Ancient reptile tracks & two beautiful lakes | Thrilling mountain train option
Medium loop hike (T2)
OK, so the footprints aren’t really those of dinosaurs — they are actually from primitive reptiles that predate the “terrible lizards”. At 240 million years old, these are the oldest fossil vertebrate tracks in Switzerland. They are not as obvious as I had imagined (hoped?) — but the area is very beautiful, with two high dams (Lac de Emosson and Lac du Vieux-Emosson) and views of the Mont Blanc massive. If you have time, you can also add three quirky mountain train rides to your day.
To be sure of seeing the footprints, go after mid-July — otherwise they may still be under snow. Guides are present in late July/August to provide information about the site.
The hike described here is a loop; see the nearby mountain fun section for other options.
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Getting there & away
The dinosaur footprints hike starts and ends at Lac d’Emosson (or Emosson dam), in the Swiss canton of Valais/Wallis. The lake is only accessible by road and public transport between mid-May to mid-October.
You can drive up to the Emosson dam or take a train to the village of Finhaut, followed by a bus. Alternatively, take the three mountain trains operated by VerticAlp Emosson from the village of Le Châtelard.
What to bring
You don’t need any special equipment to do the hike in summer or early autumn. You may need mountaineering skis or snowshoes in winter and early spring. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, take enough food and water, and don’t forget sun protection.
You’ll find a car park, small tourist center and gift shop at the Emosson dam, as well as a restaurant with two apartments to rent for the night. The mountain hut at above Lac de Vieux-Emosson offers dormitory sleeping and a restaurant.
Dangers & annoyances
The hike is not particularly dangerous in good weather, but be aware of:
- Heat stroke/dehydration
- Stomach bugs & parasites in lake water
Trail description & map: Emosson dinosaur footprints
The trail is clear, well marked, and not too steep or exposed. It starts as a paved road from Emosson dam to Lac du Vieux-Emosson (T1) then becomes a mountain trail for the rest of the way (T2). There may be some snow on the track in early summer, but you should be able to cross it with regular hiking shoes.
Medium loop hike
Emosson dam – Lac du Vieux-Emosson – dinosaur footprints – Gorge de la Veudale – Emosson dam
From the car park at Emosson dam, cross the dam wall then follow the road to the Lac du Vieux-Emosson. Walk around the left shore on the trail, which climbs up the mountainside at the end of lake. Turn right along the trail to Le Cheval Blanc to see the dinosaur footprints. The fossil tracks are protected by rails and there are panels explaining the site. Go back to the junction and continue to the right up to a pass, then descend through the Gorge de la Veudale back to Emosson dam.
Nearby mountain fun
Eating & sleeping
There are a few eating and sleeping options in and around Le Châtelard, including dome tents in the VerticAlp attraction park. There are many places to eat and sleep in nearby Martigny and Chamonix.
Other hiking options
You can extend the loop to include Lac Vert and the Col de la Terrasse after viewing the footprints — zoom in on the map above to see the trails.
For an easier walk, follow the trails along either side of the Emosson dam. According to SwissMobility, the trails do not go the whole way around.
The long-distance 6 “Alpine Passes” trail includes a section along the Emosson dam and down to Le Châtelard.
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