The Mercantour National Park is a popular park in the South of France high in the Alps mountains that border Italy. The Parc National du Mercantour, as it’s called in French, was created in 1979 and celebrated its 40 years of existence recently. The area is a fantastic destination for outdoor activities, from trekking in the summer to skiing in the winter. Our visits mostly occurred between June to September so we will focus on Mercantour National Park hiking for now.

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The parc is composed of several valleys spread over different departments: Verdon and Ubaye (Alpes de Haute Provence), Roya, Vésubie, Tinée, Cians, Bévéra, and Haut Var (Alpes-Maritimes). The Gordolasque valley is probably the more stunning of them. Most of the valleys are inhabited, small villages spread and perched high in the mountains. Given the vast region, make sure to pick your hiking trails prior to heading to the Mercantour park as trailheads might be far apart.

Vallée des Merveilles

Probably one of the most iconic attractions in Mercantour, the Valley of Marvels features over 40,000 petroglyphs dated to the Bronze Age. The Historical Monument is located at the foothills of Mont Bégo.

An option for those who are short on time is to visit the Musée des Merveilles in Tende.

A Practical Guide to Mercantour National Park // Hiking Path in the Mercantour

Hiking Path in the Mercantour

Mercantour National Park Hiking

The number of hikes in the Mercantour is almost endless with 373 miles (600 km) of maintained trails. Among the most famous treks that go through the Mercantour are:

  • GR5: a 1,367-mile trek (2,200 km) from the North Sea in Holland to the Mediterranean Sea in Nice through Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and France.
  • GR 52A: Known as the Mercantour Panoramic Trail, the 192 km from the Italian Piedmont side to Colmars in the South of France, going over the Col de Tende
  • GR 56: a 94-mile (151-km) loop around the Ubaye river

The largest natural lake at higher altitude in Europe is the Allos Lake. Alpin environment is present at the Boreon, la Gordolasque, et the Madone de Fenestre, which all offer incredible trekking experiences.

Mercantour Villages

Villages and smaller rural farms are peppering the hills of the valleys, though the Belvedere village is considered one of the most interesting of the Gorgolasque valley.

A Practical Guide to Mercantour National Park // Encounter with a Young Alpine Ibex

Encounter with a Young Alpine Ibex

Mercantour National Park Wolves

Wolves naturally returned to France from Italy and started repopulated in the high mountains of Mercantour. Watching them in the wild is probably one of the most incredible experiences, but the elusive animals are hard to spot. For a chance to see them relatively up close, head to the Parc Alpha close to the Saint-Martin Vésubie village.

Mercantour Wildlife

In addition to wolves, the fauna in the Mercantour is diverse. It’s common on the trails to see marmots, as well as Alpine Ibex (steinbocks).

Where is Mercantour National Park 

The parc is about 90 km from Nice. The drive takes about two hours given the narrow and windy mountain roads. It’s possible to visit the Mercantour as a day trip from Nice, either via a private car or by bus. Another option is the 90-minute train ride that leads to Tende, from where you can access the Vallée des Merveilles.

A Practical Guide to Mercantour National Park // Marmot

Marmot

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