The beauty of France’s Cote d’Azur is timeless and well regarded. What visitors to Nice, coastal towns and even Monte Carlo can explore in addition to their beautiful urban vacations are some of the most beautiful alpine peaks only 20 miles away.
As a national park the mountain area stretches for around 50 miles in a narrow ribbon of land between the town of Barcelonette and Sospel. The mountains themselves are known as Alpes Maritimes. Sospel is the closest access point to Monte Carlo being just around 13 miles away. Mercantour winds around some well settled areas but the national park itself is essentially a wilderness, with no towns or villages interrupting its stretch. Thus it is a well preserved wild landscape with only trails and refuge huts being places where hikers can stop for rest.
Arrival by bus:
Cars and bicycles are certainly options for reaching this terrain, but many out of town tourists and hikers will probably prefer the methods of public transport. Buses from Menton and Nice can give a lift for around $20 USD. Buses depart normal daylight hours. The bus from Nice airport directly is line 730.
The park contains several peaks, the tallest of which is Cime du Gelas coming in at just over 10,000ft. There is also the lake with the highest elevation in Europe: Lac d’Allos. The entire area is undisturbed with an array of streams, gorges, waterfalls and in summer one can see the vivid colors of flora and fauna. Alpine plants like the saxifrage, orchids and lilies give off potent smells and have brilliant colors against the green backdrops. Ibexes, eagles, hawks and falcons are just some of the standout wildlife to enjoy as well.
When to go:
The optimal time for visiting is definitely in summer. There’s no fear of overcrowding since the park is wide enough to accommodate many visitors. The winter brings challenges of ice and snow and the color departs from the paths. June through October the mountainsides are rich carpets of colors set against the warm summer sun and blue skies of a coastal mountain range.
The aforementioned town of Sospel is a beautiful alpine town to explore. It sits along the banks of a scenic river. It is complete with rustic homes, beautiful chapels, the ruins of a castle and small town charms. Mt. Bego in the region is home to Bronze Age rock carvings and Barcelonette as well as Vallee des Merevillies also offers charming escapes.