For me, hiking with a distinct lack of appropriate clothing and footwear only adds to the sense of achievement of making it up and down a mountain alive. Armed with only treadmill trainers and a pair of leggings in windy November, hiking Creux du Van in a day trip driving from Zurich was quite a challenge. However there have been times in tropical environments when hikes have been last minute unplanned adventures and all I have on me is a water bottle and a pair of flip flops. Other times, such as in upstate New York, I have been suitably dressed from top to toe in a gang fully equipped with enough snacks to fuel an entire army, yet we’ve taken the wrong turning at the very beginning and completely circumnavigated a peak in 10 hours when a full ascent and descent should have taken less than half that! Either way, no matter how equipped you think you are, things can, and do inevitably go wrong, but its the group you are with that makes it entertaining.
Creux du Van is a horseshoe-shaped valley geography porn phenomenon that forms “nature’s very own giant amphitheater”. Its a moderately easy hike and easily reachable by car in only 2.5 hours from Zurich. You can explore different hiking route options, but its well worth doing a round trip to get a full 360° panoramic view of the valley. My favourite vantage point was a stack that protrudes from the main arc that allows you to perch on the edge of the sheer drop. It takes some balls in strong winds to stagger down to the edge. Gird your loins in colder months because the bitter gales can be horrendous, and be certain to set off early enough to make it back down in daylight hours. You should also make sure that you check parking signs with a fine tooth comb. We parked in a half empty open car park on a Sunday only to discover that a petulant resident had let the air out of our tyres owing to a tiny concealed No Parking sign hundreds of metres away. That aside it was totally worth the late night panic to see such beauty.