VerticAlp Emosson: A Guide To Switzerland’s Steepest Funicular Ride

Verticalp Emosson Mini Funic

Panoramic trains, funiculars, and gondolas are some of the best things about trips to Switzerland. Whether you’re staying in a village tucked away in the Alps or one of the big cities, you’re usually never too far from a panoramic ride. One of those rides is VerticAlps Emosson, a combination of a funicular, panoramic trail, and Minifunic up to Lake Emosson. 

Set on the border of Switzerland and France, VerticAlps Emosson is an epic journey up the mountain in one of the world’s steepest funiculars. Enjoy three short and sweet rides as you climb to an altitude of 1,930 meters above sea level and experience stunning views of Mont Blanc along the way. Here’s everything you need to know about VerticAlps Emosson! 

General Information

LocationLe Châtelard, Valais, Switzerland
Opening HoursMay/June to October
Prices40 CHF for unlimited journey tickets 
Time Needed to Visit4-6 hours
AccessibilityAccessible for wheelchairs and strollers 
Websiteverticalp-emosson.ch
General information about VerticAlp Emosson 

Three Unique Railways

emosson lake view
Scenic viewpoint above Emosson Lake

It takes three modes of transport to travel from the Chatelard village up to the Emosson Reservoir. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes in total, including waiting times.

Châtelard Funicular

The Châtelard Funicular is the first leg of the journey up to the Emosson Reservoir. It was built in 1921 for the construction of the Barberine dam. The funicular helped transport workers and construction materials up the mountain, and it would later be used for the construction of the Emosson dam. 

The bottom stage of the funicular is accessible by trains from Martigny (Switzerland) and Chamonix (France), plus there’s a parking lot for any travelers who arrive in a personal vehicle. 

The funicular climbs approximately 700 meters up the mountain, reaching a gradient of an impressive 87%. It’s one of the steepest funiculars in the world and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the top station of Les Montuires. 

The Panoramic Train

Once you get off the funicular at Les Montuires station, you can then board a panoramic train with open-air wagons. Feel the mountain breeze as you ride from the funicular station to the foot of the Emosson Dam, passing through five tunnels along the way. 

I will say that sitting in an open-air train wagon while passing through a tunnel isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it’s worth it for the epic views once you’ve reached the final destination. The train takes about 10 minutes to cover the distance of roughly 1.6 kilometers. 

Minifunic

Verticalp Emosson Minifunic © Verticalp Emosson

The Minifunic is the final leg of the journey. Once you’ve arrived at the foot of the Emossom Dam, you will get off the panoramic train and climb a few steps to the bottom station of the mini funicular. The tiny carriages have a maximum capacity of up to 10 people, or just three people and their mountain bikes. 

It takes about two minutes for the Minifunic to climb up to the Emosson Reservoir station, traveling roughly 150 meters in altitude and reaching a gradient of 73%. It’s not as steep as the first leg of the journey but it comes quite close! 

Tickets, Prices & Opening Hours

VerticAlp Emosson is open only in the summer, usually from May or June until mid-October. The opening times change every season depending on the weather conditions. The first ascent from the Chatelard village is at 9:05 AM, and the funiculars run every 30 minutes until the final ascent at 5:05 PM. The final descent from Emosson Reservoir station is at 5:55 PM, at least in the peak season (July and August). 

In the off-season, the final ascent up the mountain is at 4:35 PM, while the last descent from Emosson Lake station is at 5:25 PM. The timetable is subject to change depending on weather conditions. 

Tickets with unlimited access to all three modes of transport on this journey are 40 CHF for adults. Seniors and children get a discount and pay 25 CHF for unlimited-journey tickets. Single-journey tickets are 25 CHF for adults and 17 CHF for children and seniors.

Single tickets are valid for either an ascent from Chatelard to Emosson Dam (no return), or a round-trip on the Chatelard funicular, or a round trip from Les Montuires up to Emosson Dam (panoramic train and Minifunic). There’s an extra charge of 5 CHF for bikes. 

Activities and Main Attractions

View of Emosson Lake

Is there anything to do up at Emosson Lake, other than marvel at the panoramic views of its turquoise waters and the Mont Blanc in the background? Of course, there is! 

