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Hiking all the ‘red’ Mountain Paths in the Jura

    Red Jura

    Given the novelty of there only being a handful of mountain paths in the Jura I have set out to hike all of them. This has taken me to some areas which I might well never have ventured into otherwise, and most of them have been well worth the effort.

    This post is a work in progress and will be updated each time I complete a section. See posts with a Jura Reds tag.

    Score to date: 14/16 (original list from 2021), 5/6 (updated list).

    The Swiss footpath system

    There are 3 classifications of footpath in Switzerland which are given different colours on the Switzerland Mobility/SwissTopo maps:

    • Footpath (yellow). Gentle and well signed paths with nothing much to worry about.
    • Mountain path (red). Rough paths that might not be so well marked, can be steep and with hazards like falling.
    • Alpine path (blue). Often poor (or no) markings, higher risk level in adverse weather, and might well cross a glacier.

    A zoomed out view on SwissTopo gives a pretty clear view of their distributions. Almost all the red paths are in the Alps – with only a handful in the Jura making them something of a novelty.

    The distribution of the different types of hiking paths around Switzerland as shown by SwissTopo.

    There isn’t always much consistency between the use of the different grades (I have spoken more about it in another post). You might find one yellow footpath is a wide and smooth gravel road, and then another footpath connecting to it is narrow, rocky and steep. Whilst a number of red mountain paths are just gentle gravel (or even paved) roads. It also varies by region, with what makes a red in Graubünden being different to a red in Valais.

    The Jura can be gentle rolling hills, but it can also be steep rocky gorges made of limestone which has a friction coefficient of zero when slightly damp. There are lots of yellow footpaths in the Jura which are far steeper/rockier/tougher than many red mountain paths in the Alps, especially in my region around Weissenstein.

    If I were to ask the question “can I ride a mountain bike down it without needing a visit to A&E (or the morgue)?” to determine if something counted as a yellow footpath, then many of the paths in the Jura would be a very clear no.

    This is an ever changing system. When I started this in late 2021 there were 16 sections, this increased by 5 to 21 during 2022, and since then some have been downgraded. I am sure that some sections have changed colour over the years, there seems to be far more blue routes in the Alps, and more yellows in the valley floors where it might all have been red before. If the number of red routes in the Jura increases to become more common (as it should really) then it isn’t worth chasing them all down, but for now they remain a novelty and this gives me a reason to go into some areas I have not been to before.

    The Jura reds

    Generally many of these can be done for most of the year, but north facing options might be a bit dangerous if there is snow. I think the Jura is at its best in May/June when everything is blooming and the trees are bright green.

    The routes are chosen for public transport access.

    Going East to West:

    01 – Lägern

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Dielsdorf to Baden along Stage 1 of the Jura Ridgeway.
    • Description: The red follows along the rocky spine of a ridge.
    • Difficulty: Mostly it is just a case of watching your feet on the very uneven ground. The section next to Baden is somewhat steeper and is a bit exposed with a dropoff.
    • Notes: The most northern red in Switzerland. It is probably also the loniest, being far removed from all of the rest.
    Lägern ridge

    02 – Waldenburg East

    Status: DONE

    Hike Waldenburg Hägendorf
    Looking along the ridge from the castle.

    03 – Waldenburg West

    Status: DONE

    04 – Balsthal-Roggen

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Balsthal (train) – Roggenflue – Oensingen (train).
    • Description:
    • Difficulty: From the base up to the castle is an unremarkable staircase. Going up from the castle to the ridge can be quite steep and did require a bit of balance or some use of hands in a few places, it passes close to the cliff edge a few times but the path is always wide and never exposed. The 2nd half of the route along the ridge is a nice walk, but doesn’t stand out as anything challenging or exposed.
    • Notes: I would suggest including this with a walk further along the ridge to Holderbank or dropping down to a village further along than Oensingen.

    05 – Hinteregg-Rüttelhorn

    Note: This has since been downgraded to a footpath.

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Balsthal – Schwengimatt – Hinteregg – Bättlerchuchi – Attiswil. 18.7km, +1060m, -1080m.
    • Description:
    • Difficulty: I have no idea why this is a red. The first part is a farm track, and then the path isn’t clearly marked but you are in a fairly gentle meadow so it is hard to come across any hazards.
    • Notes: I am sure this used to be marked as the route coming up the Horngraben gorge connecting from Matzendorf below. This is a much more impressive and interesting hike.

    06 – Brüggli

    Status: DONE

    • Route I plan to use: Selzach – Oberes-Brüggli – Hasenmatt – Geissflue – Oberdorf – Solothurn (20km, +1225m, – 1200m).
    • Description: A short but steep climb up to the ridgeline.
    • Difficulty: Moderate. The last section is up an exposed rockface, but the path is wide enough and there are chains for support.
    • Notes: I walked all the way down to Solothurn from Hasenmatt but the easier option would be to follow the ridge along to the cable car at Weissenstein (this red could also be done as a very minor diversion on the Grenchenberg — Weissenstein hike). The start through Selzach is a bit dull, but the footpath through the forest to Brüggli is very quiet and beautiful.

