FAMILY HIKES: Jardin des Cimes ⇒ Refuge de Varan (PLATEAU d’ASSY)

[ note 2023: ☕️ Refuge de Varan is SHUT for the 2023 summer season for renovation, but there is lots of gorgeous alpine pasture surrounding it for picnics! ]

For a family hike, MBFF finds it a good idea to have a clear point of interest along the way: 💦 a waterfall, ❄️ a glimpse of a glacier, a ride in 🚡 a télécabine or on a télésiège, 🦌 wildlife along the way . . .

The hike that I am about to outline has VARIOUS points of interest – something for the whole family! I did a recce of the hike with a couple of friends last year, and we all agreed that it would be the ideal family hike (with competent walkers, older children), as it incorporates:

  • the beautiful, magical 🌻 Jardin des Cimes alpine garden;
  • 💦 a stream in which to dip your feet along the way;
  • the wonderful  ☕️ Refuge de Varan – with lots of relaxation space, cake and a stunning location;

Here are the details for the hike :

Jardin des Cimes (1000m)

My friends and I started our hiking day with a very relaxing visit to the 🌻 Jardin des Cimes, as one had never been (and late morning 🍰 cake and elderflower drinks!), but you could equally leave your visit of the 🌻 Jardin des Cimes for the return slot of your hike; this would make sense if you manage to start your day early!

[ see below for more details about the 🌻 Jardin des Cimes ]

Le Jardin des Cimes © montblancfamilyfun

Jardin des Cimes (1000m) ⇒ Refuge de Varan (1620m)

The 🏔 hiking trail from the 🌻 Jardin des Cimes leaves from very near the entrance to the gardens, so you can use the car park on-site (if you are planning a visit to the gardens afterwards!). The path heads off towards Le Coudray (this part of the hike is quite flat) and as it forks, you take the vertiginous trail upwards towards Curalla (you may see some folk descending this sentier after having finished the 🧗‍♂️ Via Ferrata Curalla, as the end point is along this path). This uphill stage of the hike is largely shaded in the 🌲 forest, there are bucolic spots to rest and picnic along the way, and 💦 a gurgling stream in which to dip your feet . . .

This uphill stretch has a dénivelé of about +600m, so pace yourselves!

heading up through 🌲 the forest . . .

Jardin des Cimes to Refuge de Varan ©

arriving at the 🏔 Refuge de Varan . . .

Refuge de Varan ©
Refuge de Varan © Refuge de Varan / Passy Tourisme

Refuge de Varan (1620m)

Located under the 🏔 Aiguille de Varan (2544m), this small stone refuge (one of several little alpine huts clustered in this spot) has imposing views over the 💦 Arve Valley, the 🏔Massif du Mont-Blanc and the Aravis mountains. It has dorm rooms available for people wishing to spend the night, who are perhaps embarking on an early morning hike. The ☕️ Refuge de Varan is located on the famous Tour du Pays du Mont-Blanc and Tour du Fiz hiking trails, and other challenging hikes accessible from here include to the ☕️ Refuge de Platé (via the Col de Barmerousse). The outdoor space is really relaxing – there is a lounge space with beanbags – and when we were there we saw some children playing card games . . . you may even spot the odd parapentiste, as there is a departure zone nearby.

contact: Isabelle LUCOTTE 


tel: 04 50 93 61 98 or 06 70 78 81 00;
Refuge de Varan ©
Refuge de Varan ©

relaxation at the ☕️ Refuge de Varan:

exploration around the 🏔 Refuge de Varan:

Refuge de Varan ©
Refuge de Varan ©

Jardin des Cimes (Plateau d’Assy)

After leaving the ☕️ Refuge de Varan (hard to do as it is so pretty and relaxing!), you can either head towards the Chalets de Charbonnière on the TPMB hiking trail, and then back down to the 🌻 Jardin des Cimes, or directly down the path you just hiked up back to the gardens . . .

[ for more information about these magical alpine gardens (which have a parcours ludique, a café & restaurant on-site, a play area for children and more . . .), see separate MBFF article here ]

Jardin des Cimes ©
Jardin des Cimes ©

Details of hiking route . . . 

🅿️ parking: 🌻 Jardin des Cimes (🆓) – if planning a visit there!

📌 start & finish point: 🌻 Jardin des Cimes;

⏱ duration: up to Refuge de Varan, 1,5 to 2 hours (with rest stops) one way (about 0,5km on relatively flat terrain, followed by steel uphill) / count on around 5 hours for the boucle;

🏔 dénivelé: +/- 620m ( Jardin des Cimes 1000m ⇒ Refuge de Varan 1620m );

🗺 map of hiking route:

Jardin des Cimes to Refuge de Varan hike © (Carte des Sentiers de Randonnées Pédestres au Pays du Mont-Blanc Passy Sallanches)

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