The most beautiful mountain lakes only 1 hour from Nice

20 May 2023

The mountainous territory of Nice Côte d’Azur offers fantastic hikes in a wild nature, near mountain lakes and refreshing torrents. Transparency, pure water, from dark blue to turquoise or green, relax to the sound of lapping water….

For a day, a bivouac or a night in a refuge, forget everything and enjoy a unique mountain experience in the heart of the National Park!

First of all, let’s go to Vésubie, starting from le Boréon (also known as Nice’s little Switzerland), near Saint-Martin-Vésubie.

1 – Rocky landscape at Lac Nègre

If you want to take in the sights, Lake Nègre is for you. Mineral atmosphere, sometimes dark waters of this immense lake, you will be surrounded by granite rocks. The ascent is made by the wild valley of Salèse, on the GR52 at first until the Col de Salèse. A deviation has been set up with adapted markings by the road to the Col. A word of advice: the month of June is particularly beautiful here thanks to the carpet of rhododendrons in the upper part of the valley.

Count on 4 hours of hiking to reach the lake and 1h30 more if you push on to the Pas du Préfouns above the lake.

All the information about the tour on the website Randoxygene and for all the news on trail openings/closures it’s on the website info sentiers du Parc National du Mercantour (in French)

2 – Trécolpas and Bessons lakes

From the upper car park of the Boréon and by the GR52 you can go up towards the Cougourde refuge (named after the peak which dominates it). This refuge is the starting point of many hikes, with lakes in sight again!

First of all you will go up to the lake of Trécolpas, a loop is made from the refuge to admire it at leisure. Infos rando here or here (in french).

A more difficult hike takes you up to the Bessons lakes, which are much less frequented. You will pass by the small lake of Sagnes from which you will have a plunging view on the lake of Trécolpas. It is an understatement to say that this circuit will delight you, behind each glacial lock is a marvel to be discovered… Count on 6 hours of hiking for 960 metres of difference in altitude, the beauty of the twin lakes will be your reward!

3 – La Gordolasque, a little corner of paradise

Still in Vésubie, the village of Belvédère is the gateway to the Vallée des Merveilles. In the Gordolasque, a wild valley with torrents and waterfalls in the middle of alpine pastures and forests, you can’t help but fall in love with this beautiful corner of the Mercantour. To see: the Ray waterfall, the Estrech waterfall and the hut where the film “Belle et Sébastien” was shot in 1952.

Information on the short walks around the Gordolasque : Cascade de l’Estrech et  walk in the footsteps of Belle and Sebastian

@OTM NCA / J.Kelagopian

To go further, I recommend the hike to the Vallée des Merveilles. The departure is from the Countet car park, then you climb up to the Pas de l’Arpette. From there you will have a view of the whole Merveilles site and its numerous lakes. This sporty alpine hike will take you to the Lac Long and the Merveilles refuge in 7.5 hours round trip. A night at the refuge will allow you to complete this itinerary over two days and thus better enjoy your journey.

To do: take advantage of your night at the refuge to book a visit to the Merveilles site. Infos Visits Vallée des Merveilles

From the Countet car park, you can also reach the Fous lake and the Nice refuge. Count 4 hours of walking with some steep climbs at the beginning. The Gordolasque valley is very wild and it is not uncommon to come across chamois and ibexes, so be prepared to make beautiful encounters!

Let’s go now to the Vallée de La Tinée, to discover the high altitude lakes near the mythical Col de la Bonette!

4 – The lakes of Vens

One of the most beautiful itineraries of the Mercantour to discover, with the view over the lakes!
Take the Tortisse circuit from the hamlet of Le Pra on the Bonette road, so you can admire the mountain lakes from above, as if seen from a plane. You will plunge into them by the path which descends from the iron pass and will pass by the refuge before approaching the largest of the lakes.

It is best to spend a night here to extend the experience the next day. The lower lakes offer great photo opportunities, including the so-called Fisherman’s Lake with its larch trees reflected in the clear water.

