The town of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is located south of Abondance and in the direction of Chamonix. To reach the town you’ll have to drive an hour by car along a beautiful road. You’ll drive through impressive valleys with beautiful rivers and huge mountains on both sides. Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is located at the meeting point of two streams of the Giffre River. It is a small village with some houses, a restaurant, and a few terraces. It is located at an altitude of 750 meters and has hardly been affected by mass tourism. The village gives you a beautiful view of the Pic de Tenneverge and the Cheval Blanc. The Pic de Tenneverge is one of the most rugged peaks of the Alps, the Cheval Blanc is the highest peak on this ridge.
History of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval
The history of this small village begins in the twelfth century when monks of the abbey of Abondance founded a monastery and abbey in the village. This abbey grew into one of the most important religious communities in the French Alps. The monastery is still there and the dining room from the seventeenth century can still be visited while part of the church from the thirteenth century is still there. The village and the abbey are nice to see but aren’t spectacular. The Cirque-du-Fer-à-Cheval is spectacular though and is located 6km to the east of the village.
Sixt-Passy, the surrounding area of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval
The area around the village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval belongs to Sixt-Passy, one of the most beautiful nature reserves of the Haute Savoie. There are glaciers, high cliffs, waterfalls, alpine meadows, streams, and rivers. The mountains here reach an altitude of 3,100 meters. Due to the rise of tourism in this part of France, Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval quickly became a popular area for nature lovers and hikers.
The Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval is a huge boiler valley in the Giffre massif and is located 6km east of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. This boiler valley is the largest boiler valley in the Alps and one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Cirque-du-Fer-à-Cheval is known for its huge cliffs which have an altitude between 500 and 700 meters. The beautiful Giffre river flows through the valley.
Throughout the year, the valley is an impressive sight. In the month of June, you can visit up to 30 waterfalls that splash down along the rocks. In the summer months, most of them have dried up or are a lot smaller. Nevertheless, the glaciers above, the glacier de Prazon et du Ruan, ensure that waterfalls can still be admired in the summer.
Cascade du Rouget
In the cauldron valley there are over thirty waterfalls. The most famous waterfall is the Cascade du Rouget. It is not for nothing that it is called the "Queen of the Alps". This impressive waterfall comes from a height of 90 meters and is a must see if you are in Haute Savoie. All these waterfalls are created due to the melting of snow and glaciers. It's most definitely worth checking out. You can park your car near the Cascade du Rouget, the waterfall is easily accessible.
Hiking in and around Cirque-du-Fer-à-Cheval
You can make several beautiful walks in the valley or around it. If you walk over the cliffs, you have beautiful views over the valley and the surrounding mountains. From the village centre of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval you can go in two directions, in the direction of Fond de la Combe or Le Bout du Monde.
Fond de la Combe
This is the end of the valley on the north side and is still located in front of Cirque du Cheval. It is a popular hiking area. From there you can make trips into the mountains. A beautiful trip goes to Refuge de la Vogealle, at 1900 meters altitude. Another route runs via a steep path to various waterfalls. In various places this path is secured with steel cables and ladders. The higher you get, the more beautiful the view of the Pic de Tenneverge becomes. This mountain, with a height of 2987m, is very impressive.
Le Bout du Monde
This is the eastern border of the valley and has several mountain huts. Most trails to these cabins start around the Cascade de Rouget. Towards Chalets des Fonts there is a high rope bridge over the river. From the top of this area you have a magnificent view over the Mont Blanc area.
Nature in Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and Cirque-du-Fer-à-Cheval
In these areas, the nature is impressive:
- In the lower parts, along the streams, you’ll find dippers and big yellow wagtails.
- In the forests there are loads of songbirds: black-headed, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, golden rooster, fire crest, marsh tit, black tit, crested tit, great tit, blue tit and long-tailed tit.
- There are also birds of prey flying around such as black kites, red kites, buzzards, honey buzzards and sparrow hawks.
- On top of the cliffs you will also have the chance to see a golden eagle or a bearded vulture.
- In the Cirque du Fer à Cheval, pay special attention to the alpine swift and the wall creeper that breed here.
- If you are far above the tree line, you will see the alpine accentor and the snow finch and, with some luck, you will also be able to see the ptarmigan.
- There are around 800 plant species, including 28 species of orchids, in the nature reserve!
If you are a nature lover, then the area in and around Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and Cirque-du-Fer-à-Cheval is definitely worth a visit.