Gorges de la Poëta-Raisse

Useful Information

Location: Parking de La Poëta-Raisse, Grande Rue 50, 2112 Môtiers.
(46.88724338566905, 6.608230266296368)
Open: MAY to OCT no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Point d'informations Val-de-Travers, Tourisme Neuchâtelois, Place de la Gare 1, 2103 Noiraigue, +41-32-889-68-96. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1871-1874 trail through the gorge built.
1942 trail renovated.
2010 cave diving in sump at the end of Grotte de la Cascade.


The Gorges de la Poëta-Raisse are located at the border of Kanton Neuchâtel and Kanton Vaud. They are accessed on a trail which starts at Môtiers in the Val-de-Travers. With a length of 7.6 km and an elevation gain of 570 m, it is not for beginners. This is actually a full day tour for most people, with 3-hour walking time. The magnificent waterfall of Môtiers is the starting point and the gorge is the highlight. The Absinthe House is perhaps the end of the tour.

The gorge was formed by the Breuil stream which has its source in the canton of Vaud in the commune of Mauborget. The small stream is today often dry, near the parking lot it meets other streams and then flows into the Areuse. This was different when the gorge was formed, at the end of the last Cold Age some 10,000 years ago. The glaciers which covered not only Scandinavia and the Alps but also the Jura, were melting, and so there were huge amounts of melting water which quickly cut into the rock forming deep and narrow gorges.

The word Poëta-Raisse means “bad sawmill” in the local Swiss-French dialect patois. The general interpretation is that this is an indication of the often insufficient water flow of the river, which was not enough to supply the sawmills.

From the parking lot two trails start, one is 600 m long, a 20-minutes walk to the Môtiers waterfall and back. The waterfall is definitely worth a visit, and there is also a small cave called Grotte de Môtier, a name which is not very creative. It is also called Grotte de la Cascade, which is not better, but it is quite impressive with a length of 200 m. The cave was easily accessible and was known to the villagers for a very long time, it's possible to enter the entrance section of the cave if you are careful, just bring a lamp. The waterfall is also called Cascade the Rousseau because Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote «I have, opposite my windows, a beautiful waterfall which from the mountain top, plunges from a rocky escarpment into the valley, with a sound heard for miles around, especially when waters are high». He stayed in Môtiers between 1762-1765 and liked to retreat at the waterfall, sitting in the entrance porch of the cave. He stayed here because his various books and publications had caused uproar, especially Emile and The Social Contract. Books were burned, and he was evicted from Paris, from Geneva, and from Bern. The Principality of Neuchâtel, was ruled by Frederick the Great of Prussia at that time, who allowed him to stay at Môtiers and even gave him some money. He described the cascade in the Second Letter to the Marshal of Luxembourg. Today the walk from the village of Môtiers to the Cascade cave has 60 bronze pebbles containing quotes from the writer.

There are two trails to the entrance of the gorge, so it possible to use one for the way up and the other for the way down. We recommend to follow the forest road along the river through the Ruisseau du Breuil on the way up. The rapids look more impressive when you walk uphill. Even the lower part has some narrow sections. The gorge starts where the other trail, which is used on the way down, branches off. The gorge has two parts, which are separated by a wider section of the valley, so do not turn around when the first section ends. The tracke even widens in this area to a single-lane forest road. The second part of the gorge is mor spectacular and longer. It is very well developed with stone stairs and wooden bridges. The gorge ends at a clearing with a picnic table. A good place to have a picknick before you go back.

The trail was first built between 1871 and 1874, so it is now about 150 years old. There was a major renovation in 1942, but actually repair works are necessary every year. Especially the wooden structures have only a limited lifespan. There are two commemorative plates at the entrance of the gorge for the two major construction periods.

After crossing the two parts of the gorge on the way back you soon reach the bifurcation of the trail. Now take the other trail to the left. It leads along the valley wall to the Château de Môtiers, which was built in the 14th century. The castle was owned by the canton of Neuchâtel, but in 2006 they sold it to Bovet Fleurier S.A., a company manufacturing watches. Actually, the company had owned the castle for some time, but they gifted the Castle of Môtiers to the state of Neuchâtel in 1957. But Pascal Raffy who had become the sole owner of BOVET Fleurier SA in 2001 bought the castle back. Subsequently, he established the assembly workshop in the castle and soon integrated other workshops. In other words, the historical monument is now a manufactory.