Archosaur footprint trail
Vieux-Emosson footprints layer
The footprints discovered in 1976 at Vieux Emosson date back more than 240 million years. In 2008, a new discovery made by Marco Avanzini, an Italian palaeontologist, revived scientific interest in this site. The presence of a track on a detached block made it possible to identify the species that left the track and paved the way for new hypotheses for dating the find.
The site predates the emergence of dinosaurs in the true sense. The tracks were left by primitive reptiles belonging to the Archosaurian groups, which include the ancestors of both dinosaurs and crocodiles.
The Emosson reptiles thus resemble dinosaurs, but had not yet acquired all of their characteristics. The details found on this track have established the connection with a reptile whose appearance can be compared to that of a short-muzzled crocodile, about 1.5 metres long, standing erect on its feet. It belongs to the genus Isochirotherium (the name assigned to the type of footprints) and may be related to the skeleton of Ticinosuchus, a fossil of which was found in Ticino, in Middle Triassic layers.
The study of the site continues, not least because these are the oldest fossil tracks of vertebrates in Switzerland.
The footprints discovered in 1976 at Vieux Emosson date back more than 240 million years.
On 23 August 1976, the French geologist Georges Bronner discovered a palaeontological site at Vieux-Emosson (2400m), which was revealed as a result of a particularly hot summer. Studies of further finds made in 2008 have identified the species that made these footprints and developed new theories as to when they were made. The rock formations belong to a period before the true dinosaurs developed; the prints match those of primitive reptiles belonging to the group known as Archosaurs, which includes the ancestors of dinosaurs and crocodiles.
The area was declared a protected site by the government of the Valais canton on 9 November 1983. Damaging the footprints, taking rock samples and dumping rubbish are strictly prohibited.
The footprints are usually visible from mid-July (before then, they are covered by snow).
The proposed route is fully signposted and is shown on local hiking maps. The footprints are usually visible from mid-July (before then, they are covered by snow).
We recommend that you start out with good walking shoes, appropriate equipment and refreshments. Bear in mind that weather conditions can change suddenly between altitudes of 1,900 and 2,500 metres. Half-way, there is the Vieux-Emosson mountain hut where you can eat or drink something (www.cabaneduvieux.ch).
Each Summer, from end of July and for 3 weeks, a guide is on the site and give you explanation about it.
Educational trail that was created in 1998 by the Municipality of Finhaut with the support of Espace Mont-Blanc.
This trail was completely modernised in 2015 in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Geneva and with the support of the Canton of Valais and the Swiss Confederation. It is one of three "Finhaut Trails", an educational project that aims to showcase the commune’s history and heritage.
Distance 12 km
Positive elevation 825 m
Negative elevation 826 m
Highest point 2'498 m
Location / Access
GPS coordinates :