Mont Buet will spend the night in this mountain refuge, and you are allowed to ⛺️ bivouac, as long as you register at the refuge!
address: Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard, 74660, Vallorcine; tel: +33 (0)4 50 54 62 08 or +33 (0)6 08 83 62 42 / website;
There are ⛰ several more hikes that are perfect for families around Le Buet and Vallorcine (good to know: local guide Xavier Dunant offers some guided visits, as does guide du patrimoine Christine):
- 🐮🏚 Alpage & Refuge de Loriaz – various different trails will take you from Vallorcine, Le Buet or Barberine up to this lovely spot . . . and you can spend the night at 🏚 the refuge too! / FB page Refuge de Loriaz;
- 💦 Cascade et hameau de Barberine – a short hike to do en famille, or you can head further up to the Emosson dam and across to the Refuge de Loriaz and then back down (full day) / 💦 a canyoning spot in summer (book with local guiding companies);
- ⛰ Chemin des Diligences – a lovely, fairly flat hike along the valley floor, allowing you to skip from hamlet to hamlet and to visit the ⛪ chapel Notre Dame des Montets and the 🐎 Mayens des Biolles (an old relais-hostel-stable) / you have different length options, as the walk links the 🚉 train stations of Le Buet and Vallorcine . . .
[ etymology: 🐎 the diligences were the horse-drawn tourist carriages that came to Vallorcine either from 🇨🇭 Martigny or from 🇫🇷 Chamonix (via the Col des Montets), from 1792! Tourists began to arrive in Chamonix from Geneva in the 18th century, and then with the train arriving at Saint-Gervais, the diligences route was shortened. Once the 🚂 train line arrived in Chamonix in 1901, the diligences along that route stopped, but they carried on transporting tourists to Vallorcine for a few more years, until the railway line reached there! / see here for more information ]
[ ⇒ for further ideas for longer Vallorcine or Le Buet hikes, see separate MBFF article here ]
Further activities nearby
- 🏚 La Maison de Barberine (summer only) – in 1986, one of the oldest houses in the valley, dating from 1705, was up for sale . . . members of a local family decided to buy it, and then to gift it, to an association that would restore it and then open a museum dedicated to telling the story of local life . . . / good to combine with a hike to La Cascade de Barberine! / see website;
- ⛰ Col des Montets (1461m) & Le Chalet d’Accueil de la Réserve des Aiguilles Rouges (Réserve des Aiguilles Rouges) – this mountain pass, which shuts at periods over the winter months due to significant ❄️ snowfall, connects the Chamonix Valley to Vallorcine. It is worth a visit, as there is an exhibition about the flora and fauna of the reserve in the chalet (see here), 🌱 a short botanical walk (le sentier de découverte), and some 🧗♂️ bouldering too (see here) / this is also the starting point for the chemin des Lacs and the hike to the well-visited and beautiful 💦 Lac Blanc and Lacs de Cheserys (some chain and ladder sections on this route) / see Chamonix Tourisme website for more details;
- ⛳️ mini golf – you can play mini-golf at the Résidence & Spa Vallorcine, and enjoy the terrace / see here;
- 🐴 pony rides (Le Buet) – over the summertime, there are pony rides for children on offer;
- 🏀 City-Stade & playground – right next to the hotel is a small playground and a ball park; think to bring with you a 🏀 basketball or/and ⚽️ football (we did, and this kept the boys busy for a good few hours!);
- 🇨🇭🚃 VerticAlp Emosson – this vertical rail attraction is a MUST! / 🗓 open May until October / read about MBFF’s recent family experience here;
[ ⇒ for more ideas of family activities and hikes in nearby 🇨🇭 Trient and Martigny, see separate MBFF article here ]
Further places to eat nearby
🍲 Le Buet restaurants:
- 🥗 Hôtel du Buet – is located on the main road and has a comfortable outdoor area;
- 🥗 Moon Tines – located in Le Buet, this snack bar-restaurant has a gorgeous little playground;
🍲 Vallorcine restaurants – there are some excellent eating options in Vallorcine (BUT do bear in mind that many of these will be shut interseason, or get very busy in high season, so do check 🗓 opening hours and think to book ahead!):
- 🥗 l’Arrêt Bougnette, right next to the 🚉 Gare SNCF Vallorcine, is known for its superb frites (fries)!
- 🥗 Le Café Comptoir – this superb restaurant is located a short walk away . . . it serves game and fish and has a super children’s dish of the day too / it is cosy in winter and has a lovely terrace too! / over the ski season, the 🚐 Le Savoie Faire food truck is also stationed here!
- 🐻 Restaurant la Ferme des 3 Ours – is a short walk away and has a large outdoor area;
🍲 Argentière restaurants – out of main season, you’ll have fewer options in Vallorcine, so you might need to head over the Col des Montets to Argentière for a dinner out; there you have several good choices! You have: 🍕 Stone Bar (pizzas), 🍔 Office Bar (burgers and fries), Le Dahu, La Petite Verte, Le Grenier, La Remise, Yaute Bar (world dishes), Crèmerie du Glacier (a good family hike option), and 🍰 the tearoom Tête à Thé . . . and plenty more!
🇨🇭🍲 Châtelard-Frontière – 🇮🇹 Les Touristes is a super Italian restaurant (tried and tested by my husband!) and also there is the Restaurant De L’Hôtel Suisse;