Pass 4 frozen lakes | Fabulous views of Mont Blanc and Les Diablerets | Restaurants & mountain hotels along the way
Medium snowshoe | Easy summer walk (T1) | Longer & more strenuous options | Ski resort & mountain biking nearby
Villars is for more than skiing, as this lovely winter hike on snowshoes proves. Starting from the end of the train line at Bretaye, the trail soon leaves the busy ski slopes for a peaceful tramp past frozen lakes and through forest and open clearings to Lac des Chavonnes, before looping back to Bretaye. You can make the hike longer and more strenuous by starting in Villars — or just longer by doing the loop from Bretaye then walking down to Villars.
The views along the way are amazing. The Vaudois Alps rise high above Bretaye, with Les Diablerets and the Dent de Morcles dominating the skyline. Lower down towards Villars you’ll have a view across the Rhône valley to Mont Blanc and the Alps proper.
And the best part? Stopping for a meal or warming drink along the way at one of several delightful mountain hotel/restaurants. Or a cool drink if you do the hike in summer!
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Getting there & away
Villars-sur-Ollon is located in the Vaudois Alps, between Leysin and Les Diablerets. You can drive to Villars year-round or come by train from Bex, on the Bex-Villars-Bretaye (BVB) cog train line.
The longer hike starts directly in Villars. For the shorter loop, catch the BVB train to Bretaye — the end of the line, at the heart of Villars ski resort.
What to bring
You don’t need any special equipment to do this winter hike apart from snowshoes, a good pair of hiking boots and adequate clothing. You can also do the walk at other times of the year with no special equipment. Whatever the season, be prepared for sudden changes in weather, take enough to eat and drink, and don’t forget sun protection.
Villars has several parking areas — but beware, they fill up early on sunny weekends with day skiers. For a later start it may be better to park in Bex and take the train from there.
Eating options abound on this winter hike. The recently renovated Bretaye 1808 next to the train station at the Col de Bretaye is open year round and offers a choice of three restaurants. You’ll also find public toilets here. The Hôtel du Lac, a little down from the col in the direction of the Lac des Chavonnes, is open from mid-December to mid-April, while the Hôtel-Restaurant Lac des Chavonnes on the lake shore is open from the beginning of June to the beginning of November and again from mid-December to mid-April. All are serving take away meals and drinks during the Covid restrictions; if you stay at the one of the hotels then you can have a sit down meal inside.
If you’re doing the longer walk from Villars, then other eating options include The Crazy Moose at the Maison de Montagne de Bretaye in the hamlet of Bouquetins (originally built for the Swiss army, where you can also stay overnight) and the Restaurant Auberge Col de Soud. Both are also currently serving take away meals only.
Dangers & annoyances
As with all winter hiking, be aware of the risk of avalanches. The trail is mostly on slopes less than 30°, except for two short sections: on the Villars-Bretaye trail near the golf club, and at L’Etrille after Bretaye. Other short sections run under slopes of this steepness, so depending on the snow and weather conditions may also be at risk.
The trail should not otherwise be dangerous in good weather, but guard against:
- Exposure to cold
- Heat stroke/dehydration
- Stomach bugs & parasites in lake and stream water
Trail descriptions and maps – Lac des Chavonnes
General trail description
The snowshoe trails are well marked with pink markers. The Lac des Chavonnes loop is the local 481 “Parcours Bretaye et ses lacs”, with a 5 on the markers. The trail between Villars and Bretaye is the local 482 “Parcours Bretaye-Villars”, with a 1 on the markers.
The route is also clearly marked in summer, with both walks being on easy paths or mountain roads.
Loop walk from Bretaye
Bretaye – Lac des Chavonnes – Conches – Bretaye
Highest point: 1,822 m
Height gain: 220 m
Trail level: Medium snowshoe | T1 in summer
Distance: 5 km
From the Bretaye train station head north along the valley through the small hamlet, passing the Hotel du Lac hotel/restaurant and then continuing slightly above the ski piste on the right side of the valley. Look out on the left for the Lac de Bretaye on the other side of the valley. You’ll soon have a choice of going right or left; turning left will take you to Lac des Chavonnes first while turning right will take you up and over the highest part of the trail first. You’ll pass two other lakes between this junction and Lac des Chavonnes (Lac Noir and Lac de l’Etonnoir), but won’t see them without a detour. Once you complete the loop head back to Bretaye on the same trail you started on.
Return walk from Villars
Villars – Col de Soud – Bretaye – Lac des Chavonnes – Conches – Bretaye – Col de Soud – Villars
Highest point: 1,822 m
Height gain: 950 m
Trail level: More strenuous snowshoe | T1 in summer
Distance: 17 km
The path climbs steeply through forest from the trailhead in Villars, flattening out on the top of the ridge and then descending to the Col de Soud. The trail climbs again after the col, but more gently, passing the Villars golf course then running along another ridge. After a small descent to the small hamlet of Bouquetins, it follows the train line and not-very-steep ski slope up to Bretaye.
Nearby mountain fun
Eating & sleeping
You’ll find many more more eating and sleeping options in Villars.
Other hiking options
For other winter hike and snowshoe trails in the area, as well as summer hiking trails, see SwissMobility.
One summer trail of note is the regional 46 “Tour des Alpes Vaudoises”, an 8-day trek that includes the winter hike section from to Lac des Chavonnes to Villars-sur-Ollon.
Skiing & sledding
Villars ski resort is part of the large Villars-Gryon-Diablerets-Glacier3000 ski area. The entire area is covered by the Magic Pass. In addition to 100 km of ski slopes, there are also numerous sledging trails — including a 7.2 km run at Les Diablerets.
The Villars-Gryon-Diablerets-Glacier3000 area also has a number of bike trails, including mountain biking, e-Bike trails, and family-friendly routes. An overnight e-bike package is also offered.
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