Dating back to the 1700’s, mountain refuges were initially found on high mountain passes, offering shelter to mountain travellers in remote and wild parts of the Alps. They originally offered very primitive accommodation, nothing more than a simple stone shepherds hut. The minimum to survive!
These days, many refuges and mountain huts can be found all over the French Alps, some offering the most basic accommodation, while others offer a surprisingly comfortable stay.
Samoens and the Vallée du Haut Giffre is blessed with a wonderful selection of refuges perched in stunning locations and with varying levels of exertion required to get there. The refuges listed below are typically manned by a team of staff from around mid-June to mid-September. During this time, you can expect a cooked evening meal, breakfast, a comfortable bed in a small family style room or a larger communal sleeping area. Duvets/sheets and pillows normally provided, so you can travel light on your trek. Bathroom facilities vary, some higher altitude and more remote refuges offer a simple cold shower (welcome to the wild!), whereas others are comparable to many guest houses facilities.
These refuges can be used in a number of different ways. Perhaps as the end point of a walk, where you can enjoy lunch and a drink before returning back down into the valley, or perhaps you fancy spending a night up high before descending the following morning. For the more adventurous, these refuges can be an overnight stop on a multi-day adventure. Either way, you are sure to find an interesting mix of people from all over the world with a common love for the outdoors.
If you are here on a summer holiday and fancy some variety within your stay, this provides a great addition to your activity schedule. The cost of an overnight stay with evening meal and breakfast is typically around €40-45 per person. As is common in our family friendly valley, children are welcome. It is essential that you book in advance.
Each refuge will often contain two very important phrases in their own website description - Temps de montée (how long the walk takes to get to the refuge) and Dénivelé (perhaps the most important, it means the vertical change in meters from the starting point to the refuge, i.e. 1000m means a vertical change of 1km - or quite a lot of uphill!)
This refuge has probably the easiest access in our valley. It occupies a great position below towering cliffs, while offering multiple options for further walks, or a loop back to the car park. See our walking page for more information.
Situated at 1902m above the stunning Cirque du Fer-a-Cheval, the Refuge de le Vogelle is accessed by a long and often steep path which is fairly strenuous but massively rewarding! A stunning lake just above the refuge, the starting point of those famous waterfalls below, is well worth a visit, and there are many options for walking beyond the refuge.
If you have ever skied in the Grand Massif, you may have asked yourself what lies in the valley beyond the Grand Platieres (top of Flaine). The answer is the picturesque valley hosting the Refuge de Sales. It is accessed by a wonderfully scenic walk from Le Lignon above Sixt, that offers some of the best wildlife in the area, as well as several giant waterfalls. There are good options to continue further towards an exciting ridge, or several lofty peaks.
Perched on the jagged ridge on the horizon as you look towards Sixt from Samoens. The Refuge du Grenairon could well offer the best views of any refuge! It offers wonderful views of the Chaîne des Fiz and Mont Blanc. The refuge is an important stopover for hikers on their way to the summit of Mont Buet, the Giffre Valley's highest peak at over 3000m.
The refuge du Folly is located under the spectacular cliffs of the Criou mountain. Access to this one is relatively easy on a wide, simple to follow path. There are many good walks in this area which are described in our walking section.
Located on a high pasture, the refuge rests below impressive limestone cliffs in a truly wild corner of the valley. The stunning mountain lake, located above the refuge, is certainly worth a visit, as is the col d’Anterne which offers wonderful views.