Family camping holidays

Wild at heart: take kids wild camping in sunny Avoriaz this summer

Last updated 7th April 2024

Swapping skis for silk hammocks and summer forests Katja Gaskell and her family take a wild camping holiday in Avoriaz, and think you should too.


The wild fun of a camping holiday in Avoriaz

“I hope you are not expecting to get much sleep,” said our guide Herve le Sobre as we unpacked our red and blue hammocks. “If it’s the first time doing this, then generally people don’t sleep very much.”

I had met Herve earlier that afternoon accompanied by my two eldest children, Alfie and Tess, aged 12 and 10. Our rendezvous point for this summer mountain adventure was a small parking bay on the looping road leading up to the purpose-built resort of Avoriaz. During winter, car-free Avoriaz forms part of the Portes du Soleil ski area. In summer, it’s a mecca for outdoor adventures.

What’s different about a camping holiday in the wild?

My family of five often spends summers in the French Alps, basing ourselves in the village of Morzine that sits below the mountain plateau of Avoriaz. We typically spend our days paddleboarding on the emerald green waters of Lac de Montriond or bouncing along the Wibit: an inflatable obstacle course at the Lac des Ecoles in nearby Les Gets. Occasionally I manage to drag my walk-weary kids for a hike, with promises of freshly flipped sugar crêpes when we finish. This time, however, we were going to try something different, we were going to camp in the wild.

Forests have the perfect architecture for wild camping

Shortly after meeting Herve he beckoned for us to follow him into the conifer forests, walking along marked hiking trails, the dirt paths hard under foot. We headed deeper into the mountains past fir, spruce and pine trees until, after an hour or so of walking, we arrived at a clearing. Standing in the middle was a small cluster of lofty pine trees, the perfect architecture for our camp.

Go on a wild camping holiday with an expert local guide

Herve le Sobre has been a mountain guide for over 15 years, leading visitors hiking and mountain biking during the summer and snowshoeing and sledding in winter. He also leads overnight bivouacking adventures.

Wild camping – or “camping sauvage” – is a bit of a grey area in French law. In theory it’s permitted anywhere except for the coast, protected natural sites or near classified historic monuments. Permission from the landowner is also required. However, in practice, rules are not always so clear cut, which is why it’s a good idea to go with a guide. Particularly if, like us, you’re not a family of seasoned campers, wild or otherwise.

There’s no tussling with tents when you’re out in the wilds

Herve busied himself unpacking hammocks among the trees. These were the lightweight parachute silk kind as opposed to the tasselled cotton ones you typically find in beach resorts. He even roped in the kids to help him string them up between the trees, before magicking insulated sleeping mats out of a backpack which, along with our own sleeping bags, made our beds were complete.

Nothing tastes like sausages cooked over a campfire

As the sun began to dip, Herve announced it was time to get ready for dinner and tasked Alfie and Tess with collecting wood, while h started a fire so we could barbecue sausages bought that morning from the local butcher.

My very urban children have spent their lifetimes living in big cities, so building a fire and roasting sausages outdoors was an adventure in itself. And soon we were tucking into piping hot diots, as the traditional local sausages are called, accompanied by chunks of fresh baguette and thick slices of Abondance and Tomme de Savoie cheese.

Prepare for the darkest skies on a wild camping adventure

The light was now fading and the temperature dropping; although the days are warm and sunny during summer in the mountains, nights can be very cold. So we piled on jumpers, jackets and hats, switched on our head torches and swapped sausages for a bag of oversized marshmallows, roasting them over the remains of the fire as darkness fell.

Herve was wrong, we slept like babies on this camping holiday

Then, when it was time for bed we retreated to our individual hammocks and switched off our head torches, one by one. If you’re not accustomed to sleeping outdoors, it is very dark in the mountains at night. There’s zero light pollution and because the tree canopy obscures the moon and stars, we were  enveloped in inky black night. I lay there for a while, being gently rocked in my hammock, listening to the sounds of the mountains at night. In the distance an owl hooted and, before I knew it, I’d fallen asleep.

When dawn broke around 5am it came with the sound of cowbells jangling, birds chirping and our mountain guide gently snoring. Then, when everyone finally woke, Herve boiled water for tea and we drank it as we watched the morning sky change colours from streaks of blush pink and tangerine orange to a soft golden glow.

“In French we call this kind of experience ‘insolite’,” said Herve, “meaning ‘one of a kind’”. As we slowly packed up the hammocks, I couldn’t help but agree. This truly was a unique way to experience the mountains.

How to plan a wild camping holiday in Avoriaz

Getting there

Direct UK flights to Geneva from 1 hours, 35 minutes

Geneva to Avoriaz from 1 hour, 40 minutes

Where to stay

MIL8 Hotel, Avoriaz, Family Room (2 adults, 2 children) from £257 per night

Find out more and book Mil8 Hotel

Good to know

Herve le Sobre runs overnight bivouacking adventures Avoriaz from £43 per person including dinner and breakfast

Book a wild camping holiday