Spectacular Scenery; Walks, Waterfalls, Wildlife – & Those who Dare – Swim!
Campsite Municipal le Pelly is at the head of the Giffre valley, just past Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval. Sixt is a small village, probably more correctly a defined as a group of hamlets. It is located in a remote part of the French Alps to the east of the Haute-Savoie department. Sixt is probably better known as a ski resort; part of the Grand Massif ski area, which is the 4th largest in France. Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is reached from Cluses via a good, reasonably wide mountain road with friendly, not-too-tight hairpins that did not pose any problem with our 40ft van-caravan combo! With the campsite at 1000m of altitude, remember to release pressure in the caravan toilet SLOWLY!
- The highlight of this campsite has got to be the magnificent location, right under the towering limestone cliffs and waterfalls of the Sixt horseshoe; one of the ‘Grand Sites’ of France.
- Some hard-standing pitches are available, but it’s on a mountain. Don’t expect any pitches to be perfectly level! The pitch was big enough for our large caravan but not the awning.
- The shower block nearest reception was newly refurbished when we were there, however, the one at the top of the site was ‘rustic’ to say the least!
- Fresh bread is available daily from the on-site snack bar restaurant Le Carroussel. A staff member came round each pitch every evening to take bread orders. The restaurant will also provide packed lunches on request. The nearest shops are 3.5 miles (5.7km) away in the village of Sixt.
- They charge for dogs… our four p’tit pooches added 50% extra cost to the pitch – and there were absolutely NO dog facilities! One senses that dogs are discouraged in the area…
- We didn’t find the campsite particularly friendly; we have found this to be common in places filled with hardy mountain types. They never smile. They are sombre, focused and uninterested in the fripperies of happiness or sociability as they sit silently around their meagre campfires in beanies, eating Pot Noodle!
- We also found the reception staff less than welcoming. They were not rude, more stiffly professional – until the day we left, when they became hugely effusive! Maybe it’s us…
- Would I stay there again? – DEFINITELY!
For the Canine Crew
- 85% of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval falls within the Natural Reserve of Sixt-Passy; at 9200ha, it is the largest Natural Reserve in the Haute Savoie. As a consequence, dogs are not allowed off- or even on-lead in many areas and in some mountain refuges. So do not expect to be able to trek hut-to-hut over a glacier with your canine companions!
- The closest walk to the campsite, the Cirque du Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is definitely leads-on (and dogs are permitted only part of the way – as far as Buvette de Prazon.) Particularly when it is busy at weekends, the green-clad rangers will enforce this rule with a friendly word.
- Lower down the valley, Sixt village and Samoens are not part of the protected area, so there is plenty of utterly gorgeous off-lead walking.
- Dogs can walk off the lead on the river path all the way from Sixt to Morillon.
- Walks with Dogs is a link to the local dog-friendly walks in French; (a printed version in English is available free of charge from Sixt Tourist Office). We did a number of these walks; you will find links to the relevant blogs in the section ‘Sightseeing, Don’t Miss’ section below.
For the Humans to Do
- Mother Nature provides the real highlight around Sixt. As stated above, most of the area falls within the Sixt-Passy Natural Reserve, which contains an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, due to the diversity of environments and differences in altitude (from 900 – 3100m.) The ecosystems include marsh, mixed forests, alpine pastures, cliffs, lapiaz (weathered limestone) and glacial cirques, as well as magnificent high-mountain scenery.
- Easy Ascents – Six of the ski lifts work in summer, which can make getting into the high terrain with feet, paws and bikes very straightforward, if a little pricey. For information, click here.
- Walking and Hiking – Some of the hikes to more remote areas and mountain refuges are a serious proposition; they are at altitude and in total wilderness. You need to know what you’re doing and have the proper equipment. If you are unsure, The Sixt Tourist Information Centre has details of local Mountain Guides and Guided Walks.
- Lakes – click here for details of the many beautiful lakes in the area.
A variety of Summer Sports and Activities are readily available at Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. These include;
- Rafting – shooting the rapids in a rubber boat.
- Hydrospeed – shooting the rapids holding a float!
- Climbing – dangling off mountains on a string.
- Paragliding – jumping off mountains on a string, hopefully attached to a parachute.
- Via Ferrata – dangling off mountains attached to a fixed metal cable.
- Canyoning – rappels, slides and jumps along the local rivers.
- Mountain Biking – getting a ski lift then hurtling down terrifying slopes (more sedate options available – including loops on the valley floor!) Click here for some suggested itineraries.
- Horse Riding – letting the horse do the work.
- Bathing – FREEZING in a mountain pool. Yes. I tried it! There is also an open-air pool at Samoens. As is the case in many pools in France, Men wishing to partake of the pool will need a pair of Speedos. Swimming shorts are interdit! You have been warned!
- Fishing – humans try to outwit fish. The best place to do this is the lake at the Col de Joux Plane mountain pass (a famous climb which has featured a few times on the Tour de France). The lake is stocked with trout, which ups your odds and you can buy a fishing permit from the restaurant next to the lake. And while you wait. And wait… the views are spectacular – and you could always go for a walk!
- Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. The village is centred around Sixt Abbey, a small abbey and church dating from 12th to 15th Century in a pleasant, waterside setting.
- There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval about nature and how man came and settled in this mountain environment.
- Practical Guide – in both French & Engish, this practical guide to the area has maps and tells you all you need to know about activities, restaurants, shops etc.
Sightseeing Don’t Miss
These are some of the spectacular Dog-Friendly Off-lead Walks that we did – links to the relevant blogs will be added in!
- Le Cirque du Fer à Cheval – an easy, relatively flat walk, part of which is wheelchair accessible. It is very much on the tourist trail and gets very busy, particularly at weekends. If you need some sustenance halfway round, the Buvette de Prazon is a little mountain hut with tables outside, right under the 700-metre cliffs, with a backdrop of high mountain peaks! We saw a horse and cart going there, so presumably, you can arrive by carriage if you please! (Dogs are permitted on leads as far as Buvette de Prazon.)
- The Cascade du Rouget – the largest local cascade, although there are other very scenic waterfalls such as the Cascade de la Pleureuse and the Cascade de la Sauffaz (which is further along the trail that leads to the Cascade du Rouget).
- The Gorges des Tines – the walk along the Gorges des Tines is exceptionally pretty – and there was no-one there when we visited (although note that it becomes impractical after heavy rain…)
- Marvel, Morillon – I am not sure that we had the right idea here. We walked UP the Marvel ski run… It is possible to get the GME (Grand Massif Express) Telecabine up and walk DOWN (you will need a car to pick you up if you do this.) Although it is classified only as green, the tamest of ski runs, I assure you that going UP under your own steam is pretty strenuous!
You May Not Have Thought Of
- Drive a Dog Cart in Samoens – The “Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc” is Europe’s longest dog sled race and guess what, in spring and autumn, those dogs need to train. So how about a ride up the Giffre Valley from Samoens in a pooch-powered carriage.
To find out how we got on with Flash Floods, Unlucky Jim, Killer Sheepdogs – & The Kamikazi Chemi-Khazi, see The End of the Line – Sixt Fer-à-Cheval