Far back in the Vals Valley, a side valley in Surselva, at an altitude of 1,250 meters lies the idyllic mountain village of Vals. Many people visit this Grisons (Graubünden) village because of the mythic Vals Thermal Bath by Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor. In addition, the region around Vals is ideal, multifaceted hiking country. For instance, take a hike with us along the ridiculously spectacular panorama trail from Gadastatt to the Zervreil Reservoir!
Things move at a leisurely pace in Vals. Lining the village square you can still find the original houses roofed with Vals quartzite tiles, and in the pastures you see sheep grazing contentedly. While we’re on the subject: the saying goes that Vals has a thousand inhabitants, a thousand hotel beds, and a thousand sheep!
We may not have counted sheep, but we saw plenty of them! And, no, we did not do a systematic count of the hotel beds, but the most beautiful ones we did inspect in connection with our review of Hotel 7132 and the Vals Thermal Baths Not bad, what several world-famous architects have wrought there…
But back to nature…
On to Gadastatt
Anyone at all athletically inclined will naturally want to wander from Vals to the local Gadastatt Mountain. The trail map will tell you that it takes about an hour and a half for an uphill 600 meters. That we could handle it we knew from other hikes we’ve done and so this time we let ourselves be lifted to the lofty heights by cable car.
But look out! The cable cars operate only intermittently. So be sure to check the hours of operation.
Over moorlands to Zervreila
The hiking trail from Gadastatt to Zervreila takes you over rocky hills and leafy dells — more hills than dells at this altitude — through protected moorlands and past small mountain brooks. Here and there along the Panorama Trail rustic wooden benches have been placed to let you enjoy the breathtaking picture book scenery.
This is what I did to full effect.
As befits a hike at altitude, after a few easy up- and downslopes you reach the Weiler Frunt, where the St. Anna Chapel has beckoned from a rocky cliff since 1754. From here, hikers are treated to a monumental view over the Zervreila Reservoir.Phenomenal!
Enthroned way back beyond the lake is the imposing 2,821-meter high Zervreilahorn, which, by the way, is also called the Matterhorn of Graubünden. Or simply, “the Original.” So say the local folks anyway.
Whatever. A descent that is all the steeper for being short brings you to the Zervreila Dam. The name is all that remains of the village that stood here and the water inundated in 1957 as the lake filled behind the dam. How about that for drama!
The massive arch-gravity dam slants slightly inward in the middle. Looking down is only for those not afraid of heights…
After walking across the imposing dam, refreshments await on the terrace of the Zervreila Restaurant where hikers can reflect on and recover from all the overwhelming impressions.
A roughly two-hour trail hike will get you back to Vals from here. After we had done the first stage to the single-lane tunnel on foot, we let ourselves be chauffeured the rest of the way by mail coach, affectionately called “Poschi” by the locals.
After all, a ride in a “Poschi” is also a kind of adventure! In those tight mountain road curves, all you heard over and over again was “ah-ooh-ga, ah-ooh-ga”!
Oh, sure, you can also whoosh down to Vals from the restaurant on a giant scooter bike. We could have been talked into it. But in the end, we were grateful for the warm Poschi because, with the chilly airflow and constant braking, we would have frozen our “pinkies” off…