Refuge du Parmelan


The mountain huts around Lake Annecy

The mountainous terrain surrounding Lake Annecy extends far beyond the shores of the lake itself. We highly recommend that you take the time to venture off the beaten path to discover the many things that the area’s high peaks and mountain valleys have to offer.

Sep 2022
6 min.

Traveling In Annecy Mountains means more than simply enjoying the lake, it also means visiting the lake’s headwaters, exploring the beauty of the Aravis Mountains, and scaling some of the area’s lesser-known peaks above the far southern end of the lake.

To venture to higher ground, mountain huts offer the rare opportunity for full immersion into the incredible mountain environment, while marveling at the countless breathtaking vistas.

Most of the huts in the area stay open through the fall, a great time to enjoy the some of the most beautiful colors of the year. You will also appreciate the cooler temperatures and the peaceful solitude. The huts are relatively accessible depending on what type of experience you are looking for. Whether heading out as a family, couple, or group of friends in search of a pensive stroll or more physically demanding experience, several options exist. Learn more about a few select huts chosen for the beauty of the surrounding natural environment and for the hiking opportunities available.

Cliff-top panoramic views: the Parmelan Hut

The Parmelan figures among the more iconic peaks in the mountains surrounding Lake Annecy, with its vast, striking, 200-meter high cliff band overlooking the city. Several trails, more or less long and strenuous, lead to the summit. While the trail starting in Villaz and via Le Grand Montoir offers the quickest ascent to the top, it has several technical, steep, narrow, and exposed sections.

A longer, but more moderate option offers great views of the valley below. Drive to the quaint village of Aviernoz, and start from the Taillées du Sautet parking lot. Depending on your pace, it takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours to hike the 480 vertical meters to the summit. This trail meanders through the area’s alpine meadows, past Anglettaz Chalet, and then along a more direct path to Tête de Parmelan Peak.

Panorama from Le Parmelan

© Alain Dujardin – photoslahaut.com / Panorama from Le Parmelan

Once you reach the summit, marvel at the vast plateau and incredible expanse of limestone surrounding the Parmelan Hut (also known as the Camille Dunant Hut in honor of the founder), perched at 1825 meters elevation.

From there, enjoy the 360° panoramic views, with the Aravis Mountains, Pointe Percée Peak, and Mt. Blanc Range in one direction, and the Lake Annecy basin in the other. Spend the night in this rustic chalet built in 1883, with its dormitory-style sleeping arrangements and deliciously copious (or copiously delicious) meal cooked with local products. Devour tasty cheeses from the Farto Cooperative in Thônes, cold cuts from Mont Charvin, and quench your thirst with organic beer from the Brasseurs Savoyards brewery based in the medieval town of Alby-sur-Chéran.

In terms of comfort, the hut remains faithful to its rustic origins: no showers, composting toilets, and solar-powered lighting. Never fear, the amazingly colorful sunset will definitely brighten your evening.

After a full night’s sleep, take advantage of the cool morning air to explore the plateau, or, for experienced rock climbers, enjoy one of the many routes the limestone cliffs have to offer.

In addition, the Parmelan Hut is “Refuges en Famille” (Huts for Families) certified, which means that it offers amenities and services so that kids (young children to teens) will feel right at home.

The hut is staffed from the end of May through the beginning of October. September’s relative calm offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy this unique mountain experience. Nevertheless, always make a reservation before you go!


Parmelan Hut

Rural bliss: the Aulp de Marlens Hut

With its easy and accessible approach, the Aulp de Marlens Hut offers the chance to spend the night in the mountains beneath the star-filled sky without having to commit to a long, strenuous hike. Managed by Vent des Cimes (GAEC), whose staff spends the summer here tending to its herd of dairy cows and goats, guests enjoy the unique opportunity to learn all about working the alpine pastures, animal husbandry, and how farmhouse products are made (especially cheese!).

Getting there: Drive through Thônes and continue towards the picturesque village of Bouchet-Mont-Charvin, located in Val Sulens. At the far end of the village, after passing through the hamlets of Banderelle and La Savattaz, park at Les Sardoches.

From the parking lot, embark on the one-hour, 300-meter vertical hike to the Aulp de Marlens Hut. The trail meanders through the forest and then takes you above the tree line through the area’s lush alpine pastures. The hut is located on a beautiful grassy knoll beneath the steep western slopes of Mt. Charvin. Enjoy amazing views of the east face of Tournette Peak.

Panorama from the Aulp de Marlens Hut

© Sarah Goudeau – Office de Tourisme Thônes Cœur des Vallées / Panorama from the Aulp de Marlens Hut

Vent des Cimes makes and sells two types of local cheeses – AOP-certified farmhouse reblochon cheese, AOP certified chevrotin cheese (a type of goat cheese), and IGP-certified Tomme de Savoie cheese. Enjoy one or all of them when you sit down for a hearty, mountain-style meal, and relish spending the night in this typical mountain chalet-farm (reservation required).

For a wonderful educational experience: Spend Wednesday night at the hut to take full advantage of the “Découvrir ma vie d’alpagiste / Life as an alpine farmer” tour organized every Thursday at 14:00 (2pm).

