Walking the rim of the Creux du Van

Approach Creux du Van from behind and it’ll surprise you.  Walk over Le Soliat from the south and it looks like the rest of the Jura – a pretty landscape of rounded mountains covered in woods and meadows with the odd bit of limestone sticking out of them.  But as you walk towards the northern side of the mountain, a crescent moon of rock appears, dropping roughly 150 metres deep and stretching around 1,400 metres wide in-front of you.

Creux du Van
Creux du Van

The Creux du Van is a limestone cirque formed by erosion and landslides caused by the water from a long-gone glacier.  It sits in the mountains a short drive from Neuchatel in Switzerland.  It’s probably because it isn’t in the Alps, that Creux du Van is not particularly well known.  Which is a shame because it is as dramatic as its bigger cousins further east and is in wonderful walking country.  On the other hand, this lack of wider recognition makes it a quieter place to visit than a lot of the tourist areas of the Alps.

Valerie, Wanda and Marc walking along the edge of the Creux du Van.
Valerie, Wanda and Marc walking along the edge of the Creux du Van.

Valerie and I were introduced to Creux du Van by our Swiss friends Marc and Wanda.  We had wanted a walk in the Jura that involved paths that Valerie could do while pregnant but which still gave us stunning scenery.  Walking around the rim of Creux du Van provided this brilliantly.  Marc and Wanda also provided a great picnic of dried meat, bread and cheese, while Marc has kindly provided some great photos for this post (he has a much better camera than me).

Valerie and Bump at Creux du Van.
Valerie and Bump at Creux du Van.

The sun and wind were both strong that day.  There were points where the wind hit the walls of Creux du Van and flew straight up.  We could stand in the calm on the path, but reach a hand out over the edge and feel like we had put it into a hand-dryer.  This didn’t work out so well for one unfortunate pair of butterflies who moved their courtship dance away from the flowers by the path and fluttered gently out over the edge, where they were promptly blown high into the air and over to a neighbouring field.

Wanda, Me and Valerie walking along the edge of the Creux du Van (photo courtesy of March Schmid).
Wanda, Me and Valerie walking along the edge of the Creux du Van (photo courtesy of March Schmid).

We walked around the edge of Creux du Van, taking in the views from all directions, before heading to a nearby mountain restaurant for drinks and a regional speciality of very sweet meringue buried in whipped cream.

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Further information

The website of Switzerland Tourism has a description of Creux du Van and information on how to get to it.

There are several online descriptions of walks that take in the Creux du Van.  The Activity Workshop website has a description of a hike that involving Creux du Van and the Poeta Raisse gorge.  The Hike the Alps and ChristyandErik’s blogs both have descriptions of walks up to, and around, Creux du Van.

Creux du Van certainly looks like it should have some fairly impressive rock climbing, but I can’t find much information online about routes there.  The most useful thing I’ve found is some summary information on the Climbing Away website.

Me on the final move after climbing the steep wall of the Creux du Van...or not.  OK, this is photo is staged, with me on a ledge just below the top.  As staged climbing photos go, it's pretty good and more original than framing the photo so you don't see that the climber is only a couple of feet above the ground.  Thanks to Marc for taking the photo.
Me on the final move after climbing the steep wall of the Creux du Van…or not. OK, this photo is staged, with me on a ledge just below the top. However, as staged climbing photos go, it’s pretty good and more original than framing the photo so you don’t see that the climber is only a couple of feet above the ground. Thanks to Marc for taking it.

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