Mercantour National park with donkeys
This walking tour with a donkey is full of variety. Through the foot-hills and the fragrance of Provence and up to the alpine panoramas of Mercantour National Park. From the oak to the larch; from the wheat fields to the gentian lawns; from a man made landscape to a sweeping scenery of wilderness. The last 2 days are a grandiose conclusion of the trip – with a good general idea of high mountain conditions and Europe’s largest glacial lake. Marmots, chamois and golden eagles will be there to meet you!
Suitable for families with kids from 5 years.
Duration: 8 days
Departure: may - september
Price: 727,00 eur per person adults / 615,00 eur per person children 5-12 yrs
- The advice of a local English speaking guide
- Accommodation at mountain refuge, guest house or mongol yurt
- FB treatment – breakfasts, picnic lunches, dinners
- your own personal donkey to carry your bags
- a road book an IGN map of the paths a leafy booklet on the valley,leaflet published by the Mercantour National Park.
- Transfer from Estenc-Villeplane at the end of the trek
- arrival in Villeplane
- anything not mentioned under “the price includes”
Nica - Villeplane
Arrival in Villeplane in the afternoon. Dinner and night in ecolodge.
Briefing at the farm and walk to the breathtaking Alpine red gorges along a wide panoramic vista. Night at the ecolodge.
Villeplane – Saint Martin d’Entraunes
Walk along a beautiful panoramic path until at St Martin d’Entraunes. Overnight.
Saint Martin d’Entraunes – Val-Pelens
A short, peaceful connecting link to your next destination which will allow you to ‘tantalise’ the high mountain altitude at your own rhythm. You can then continue with the Extra option below. This way with its evocative name, recalls the time when the public service had to provide good pair of shoes to ensure mail delivery … Before beginning to climb, the trail follows an old irrigation channel, to supply water to land or crops and then crosses the rocky Bramus in a spectacular waterfall. Passing through St Martin d’ Entraunes, there is also the alternative to visit the small Roman church with its magnificent altarpiece of the fifteenth century.
Extra option (without donkey)
This is the perfect occasion to visit the most alpine area of the valley, the circle of the ‘Clot de l’Aï’ is rich in mineralogy and offers beautiful scenery; a mountain full of life, dominated by the ‘Aiguilles of Pelens’ whose conquest became a veritable epic. From the ‘auberge des Aiguilles’, you will head to the base of a ski slope, which you will walk up, veering round to the right at the top, and heading towards a large opening in the trees. Through a woody ascent which transforms into a mineral, rocky climb, you will reach a beautiful crest. Arriving at the summit which overhangs the circle of Äi, you’ll be amazed by the magnificent view.
Distance: 5 km, walking time: 4 hrs, ascent: 635 m, descent: 635 m
Val Pelens – Entraunes
Option 1 – by the Serre d’Au
A stunning trek, travelling through ancient country living sites. Now that nature has taken over, it is the attentive eye that can detect the traces. You will then be mesmerised by the power of the dense, vertical waterfalls waiting for you towards the end of your day. Leaving your auberge, you will cross over the brook of Chastelonette and walk through the homonym sheepfolds to reach the green woods. After crossing the stream of Rinières, you will follow a long woody path to the Belvédère (‘panoramic viewpoint’) of Serre d’Au. Descending through the woods and passing the barns of Bourguet, you will come to the village of Entraunes.
Option 2 – by the Col des Champs 2045m
A remarkable trek towards the vast alpine landscapes of the mountain pass of Champs, meeting marmots along your way and what is more, an open panorama over the hautes vallées. You will be stunned by the power of the dense, vertical waterfalls awaiting you towards the end of your day. From your auberge, the itinerary takes you over the Luna ravine and up through a shoulder to arrive at a large open space, from where you will take the old path, rimmed with stones. Here you have the chance of a return trip to an outstanding geographical mountain pass. Descend past a shepherd’s cabin to Entraunes by a magnificent path which in times past was the principal link between the high valleys of Var and Verdon.
Distance: 17 km, walking time: 7-8 hrs, ascent: 920 m, descent: 850 m
Entraunes / Estenc
Walking up through the village, you will follow a pretty path along the bed of the impressive Var river, between towering cliffs, and across the footbridges over the torrents of Garréton, Aiglière and the Var, with their impressive vertical falls! Passing the chapel of St. Sauveur, you will follow the path around a little lake to walk through Pra Long (long meadow) and arrive at your refuge.
Estenc – Col del la Cayolle
Option 1 – Col de la Boucharde 2539m without donkey
If you are looking for an adventure for your last two days, you have the option here of leaving your donkey with your hosts and setting off hands free! Typically alpine, deep into the Mercantour park, this itinerary combines all the attractive elements of a high mountain environment: Panoramic mountain passes, barren ravines, gnarled larch and prancing chamois. Crossing over the Garret torrent, you will head for the core of the Mercantour national park. A charming journey through the woods, following the torrent, will bring you to the ‘Cabanes de Sanguinière’, shortly after which the woods will be replaced by a high mountain pasture and it is from here that you can see the mountain pass. The last part of the climb takes place in a mineral area: these pileups of large blocks of stones are in fact ancient moraines left by the melting of the last glaciers (about 10,000 years ago). On reaching the Col de la Boucharde (2539m), you have the opportunity to make the return trip up to the Tête de la Boucharde at 2639 metres high. Walking back down on the other side, the Ubaye valley, to the Bachelard, in the Alps of the Haute Provence, you will join up with the path and follow it to the ‘Refuge de la Cayolle’.
Option 2 – by the woods of Garret
An ascent which progresses in altitude up a beautiful path through a centennial larch tree forest to the timberline where you emerge to find high mountain pastures and the charming mountain range of Sanguinière with its wild scenery, typical of the contrast and diverse southern Alps. From your auberge, you will head towards the core of the Mercantour national park. Ascending through a beautiful larch tree forest, you will arrive at high mountain pastures, where you will join up with the Lausson path. From here, you will continue up to the mountain pass under the curious gaze of mountain animals.
Afternoon Stroll : The opportunity of a return trip up to the Tête de la Gipière (2626m) without donkey by the ancient col de la Cayolle. Don’t be surprised if marmots and even a few chamois are awaiting you!
Distance: 7 km, walking time: 3,5 hrs, ascent: 590 m, descent: 0 m
Col de la Cayolle – Estenc – the breathtaking tour of the lakes
Your weeks trek rounds off in a climax with an enchanted tour around the glacial lakes of Allos, Garrets and la petite Cayolle. You will lose yourself on this journey through nature, where the blue sky is reflected in the clear waters of the lakes and the endemic flora strewn with alpine pastures: Alonie bluebell, wooly Berardie, Koch gentians, acaulescent catchflies, vanilla orchids, pansies …After joining up with the mountain pass of Cayolle, your path will take you up past intense turquoise or sapphire lakes to the pass of La Petite Cayolle at 2639m. Passing the basin where the Garrets Lake is nested, you will ascend to 2676m (the highest point of the trek) before walking down along a panoramic crest. Shortly, you will witness the magnificent view of the Allos Lake, 200m towards the west – Europe’s largest natural lake at high altitude! (60 hectares) Through High Mountain pastures and the woods of Garret, you will walk down to Estenc, refuge de la cantonnière where you will be picked up and driven back to Villeplane.