When we were in Neuchâtel at the end of April and visited the tourist center for a map of the town, I of course picked up some other brochures with tips on where to go in the area. And I was intrigued by the easy route of the “Sentier du Temps” nature trail, a trail that also tells the history of the Earth from the Big Bang to the evolution of man. When you add a funicular ride and a the Chaumont observation tower, I knew the kids would enjoy it.
The Chaumont is the local mountain of Neuchâtel. It is easily reached by funicular from La Coudre (4 km east of the city centre). There is a parking lot for about 12 cars at the cable car station, parking fees are payable daily (1 franc/hour, 2.5 francs/4 hours). As the parking capacity is limited, I recommend to get here by bus line 107 directly from Neuchâtel, from Place Pury (stop Neuchâtel, La Coudre).
Funiculaire de Chaumont
The Chaumont funicular is one of the three funiculars of the public transport system in Neuchâtel. With a length of 2,102 meters, it has been in operation since 17 September 1910. Be careful to check the schedule before going. There’s one every hour on Saturdays and Sundays (.45) -so be mindful of the train timings. But it looks like running more often than once per hour unlike the timetable – probably depending on current usage and need (how else to explain that we left at 15:15).
Tickets: you buy your ticket from a machine in the station building. A one-way fare for an adult costs 4.40 CHF (2.20 CHF with Halb-tax). If you have a Swiss travel pass or the Day Pass, the fare is covered.
Be prepared that this is a very popular place for bikers, so the funicular may be half-filled with their bikes. But they have their own space to park in the middle of the wagon here.
Chaumont observation tower
At the top, there is an observation tower – the entrance fee is 1 franc, which you have to throw into a machine to be let into the observation tower. If you don’t have a change, a machine in the main building will change it.
From the tower, if the weather is good, you will have a spectacular view of the chain of the Alps, the town of Neuchâtel, the three lakes (Biel, Murten, and Neuchâtel), and the whole landscape of this area of Jura 3 Lacs.
Before you follow the Path of time back to La Coudre (or to Neuchâtel), you can enjoy a picnic on a huge picnic area, the children can play on the playground or have fun in the rope park, or you can have a snack on the terrace of the Petit Hôtel restaurant.
Sentier du Temps: Path of time
The Sentier du Temps trail, which starts in Chaumont, takes you through the evolution of life on Earth from the Big Bang to the evolution of man. There are 17 wooden sculptures along the route and, interestingly, the trail is so calculated that 1 meter, or roughly every step you take, “measures” 1 million years. So, at the beginning it may seem like nothing is happening, except for the blue signposts it is basically just a beautiful (although quite steep at the first kilometer or so) path through a deciduous forest where you can admire the local fauna and flora, and from the forest, you can get views of the lake.
Until about the 3rd kilometer the route follows the local “Wanderweg” in the direction of Neuchâtel/Roche de l’Ermitage. But then you reach a signpost where the yellow Wanderweg leads to the right, but the blue Sentier du Temps sign leads to the left. Follow this. Suddenly it gets a lot more interesting 🙂 .
At the end of the trail you will see another signpost. This time take a left in the direction of La Coudre. You have about 1.5 km to walk along a wide forest path before you come back to the funicular station.
- The route is 6 kilometers long and is not suitable for strollers.
- The trail is steep and rocky in some parts, so I recommend solid footwear.
- The Chaumont viewpoint can also be reached by car.
- Should you continue from Roche de l’Ermitage in the direction of Neuchâtel, you can visit the local botanical garden, which is on the way.