Mercantour National Park, Alpes-Maritimes: visitors guide
Visit Mercantour National Park, France
The Mercantour National Park is in the northern Provence region, running along the border with Italy. One of seven national parcs in France it covers an extensive region between Barcelonnette to the north-west and Sospel to the south-east, it covers much of the northern part of the alpes-Maritimes Department.
The parc offers a great variety of habitats and environments (predominantly lakes and mountains) and an equally wide range of flora and fauna. This diversity is due in part to the parc being the 'transition zone' from the high alps to the Mediteranean - hence various climates are experienced within the parc itself.
Discover the Mercantour National Parc
Mercantour National Park covers some 685 km², and consists of a central uninhabited zone comprising several valleys (Roya, Bévéra, Vésubie, Tinée, Haut Var/Cians, Verdon, Ubaye - and a peripheral zone that includes a couple of dozen villages.
Several of these villages are in stunning locations atop rocky peaks and outcrops. You should also visit the village of Coaraze just outside the parc boundaries to the west of Sospel and listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
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.
This region of exceptional landscapes attracts more than 400,000 visitors per year.
Vallée des Merveilles
One of the unexpected surprises and most popular destinations with visitors within the Mercantour National Park can be reached by heading north from Sospel to St-Dalmas-de-Tende, and then heading west on the D91.
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.
Where to stay in Mercantour National Parc
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 Cime 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 visitor centres are at Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee, Barcelonnette, Peone and Tende.
It is worth noting that just across the border into the Piedmont region of Italy is also a protected National Parc, the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, so the protected area falls in both countries.
Map of Mercantour National Park and places nearby
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Col de la Lombarde: site of natural beauty (7 km)
- Arboretum Marcel Kroenlein: remarkable garden (8 km)
- Caires de Cougourde: site of natural beauty (21 km)
- Cirque du Gelas: site of natural beauty (24 km)
- Col de la Bonette: site of natural beauty (28 km)
- Col de la Cayolle: site of natural beauty (29 km)
- Lac d'Allos: site of natural beauty (31 km)
The French version of this page is at Mercantour National Park (Francais)