Creux-du-Van cliffs

Creux-du-Van is impressive natural rock formation, with a long half circle of sheer cliffs dropping off from rolling meadows. There is a trail along the entire structure, which obviously can be dangerous with children. I had vertigo when we first got there and was in a panic about my kids getting too close to the edge, even though they were being very careful and following my precise directions.

Luckily, there is a stone wall surrounding the entire area, so children and timid adults can safely walk near the cliffs with some protection. Behind the cliffs, there’s plenty of room to run about and find a good picnic spot. Near the car park, there is a restaurant and playground.

It’s quite a drive from Zürich, but I thought it was worth it. I thought it was an exciting outing and I’d recommend going. But be very very very cautious with children, especially small children that don’t follow instructions.

You might also like the nearby Areuse Gorge, with a long hike through a beautiful river gorge.

Location: Northwestern Switzerland
Address: La Baronne, 2108 Switzerland
Car: 2hr20 from Zurich to Restaurant Le Soliat
Parking GPS: 46°56’09.8″N 6°42’56.5″E
Train: 2hr from Zurich HB to Noiraigue then 4km hike to cliffs
Adult return with Half-fare CHF 59
   
Trail: 250m to cliffs, 2 km each way along cliffs
Condition: dirt trail, option possible with all-terrain strollers
Skill: easy
Open: April through November, weather dependent
Cost: free
Services: restaurant with playground, no official picnic area
More info: www.lesoliat.ch

Overview

The Creux-du-Van cliffs are in the foothills above the Neuchatel lake. You can drive up a country road almost all the way to the cliffs, parking at the Le Soliat restaurant. Then a 250 m walk to the cliff overlook. You can walk along the cliffs about 2 km, either next to the edge or safely behind a rock wall. There isn’t an official picnic area near the cliffs, but we built a campfire in the nearby woods.

Getting There

There is a surprising lack of good information on how to get to this place. We only had vague directions and had to stop at TI to find our way. So you get to benefit from our leg work.

By car: We drove to Travers in the Kanton Jura of Switzerland, then follow signs to Le Soliat, which is a little farm right next to the Creux-du-Van cliffs. This took us about 2hr30mins.

Google recommends a possibly shorter route that goes further down Lake Neuchâtel, turning into the hills at Saint Aubin as shown below.

By public transport: There isn’t a bus stop near the cliffs. The closest stop is Noiraigue, then about 4 km hike up to the cliffs, about 650m in elevation gain. We saw many people doing this hike and my 10 year old did it with his school class once on a class trip.

Details

After you leave Travers, the last 20 mins of the drive is on a wide curvy single lane road, but it’s well maintained and has lots of areas to pass. The road ends at Le Soliat, where there is a big car park next to the farm/restaurant with a car park. This is where you start the trail.

There is a small play area at the restaurant, but I recommend hurrying along and using this as a reward for good hikers. To start the hike, simply walk straight out into this field and in a couple minutes, you’ll hit a stone wall. You can’t miss it.

The path out to the cliffs it not well-defined but it’s hard to get lost.

This stone wall surrounds the entire cliff area, good for keeping out cows and children.

Ta-da! You see this amazing view as soon as you hop over the wall. The photo is nice, but it doesn’t capture how impressive this really is.

View the other direction.

Obviously the cliffs made me very nervous with kids. I made them hold my hands most of the time. We started walking on the trail that goes along the cliff edge. It’s quite wide with room to steer clear of the edge, so not extremely dangerous if you stay away from the edge. But all the same, with children, I was uncomfortable.

Needless to say, this trail was not stroller friendly, quite lumpy with rocks.

However, since the stone wall surrounds the entire area, you can have children walk on one side of the wall and adults on the other and still practically walk together. The trail on the meadow side is possible with a stroller. There are openings in the wall every few minutes in case you need to cross over. My husband and I took turns, trading off who walked with the kids and who walked near the cliff.

The cliffs are super steep and people love to stand right on the edge, taking pics.

Hey, I’m on this hike too!

On the non-cliff side, there are also interesting rock formations on which our kids loved to climb.

There are plenty of photo ops that don’t require getting super close to the edge. In this photo, our kids were at least 20 or so meters from the edge.

After leaving the cliffs, the trail continues into the forest. Although there were no official “Feuerstelle” there were lots of make-shift grill pits along the trail. We found it a little difficult to find dry wood, but we managed a big enough fire for a few cervelat and marshmallows.

When you’ve had your fill, retrace your steps back to the restaurant. We didn’t eat there but the place was hopping, most people with just drinks, not food. The menu was limited with mostly fondue and cold plates.

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