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Mercantour National Natural Park

The Mercantour Natural Park offers a great diversity of landscapes with its grandiose mountains and its strong French Riviera sun.

Territory and heritage

In summer, the rich flora thrives in the Tinée valley. The saxifrages bloom every year near the glacial lakes of Vens and its waterfalls. This endemic Mercantour plant is part of this natural heritage that the Park wants to protect.

Along the Vésubie river, which runs through the park, many sites are to be discovered. The upper valley of the Gordolasque was covered in glaciers 20,000 years ago. Over the centuries, they have shaped the landscape, leaving behind important mineral formations. Typical flowers of the Mercantour, such as the Potentilla valderia, have developed in this valley where chamois and ibexes wander around. The upper valley of the Boréon has been protected for 50 years. It is the ideal place to observe the local fauna. A beautiful forest of firs and spruces surrounds an artificial lake.

In the high valleys of the Var and Cians, there is a great diversity of landscapes. The torrents of the Var have carved their ways through the glowing red walls of the Gorges de Daluis. A coast road along this surprising “Nice Colorado” gives access to the most beautiful summits in the Mercantour.

At the beginning of the XXth century, great reforestation actions allowed the creation of the Ratery forest. Larch and stone pines are planted in the high rocky valley of the Verdon. Today, this forest has become the habitat for several species, such as the nutcracker, a small bird that likes to be heard. The territory next to the Allos lake is also home to various ungulates, marmots and golden eagles. Carved out by glaciers, it is the largest natural lake in Europe. It is located more than 2,200 meters above sea level.

Tourist sites, emblematic monuments

The fort of Rimplas overlooks the valleys of Valdeblore and Tinée. It was a strategic place of defence which sheltered a garrison of 350 soldiers. Located on the Maginot line, this large artillery structure blocked the passage through the Tinée valley thanks to its plunging view on the paths. Its role, with the help of its annex, the Frassinea, was to prevent the Italians (or other intruders) from entering the French territory.

The dolomitic rocky needles, nicknamed “Les Demoiselles”, overlook Péone and its houses. This charming village a typical medieval mountain villages. It welcomes families who come to practice winter sports in the ski resort of Valberg.

The town of Colmars-les-Alpes, located in the green setting of the Haut-Verdon, has been awarded the label “Village et Cité de Caractère”. Fortified by Vauban, this town once served as a border with the kingdom of Savoy and has preserved many ramparts. Old houses and small squares decorated with pretty fountains also testify to a rich built heritage.

Housed in the heart of the Roya Valley, the Vallée des Merveilles is the emblematic site of the Mercantour Natural Park. Around Mount Bego, the visitor can discover an exceptional historical heritage: 40,000 cave paintings. Most of them seem to date back from 3,300 years B.C. You can see them on 4,000 rocks between the valleys des Merveilles and Fontanalba. They cover a total area of 17 km². These testimonies of the past are not the only treasures of these valleys. An exceptional fauna and flora also thrive there.

The activities

Several trailheads are located near the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Fenestre. The scenery along the Vésubie River is amazing, making it a popular hiking area. Routes of all levels allow you to immerse yourself in this preserved nature. Every year, pilgrimages dedicated to the Virgin Mary are organized on August 15th and September 8th, in order to pay homage to the Virgin who is said to have appeared on one of the peaks near the Gélas, surrounded by a halo of light.

When the snow is there, tourists can practice many winter sports in the pretty ski resort of Valberg. Its 90 kilometers of downhill ski slopes, located between 1,500 and 2,000 meters above sea level, benefit from a quality snow cover. There are also tracks dedicated to cross-country skiing.

All the cyclists in the region know the famous Col de la Cayolle which connects the high valleys of Bar and Ubaye. During the ascent of this pass, they can ride through different landscapes: hay meadows, larch forests and mountain pastures. Once at the summit, the bravest can admire a beautiful preserved nature.