Hiking Trails

Hiking is by far the most popular thing to do up at Emosson Dam. Trails are available at the top station of the Minifunic, all of which offer stunning views of Mont Blanc and other tall peaks in your surroundings. Six Jeurs is a scenic spot not far from the top station of the funicular, offering splendid views of the reservoir and the summits. 

Hike to the mountain hut near the hydroelectric power plant and follow the trails that will take you to dinosaur tracks that are more than 250 million years old. It’s worth noting that there aren’t too many marked trails from the Emosson dam, but the ones that are available can easily take 4-5 hours to complete. 

Mountain Biking 

Mountain Biking around Emosson Dam © Verticalp Emosson

The area around Emosson Dam is ideal for mountain biking. In fact, you can cover the first leg of the journey up to the reservoir on a mountain bike and save some 15 CHF on tickets for the funicular. It is also possible to ride your bike all the way from Martigny to the Emosson reservoir; it’s a journey of approximately 50 kilometers that will take a while, but it will be an adventure for the ages. 

Most hiking trails are also suitable for mountain biking. Ride your bike to the Vieux Emosson mountain hut, or follow the trail that runs north along the eastern lake shore. The views along the way are fabulous, and the terrain is just challenging enough that you’ll have a fun time on your bike. 

Fishing

Fishing at the Emosson Dam © Verticalp Emosson

Fishing is a popular thing to do at the Emosson Dam, but it’s important to note that you need a license. You can get it from the restaurant at the top station of the Minifunic and it’s 30 CHF for a day or 50 CHF for two days. 

Many people will just find a spot on the dam where they can fish, but you can head to a more secluded area of the lake if you want. 

Swimming

Come to Emosson Lake in July or August and you’ll be able to enjoy swimming in the turquoise lake. Walk along the lake shore for a little while until you reach one of the “beaches”, where you can safely and comfortably get in the water. 

Keep in mind that the lake will still be quite chilly even in the middle of the summer, so bring a bathing suit only if you’re comfortable swimming in cold water. It’s a very interesting experience, but not something I would recommend to people who prefer to swim in bodies of water that have a temperature of at least 22°C. 

Picnics

There are several restaurants on the way from Chatelard up to Emosson and at the top station of the mini funicular, but they’re expensive. That’s true for virtually every restaurant in Switzerland regardless of the altitude, and if you’re trying to save some money on this journey I highly recommend you pack a picnic. 

What’s more romantic than snacking on cheese and crackers while sipping on a delicious local wine and enjoying the views of the turquoise lake, with Mont Blanc in the background? Also, if you bring your own food you can hike to a secluded spot where you can enjoy the serenity of the mountains, as opposed to sitting down at a crowded and overpriced restaurant. 

Restaurants 

The VerticAlp Café, © Verticalp Emosson

We’re in Switzerland, so of course there are restaurants at the top of the mountain and at the funicular/train stations along the way: 

The mountain restaurants normally serve traditional Swiss dishes made from the freshest ingredients. 

How to Get There

Chatelard village is most easily accessible from Martigny and Chamonix by public transport. If you’re comfortable driving, you can come here from virtually anywhere in Switzerland (or France).

  • By Train

Take the MBX train from Martigny in Switzerland (30 minutes) or the TER and MBX trains from Chamonix in France (50 minutes), to the Le Châtelard VS train station. From there it’s just a short walk to the funicular.

  • By Car 

Parking is available at the bottom station of the Chatelard Funicular. You can drive all the way up to the dam if you have a car in Switzerland. I recommend this only to experienced and confident drivers because the road up the mountain is steep and narrow, with many curves and switchbacks. 

  • By Bus

Buses run from Finhaut to Emosson in the summer (June to August), and they connect to the Mont Blanc Express (MBX) train. The bus from Finhaut travels for approximately 30 minutes, and the tickets are 16 CHF. 

Alternatively, you can take a bus from Martingy or Chamonix to Chatleard. It’s approximately half an hour from either town to the bottom station of VerticAlp Emosson. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my pet to VerticAlp Emosson?

Yes, you can bring your pet to VerticAlp Emosson. There’s no need to buy a ticket for your pet because they get to travel for free. 

Are there nearby accommodations for visitors who want to stay overnight?

Yes, there’s a mountain hut (Cabane du Vieux-Emosson) near the hydroelectric power plant, roughly a two-hour hike from the Emosson Dam. Reservations can be made by phone call or email and payment is only in cash. 

Header image courtesy of Wikimedia

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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