In late May, we packed up the car and went on a road trip adventure from London to Chamonix in the French Alps. I’ll be sharing more about this trip along with recommendations for outdoor family adventures in the surrounding area, starting off in this post with one of the highlights: a visit to the Merlet Animal Park (or Parc de Merlet) in Les Houches.
Merlet Animal Park covers 20 hectares and is home to eight animal species, seven of which are indigenous to the alpine region, including the ibex mountain goat, chamois (antelope), marmot and deer. The non-native animal living at the park is the llama. The animals roam freely throughout this open habitat of pasture and forest and you’re required to keep a distance of at least 10m.
There are two ways to explore the park: by following an easy, 1 hour long trail with stroller access or by following a more challenging 2 hour long trail that takes you up the slopes for more unique viewing opportunities. We had a stroller so we took the easy circuit, but I’d recommend bringing the baby carrier if you’d like to enjoy a nice hike and follow the longer, steeper trail.
We saw mostly ibexes, deer and llamas while we walked around the park, and we were blown away by the stunning panoramic views of the Chamonix valley and Mont Blanc massif.
We loved watching the ibexes in particular as they effortlessly leapt onto the building roofs, for a unique view of their own. The alpine ibex is a mountain goat with incredible climbing skills that tends to live at high altitudes (up to 3000m) above the snow line.
A short drive away from Chamonix, Merlet Animal Park is a fantastic place to visit for watching local wildlife roaming about their natural habitat. Over the summer (July and August), there are daily information sessions, opportunities to meet the park guides and more hands-on activities. With an on-site restaurant and a small play area, it makes for a wonderful family day out learning about the local wildlife, hiking the trails and enjoying the stunning scenery.
Merlet Animal Park
Address: 2495, Chemin de Merlet, 74 310 Les Houches, France
Opening Hours: May, June and September – open from 10am to 6pm every day EXCEPT Mondays; July and August – open every day from 9:30am to 7:30pm.
Tickets: Adult tickets cost 7€; child tickets (4 to 14 years old) cost 4€. Children under 4 enter free.
On Site Restaurant: Le Balcon de Merlet offers traditional cuisine between 13€ and 22€ along with a children’s menu. The restaurant has a terrace overlooking the stunning view of the mountains and valley.
Family-Friendly Facilities: Play area with sand pit and toys, picnic tables outside the park (no picnics allowed inside), easy trail circuit with stroller access, restrooms and souvenir shop by restaurant.
Parking: Four free parking lots, starting from 1000m from the entrance. The parking lot closest to the park entrance is reserved for disabled. Our visit was during the off peak season so we were able to park pretty close to the entrance, however, during busy periods you may need to park at the lots located 1000m away.
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