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Crossing the Mercantour National Park – GR 52

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Crossing the Mercantour National Park – GR 52

Hiking Collection by Vincent Reboul



4-7 h

/ day

69.3 mi

20,725 ft

24,950 ft

This Collection could easily be called ‘marvellous valleys and mountains’. Crossing almost the entire Alpes-Maritimes department, this 112-kilometre (70 mi) route, divided into six stages, will take you through the Mercantour National Park. This wonderfully-diverse region boasts many archaeological treasures.

This southern part of the French Alps was an Italian territory for a very long time. It was after the Treaty of Turin on 24 March 1860 that Savoy and Nice were attached to France. This was made possible after a plebiscite organised among the people of Nice and Savoy. It’s for this reason that you find many Italian-sounding names along the route.

One of the highlights of this Collection is the archaeological zone of the engravings on Mount Bego. This is the Valley of Wonders, which contains countless petroglyphs engraved on over 4,000 rocks. The whole area is spread over some 1,700 hectares (4,200 ac) and allows you to step back in time to the Bronze Age. The opportunity to observe wild animals in their natural environment is another great perk, too.

The Collection takes place at high altitude, often around 3,000 metres (9,843 ft). As such, it isn’t suitable for all abilities. You need a good level of fitness, as there are no easy hikes or recovery days on this itinerary.

Wild camping is forbidden and bivouacs are only allowed near huts. To reassure you, you should know that four of the six stages are under 17 kilometres (11 mi) and can be completed in five hours.

There’s no need to overload your backpack, as all the refuges and lodges en route offer meals in addition to a place in a dormitory or a single room. A medium-sized pack should suffice. Be sure to make reservations as soon as possible.

Please note that, as some parts of the park are protected because of the precious petroglyphs, it’s forbidden to use walking sticks, unless you add rubber tips.

The hike starts in the village of Saint-Dalmas-de-Valdeblore. To get there, you must pass through Saint-Martin-de-Vésubie, which is only accessible by bus from Nice. At the end of the route, you arrive at the SNCF station of Garavan near Menton and the Italian border. From there all return options are possible.

Don’t attempt this hike in the middle of winter, early spring, or late autumn. Snow makes it impractical. The best period is from the beginning of June to mid-October. In the middle of summer, this GR is a victim of its popularity and the paths can get busy.

Make sure you have good hiking boots and warm clothes in all seasons, as mountain weather is unpredictable.

It’s important to know that there are two official departures from the GR 52. The itinerary I propose here is the short version. Since the summer of 2022, there has been an extension of the route which totals 17 days and starts in the village of Entraunes. This addition has been delayed while the trails damaged by the winter storm Alex in 2020 are restored.

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Parc national du Mercantour — Le GR 52

62.2 mi

18,050 ft

22,250 ft

Last updated: February 9, 2023

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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  1. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Saint-Dalmas-de-Valdeblore to Boréon stopover gite – GR 52

    14.9 mi
    2.0 mph
    5,050 ft
    4,375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The first day of walking on this GR 52 hits hard as they say! You won't really have the opportunity to warm up on flat ground since from Saint-Dalmas-de-Valdeblore, you will immediately climb significantly, to reach and then quite quickly exceed 2,000 meters above sea level. 'altitude.


    The highest point

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  2. 06:07
    10.4 mi
    1.7 mph
    5,425 ft
    3,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    During this second day you will evolve on high mountain terrain. It is a course where you will be sure to observe wild mammals in their natural habitats. Chamois, ibexes and marmots will be the reward for all the efforts made.


    You will climb in two stages, first to the magnificent lake of Trécolpas which

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  4. 05:11
    9.22 mi
    1.8 mph
    2,975 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    This short but very intense third stage will allow you to explore one of the jewels of the Mercantour National Park at your leisure: the Vallée des Merveilles.


    It is the largest rock art site in Europe. It covers an area of 1,700 hectares. These Bronze Age petroglyphs are spread across seven high valleys

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  5. 04:31
    9.88 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,375 ft
    3,725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    This magnificent and short stage offers for once more descents than climbs, as well as two detours outside the GR: the Cime du Diable and the bastion de la Forca.


    Since the ascent of the Cime du Diable is the only real difficulty of the day, you can easily afford these deviations from the official route

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  6. 05:43
    13.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    1,475 ft
    5,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This fifth stage begins in an ideal way. Over more than 12 kilometres, you will first move along the mountainside, then along a magnificent path that follows a ridge line. You will pass successively by Mount Giagiabella, then by the Baisse de Ventabren, and that of the Déa (the fall is with the step

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  7. 05:34
    11.1 mi
    2.0 mph
    3,425 ft
    4,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Here is a last enchanting day! Your inexorable rapprochement with the sea, as the day unfolds, greatly contributes to this wonder. This route is one of my favorites in my list of hikes. It's also a way to end this adventure in style. I am not exaggerating, this sixth step will elevate you!


    The mountains

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    69.3 mi
  • Duration
    34:36 h
  • Elevation
    20,725 ft24,950 ft

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