Along with a mate of mine who has a 4 year old and a two year old, I took my 2 year old son to visit the Parc de Merlet in Les Houches; about 40 minutes drive from Samoens. The Parc de Merlet is a great way of seeing the wild animals of the Alps close up, yet in their natural habitat. The park is very rustic but lots of fun with 7 different types of animals all set in about 21 ha of natural mountain environment including pine trees, rocky outcrops and pasture land. We saw bouquetin (Ibex), cerf sika (sika deer or spotted deer), lamas, mouflon (mountain sheep), marmottes, chamois and daim (deer with huge antlers).
The animals located all around the park, but are very easy to spot even without the free telescopes. One family of deer including two small fawns decided to cross our path and drink from the stream we were relaxing by. My two year old loved this moment as we were only about 10 metres away from the ‘babies’. They all seemed quite at home and not bothered by us at all and also all appeared very healthy indeed.
There are two circuits at the park, an easy one and a more difficult one. We chose the easy one first followed by a spot of lunch before tackling the longer route. The easy route is only about a 15 minute round trip, but most of the animals were spotted. The more difficult routes take a bit longer to the boundaries of the park, are steeper, but still easy walking trails.
The lunch stop was well worth it, not for the food, but for the view. You are right opposite Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley. The whole domain is in view, from glaciers and rivers to peaks and avalanches, just on the other side of the valley, it was truly spectacular. You really do get a feel of the size and magnitude of Mont Blanc
The kids loved it as well as the Dads, so I would recommend it for all ages. Push chairs are a struggle but you can take them round the easy route. There is also a room with a projection about the history of the family who created the park, along with feeding and looking after the animals (in French).
The park is open May to September all day, but closed on Mondays in May, June and September. It only costs 6 Euros per adult and 4 Euros per child (4-14), under 4 free. Expect the whole park experience to take about a couple of hours. It is situated at 1500m, so well worth packing an extra layer just in case! They won’t let you take a picnic inside the park but there are plenty of picnic benches just outside the main entrance.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
More information on their website here www.parcdemerlet.com