Mercantour National’park is in the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur area, running along the border with Italy south east of Barcelonnette and north west of Sospel, where it receives more than 800,000 visitors per year. It constitutes much of the northern part of the alpes-Maritimes Department.
Mercantour National Park covers some 685 km², and consists of a central uninhabited zone comprising several valleys (Roya, Bévéra, Vésubie, Tinée, Cians, Verdon, Ubaye – and a peripheral zone that includes 28 villages. Several of these villages are in stunning locations atop rocky peaks and outcrops.
The scenery in the Mercantour Parc is really some of the best to be found in France, and it is quite lovely to walk through the lower meadows and woodlands, or if you are more experienced, to embark on one of the more strenuous mountain tracks.
The parc offers a great variety of habitats and environments, and an equally wide range of flora and fauna, due in part to being on the ‘transition’ from the high alps to the Mediteranean – hence various climates are experienced within the parc itself.
One of the unexpected surprises worth seeing within the Mercantour National Park can be reached by heading north from Sospel to St-Dalmas-de-Tende.
From the Les Mesces Refuge there is a hike of 10km that takes you into the “Vallée des Merveilles” where hundreds of 3,000 year-old rock carvings of people and animals can be seen.
The majority of people exploring the parc base themselves in one of the towns on or near the Barcelonnette to Sospel road that passes along the south of the parc – these towns include St-Martin-de-Entraunes, St-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, St-Etienne-de-Tinée and St-Martin-Vésubie. The road itself reaches an altitude of 2800 metres (one of the highest in Europe) as it passes by the Col de la Bonette.
There are numerous information points within the Mercantour National Parc where you can find more information when you visit: the most important are at: Saint Martin Vésubie, Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee, Barcelonnette, Peone and Tende