Located at the extreme South East of France, the Mercantour is a National Park covering a diversity of mountainous territories. The last section of the trail which crosses the French Alps from North to South (GR5) goes through its wonderful landscapes. The climate is alpine with Mediterranean influence: a perfect place for outdoor experiences!
Part of the Mercantour has been annexed from Italy (Sardinia) in 1860. Strong connections and cross-border projects are still running, so that a joint submission has been made to integrate the UNESCO world heritage list.
Six valleys preserved to the highest possible degree
The territory of the national park of Mercantour covers 6 valleys with some noticeable differences in terms of geology, fauna, flora and climate. The valleys are connected with multiple trails. to be explored by foot, bike, alone, with a donkey or with a guide. Mountaineering, rock climbing, canyoning are some of the activities for the more adventurous ones.
The valley of l’Ubaye is the North gate to access the park. The town of Barcelonette is connected to the train stations of Embrun or Gap and then to the villages of Larche, Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye or Jausiers. With 300 days of sun per year, there is no risk planning to explore its remarkable sites like the Bachelard or the pass of la Cayolle.
South of l’Ubaye, the upper Verdon valley is famous for its lake: the lake of Allos. It is the largest high-altitude natural lake in Europe, not far from the fortified village of Colmars-les-Alpes. In the upper Var valley, sometimes called Colorado of Nice because of the color of the rocks, the canyons of Daluis and of Cians are worth a hike. Further in the South, the valley of Tinée and the valley of Vésubie are stricking and full of contrasts: forests, lakes, rocky peaks, with a great variety of wildlife. The Gelas, the highest peak of the Mercantour (3 143m) is only 50km away from the sea.
The Southern limit and south gate of the park is the valley of la Roya and la Bereva. Access is possible from Nice, Monaco or Menton. You should not miss the 40 000 pieces of rock-carving made some 5 000 years ago of the Vallée des Merveilles, which is a precious archaeological spot.
A great cycling tour and numerous trails
- There are plenty of hiking (600 kilometers !) and cycling trails in the Mercantour. The rangers designed a great cycling tour: a 500 kilometers cycling loop going through 19 major sights. Be careful as some restrictions may exist. Besides, the Park edited a web application to help you prepare your next hike.
The wolf in Mercantour
A big issue on the territory is the wolf. Talking about its return is more risky than talking about politics. Indeed, wolves disappeared from France in the 30s, but in 1992 a first couple has been spotted in the Mercantour crossing from Italy. Today between 30 and 40 wolves are a growing concern for sheeps and shepherds. Some talks about a conspiracy and believe that the return of wolves is not so natural…Anyway, the natural park is in a kind of dilemma, between angry farmers and its mission to protect wildlife. But you will have little chance to spot a wolf…
Pictures Mercantour National Park/©