Super Alpine

Col du Marchairuz


Lacking in hairpins and height the Col du Marchairuz delivers the goods with swooping bends and majestic landscapes. Col du Marchairuz at 1447 metres is in the Jura mountains high above Lake Geneva and connects Le Brassus in the Vallee Joux with Bière in Morges. Close to the pass is Mont Tendre at 1679 metres the highest summit in the Jura. The road was closed in winter until 1992 but is now open all year.

Inversion over Lake Geneva from Col du Marchairuz
Inversion over Lake Geneva from Col du Marchairuz

Coming from the busy lakeside in Geneva or Lausanne the pass is in the Jura Vaudois Nature Park and makes for a peaceful getaway from the hustle of Vaud's largest cities. The pass makes up for its lack of vertical with rolling landscapes made up of pastures and giant pine trees. The surface is smooth and fast with low stone walls appearing on either side of the narrow road, a feature not often found on Alpine passes, these are common to the Jura.

Just before the summit, the landscape is park-like with pastures full of flower meadows and extensive woodland as well amazing views of Lake Geneva and the Savoyan Alps from Mont Blanc eastwards. A hiking loop 'Sapin à Siméon' makes for a nice break and takes in some of the views. It's a 1.8km trail that goes past eight informational markers and two vantage points. The trail is named after messenger Siméon Meylan, who once rested under a large silver fir tree before crossing the Marchairuz. The conifer has gone but a statue carved by Paul Monney commemorates the spot. The trail is accessible from spring to autumn.

At the top sits Hôtel du Marchairuz, built-in 1845 as the Marchairuz Asylum it served as a refuge and rest area for travellers crossing the pass. The hotel has had major renovations but still resembles the original building. The area has been used for skiing since the 1900 and today is popular for nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer with major routes crossing the park. The descent into the Vallee Joux is similar to the climb with rolling hills taking the place of jagged peaks, and open landscapes filling in for gorges. Towards the end, the valley appears before us with views of Lac de Joux, the largest lake in the Jura region - at 1000 metres high it freezes over in the winter and is used for ice skating. In summer water sports are popular.

Arriving in Les Brassus it is clear we are in the watchmakers' valley. On arrival, the impressive Audemars Piguet building sits on the main road, mixed in with regular houses and shops. Audemars Piguet has been in the valley since 1875 and makes all its watches by hand here. Vacheron Constantin and Patek Phillipe can also be found in this small town, which is like having Nike, Puma and Adidas all in one obscure little town.

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