The wonders of the Mercantour, from refuge to refuge

On the last section of the GR5, which crosses the Alps, the Larche - Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore route guides you into the heart of the Mercantour Park. An idyllic hiking area, to discover one of the most beautiful natural areas in France and the culture of the Nice hinterland.

The GR5 is 2,500 km long, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, and in its Alpine section it offers an unprecedented range of landscapes. From Lake Geneva, the relief of Haute-Savoie gradually gives way to a palette of Mediterranean colours in the hinterland of Nice. For hiking enthusiasts, there are many unique itineraries to explore. From Larche to Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore (External link) , the paths venture into the heart of the Mercantour Park (External link) , to help you discover its heritage and exceptional biodiversity.

From Larche to Bousieyas, going back to the future

With your bag on your back and your walking shoes on your feet, you are ready to leave the small village of Larche, located near the Italian border, to reach the hamlet of Bousiéyas. On your way, you will come across a modern masterpiece. With its tent-like structure and its lines reminiscent of Le Corbusier's style, the church of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, built for the 1968 Olympic Games, bears witness to the will of the time: to replace the small wooden chapel of Alpe d'Huez but also to offer a view of the Meije and its emblematic peaks of the Alps. This is a far cry from the traditional mountain churches with their rough stones!

In the beautiful Lauzanier valley, back to basics with the traditional huts and the sheep park of Eyssalps. After having met these four-legged locals, the Lauzanier lake will welcome you for a well-deserved break, with a "breathtaking panorama" supplement.

The option for the night:__ the gîte d'étape de Bousiéyas (External link) , typical with its stones and wooden shutters, to relax on the terrace.

From Bousieyas to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, taming the passage of time

Sheep are not the only lords of the Alps, as you will discover on your way to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée. At the Col de la Colombière, ibexes reign supreme and welcome hikers. A little further on, wedged between two summits, Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage plunges you into its typical mountain village alleys, with their dark schist facades. After a diversion to admire the remarkable painted decoration of the Sainte-Marguerite chapel, dating from the late Middle Ages, a treasure hunt awaits you in the heart of the village. The treasures in question? The many old sundials scattered throughout the houses.

The option for the night:__ the stone-walled refuge of Rabuons (External link) , to enjoy the breathtaking view of the lake of the same name and the Tinée valley.

From Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée to Roya, looking into the distance, in a grandiose setting

Another commune, another chapel, but just as unmissable. In Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, the starting point of the trail that will take you to Roya, the Saint-Sébastien chapel has one of the rare exterior decorations of the county of Nice, superbly preserved since the 15th century. After culture, the rest of the route is dedicated to the nature of this region of the Alps. Dense and mysterious coniferous forest on the way to Auron, panoramic views of the summits from the Chamois belvedere at an altitude of 3,000 metres, vertiginous canyons in the Lugière valley... The panels and atmospheres follow one another in a raw setting, until the hamlet of Roya.

The option for the night:__ the gîte de Roya (External link) , located in the heart of this traditional pastoral village.

From Roya to the Longon refuge, walking in a lunar landscape

After leaving Roya and crossing its wild valley, you enter the heart of the Mercantour National Park. At least, in theory, because when you arrive at Mont Mounier, you will feel more like you are walking on the moon. Climb to the top of the so-called Montagne Noire to get a 360° view of this timeless landscape and enjoy one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Southern Alps, perched at an altitude of 2,585 metres. The change of scenery then continues at Mont Démant, surrounded by high limestone bars, where the ruins of a small observatory created in 1893 still remain.

The option for the night:__ the vacherie-refuge de Longon (External link) , run by a family of breeders who produce cow's and sheep's milk cheeses on the spot.

From the Longon refuge to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, learn more about the local flora

After a hearty breakfast at the Roure cowherd, made up of farm products, you can set off on a privileged discovery of the local flora. From the majestic forest of La Fracha to the village of Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, passing through the arboretum of Roure, the hiking trails invite you to wander among the numerous tree species, Scots pine, white elm, chestnut, royal walnut or even white fir. Finally, after the vegetation, the region's heritage is revealed in the medieval village of Roure, where the purple houses are a vibrant testimony to the typical agro-pastoral architecture of the Alps.

The option for the night:__ the brand new and beautiful gîte d'étape de Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (External link) , inaugurated in 2018 in the heart of the village.

From Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée to Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore, immerse yourself in the culture of the Nice hinterland

From the Saint-Roch chapel, in the heights of Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, join the old road that linked the commune to the high villages of Valdeblore to take a leap into the history of the region and its particularities. Start with the "roubines", the characteristic little sewage canals that will allow you to bypass the Roubinastre valley. In the village of Rimplas, relive the epic of the very first fort of the Maginot line built in the commune, or soak up the local folklore by pushing open the door of the Petit musée des Traditions populaires.

The option for the night:__ the gîte Les Marmottes (External link) to put your feet under the table, in front of the big fireplace.

Getting to the Mercantour