Fabulous views of Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc & the Swiss Alps
Difficult hike (T4) | Via ferrata (Very difficult / K4) | Rock climbing, mountain biking & ski resort nearby
The Tour d’Aï and its neighbour, the Tour de Mayen, form distinctive rocky camel humps on the Vaud skyline. Located near Leysin in Switzerland, Tour d’Aï makes for an fun day out in the Lake Geneva region.
One side of the Tour d’Aï is a sheer cliff, while the other is a gentler grassy slope. You can climb to the summit both ways. From the top you have fabulous views of Lake Geneva, the Swiss Alps, Mont Blanc and the wide Rhône valley in Valais (on a good day that is; I’ve climbed up twice and seen mainly mist).
Two trails are described below:
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Getting there & away
The trails described here start at the top of the La Beneuse gondola above Leysin, a small town and ski resort in the Vaudois Pre-Alps, and end in Leysin. You can drive to Leysin or take a train.
What to bring
You don’t need any special equipment to climb the Tour d’Aï in summer or early autumn, but I recommend shoes with good soles. You will need snowshoes or mountaineering equipment if there’s snow on the track.
You absolutely need the right equipment for the via ferrata or rock climbing. You can rent this at a sports store in Leysin.
Whatever the season, be prepared for sudden changes in weather. You’ll also be above the treeline, so don’t forget sun protection! You can eat at the Kuklos restaurant at the top of the Beneuse gondola, otherwise take a picnic lunch.
Dangers & annoyances
The Tour d’Aï hike has steep drop-offs near the summit with a danger of falling. Also guard against:
- Heat stroke/dehydration
- Stomach bugs & parasites
The via ferrata should not be dangerous with the right equipment, but you could still be injured if you slip.
Trail descriptions and maps – Tour d’Aï
The hiking trails around Tour d’Aï are well-marked and generally not too steep. Around the base they are T2, while the path to the summit is T4. This part of the trail includes sections with chains and ladders, and some parts are exposed with steep drop offs. While it’s not very technical, I wouldn’t recommend hiking to the summit (or doing the via ferrata) during or after rain, as the well-worn rocks can get very slippery.
The via ferrata route includes a chimney climb in one place and slight overhang in another. However I only found the first few steps really hard as there don’t seem to be enough handholds. Afterwards the climb is straightforward.
There are no restaurants or shelters along the trail apart from at La Berneuse.
Tour d’Aï hike
Leysin – La Beneuse gondola – Tour d’Aï – Leysin
Take the cable car to La Berneuse, then walk down to the valley between this summit and the Tour d’Aï. Cross the valley and then follow the well-marked trail to the Tour d’Aï summit. Return the same way, then take the well-marked trail down to Leysin.
Tour d’Aï via ferrata
Leysin – La Beneuse gondola – via ferrata – Tour d’Aï – Leysin
Highest point: 2,331 m (Tour d’Aï summit)
Height gain: approx 430 m
Via ferrata level: Very difficult / K4 | Chimney climb; slight overhang
Trail level: T3–T4 | Steepish and exposed trail down in parts, with some ladders and chains
Distance: approx 8 km
From La Berneuse (or, if you walk up from Leysin, the valley between La Beneuse and the Tour D’Aï) walk up through the pasture along the line of the chair lift and then to the base of the Tour d’Aï cliff. The start of the via ferrata is on the left side of the cliff face and clearly marked.
No chance of missing your way once on the via ferrata! After a couple of hours of nearly always vertical climbing, you emerge on a grassy slope just below the summit. Take the walking trail down the mountain. Once off the Tour D’Aï follow the well-marked trail down to Leysin.
Nearby mountain fun
Eating & sleeping
There are many sleeping options in Leysin, including a campground. The town also has many restaurants; for the best view check out the revolving Kuklos restaurant at La Berneuse.
Other hiking options
You can extend the Tour d’Aï hike to include the Tour de Mayen and/or make a longer walk down by traversing two other mountains, Truex and the Tour de Famelon.
Two trails of note:
- The 12 km chemin du Kuklos
- The long-distance 46 “Tour of the Vaudois Alps” trail passes through Leysin
For other hikes see SwissMobility — or here’s a (bad) photo of the hiking trails around Leysin and the Tour d’Aï to whet your appetite:
Other via ferrata options
If one via ferrata is not enough, do two! Instead of walking up from Leysin you can take the Plan Praz via ferrata. While similar in length and height gain as the Tour d’Aï via ferrata, it is rated as extremely difficult.
There are five climbing routes on the Tour d’Aï cliffs, rated 5a – 7a+. You can find info here (in French). There are also rock climbing routes on Tour de Mayen and Tour de Famelon.
There are several bike trails in and around Leysin:
- Leysin mountain bike park: The “Lisin” blue bike trail starts just under the La Berneuse cable car terminal, near the Kuklos restautant. Three other red and black mountain bike trails split off from this blue trail.
- Lac de Mayen bike trail, an 11-km loop from Leysin
- The long-distance 1 Alpine bike trail passes through Leysin
- The long-distance 68 “Alpes de la Région du Léman” bike route also passes through Leysin