Walks and Treks in the Maritime Alps

The Mercantour and Alpi Marittime Parks

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9 Jun 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm

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This guidebook describes 18 day walks and 6 long distance routes. The treks include a 5-day traverse of the French Mercantour National Park and a 7-day traverse of the Alpi Maritime Park, and the walks range from 6 to 20km in length. The routes are suitable for novices and experienced trekkers alike.

Seasons Seasons
mid-June to late September is guaranteed for snow-free paths and open huts; July and August spell wildflowers galore; October means crystal-clear visibility and having the whole place to yourself.
Centres Centres
France: Tende, Castérino, St-Martin-Vésubie, Le Boréon Italy: Terme di Valdieri, Entracque, Vernante
Difficulty Difficulty
from easy strolls along mountain streams on broad tracks, through to multi-day treks across arduous passes with elementary rock passages.
Must See Must See
wildlife (magnficent ibex, chamois and marmots) and wildflowers; high-altitude lakes (Fremamorta, Lac Nègre); Argentera, Gelas and Clapier all over 3000m; prehistoric rock engravings are visitable from Castérino; old-style spa resort Terme di Valdieri with paved tracks dating back to the 19th-century royal game reserve; Col de Tende and Col de Fenestre.
9 Jun 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview

    Guidebook to walking and trekking in the Maritime Alps on the border of Italy and France, just north of Nice. It includes 18 graded day walks, on both the French and the Italian sides, ranging from 6km to 20km in length and suitable for a range of abilities. There are also 6 long treks, including a 5-day traverse of the Parc National du Mercantour and a 7-day traverse of the Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime.

    Detailed route descriptions sit alongside colour maps, and there is full information about accommodation options down in the valleys and up in the mountains. Useful French-English and Italian-English glossaries of walking terminology are included, too.

    Rising to over 3000m above the sun-drenched French Riviera, the Maritime Alps form the western edge of the mighty Alpine chain. Wildflower lovers will also appreciate the remarkable range of flowers, including many unique to the area. Worlds away from the hustle and bustle and crowds of the coast this is a marvellous area for novice walkers and seasoned long-distance trekkers alike.

  • Contents

    The Maritime Alps
    Exploring the Maritime Alps
    Local information
    When to go
    Dos and don'ts
    What to take
    Using this guide
    The Walks
    Walk 1 Fontanalba rock engravings circuit
    Walk 2 Mont Bégo loop
    Walk 3 Vallée de la Roya to Vallée de Vésubie
    Walk 4 Upper Vallée de la Gordolasque
    Walk 5 Lacs de Prals circuit
    Walk 6 Ancient passes above Madone de Fenestre
    Walk 7 Vallon du Haut Boréon circuit
    Walk 8 Lacs Bessons
    Walk 9 Around the Argentera
    Walk 10 Lac des Adus loop
    Walk 11 The Great Lakes tour
    Walk 12 The Alpi Marittime trek
    Walk 13 The Valasco tour
    Walk 14 The Fremamorta loop
    Walk 15 Rifugio Bozano
    Walk 16 Rifugio Remondino and Lago di Nasta
    Walk 17 Vallone di Lourousa
    Walk 18 Traversing Colle di Fenestrelle
    Walk 19 Rifugio Pagari loop
    Walk 20 Vallon del Vei del Bouc
    Walk 21 Gorge della Reina
    Walk 22 Vallone degli Alberghi
    Walk 23 Costa di Planard
    Walk 24 The border forts

    Appendix A Route summary table
    Appendix B Useful contacts
    Appendix C French–English and Italian–English glossaries

  • Maps

    Excellent maps are available for both sides of the Maritime Alps. They are widely available at local outlets, as well as leading map stores and outdoor suppliers in the UK.


    Signpost in France


    Signpost in Italy

    The sections of the Mercantour Park in France covered in this guide need the 1:25,000 series by IGN (www.ign.fr), carte de randonnée sheets 3841OT Vallée de la Roya and 3741OT Vallée de la Vésubie. The only drawback is that where they stray even metres into Italian territory, the map converts to different graphics and paths all but disappear. The Mercantour uses a brilliant system whereby the numbers on marker poles at key junctions are found on the maps, so you always know exactly where you are. These are referred to in the walk descriptions and denoted by a ‘P’ and then two or three digits, eg ‘123’ (so ‘P123’).

    For Italy a single map is sufficient – Cartoguida 1 Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime 1:25,000 by Blu Edizioni (www.bluedizioni.it), with a clear design that makes it especially easy to read. The sole exception is Walk 24, which needs the first French map.

    A last but not least suggestion is to purchase the handy 1:50,000 maps Montagnes sans Frontière, published by L'Arciere, Cuneo, 1995. Designed to accompany the guidebook of the same name in Italian and French describing trans-frontier routes, they are also sold as a set for a reasonable €8. Not completely up to date, but worthwhile for an overview.

  • Updates
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    August 2017

    p28 Valleys and Bases in Italy
    The summer shuttle bus services linking Entracque, Trinità, San Giacomo, Lago della Rovina are on-demand services – see p34 for contact numbers.

    p31 + p159 + p184 + 187 San Giacomo: the Park Foresteria aka Rifugio San Giacomo tel 0171 978704 www.bmgelas.com open April to October.
    The Park Visitor Centre has closed

    p37 Austrian Alpine Club in the UK web site www.aacuk.org.uk

    p44 Maps
    Excellent 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps are published by Fraternali www.fraternalieditore.com

    p138 Albergo Balma Meris www.locandabalmameris.com

    p147 line 6: the fork L past ruined huts is now Grade 3. An easier alternative (30min longer) continues straight on in ascent before descending to be joined by the Col de Cerise path.

    p163 Ponte Valasco: cross the bridge and continue uphill to the 1996m junction

    p165 Access: cars are allowed as far as Pian della Casa del Re (1735m)

    p167 2nd last line: the fork L past old huts is now Grade 3. An easier alternative (30min longer) continues straight on in ascent before descending to be joined by the Col de Cerise path.

    p173 Access: it is now possible to drive as far as Pian della Casa del Re, and shorten the walk by 1hr.

    p205 line 5: the best path now crosses to the L side of the stream and climbs past Costa Lausea, before dipping briefly to recross the stream near a huge boulder. In the shady corridor it's not far up to the signed junction (well before the 1750m fork) where you branch R for the climb to Gias Vilazzo.

    June 2016

    p36 the web site for the UK branch of the Austrian Alpine Club should be www.aacuk.org.uk
    p138 Albergo Balma Meris web site has changed to www.locandabalmameris.com
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Gillian Price

Gillian Price was born in England but has lived in Venice for many years. Gillian has steadily explored the mountain ranges of Italy, and Corsica, and brought them to life for visitors in a series of outstanding guides for Cicerone. She is an active member of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) and Mountain Wilderness.

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