For those who would like to embark on one of the amazing hikes from the hut, plan for an early-morning start. For views of Mt. Blanc and most of the Northern French Alps from the top of a truly spectacular peak, make your way up the steep switchbacks of Mt. Charvin. To enjoy one of the Aravis Mountains’ hidden treasures, follow the trail that leads to Mt. Charvin Lake, located in a beautiful mountain cirque.

From the hut, it takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours to hike the 2.5 km and 745 meters of vertical gain to the top of Mt. Charvin. For the lake, count on a one or two-hour hike to cover the 2.5 km and 440 meters of vertical gain. Along these wonderful hikes through the alpine meadows and limestone scree, you will likely see a few marmots and chamois from afar. The scenery and full mountain experience are well worth the effort.

The hut is open from June through mid-October. Remember to make a reservation ahead of time!


Aulp de Marlens Hut

Push beyond your limits: the Praz Dzeures Hut

Tournette Peak towers high above Lake Annecy and figures among the most iconic (if not the most iconic) peaks to stare at when standing lakeside.

While you can start from the shores of the lake to hike up the west face to the top of the Tournette, you might like the wilder, south-eastern facing, Serraval side of the peak. To get there, drive through Thônes, continue over Col du Marais Pass and before reaching the village of Serraval, follow signs to Montaubert. Continue on to the La Molloire parking lot.

From the parking lot, it takes approximately two hours to hike the 640 vertical meters to the hut. Perched in a secluded mountain cirque at 1750 meters elevation, the wood and stone Praz Dzeures Hut offers truly spectacular views of the Aravis Mountains and Mt. Blanc Range, and of Sulens Peak just across the valley. The hut alone is a worthy objective.

Praz Dzeures Hut

© Praz Dzeures / Praz Dzeures Hut

The Praz Dzeures hut offers dormitory-style sleeping arrangements as well as a separate room that accommodates up to four people. When it comes to food, enjoy a “reblochonnade,” a local Savoyard dish made with melted reblochon cheese, potatoes, and a variety of pork cold cuts, and served with a glass of “Mont-Blanc” beer brewed here in the Alps.

After a wonderful evening and a fitful night’s sleep, you will be well rested and ready to continue upwards and onwards, either to the top of Bajulaz Point, just a one-hour hike from the hut, with spectacular views of Lake Annecy, or to the top of any of the other high points in the area.

Tournette Peak and the surrounding terrain are located within a Natura 2000 protected natural area, where Ibex, chamois, and other wildlife thrive. You will likely cross paths with them as you (discreetly) make your way up or down the mountain.


Praz Dzeures Hut

Multi-day tours: hiking from hut to hut

Located in the heart of In Annecy Mountains, the Thônes Coeur des Vallées Tourism Office offers a wide variety of multi-day hut-to-hut tours. To embark on these three to four day adventures, spending several nights in mountain huts, you need to be in good physical condition, as well as have the right gear and some experience in the mountains.

Thônes and the surrounding mountain valleys extend from Mt. Charvin to Glières Plateau, and include seven mountain huts that offer the chance to scramble from peak to peak, either from a starting point to an end point or as part of a loop. These tours allow you to fully enjoy the beauty of the mountains from sunrise to sunset, and offer a truly unforgettable experience.

Multi-day tours

The Aulp de Marlens Hut

© Sarah Goudeau – Office de Tourisme Thônes Cœur des Vallées / The Aulp de Marlens Hut

Be prepared, plan ahead for your adventure!

Spending time in the mountains – on the approach hike, during your stay in a hut, and on the next day’s hike – requires planning ahead. Make sure that you wear the right footwear (hiking boots or shoes), pack warm clothing and rain gear, wear the right backpack, pack a sleep sack or sleeping bag (depending on what the huts require), carry enough water to stay properly hydrated, and bring a first aid kit. In addition, bring a guidebook (or the detailed description of your hike/tour), a map (and compass), and call the hut(s) ahead of time for the latest weather and trail conditions. The local tourist information offices and mountain professionals (hiking and high-mountain guides) are ready and available to steer you in the right direction.


And remember to follow the six guiding principles for the exemplary traveler.


In every situation, please abide by the hiker’s responsibility code and stay on your best behavior:

  • Stay on marked trails to avoid trampling the vegetation. Please do not take shortcuts and always follow any instructions on signs around specifically protected areas.
  • Pick up and carry out all of your trash.
  • No campfires allowed.
  • Leave no trace (carry out any toilet paper and pack up all leftovers from your picnic…).
  • Take photos of the flowers instead of picking them.
  • Observe all wild animals from a distance, and be discreet. Never approach or touch any baby animals, their mothers will abandon them.
  • Keep your distance from the herds of livestock (cows, sheep, goats) and their guard dogs. If you have to, walk around.
  • Close all gates behind you to keep the cows or goats from getting loose.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash.
  • Do not bathe or swim in the mountain lakes.
  • Please do not wash your feet or hands in the water troughs that the local herds of livestock use for drinking water.


  • ©Yan Gaëtan Olivo / Parmelan Hut

Journalist: Gaëlle Tagliabue

Translation: Darin Reisman