Le Saut du Doubs Waterfalls

In July, we visited the Le Saut du Doubs waterfall near the Lac des Brenets, on the northwest border of France and Switzerland. We walked about an hour along the river to reach the waterfall, had a tasty lunch at a cafe on the French side, and rode the ferry boat back to our car. It’s a little far from ZH for a day trip, but if you’re already in the area, it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Location:   Northwestern Switzerland, border of France
Address: Boat and trailhead: Pré-du-Lac 24, 2416 Les Brenets
Falls: 47°05’13.7″N 6°42’51.9″E
Car: 2hr30 from Zurich to boat dock in Les Brenets
Train: 3hr15 from Zurich to Les Brenets, plus 1 km walk to boat
Trail: 500 m to reach falls from boat, optional 3.5 hike instead of boat ride
Condition: path near falls is suitable for strollers
hike to falls is narrow dirt trail, no strollers
Skill: easy
Open: May through Sept, every 45 mins from 10:00 to 17:30
Prices: free to visit falls, round trip boat ride (2012): adult CHF 14, child CHF 9 CHF, less for one way, under 6 free
Services: restaurant
More info:  www.nlb.ch

Overview

To reach the falls, you can either take a boat from Les Brenets then a short walk or walk all the way from Les Brenets. The boat takes 20 mins to Saut du Doub, then a 500 m walk to the falls. The NLB ferry boat runs from Les Brenets to Saut du Doub, every 45 mins from 10:00 to 17:30, with reduced hours off season. Check their website for details.

We chose to walk there then ride the boat back. The trail from Les Brenets to the falls is about 4 km total, took us about 1.5 hours. It is part on a lumpy dirt path, not suitable for strollers and part on the road.

NLB Boat schedule
NLB Tourist Brochure
Neuchatel Tourism – other attractions in the area
Saut du Doub info

Getting There

By car: Drive to Les Brenets and follow signs to the boat dock. There is a parking lot shortly before you reach the actual dock.

By transit: Take a train or bus to Les Brenets, then a 1 km walk to the Les Brenets boat dock.

 

Details

At the parking lot, there are some maps and trail signs. You can pick up your own copies at the boat dock.

The river seen from near the parking lot. Très belle, n’est pas?

Here is the Les Brenets boat dock. The boat ride takes about 20 mins and gives you a lovely, relaxing view of the river. There are other boat companies that run longer routes on this lake and farther down the river if you are up for a longer outing. You can easily take your stroller on-board.

We chose to walk first and take the boat back. So we took the trail that starts at the boat dock and skirts the river for a few minutes before heading up in the forest.

The trail wasn’t difficult, but it did get a little narrow and bumpy at the beginning, not suitable for strollers. But after about 25 mins, the forest trail joins up with a service road, which is the trail for the rest of the way. So if you have a stroller, you could instead take the service road the entire way from Les Brenets.

The trail gains some elevation, giving you a beautiful view of the river and valley below. Much of the trail is in the shady forest, but it opens up occasionally to give nice views.

There are massive rock formations along the trail that added an interesting contrast to the forest.

The lake ends at Saut du Doubs, which has a boat dock and restaurants on both the Swiss and French side of the border. If you took the boat, you will get off here and continue your journey on foot to reach the waterfall, about a 10mins walk.

After you pass through the tiny hamlet of Le Saut du Doubs, the service road turns into a wide, flat dirt path along a river, fine for strollers. There are trails on both sides of the river; we went on the Swiss side.

After about 5 mins, there is a picnic spot with a table and grill pit next to the river.

This pic shows the waterfall lookout platforms on both sides of the border.

The lookout platform has a good fence, so safe for little ones. The waterfall was nice, but I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t walk down below the falls to get a more complete view. I’ve seen pics of the waterfall from below, so there must be a way to get there, but I couldn’t find it.

After admiring the waterfall, you can return to Le Saut du Doubs to get some food. I recommend crossing to the French side using this foot bridge.

Here’s the French side, which has a nice little cafe with outdoor seating. If you continue walking along the lake, there are other buildings including a picnic area and public toilets.

We had a tasty French lunch at the charming L’Absinthe cafe. They sell a variety of artisanal and housemade products, including lemonades and sodas.

So simple yet so yummy!

We took the boat back, a short 20 min ride but pretty and informative. They play a recorded tour that tells you about the history of this area.

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