19 July 2023
Whether you’re with the family, on your own or with friends, spending a night in a refuge is a unique experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the magnificent landscapes of the Mercantour, just outside Nice.
Who hasn’t experienced the total pleasure and well-being of sitting on the terrace of a refuge, watching the sun set over the horizon?
Just off the Côte d’Azur coast, a host of refuges and stopover gîtes welcome you in the mountains or in isolated hamlets waiting to be discovered.
The wardens are there to welcome you, feed you and advise you on the surrounding environment.
Choose an itinerary suited to your physical condition
In the mountainous massifs of the high valleys of the Tinée and Vésubie, in the territory of the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan area, you’ll find a wide range of choices.
It is advisable to find out about access conditions (walking time, altitude difference, weather and any difficulties).
At the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolitan information offices, our advisors will be able to help you find your way around.
Mountain professionals (guides, tour leaders…) will also be on hand to suggest suitable routes.
Hiking ideas: The Vens lakes
One of the most beautiful landscapes in the Mercantour Park!
Ideally situated in a green setting, this lakeside refuge offers a unique view that is much appreciated by hikers. There are several access routes, with walking times and gradients to suit all abilities, even the youngest.
Good to know: On the FFCAM (French Alpine and Mountain Clubs) website, a search engine allows you to find your refuge according to access time.
Checklist for preparing your hike and your night in a refuge :
- Book your night and half-board
- Be well informed about the conditions in the refuge
- Charge your phone fully before setting off, as charging in the mountains is not always possible
- Prepare your “sheet/sack”, a headlamp and a change of clothes
- Check the weather forecast a few days before the outing
- Pack a picnic lunch
A refuge… you have to deserve it!
We’re off! Tonight we’ll be sleeping in the mountains.
The climb along the narrow path zigzags upwards, first under the protective shade of the larches, then through the flower-filled high meadows.
A word of advice: leave as early as possible. An early start between 7am and 8am is ideal, to avoid the summer heat.
In the afternoon, in the mountains, a thunderstorm is not always out of the question. So it’s best to get to the refuge early enough. Leaving early is also a good way of discovering chamois and marmots, not yet drowsy from the heat.
Hiking idea: Overnight at the Merveilles refuge
From Gordolasque, it takes 4-5 hours to reach the Merveilles refuge via the Pas de l’Arpette. The Gordolasque valley offers an enchanting setting. The beginning of your hike will be rich in animal encounters. Marmots, chamois and ibex – you’ll have plenty to admire and photograph. Higher up, the Pas de l’Arpette opens up onto the Merveilles valley. Spend the night in the refuge and wake up to an enchanted experience in the heart of this legendary valley. The hut wardens will provide you with simple, well-balanced, home-cooked food to recharge your batteries.
All the mountain refuges are supplied by heli-lift or by portage on the backs of men during the season. If you have a little room in your rucksack, they always appreciate a salad or some fresh vegetables that you can bring up.
How do things work on site?
Sleeping at high altitude just requires a few minor adjustments, but believe me, you soon get the hang of it.
The hut warden spends his summer up there from June to September and will be your best local advisor for tips and ideas for the next day’s hikes.
However, as he is often unavailable by telephone, he cannot answer your questions before you leave. Don’t worry, the refuge’s website explains everything very clearly (times, recommended equipment, good practice). You can book online.
You’ll be sleeping in a dormitory, with other hikers who may have different times to you, getting up at the crack of dawn. It is therefore very important to respect mealtimes and not to make noise in the evening. When you go to bed, do so in silence in the dormitory with the light off, otherwise you run the risk of waking up other hikers.
You won’t be able to recharge your mobile phone or other electronic equipment on site, as electricity is often solar-powered at these altitudes and the flow is therefore limited to the essentials of the refuge. If the warden refuses you a plug, it’s not out of ill will, but to guarantee a secure supply for the whole group.
Here, the key word is teamwork, and you’ll see just how much fun it can be to chat over a meal with other mountain lovers.
A successful refuge experience
The Mercantour National Park, in partnership with the Parc des Écrins, gives you the keys to its refuges:
Hiking idea: The Cougourde refuge from the Boréon car park
This refuge is located in the Haut Boréon, on the edge of a beautiful larch and stone pine forest. Exceptional surroundings and unspoilt nature await you at this altitude.
It is the starting point for many hikes, including the Caire de Cougourde, the Trécolpas lake and the Bessons lakes.
As with other Club Alpin Français huts, bookings can be made online via the refuge’s website.
Find the list of refuges here
Explore the highest peaks of the Mercantour Park mountains and stop off at refuges or gîtes Go for a hike and stopover in the heart of nature to enjoy the wonderful landscape…