Established in 1979, the Parc National du Mercantour in the Alpes-Maritimes is the youngest of France's ten national parks.****
This 68,500 hectare protected area stretches across 120 kilometers, from the Col de Tende to Ubaye. The Parc has two main goals:
- Protecting natural territory
- Welcoming and informing tourists about the region
Inhabited for at least 6,000 years, the Parc National du Mercantour is a veritable open-air temple. It is largely shaped by Mont-Bégo (2,872 meters tall), sharing, in two valleys, archeological treasures of more than 3,000 cave drawings.
These two valleys, the Vallée des Merveilles and the Val de Fontanalbe, were classified as historical monuments in 1989. In this magnificent territory, marked by Quarternary glaciers and a myriad of lakes, herders from the Bronze Age (1,800-700 BCE) signaled their presence on nearby rocks.
Abundant Wild Fauna
From rare animal species (ibex, golden eagles, wolves, bearded vultures) to the discreet world of insects, the fauna of Mercantour offers a rare diversity in Europe.
Several hundred species (some present since the end of the last glacial period) can be found in the region. Included are 197 vertebrate species, 53 of which are endangered.
Protection in the National Park
Thanks to the action of the Parc National, these animals - some of whom at risk of going extinct - have begun to repopulate the mountains of Mercantour.
One of the rarest features of Mercantour's fauna is the cohabitation of species from the Grand Nord (the Alpine ptarmigan), the coasts of the Mediterranean (the green lizard), and even Asia (the marmot).
You can also find several one-of-a-kind "associations" - this is the only location where small African ducks can rub shoulders with Tengmalm and Siberian owls, and so on.
If you are quiet and pay attention, you'll certainly have the opportunity to cross one or several of these amazing species. You're more likely to be seen than see yourself, but if you really observe, you'll definitely see some traces left in the snow or mud.