Download GPX file for this article
44.1666677.083333Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mercantour National Park (French: Parc national du Mercantour) is a French national park in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. This exceptional natural setting is a good place for lovers of outdoor sports activities such as hiking and skiing.




The central core of the Mercantour massif is in the northeast, along the border axis and is made up of crystalline rocks. It is surrounded by sedimentary rocks

Many glaciers (including the summit of Gélas at Mount Clapier at Lake Allos ) covered the mountains of heights until the beginning of 20th century. With the sustained action of watercourses, they have deeply marked the morphology of reliefs and valleys.

Flora and fauna[edit]


Get in[edit]

The park extends over several valleys, and therefore presents many possibilities of access. The journey time therefore depends on the point of departure and the place of arrival. From the cities of the Côte d'Azur, allow between 1 hour and 4 hours by road.

By bus[edit]

The Lignes d'Azur network offers seasonal buses that allow you to get there for a small price. It is possible to board at several places in Nice (Vauban bus station, Thiers SNCF station, airport) or on the way.

In summer, the Randobus (€3 one way, can be purchased on the bus) lead to various high places for hiking (and other activities):

  • Bus 730: towards La Colmiane; possibility of stopping at Roquebillière or Saint-Martin Vésubie to take a free shuttle leading to the beginnings of hiking trails.
  • Bus 740: to Isola-Village, Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée and Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage.
  • Bus 770: towards Valberg.

In winter, the 100% snow buses allow you to reach the stations of Auron, Isola 2000, Valberg, Colmiane, Roubion and Boréon (€3 one way, €5 return, and it doesn't have to necessarily be on the same day). Reservations can be made on the Lignes d'Azur website up to 3 days in advance, and up to 2 days without guarantee of available space. You could hope for good luck without a reservation, but it could be full and you shouldn't put your bet on it.

Fees and permits[edit]

Map of Mercantour National Park

Get around[edit]


  • 1 Musée des Merveilles, Av. du 16 Septembre 1947, 06430 Tende, +33 4 93 04 32 50. 10:00–17:00 (closed Tuesdays). A museum that documents stone age and other historic artefacts from the Mercantour National Park, most notably, a large collection of real and reproduced petroglyphs from the surroundings of the nearby Bégo Mountain. Musée des Merveilles (Q15260437) on Wikidata Musée des Merveilles on Wikipedia
  • 2 Vallée des Merveilles, +33 4 93 04 64 64. A prehistoric site where you can see rock engravings. The ideal is to do the circuit in two days, you will then have to sleep at the refuge des Merveilles, managed by the French Alpine Club. Reservations needed. Vallée des Merveilles (Q736943) on Wikidata Vallée des merveilles on Wikipedia



  • The GR 5 and GR 52: these two Grande Randonnée trails cross the Mercantour from one end to the other and can only be done in several days.
  • The General Council of the Alpes-Maritimes publishes a hiking guide, the Randoxygène Rando Haut-Pays guide, which includes 60 hikes, of varying difficulty in the Mercantour Park or around it. This guide is available free of charge from tourist offices, houses in the national park or on the Internet. Among those:
    • 1 Le Lac Nègre. This hike has more than 600 metres of elevation gain and leads you first through the undergrowth before reaching more open areas offering superb views of the surrounding mountains and very cool streams. Finally you will arrive at a superb glacial lake, a good place to picnic and soak your legs (or your whole body for the less cautious). The route continues north beyond the Italian border. However, if you come by bus, you probably won't have time to venture on the other routes in the allotted time, unless you choose to run as the shuttle arrives at 10:00 and departs at 16:00. Lac Nègre (Q3215103) on Wikidata
    • 2 Randonnée du Mont Mounier. An alpine hike with an elevation change 1,200 metres and takes 9-12 km one way. Mont Mounier (Q826235) on Wikidata



As the park is mostly filled with alpine wilderness, you'll need to bring your own food inside. However, these are some places to eat within 10 kilometres proximity.



Most of the villages located in the Mercantour massif (on the outskirts of the Park) have at least one hotel as well as guest rooms or campsites, they also all have at least one restaurant and/or inn, but sometimes they have more.

There are several guarded refuges in the Mercantour, nestled in the middle of the mountains, most of the time several hours' walk from the first road. These huts are managed by the French Alpine Club and offer a catering service. It is often important to make a reservation. Find out more on the French Alpine Club website.

Taking into account the geographical extent and the differences between the villages, it is advisable to find out about the precise possibilities of accommodation and catering before leaving, at the tourist offices for example.




Stay safe[edit]

There's little risk of aggression in this sector, the advice below is intended especially for those who wish to venture into the mountains: Although the Mercantour is close to the Mediterranean, it is nonetheless a mountainous massif with all the risks that comes with it. So follow these few safety tips:

  • Choice of the route: choose a hike within your reach and remember that in the mountains, what counts is not the distance but the elevation gain (negative and positive) as well as the travel time. It is best to take a topographic map (such as IGN Top 25), so that you can find your way around if you get lost.
  • Personal equipment: Wear good shoes: sports shoes should be worn, of course the best is to wear high hiking shoes. Provide enough water (at least 1.5 litres per day and per person) as well as warm clothes and against the rain: in the mountains, the weather can change very quickly, the heat giving way to the cold and the rain.

Go next[edit]

This park travel guide to Mercantour National Park is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.