A beautiful and easy day trip from Geneva by car, but somehow people seem to drive more often in the opposite direction than towards Bellegarde-sur-Valserine in the Ain region in France! The Pertes de la Valserine is an interesting site for a hike and is of geological and historical value in the region. You will be able to see where the Valserine river ‘gets lost’ under the rock formations of a canyon, to appear again before it will end up in the Rhone river. When driving from Geneva towards Bellegarde, you will pass through the village Léaz with its viewpoint the Belvédère de Léaz which offers one of the most stunning views over the Rhone in the area!
Belvédère de Leaz
Quickly after the Fort l’Ecluse tunnel, you will drive through Léaz, a small village. Signs along the road will easily guide you to the parking of the Belvédère, from where you can walk up in only 10 minutes to this viewpoint.
The view at this spot is amazing and should really not be missed!
Les Pertes de la Valserine Hike
For the Pertes de la Valserine hike, you continue by car to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. Signs will guide you to the parking lots. We chose P2, but the most common starting point of the hike is in front of the train station. From P2, the hike starts with a part down towards the river, through a beautiful forest. Once you are down, you will immediately see the beautiful rock formations, the canyon, a waterfall, and many natural potholes.
The Valserine river was the first river in France to receive a status of a ‘wild river’. The water quality is good and a lot of trout fish swim here. At some point you will see a fish ladder was created for fish to swim back up stream next to a dam. Rivers in France with this ‘wild river’ label are protected.
We crossed the bridge ‘Pont des Oules’ which is a natural bridge already used by travelers in the antiquity and walked next to the river in the direction of the dam.
You will not only see nature on this hike, but also abandoned buildings of what once was part of the industry of the region, like for example the old water pumps constructed in the 70’s.
If you would do the whole hike of the Pertes de la Valserine, this would be a 3h round trip hike.
For more information on the Pertes de la Valserine hike: https://www.terrevalserine.fr/fiches/Valserhone/Espaces-Naturels-Sensibles/Les-Pertes-de-la-Valserine/171367/
Also interesting in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine: La Voie du Tram
Another option in Bellegarde is the Voie du Tram which follows the former tramline that run here between 1912 and 1937. We have not done this trail yet, and it would be good to download the map to see which part of the trail you would like to do as its 19 km long in total. Part of the Voie du Tram seems to get close to the Pertes de la Valserine hike as well.
Access information on the Hike along the Pertes de la Valserine:
The hike closes in winter. If you do the hike after days of rain, make sure you wear good shoes as it can become slippery. Parking: due to some works, P2 will close from October 19th for 3 weeks. P1 in front of the train station in Bellegarde will remain accessible. Train: Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is accessible by train from Geneva.
If you liked this article, make sure you check out our other hiking suggestions close to Geneva: Family Hikes around Geneva