Hike to Creux du Van – Switzerland, Easy Hike and Loop Trail

Creux du Van (1,464 m.a.s.l.) is a spectacular rock formation you can hike to located in Val de Travers in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. Actually, it’s more than a rock formation; I’d feel confident saying the Creux du Van is the most spectacular amphitheater-like canyon in Switzerland.

A natural amphitheater rock formation in Switzerland called Croix du Van

Creux du Van

It’s hard to render the true size in photos of this amazing location in the Jura mountains. While I had seen some photos of it before visiting, I was thoroughly unprepared to face its size.

It’s a WOW moment when you reach the top of the cliff and find this beautiful formation in front of your eyes.

Panoramic image of a hotshot canyon called crux du van in Switzerland

Panoramic image of Creux du Van

To give you some numbers, the Creux du Van is 1,400 meters wide (almost a mile) and its cliffs are about 150 meters high. The views of the hill landscape are endless.

Apart from the natural, impressive beauty of the landscape, it is not uncommon to spot Ibex roaming around the Creux du Van Cliffs.

Ibex with two cubs in the Jura mountain in Switzerland

Ibex with two Cubs on one of the trails on the Creux du Van.

 

Table of Contents

How to Get to the Creux Du Van Trailhead

If you want to Hike to Creux du van or just visit it, you can choose between two main options:

  • An easy walk from a parking area next to Restaurant Le Soliat
  • A longer 14+km hike with more than 700m elevation gain from Noirague.

I’ll describe both. However, as you can see from the map below, there are many more trails in the area. These are just the two most commonly visited trails, but you have other options to make your hike shorter or even longer.

Creux di Van hiking Map

Creux du Van Area hiking map

Tip: if you are coming by car, it’s best to be here early or late in the day at the peak of the hiking season. Parking spaces are limited. This is a popular location in Switzerland and neighboring areas, so parking lots fill up quickly.

Now, here’s how to get to the two trailheads.

Restaurant Le Soliat

From the A5 highway, take the St-Aubin exit. Then follow road signs for “Le Soliat – Creux-du-Van”. You will pass through the villages of Montalchez and Provence. Then the road connecting Provence (VD) to Couvet (NE) follows the signs “Le Soliat – Creux-du-Van”. Parking is available near the restaurant. Another parking is available further down the road (20-30 minutes walk).

Hut in a green fields partly hidden by trees.

Restaurant le Soliat, as viewed from the main Creux du Van trail.

The 14 Countours Loop Hike From Noirague

Again from the A 5 Highway take the Areuse (from Geneva) or Neuchâtel (from Zurich/Lucerne) exit and follow the signs to Noirague.

You’ll first pass by the Noirague train station. Keep driving further through the village and to the main parking areas on the other side of the railway. You can follow the bigger “P” signs. until you reach one of the large parking areas.

I parked at the “Parking des Courtons“, but there is another parking a few hundred meters closer to the trailhead, the “Parking du Devins“.

Parking des Courtons at the trailhead of the Crux du Van hike

Parking des Courtons

All of the parking lots are paid. They’re about 5 CHF for four hours, or 10 CHF for the day. It’s feasible to hike the long trail in less than four hours, that’s what I did.

Creux Du van By Public Transport

Take the train to Noirague. From there, follow the signs for the 14 Countours hiking trail (Sentier des 14 Contours). This option covers the same distance as driving to Noirague since the station is just a few hundred meters away from the main parking area.

 

Hiking to Creux Du Van

Le Soliat to Creux du Van

First, the short trail: Restaurant le Soliat is just 3/400 meters from one of the main Creux du Van viewpoints. From there you can walk up and down the trail along the ridge.

The hike from Restaurant le Soliat can be done as an out-and-back hike of about 3.5km to hike the whole ridge. The elevation gain is negligible, about 50-60 meters, and hiking the whole trail will likely take about an hour.

Waling part with threes and grass around it.

A well-maintained path connects the parking by Restaurant Le Soliat to all the main viewpoints along the

This is the easiest way to enjoy Creux du van, and the quickest. The path is beautifully maintained, the views are, of course, spectacular, and the whole high plateau above the ravine is nice enough by itself.

There also are many beautiful trees up there, and I had fun looking for compositions with trees as the main subject. If you enjoy that kind of subjects like i do, you’ll have fun here.

lone, contorted tree seemingly reaching out for the sky

group of trees divided by a stone wall, apparently reaching out to each other,

But I digress. To sum it up, the short walk from Restaurant le Soliat is the best option if you want to visit Creux the Van without spending a few hours on the trail and enjoy the viewpoints from the top of the ravine.

