Mercantour National Park, locally known as Parc national du Mercantour, is located in the southeast part of the country. It is found within the Aples-deHaute and Alpes Maritime provinces.
The national park covers an area of 264 square miles (685 sq km) and features seven valleys. The valleys are Bevera, Cians, Roya, TInee, Vesubie, Ubaye, and Verdon. Cime du Gelas is the third tallest summit in the Maritime Alps reaching a peak of 10,311 feet (3,143 m).
Mont Bego is a mountain with a summit of 9,423 feet (2,872 m), however, in addition to its atheistic beauty, there are approximately 37,000 petroglyphs dating back to the Bronze Age.
There are over 2, 000 species of flowering plants scattered throughout the national park. Hikers and trekkers will probably see one of the goat-antelopes known as a chamois with several thousand living within the boundaries of the protected area.
Other wildlife includes red deer, roe deer, rabbits, boards, wolves, buzzards, and the famous golden eagles. The golden eagle is a tremendous predator species who is known for capturing and flying off with sheep, antelope, and other similar size prey.
Mercantour National Park is a tremendous place to hike, climb, and trek through nature experiencing the abundance of valleys, mountains, canyons, and various waterways. The wildlife adds to the spectacular landscapes.
The park is a hikers paradise with over 372 miles (600 km) guided trails. Verdon canyon is one of the more popular canyons in France.
Verdon Gorge, or sometimes called Verdon Canyon, is a river canyon located in the national park. The gorge stretches across a distance of 15.5 miles (25 km). The elevation ranges along the way reaching up to a height of almost half a mile (700 m).
The Verdon River meanders through the canyon and features a striking turquoise-green color. It is considered one of the most picturesque river gorges in all of Europe. Kayaking on the river or hiking the canyon rim are two of the most popular ways tourists experience the gorge.
Rock climbers are attracted to Verdon Gorge because of the various cracks, pillars, and vertical walls create an abundance of challenging climbing opportunities. This climbing is considered technical and only for experienced climbers. The size is often compared to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States.
Trails in Mercantour National Park
Mercantour National Park is a popular place for hiking. The Verdon Gorge and park's proximity to the French Riviera make it a common excursion for visitors. There are over 75 different trails to explore throughout the park. Here is a quick glance into some popular trails.
Lake Negre and Pas du Prefouns Trail: This is a challenging 10.2-mile (16.4 km) that meanders through Vesubie Valley out to Lake Negre which sits at about 8,202 feet (2,500 m) in elevation.
Lac Autier Trail: This is a 4.7-mile (7.5 km) loop trail that travels across some rough terrain while providing views of the mountainous landscapes along with a lookout over a lake.
Lacs de Millefonds Trail: This is a challenging 4.7-mile (7.5 km) trail that meanders past five Millefonds Lakes and ascends to Mount Pepoiri. It is rated as difficult.
- 8 miles (600 km) of marked trails
- Mont Bego and the petroglyphs
- Verdon Canyon
- About France, The Gorges du Verdon, https://about-france.com/tourism/verdon-gorge.htm, retrieved June 2020.
- All Trails, Best Trails in Mercantour National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/france/provence-alpes-cote-d-azur/parc-national-du-mercantour, retrieved June 2020.
- France, Mercantour National Park, https://uk.france.fr/en/cote-dazur/article/mercantour-national-park, retrieved August 2019.
- France Voyage, Mercantour National Park, https://www.france-voyage.com/tourism/mercantour-national-park-19.htm, retrieved August 2019.
- Lonely Planet, Parc National du Mercantour, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/parc-national-du-mercantour, retrieved August 2019.
- Ultimate France, Mercantour National Park, https://www.ultimatefrance.com/holidays/provence-alpes-cote-dazur/mercantour-national-park, retrieved August 2019.