Mercantour National Park (Parc national du Mercantour)

Mercantour National Park

Mercantour National Park is one of eleven national parks in France. It is located in the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It is more particularly known for being one of the wildest in France, and one of the most varied in terms of landscapes, with very marked contrasts: its very particular geographical location, near the Côte d'Azur, brings Mediterranean touches to these alpine mountains. This is where the wolf naturally made its return to France in 1992 from Italy.

Its core is classified as a Category II protected area by the World Commission on Protected Areas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while its Optimal Membership Area is classified as Category V.



Location: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Map

Area: 264 sq mi (685 sq km)

Highest point: 10,309 ft (3,143 m)

Tel. +334 9281 2131

Official site


Description of Mercantour National Park

Mercantour National Park protected area if covered by a network of hiking trails. In total there are 56 routes with a total length of 600 km that range in various difficulty as well as length. The shortest trail is only half an hour long, while the longest can be covered in three days. One of the more interesting trails is that by Mount Bego. It was inhabited by the early humans since late Neolithic period. These hunters left interesting petroglyphs on the granite rock that is still visible today.



In order to protect wildlife, the central territories of the Mercantour massif were first classified as a Royal Hunting Reserve in 1859 by King Victor-Emmanuel II, then a Hunting Reserve in 1946 by prefectural decree and a Reserve in 1953 by ministerial decree. In 1936, the National Society of Acclimatization of France, founded in 1854 and then became the National Society for the Protection of Nature, also established the Lauzanier nature reserve, integrated into the Mercantour national park when it was created.

The national park was created in 1979. Since 1987 it has been twinned with the neighboring regional park Parco naturale Alpi Marittime in Italy (on the Argentera massif), with which it has 33 km of common border and with which a project European Park is also under study. In 1992, the wolf made a natural comeback from Italy. In 2009, a new decree modified its founding decree (1979), and its charter was approved by the Prime Minister on December 28, 2012 and submitted to the adhesion of its 28 municipalities, after four years of development in consultation with all territorial partners. To date, 23 of the 28 municipalities have wished to commit to this charter.

In 2013, the site of the Mercantour National Park and the Parco delle Alpi Marittime was included on the tentative lists of UNESCO World Heritage in both countries.

From 2013, the Park will benefit from a common management entity with the Maritime Alps Natural Park, on the Italian side, under the name of European Natural Park, a prelude to a possible inscription on the World Heritage of Humanity of the UNESCO and laboratory for cross-border cooperation in the management of protected natural areas.

The ten National Parks of France are currently reinforced by National Parks of France, a public institution responsible for ensuring the synergy of general resources as well as the national and international image of these nature protection tools.

In 2018, the membership area of ​​the Mercantour National Park is extended to the municipality of Barcelonnette.