If you choose this option, you’d also definitely have more time to spend at the top of the cliffs, just enjoying the views.

Creux du Van CLifss viewed from the south side

Image of a mountain ridge with hills in the background

Hiker looking at the panorama from the top of the Crux du Van cliffs

One of the many viewpoints along the Creux du Van.

From Noirague to Creux du Van

This is the best option if you prefer to spend more time on the trail, walk in the beautiful forest around Creux du Van, and have more chances to spot wildlife such as Ibex, Chamois, or even Lynx.

The hike from Noirague is a proper mountain hike so make sure you are equipped accordingly.

Max Altitude  1,464 m
Distance  13.9 KM (loop)
Elevation gain  760m ↑ / 760m ↓
Hike time  03:45/ 04:30  Hours
Hike Difficulty  Moderate

 

Here is the map (you can download the GPX file for free from the activity below:

As you can see it’s quite a long hike, at 14km. It took me less than 4 hours to complete the whole loop around Creux du Van and back to Noirague.

The first part, the 14 contours trail, is the slowest. That’s where most of the elevation gain is. In this stretch, the trail is relatively steep. Initially, it’s quite easygoing despite the inclination. Then the trail becomes rockier, with many exposed, slippery rocks and tree roots.

one of the 14 countour bends, which is a trail in a forest.

One of the “14 contours”

Then, as you approach the top of Creux du van, you’ll have the first views of this magnificent rock formation; the 150m high side walls of the ravine on the opposite side, 1,400m away.

Needless to say, be careful approaching the cliffs. It is completely exposed in some areas, so practice caution.

Views of cliffs in the distance through the forest.

First views of the cliffs when approaching from Noirague.

Creux du Van Best Viewpoints

Once you’ve reached the top of the cliff, you have the best viewpoints ahead of you. There are several of them along the 1,400m wide horseshoe cliffs.

View of Cliffs on the mountainside with trees below at the bottom of a ravine

Most of the cliffs are protected by a stone wall, but look out of open passages – that is where the best viewpoints are. Note that some may be closed to protect the vegetation, so keep an eye out for those narrow, open passages in the stone walls.

I am mentioning this because I noticed many people missed them – they are rather narrow, but clearly marked where open and where not. The closed ones are just roped off or display signs accordingly.

VIew of a ravine called Creux du van in Western switzerland

Image of a canyon-like ravine in Switzerland with green lush vegetation all around it.

View of hilly landscape from the top of a cliff in Switzerland.

View of the landscape from one of the main viewpoints align the rim of the canyon.

The views from the various points along the cliff are amazing and, needless to say, you should definitely have a good head for heights.

Once you’ve reached the opposite side of the Canyon, the descent back into Val de Travers Noirague starts. The trail here is mostly in the woods, partly on gravel/paved roads – and through the occasions pasture.

cow in a green pasture in Switzerland with more cows in the background.

Photography Tips for Creux du Van

I visited only once, but I am already considering going back, specifically for sunrise. The cliffs face toward a general easterly direction, which means the sun rises right on from of them.

For that reason, and purely from a landscape photography perspective, I’d recommend avoiding visiting on sunny days. the ravine will be in the shadows past noon, making it difficult to impossible to catch some good light or even properly lit images. Of course that would not matter on overcast days like the one when I visited.

Anyway, all the photos in this post were taken with a 24-70 lens, as that’s the only one I brought with me on this hike. In hindsight, I would have brought both a wider and longer telephoto lens.

The former would have been useful to capture as much as possible of the canyon in one frame. Creux du Van is so huge that I could barely fit it in four Vertical frames at 24mm. So a wider lens would have been handy.

Panoramic image of an amphitheater like canyon in Switzerland called Crux du Van

Panoramic Image made of 6 vertical frames, at 24mm.

On the other hand, wildlife. I came across an Ibex with her two cubs and my 70-200 lens would have came in very handy too. While Ibex are not known to be aggressive toward humans, this mother was showing signs of becoming protective of her two cubs. Understandably so.

Ibex at Creux du van viewed in between two tree branches

Ibex with her two cubs on a hiking trail in Switzerland

Where to Stay

There are some hotels and other accommodation types in both Noirague and Traverse, suitable if you are looking to spend the night in quiet countryside villages. These are also good options if you want to start the hike early in the morning or end it late in the evening.

Otherwise, there are plenty of accommodations to choose from around Lake Neuchâtel – or in the beautiful town of Neuchâtel itself.

Booking.com

Additional Resources