    07 – Graitery

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Gänsbrunnen – Bergerie d’Eschert – Graitery – Moutier. 12km, +733m -926m.
    • Description: A descent down from the ridgeline.
    • Difficulty: Moderate. The steepest part is on ladders which is probably what earns it the red, but they are not steep and it is otherwise nothing special.
    • Notes: This is the most “exotic” route starting in German speaking canton Solothurn and ending in the French speaking part of Bern, in a few years this will end up in Jura when Moutier changes canton, so it will be a three canton route.

    08 – Chez le Bôle

    Status: Not Done

    • Route I plan to take: Combine with 08a by doing Le Noirmont – Le Cerneux Cretin – along the Doubs – up the Chez le Bôle -Noirmont (14.5km, +690m, – 690m).
    • Description:
    • Difficulty:
    • Notes:

    08a – Le Cerneux Cretin

    Status: Not Done

    • Route I plan to take: Combine with 08 by doing Le Noirmont – Le Cerneux Cretin – along the Doubs – up the Chez le Bôle – Noirmont (14.5km, +690m, – 690m).
    • Description:
    • Difficulty:
    • Notes: This has been closed since early 2022, but should finally open again in July 2024.

    09 – Combe Grède

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: St-Imier – Combe Grède – Chasseral – Nods. 14 km, +950 m, -890m.
    • Description: A gorge climbing up the north side of the ridge to Chasseral.
    • Difficulty: Steep and a bit slippery. The ladders are not exposed, but might make a few people nervous.
    • Notes: The route is closed over the winter (late October – early May) apparently due to some of the infrastructure being dismantled (whether that is to protect the equipment or people isn’t clear).

    10 – Combe de Biaufond

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Combined with 10b by doing Les Bois to La Chaux-de-Fonds.
    • Description: A slightly rough path climbing slowly up through a gorge, including a few steep ladders.
    • Difficulty: Easy so long as you don’t have a fear of heights.
    • Notes: Interestingly this is where Canton Bern gets closest to having a border with France (since Jura became a separate canton) with just a few metres of Canton Jura separating Bern and France.

    10b – Ruine Moulin de la Mort

    Note: This has since been downgraded to a footpath.

    Status: Done

    moulin de la mort doubs
    At the Ruine Moulin de la Mort.

    11 – Côtes de Moron

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Les Brenets – Saut du Doubs – Les Planchettes – La Chaux-de-Fonds.
    • Description: A traverse part way up a steep hill/cliffside.
    • Difficulty: The path is very smooth and only has gentle changes in elevation, but it is often very narrow and the drop off next to you is very steep.
    • Notes: Not one to attempt if there is any chance of snow blocking the path.

    11a – Along the Doubs

    Status: Done

    • Route I took: Biaufond – along the Doubs – Les Brenets (22km, + 800m, – 530m).
    • Description: A fairly gentle path through a gorge.
    • Difficulty: There are a few points which are a bit rocky and can be slippery if wet, but nothing that stood out to me as any worse than many other parts of the Jura.
    • Notes: There are 6 steep side paths leading off from the river which are also marked as red mountain paths. I didn’t cover these.

    12 – Creux de Van

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Noiraugue – Les Oeillons – Creux du van – La Ferne Robert – Noiraigue. 12km, +760m, -760m.
    • Description:
    • Difficulty: Most of the section is flat and easy going, the vertical drop off the cliff face just to the side of the path is probably what makes it red. The remaining descent down to the valley is quite steep and tricky for the Jura.
    • Notes: This is probably the busiest of the reds.

    13 – Fleurier climb

    Status: DONE

    Jura Red Fluerier

    14 – Mont de Baulmes

    Status: DONE

    14a – Aiguilles de Baulmes

    Status: DONE

    14b – Grotte au Fees by La Côte-aux-Fées

    Status: DONE

    14c – Orbe Gorge

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Vallorbe – Les Clées – Orbe (17km, +343m, -622m).
    • Description:
    • Difficulty: Moderate. The first half of the red is on a narrow path with a steep drop off to one side so some care is required. After that it climbs out of the gorge and there is zero challenge or risk.
    • Notes: There is another path which stays down in the gorge and would be much more scenic. This is closed, but the preventative measures to stop you going down it are a wooden pole and a laminated piece of paper.
    Orbe Gorge Hike
    Orbe gorge.

    15 – Grotte au Fées by Vallorbe

    Note: This has since been downgraded to a footpath.

    Status: DONE

    • Route I took: Vallorbe – Grotte au Fées – Le Pont. Part of a weekend trip to visit the caves and lake.
    • Description: An ascent up the side of the valley.
    • Difficulty: A bit of a climb, but nothing that stands out.
    • Notes: Part way up the red is the cave, bring a torch to go explore inside.

    16 – Juraparc valley

    Status: Not Done

    • Route I plan to take: La Golisse – le Pont – Juraparc – Vallorbe (20km, +400m, -600m). Along the Lac de Joux and along the Orbe river.
    • Description:
    • Difficulty:
    • Notes: This is next to the Juraparc animal park which might be worth a visit.

    Honorary Reds in the Jura

    Routes which are listed as yellow Footpaths (or in some cases not listed at all), but are steep and rocky enough that I would count them as Mountain Paths.

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