The summer season starts at the beginning of June in our French high-altitude resorts. These warm and well-guarded shelters are not reserved for experienced mountaineers and climbers, but open to the whole family. Our selection of meeting points in the Alps and the Pyrenees
At an altitude of 1975 m, hiking boots and socks just removed, a pair installed on the terrace of the Souffles refuge (Hautes-Alpes) sipping a local beer as they watch the sunset over the Écrins National Park and its peaks over 3000 m admire those on fire. In the distance the howl of children running after the chickens that slalom between the pebbles and the larch. Rustic and a little unusual, these height nests are privileged places of exchange and conviviality. Families are welcome to enjoy the exceptional setting. A simple overnight stay in these high-altitude areas offers, in addition to a good breath of fresh air, also a rich experience of reconnecting with nature.
The guards and guardians of these refuges make it a point of honor to welcome all the public at the gates of the high mountains and explain the workings of the refuges, to ensure that everyone is comfortable, and in the general for children. It’s very fast. Up there, there are many attractions: chickens, dogs or cats to cuddle, rocks to climb, waterways to wet your shoes and astronomy evenings to dream… And inside a host of small gifts: board games, reading corners, storytelling evenings or waking up to see the marmots.
Refuge de l’Étendard, in Savoie (Massif des Grandes Rousses, 2430 m)
This refuge, which can be reached after a 2-hour walk on the easy Vallon route, is ideally located on the shores of Lake Bramant. If the bravest choose to swim, the others learn to fish or head out to climb the surrounding streams and rocks. The exceptional site of the Saint-Sorlin Glacier is just a 2-hour walk away, but experienced hikers can try the Aiguille de la Laisse at 2,879m and maybe touch the snow. This retreat is judiciously organized with small dorms of 4 to 10 people so that families can stay together. In addition, the beds are equipped with very cozy duvets!
Refuge de l’Etendard, Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves, 73530 Albiez-Montrond. Phone: 04 79 59 74 96.
Refuge des Souffles, in the Hautes-Alpes (Valgaudemar, 1975 m)
Nicknamed the “little Himalayas of the Ecrins”, this wild valley keeps all its promises… The legs are still a little numb from the effort of the rather steep walk of the day from Villar-Loubière, but the mind and heart, they float as if in weightlessness. Above it, the terrace at the foot of the larch forest ensures that you do not miss one of the most beautiful sunsets on the mythical peaks of more than 3,000 m. Comfortable and modern with its small dormitories and hot showers, this refuge is bordered by the GR 54 that allows you to reach another, that of Olan or to taste the waters of Lake Lautier.
Refuge of the breath. 05800 Villard Loubiere. Phone: 04 92 55 22 91.
Refuge de Sales, in Haute-Savoie (Haut-Giffre massif, 1,877 m)
In the heart of the Sixt-Passy Nature Reserve, the 700m climb to this pretty mountain refuge is nicely interrupted by waterfalls. Halfway through, a torrent clearly invites a pause: ibex, marmots and even the rare bearded vulture are part of the landscape. Above it, a vast mountain meadow unrolls its green carpet for endless running. There are giant wooden games, soccer cages and other tricycles available, not to mention the sandbox. Inside is a library dedicated to children and many board games are available. For outings, the “discovery of nature” backpacks lent by the concierge answer all the questions of 8-12 year olds.
Sale refuge. Chemin Vicinal Ordinaire N°4 from Salvagny to the Montagne de Salles, 74740 Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. Phone: 09 88 18 42 93.
Refuge des Garins, in Savoie (massif des Bauges, Savoie, 1100 m)
This beautiful stone cottage between forest and meadow has the advantage of being very accessible and giving the feeling of being at the end of the world. You are there in 1 hour from the village of Chatelard or practically by car, parking 4 km away. Between Annecy and Chambéry, in the heart of the Bauges Natural Park, it borders the GR96. In addition to the 19 “hard” pitches, two yurts of 5 places have been installed in the middle of the mountain meadow. The walks can be accompanied by a donkey, who will carry the picnic or the little weary walkers, and brighten up the outing. On site, the babysitter Véronique cooks her selection of fresh and local products divine…
Refuge des Garins. 3445 Route du Mont, 73630 Le Chatelard. Phone: 04 79 63 80 01.
Refuge de l’Étang Araing, in the Pyrenees (Ariège, 1965m)
At the foot of the Pic du Crabère and at the crossroads of the great Pyrenean routes such as the GR10 and the Pyrenean Haute Route, a whole family of caretakers welcomes you! Titouan and Tilia, respectively 7 and 3 years old, have been the guardians of the place since birth… Their father Anoura is a good cook and has the gift of making all children adore the soup with chenopodes (wild spinach) and nettles. A delight that budding adventurers will enjoy after a frenzied fishing trip in the huge fish-filled pond adjacent to the refuge. Adults can enjoy their digestive system with locally picked alpine clover or wild thyme.
Refuge de l’Etang d’Araing, 09 800 Sentein; Phone: 05 61 96 73 73
Published in May 2021, this article is subject to updates