One of the top things to do with kids in Chamonix during the summer is visiting Parc de Merlet, or Merlet Animal Park. This animal park located in Les Houches, about 20 minutes from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, 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.
Advance booking is required on weekends and public holidays in May, June and September, and throughout July and August. Book your ticket at http://www.parcdemerlet.com/en/prepare-your-visit/
The animals roam freely throughout this open habitat of pasture and forest and you’re required to keep a distance of at least 10m. On the sign below, there’s a count of how many of each type of animal you might see around Parc de Merlet.
Related: Guide to Visiting Chamonix in Summer
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. During our first visit, we went along the easy circuit with a stroller and 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.
During our second visit to Chamonix, Parc de Merlet was at the top of our list of places to visit again and this time we followed part of the steeper trail into the woodland. We saw chamois, deer and an ibex from a distance and enjoyed exploring other areas of the park.
Picnics are not allowed inside the Merlet Animal Park, but you are welcome to use the picnic tables in front of the park entrance. You will need to have your hand stamped for re-entry, which you can do on your own at the exit.
There is a restaurant, Le Balcon de Merlet, which offers traditional cuisine between 13€ and 22€ along with a children’s menu. The restaurant has a terrace overlooking the valley.
The Merlet Animal Park gift shop has the most adorable collection of alpine animal plush toys.
A short drive away from Chamonix, Parc de Merlet is a fantastic place to visit for watching local wildlife roaming about their natural habitat and enjoying hikes with stunning panaromic views of the Chamonix valley and the Mont Blanc range. Over the summer (July and August), there are daily information sessions, opportunities to meet the park guides and more hands-on activities.
Parc de Merlet (Merlet Animal Park)
Address: 2495, Chemin de Merlet, 74 310 Les Houches, France
Opening Hours (2021 season, open until 30th September): May, June, September: open from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Mondays (except 24th June, Whit Monday); July and August: open every day from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm
Tickets: Adult tickets cost €8,50; child tickets (4 to 15 years old) cost €5,50. Children under 4 enter free. Advance booking is required on weekends and public holidays in May, June and September, and throughout July and August. Book your ticket at http://www.parcdemerlet.com/en/prepare-your-visit/
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.
French Alps with Kids Guide
I hope you found some inspiration and ideas from our list of family hikes in the French Alps. Hiking is one of the top things to do with kids when staying in Chamonix or Morzine, and there are plenty of options around these areas to enjoy outdoor adventures in the mountains.
Read on for more tips and reviews for planning a family summer trip to the Alps;
This post was updated on 21 May 2021 with recent photos and latest information for visiting the park.
PIN FOR LATER – Merlet Animal Park in Les Houches, Chamonix Valley