The Merlet Animal Park is situated at an altitude of 1,563m above the Chamonix valley in the Haute-Savoie. From this privileged position, 600m above the village of Les Houches (950m) there is a magnificent panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif with its permanent snow, many glaciers and 28 peaks over 4,000m.
The Park covers an area of 21 hectares of pasture, rock outcrops and pine forest. Created in 1968 by the chamoniard, Philip Cachat, around the time of the successful movie Bambi.
The Park shelters more than 80 mountain animals in their natural habitat. Of the 8 wild species living in the Animal Park, 7 are indigenous: the Ibex (Bouquetin in French), the Chamois, the Mouflon, the Fallow Deer, the Sika Deer, the Roe Deer and the Marmot. The Llama originates from South America. In the Merlet Animal Park, there are no fences, the animals roam freely and can be easily approached, but it is wise to be respectful of their space and maintain a safe distance.
Presentations and Activities
During the summer, several presentations take place throughout the day:
An exhibition about the history of the Merlet Animal Park
A video projection about Alpine flora
Antlers and Horns: Learn all about the antler cycle and determine the age, sex and health of animals by observing their horns and antlers
Description of the local landscape: Observe the alpine seasons, their fauna and flora and learn about the urbanisation process of the Chamonix valley
"The Age of Wood": An Exhibition of chalets and other timber buildings from the previous century
Projection of the movie: "4 Seasons"
There is a snack-bar with a terrace
Picnic outside the park
Picnics are prohibited inside the park in order to preserve the tranquility and good health of the animals. However, you can have picnic on the tables and benches, located just before the entrance of the park.
In winter: There are hikes for groups (5 to 8 people) with a mountain guide, to discover the Merlet Park.
From January to March, upon reservation: snowshoeing or walk, depending on snow conditions, easy level (2 hours of walk in the afternoon). Booking required!
Opening Hours and Prices
In winter: From 12th December 2017 to 15th March 2018, the park can be explored on snowshoes! For booking and more info click here
In summer the Park is open from Tuesday 1st May 2018 to Sunday 30th September 2018:
May, June and September: open every day, except Monday, from 10am to 6pm; Open on Pentecost Monday: 21st May 2018.
July and August: every day from 9:30am to 7:30pm.
Children: (4 to 14 years) €5
Group price: from 15 pers, on reservation: Adults €5,50; Children €3,50
Access from Chamonix
The exact address for GPS is: 2495 chemin de Merlet 74310 Les Houches. Via Michelin estimated distance from Chamonix Centre to the Merlet Park is 12km on road. From Chamonix, take N205/E25 towards Geneva, take the exit at "Les Houches-Chef-Lieu" and follow signs to Le Coupeau. Travel through Le Coupeau to the coach park (P4) which is located 1000m from the reception at the Merlet Animal Park. P4 is for coaches but cars might park there as well. P3 parking area is slightly larger and extends 100m on the road to the Park reception. There are 100 parking places in P3 and P4. From these parking areas walk about 15-20 minutes (1000m) to the reception. Much closer to the reception are the P1 and P2 parking areas, reserved for disabled persons with a total of 30 parking places.
The Activity Route - Hiking and Mountain Bikes
For mountain enthusiasts who prefer hiking and mountain biking,there are several routes through the forest to the Animal Park at Merlet. One is a route from Les Houches and two magnificent and slightly shorter trails through the forest from Chamonix.
From Chamonix, the route starts from Les Gaillands, 1.5 km south west from the town centre. The path is accessed from the road by the climbing wall. Allow at least 1 hour 30 minutes to hike to Merlet. The vertical gain is 500 metres. This route is suitable for good mountain-bikers.
Les Bossons is closer to Merlet as the crow flies, but the route through forest takes many twists and turns, so that is about the same distance and duration as the route from Gaillands. Allow at least 1 hour 30 minutes to hike to Merlet. The vertical gain is 500 metres. This route is suitable for good mountain-bikers.
From the centre of Les Houches, start out on the road, cross the Autoroute Blanche and the river Arve, pass the railway station and continue along the Route de Coupeau. Keep a look out for the trail sign on the right of the road. From here, the path leads all the way to the Merlet Animal Park without using the road. Allow at least 1 hour 50 minutes to hike to Merlet. The vertical gain is 550 metres. This route is suitable for good mountain-bikers.
Note: The Merlet Animal Park is not suitable for people with walking difficulties or wheel chair users. For your safety and the well-being of the animals, stay on the trails, picnic outside the park and observe the tranquillity of the site. Dogs are not allowed. The water is not potable.