Stunning views, rocky scrambles & the option of a cliff ladder
Strenuous loop hike (T3) | Harder option (T4) | Ski resort nearby
The Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges sits at 2,800 m — above Lac Bleu, Arolla, in the Swiss Alps near Evolène and Sion in the canton of Valais. It’s open from March to early October and makes a perfect lunch or snack stop during a hike in the area. You can also stay overnight; see the website (in French) for more information and to make a reservation.
We passed the Cabane des Aiguilles on a loop day hike from Arolla via Lac Bleu. Two options are described below:
- Medium trail | 14.3 km | 1,125 m height gain | T3
- Difficult trail via the high passes of Col des Ignes and Pas de Chèvres | 23 km | 1,760 m height gain | T3–T4
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Getting there & away
The walks described here start and end in Arolla, a small village in the Val d’Hérens, Valais. You can drive to Arolla or take a bus from Sion.
What to bring
You don’t need any special equipment to do these walks in summer or early autumn, though I would recommend sturdy hiking shoes. The exception is if you do the harder hike and feel unsafe on ladders — then you should take via ferrata equipment and attach yourself to the cables. A helmet may be necessary in case of rockfalls under the Pas de Chèvres. You will need snowshoes or mountaineering equipment if there’s snow on the track, which could last well in to spring.
You are in high alpine country past Lac Bleu, so must pack adequate clothing and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. You’ll also be above the treeline, so don’t forget sun protection!
Arolla has several hotels and restaurants, a camping area, as well as parking areas, small grocery shops and a shop selling hiking gear.
In summer you can buy drinks and snacks from a buvette just under Lac Bleu as well as at the Cabane des Aiguilles
►Arolla website (French)
Dangers & annoyances
The medium hike is not dangerous in good weather, but be aware of:
- Heat stroke/dehydration
- Stomach bugs & parasites
- Altitude sickness
If you do the harder option then additionally be aware of:
- Falling rocks under the Pas de Chèvres
- Exposed cliff sections with a danger of falling
Hiking trail info: Cabane des Aiguilles via Lac Bleu
The trails are all well-marked and mostly good — though rougher going up to, and down from, the Col des Ignes if you choose the harder option. There are chains in a few places going up to Lac Bleu but the path is not dangerous. The ladders on the Pas de Chèvres have cables that you can attach yourself to. Watch out for rockfalls in this area, particularly in the summer.
Apart from the buvette and Cabane des Aiguilles mentioned above, there is no food or shelter along the trail.
Arolla – Lac Bleu – Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges – Arolla
Highest point: 2,800 m (Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges)
Height gain: +1,125 m/-1,125 m
Technical details: T3 – but only a very small section with chains and no big risk of falling; good trail; steep in parts
Distance: 14.3 km
The trail begins in the car park of the Hôtel du Glacier, climbing up through the forest and then following the Val d’Hérens in the direction of Evolène before climbing again to Lac Bleu.
After Lac Bleu, continue along the trail to the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges, which is perched at the top of the hanging valley behind the lake. The trail climbs up the right side of the valley before traversing the head and then climbing steeply again to the cabane.
After the cabane you descend a little then walk high along the main valley through a very rocky landscape. After around 1.4 km the trail forks. Take the trail to the left with the red and white markings to go down to Arolla.
Difficult hike via Col des Ignes & Pas de Chèvres
Arolla – Lac Bleu – Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges – Col des Ignes – Pas de Chèvres – Arolla
Highest point: 3,181 m (Col des Ignes)
Height gain: +1,760 m/-1,760 m
Technical details: T3–T4; high altitude; mostly a good trail but some rock scrambles; ladders in places; danger of rockfall under the Pas de Chèvres
Distance: ∼23 km
For this longer and more difficult option, turn right to Col des Ignes at the fork 1.4 km after the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges. The trail is less distinct, with blue and white markers. It takes you up the valley of the former Ignes glacier, of which not much remains. The last part up to the col is steep, and was also a little icy when we were there in late October. From the top you have a magnificent view of the Lac des Dix and Cheilon glacier on the other side.
The trail descends steeply from the col, then runs through a boulder field along the side of the valley for around 3-4 km to the Pas de Chèvres — a series of easy ladders taking you up the cliffs on the side of the valley and back to the Val d’Hérens. From here it’s a straightforward walk back to Arolla, on a good trail once again.
Nearby mountain fun
Eating & sleeping
There are several eating and sleeping options in Arolla.
Other hiking options
If you zoom in on the maps above you’ll see many alternative trails and mountaineering possibilities around the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges. These include climbing the 3,370 m Mont de l’Etoile and the 2,549 m Tête de Tronc.
Many other hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski trails start in Arolla. Two noteworthy long-distance trails passing through the town are:
- The 6 “Alpine Passes” trail
- The Haute Route from Zermatt to Chamonix
A small ski resort with 5 ski lifts operates from Arolla in the winter. The resort is covered by the Magic Pass.
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