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Hike – The ‘La Vy aux Moines’ from Môtiers to La Brévine

    Hike La Vy aux Moines

    Photo: Approaching the Lac des Taillères.

    I had been meaning to get up to this corner of Switzerland for ages. This part of the Jura is really out of the way; tucked up against the French border and far from the major transport links and urban areas. The region offers lots of cross country skiing in winter but is mostly unknown and unvisited by anyone but locals.

    I was curious to see La Brévine as it is sometimes called the Siberia of Switzerland due to the record low temperatures that have been recorded there. Whilst it is not that high (just over 1000m) the limestone landscape of the Jura means that the water drains down into the ground rather than down a valley. So cold air gets stuck and hot air escapes creating a microclimate which has reached -41C making it the coldest temperature in a Swiss settlement (see this 1971 video from the SRF Archive).

    I just picked the route because it covered a section of the map that I wanted to tick off, but the historical link of the route as a trade and refugee route was an interesting touch.

    Key Information

    Route: Môtiers – La Brévine. Signed as Route 288.

    Length: 15km, +700m -400m

    Date: 2019-November-30.

    For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.

    Practical Information

    Season: This would be doable year round, but with much more effort required if there is deeper snow. It is probably a much prettier (if less moody) hike around May.

    Arrival/Departure: Train to Môtiers NE / Bus from ‘La Brévine, poste’ to Le Locle where train connections go down to the mainline at Biel/Bienne or Neuchatel.

    Supplies: Restaurants and shops (if they are open) at the start and end, otherwise nothing on the route. Not one of farmhouses along the way doubled as a restaurant which is very odd in the Jura.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: A Postbus runs roughly parallel to the route from Couvet to La Brévine, however the service is very limited.

    Exposure/Hazards: None (assuming you don’t start with an Absinthe sampling session).

    It was very quiet. Being a grey day at the end of November probably didn’t help, but even then I can’t imagine meeting many people on a nice summers day along most of the route.

    Notes along the route

    The Gorge de l’Areuse looks very impressive in winter as you ride by on the train. Very dark and sinister looking.

    Môtiers is worth a quick look around as the village has some nice buildings, including the church which sets the theme for the signed route. It also has an Absinthe museum in the Maison Absinthe.

    You get a gentle warm up across the flat valley floor, and then cover most of the height gain for the route in one go climbing up the valley side.

    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    Looking back to Môtiers.
    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    Climbing out of the valley.

    I feel there should have been some nice views (especially from Les Citadelles) but I had quite a bit of fog/cloud for the first half of the hike.

    I was in my own little world of snowy forest and meadow, with only the occasional farmhouse

    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    Snow, forest, and meadows.
    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    Snow, forest, and meadows.

    The Lac des Taillères is worth seeing, but is a slight detour that involves descending and then climbing back up again. You could just skip that and follow the signs for La Brévine instead of Route 288.

    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    Lac des Taillères. The ridge in the background is the border with France.

    La Brévine itself was rather small and lifeless. This wasn’t all that surprising given the grim day, presumably it is better during the real winter then people would be visiting for cross country skiing.

    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    The last section to La Brévine.
    Hike La Vy aux Moines
    La Brévine.

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