Montreux, Switzerland sits beside Lake Geneva at an elevation of just over 1300 feet (400 meters). The area around the lake is sometimes called the “Swiss Riviera”. Lake Geneva is the third largest in Western Europe, and its very clean water has a whitish-blue tinge caused by glacial silt. When we were there in mid-May, trees were green and it was actually hot, yet the mountains rising out of the lake had snow on them. These mountains are only foothills to the tallest of the Alps, somewhat further away. We took a “cog” train to one of the taller nearby peaks, Rochers de Naye (6000 feet, or 2000 meters).

On the train

A cog railway uses the normal two rails, plus a central rail of gear teeth that mesh with a gear wheel on the train. The gear provides more traction going up steep slopes, and regulates downhill speed. There are similar railways on Colorado’s Pike’s Peak and New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

The train to Rochers de Naye makes about a dozen stops on its 48 minute journey, many of them only on request. Some of the stops look like they’re just trailheads, or a few lonely houses. Some are small villages with hotels. We went to the top. Note that if you stay in a Montreux hotel that offers a “Riviera Pass”, you are entitled to a significant discount on your fare.

One of the “trailhead” stops

The ride itself was spectacular, sporting views of Montreux and the Lake, and then rising above treeline into a beautiful barren landscape completely unlike the busy international city below. After passing through a final tunnel, the train emerges in a bowl serviced by a ski lift. (The ski area had closed for the season a few weeks earlier.) There is a single lodge building with restrooms, an indoor restaurant and a large outdoor deck with additional food and drink options.

At the summit station. You can see the central cog track between the “regular” rails.

Many of the taller and more famous Alps are visible from Rochers de Naye, such as the Jungfrau (13642 feet, or 3454 meters) and Mont Blanc (15774 feet, or 4808 meters).

Deck of the lodge

Above the lodge is a communications tower and an observation platform. There is a network of hiking and mountain biking trails, not completely open when we got there because of the remaining snow. Really ambitious hikers could walk back to Montreux, about 20 miles with 5000 feet of elevation loss.

Also not open yet is a Via Ferrata (literally, “iron road”). A Via Ferrata is a climbing obstacle course where the climber is connected to a mountain by a harness with two clips. The climber moves along by unclipping one of them and reclipping in a new place, and then climbing iron rungs or walking along small rails above dizzyingly high drops. People either love these or are terrified by them, sometimes both. We haven’t tried one yet.

Hiking trail

What we did do: walk along the trails near the summit. Probably only about two miles at most, but a very satisfying day.

Looking back at the communication tower

We also saw some paragliders set up and take off.

Paraglider taking off
And in the air