Le Parc de Merlet animal park is perched at 1563m, about 600m above the village of Les Houches. It is home to around 80 animals that roam freely within the boundaries of the park: chamois, ibex, deer, mouflons, marmottes . . . and even the odd llama (see here for more information about the animals that live here)!
A little history . . .
The park was opened in 1967, the idea of local Chamoniard Philippe Cachat, with the aim of conserving the local “patrimoine” and creating a home for indigenous animals, and today it boasts 21 hectares of green pastures, rocks and spruce trees. It also commands exceptional views of the Mont Blanc Massif!
Family Visits to Le Parc de Merlet
We have had some lovely family excursions to the Parc de Merlet, and our boys’ local school makes regular pedagogical visits. There are plenty of activities and events taking place here over the summer holidays, so do check the official website for details.
We have only ever visited during the springtime/summertime, but we are keen to take part in one of the winter snowshoe excursions!
During a spring/summer visit, I would recommend that you aim to visit as early in the day as possible, for two main reasons:
- Firstly, parking: this way you will be able to park closer to the entrance. If you are not able to do so, and have a buggy/backpack/not great walkers, perhaps ask the driver to drop you closer to the entrance, before he/she heads off to find a spot to park further down the hill!
- Secondly, animals are not fans of crowds and noise, so you are much more likely to have encounters with them earlier in the morning, when the park is quieter! A visit in springtime could well reward you with some encounters with baby animals.
Another top tip – once in the park – would be to head upwards first, as the animals are often to be found in the shade of woods.
Buggies are permitted but they need to have decent wheels to deal with the terrain. A baby carrier is a good idea, to enable access to the upper area.
Dogs are not allowed, though there is a small kennel at the entrance to the park.
Children: for the little ones, there is a games booklet on sale at the entrance, a sandpit (sometimes frequented by llamas as seen in the above photo!), and activities dotted around the park. See here for more information about the parcours ludique for children.
*New Smartphone application for your visit – see here*
The Parc de Merlet has lots of special activities to offer over the summer: face-painting on certain days, Siestes Musicales (piano tunes from Anne Gaillard to be enjoyed while lying in the fields surrounded by nature and animals) . . . and each week there are photo/drawing competition – the team chooses their favourite picture and photo sent in by visitors! See here for more details.
Winter Snow Shoeing
We have not yet tried this, but the Parc de Merlet offers an opportunity to snow shoe through the grounds with a guide during the snow-covered months . . . this way, you get to meet the animals in a different way / 2h walking / Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12th December 2017 until 15th March 2018 (depending on snow conditions), 13h meeting at Les Houches SNCF / reservations: 06 78 50 03 96 / price: 35€ for adults and 25€ for children / see here for more details;
The park, the restaurant and the souvenir shop are open from end of April until end of September:
May, June and September – open every day except Monday from 10h to 18h;
July and August – open every day from 9h30 to 19h30
May Bank Holidays: open!
Children (from 4 to 14 years): 4€
Under 4s: FREE!
Binocular hire: 4€ (ID and deposit required)
*Loyalty card available!*
2495 chemin de Merlet
74310, Les Houches
Tel: +33 (0)4 50 53 47 89
Parking: there are various free car parks en-route up to the park. * NB The lower car parks have a further walk to the entrance!*
- HIKE – you can hike to the Parc de Merlet (there are serveral different hiking options), which can make a visit a great part of a family balade;
- TRAIN / BUS – you can take the train for FREE (with a tourist Carte d’Hôte or a resident’s Carte Gens de Pays from Vallorcine/Servoz) and then from the Gare SNCF Les Houches, the Parc de Merlet has organised FREE shuttle buses to the animal park (*NEW FOR SUMMER 2017*);
- CAR – there are several car parks serving the Parc de Merlet (the lower car parks will leave you with further to walk, which is good to know if you have small children, or if you are with a buggy or with weak walkers; there are some disabled parking spots a few hundred metres from the entrance);