About Saut du Doubs
Saut du Doubs (pronounced like “soh-doo-DOO”) was a waterfall we went a little out of our way for. The reason for such effort was that this pretty 27m high waterfall nestled in a forested lakeside setting happened to be a rare transnational waterfall (shared between France and Switzerland).
The waterfall also provided us an excuse to experience the quiet and relaxing Nature within the Jura Mountains of the Franche-Comté region (also known as le pays qui respire or literally “the country that breathes”) as well as the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland (same ecosystem and geography but just different names and political administrations).
The easiest and most straightforward way in which we experienced this waterfall was to drive to the community of Les Brenets (on the Switzerland side) and then catch one of the boat rides across Doubs Lake to the small hamlet (consisting of a few cafes, boat docks, and shops for both countries) above Saut du Doubs.
We happened to show up just in time to catch an 11:30am boat ride, in which case we paid 28 Swiss Francs in total for the round-trip for both Julie and I. I understand it was also possible to take a 14km boat ride from the town of Villers-Le-Lac on the France side though we can’t comment more on that since we didn’t do it that way.
In any case, one thing we had a feeling the Swiss side featured and that we could rely on was that their boat departures would be running like clockwork (due to the Swiss reputation for being very precise). And true to form, the outgoing and return boats we took during our visit were spot on time. (For a link providing the boat timetables and fares from the NLB website, a Swiss service, click here).
Had we decided not to take the boat ride, then we could’ve taken a 50-minute trail alongside the lake towards the hamlet by Saut du Doubs. We opted not to do it mainly because we encountered pretty lousy weather.
Since the boat operator only spoke German and French, he gave us a laminated handout of some history and sights along the Doubs Lake in English. This was handy as it helped us gain an understanding of the history, geology, and uses of the lake. It also gave us a heads up on sights and photo ops, such as the interesting King of Prussia Cave. I think given the foul weather we encountered on the day of our visit, the boat ride was just what we needed to take in the scenery and relax for 20 minutes.
When we docked at the small hamlet above Saut du Doubs, the boat schedule was such that we had about 90 minutes to enjoy views of the waterfall on both sides of the border (thanks to a pedestrian bridge spanning the river).
We started off with a 20-minute walk over to the uppermost lookout of the waterfall on the French side. After traversing the bridge to the French side, the developed and well-signed walkway initially passed through a few shops and cafes before before the path climbed to a viewing platform. By the way, those shops and cafes didn’t seem to be open given that the area was eerily quiet.
From up here, we could look down at the entirety of the Saut du Doubs waterfall as well as the gorge its river carved out. There was a trail that continued further past the overlook as well as another one that descended towards the brink of the falls on the French side (which was the one we took). Once down below at the brink of the falls on the French side, there was a connecting trail that returned to the cafes and shops as well as the bridge spanning the two countries.
As for the Swiss side, a straightforward flat walk for 10 minutes led from the hamlet to the brink of the falls across the river from the brink-of-the-falls viewing area on the French side. From what we could tell, this was the only viewpoint of the waterfall on the Switzerland side. I recalled there were a couple of interpretive signs along the trail as well as a trail junction near the waterfall to continue the hike further down the gorge. When we had our fill of the waterfall from the Swiss side (after having been to the French side), we were back at the boat dock on the Swiss side with at least 15 minutes to spare. Naturally, when the boat showed up on time, we relaxed on the 20-minute return boat ride to the dock and car park at Les Brenets.
While it’s possible to drive to this falls from either the France or Switzerland side, we can only describe the way we did it from the Swiss side since that was how we did it. It took us just under 2 hours to drive from Geneva to Les Brenets (note that I didn’t count the rush hour traffic jam we happened to get mired in while trying to leave Geneva, which easily consumed 90 minutes!).
From Geneva, we followed the A1 before switching over to the A5 near Yverdon-Les-Bains and Lake Neuchatel. We then took the A5 north until the GPS had us take some mountain roads from the vicinity of Areuse to Les Brenets. In hindsight, we probably could’ve taken the longer but more straightforward route of the A5 to the 20, then follow the 20 through Le Locle to Les Brenets.
For additional geographical context, Geneva was 150km (90-120 minutes drive) northeast of Lyon. The city of Lyon was 466km or at least 4.5 hours by car from Paris. However, we used the very fast and efficient TGV (high speed train or le train a grande vitesse), which wound up taking around 3 hours to cover this stretch between the two major cities.
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