The Mountains of the Mercantour National Park
The area of the Mercantour National Park:
A PLACE FOR SPORTSMEN, FAMILIES AND NATURE LOVERS
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS A "NATIONAL PARK"?
It is an area, generally extensive, whose scenic beauty, cultural interest and historically preserved character justify special protection which will ensure the continuity of this exceptional heritage. The designation "national park" is recognised worldwide as the highest level of quality and protection for outstanding natural areas.
The unique character of the Mercantour territory, on the border between France and Italy, justified its classification as a "national park" on 18 August 1979.
There were many stages and twists and turns before the official creation of the Mercantour National Park. Previously, some of its areas were partially protected, such as the Mercantour national hunting reserve and the Vallée des Merveilles listed site. It is now one of the ten French national parks.
WHAT IS IT FOR?
A national park plays an essential role in maintaining the biodiversity of ecosystems, species and genetic variations that make up the diversity of life. It safeguards varieties of wild and cultivated species and gives them the space they need to live. On the other hand, it preserves the entire history of a territory that constitutes our cultural heritage.
Thus, by protecting a great diversity of life forms, and sites of exceptional beauty and value, a national park enriches the quality of life of humanity.
WHAT ARE ITS MISSIONS AND OBJECTIVES?
The fundamental mission of any "French-style" national park is to protect and enhance the natural environments, flora, fauna, cultural heritage and landscapes that give each park its own character.
Knowledge of biotopes and ecosystems, maintenance of traditional activities, organisation of tourist traffic, land-use planning, education and awareness-raising for visitors... a multitude of actions are carried out, always with a view to sustainable development.
ONE TERRITORY, TWO ZONES
Like all French national parks, the Mercantour Park has a core area (formerly the central zone) and an accession area (formerly the peripheral zone).
The core area of the park is 679 km². Its regulations protect nature from major human activities and the permanent presence of inhabitants. However, there are a few traditional hamlets that are inhabited on a seasonal basis. With its exceptional heritage, this area is subject to strict regulations that visitors must respect.
Its "accession area" is currently 1,083 km². It has about 18,000 permanent residents in 23 municipalities. The Park contributes to local economic development, with a constant concern to harmonise the impact of human activities and the protection of the environment.
The Park's missions are carried out in these two areas and complement each other to make the Mercantour a place of harmony combining protection, discovery, local development and respect for traditional activities.
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF MERCANTOUR
The Mercantour National Park covers 1,762 km² (679 in the core zone and 1,083 in the accession area), in the extreme southeast of France.
Adjacent to the border of the Italian Piedmont, with which it shares nearly 33 km of ridges, the mountains of the Massif du Mercantour are the last promontory of the Alpine arc to the south, before its sudden plunge into the Mediterranean. At the top of the Gélas, the highest peak in the Mercantour at 3,143 m, you are only 50 km from the sea as the crow flies!
It presents two large massifs separated by the axis of the Tinée: to the northwest a limestone or schist massif, to the southeast the granite massif shared with the Argentera. With a length of 150 km, the territory extends over six valleys in the Southern Alps and covers two departments: the Alpes-Maritimes, for about two-thirds of its area, and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Verdon, Var-Cians, Ubaye, Tinée, Vésubie and Roya-Bévéra – each valley has its own distinct character!
Located at the crossroads of multiple climatic, geological and altitude influences, the Mercantour National Park is made up of a mosaic of natural environments whose extreme diversity explains the exceptional richness of the fauna and the flora.
The Mercantour is a place for families, sportsmen or simply nature lovers.