The route is visible on the website Randoxygene and on visorando

Refuge du Lac de Vens @Agence H Media 265 / OTM NCA

5 – Lakes of Gialorgues

From Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage, the Gialorgues valley opens up with Fort Carra as a backdrop, offering us a postcard landscape. The track starts after the village car park, it is passable but beware, you will need an elevated vehicle or a 4X4, some gutters and ruts being a little rough. By car, you can drive up to the marker 73 and the start of the trail. It is possible to walk up the track, but it will take you 1 hour to walk up and 1 hour to walk back down.

The path rises under the cover of trees, before reaching a small plateau with numerous Sagnes and streams where you can take a short break with your feet in the water.

Once you reach the refuge, the main path continues towards the Gialorgues pass. To discover the lakes, invisible from the path, you must make a diversion to the right, under the col de la roche trouée. Calm and mineral atmosphere await you at the top. On the way up, you may discover the flock of sheep that graze in the valley all summer. Info on the Gialorgues pass and lakes here and here.

6 – Tour du Lausfer

Isola 2000 is well known in winter for its skiing, but it is also a starting point for many hikes on the Italian border. I suggest you discover the Lausfer lakes behind the Lombarde pass and from the Saint-Anne car park on the Italian side. Take the opportunity to visit the sanctuary which, at 2035 metres, is the highest sanctuary in Europe. 700 metres away, you can also see the rock of the apparition on which Saint Anne is said to have appeared to a shepherdess, asking her to build a chapel there.

On the old border patrol paths, you will walk towards the Saboulé pass to reach the less frequented French side. You will soon discover the lakes lost in the middle of a cirque at the top of the Lausfer valley. The return is via the Lausfer pass and then the Pas de Saint Anne, in a loop.


You can also climb to the lakes from the road between Isola and Isola 2000 by going up the Lausfer valley). Start at marker 60, at the edge of the road (possibility of parking a little higher up). This variant allows you to walk through a magnificent larch forest. However, it is quite steep, which makes it a more sporting hike.

Info on the Lausfer Lake Tour here

7 – The lakes of Millefonts

If you are in La Colmiane and Valdeblore, between Tinée and Vésubie, go and discover the Millefonts lakes. It is really worth the diversions!

The Millefonts lakes hike is of medium difficulty, and its big advantage is that it is modular. If you’re in good shape, you can stop at Lake Petit (which is the biggest of all!). You feel like pushing further? Go up to Lac Long and Lac Gros and then up to Col du Barn. If you’re a mountain man, climb Mont Pépoiri, for a 6-hour round trip and 1100 metres of ascent. The view from the Mont is a 360° panorama of the Mercantour with the lakes below.

@Agence Media H 265 / OTM NCA

And in July, take advantage of the Folies des Lacs for exceptional concerts on the banks of the Colmiane lake as part of the Estivales du Département des Alpes-Maritimes (Sunday 17 July 2022). Classical music in the middle of nature, on the edge of a lake, in the resort, it is a unique experience.

Find the programme of the Folies des lacs on the website of the Alpes Maritimes Department

Guides and mountain leaders

I dream of lakes but I’ve never hiked in the mountains, how do I start?

Our guides and mountain leaders are there to help you. They will listen to you, train you and answer all your questions. They will be the ideal partners for discovering the hikes of the Haut Pays. Do you have a project or a desire? Talk to them and they will be able to suggest an itinerary adapted to your level in complete safety.

You can find the list of accompanying persons in our information offices

What about fishing?

Most of the lakes you will see in the Mercantour and the High Country of the Alpes Maritimes are fishable. In addition to the pleasure of the hike, you will also have the excitement of catching mountain trout (fario or rainbow depending on the lake).

Experience the full adventure! A cool climb in the morning or the evening before, then the arrival in an idyllic setting, the installation of your equipment, and finally, the fishing! You will extend the experience with a bivouac or a night in a refuge, what emotions to share!

Fishing in the lakes is regulated. You can find all the information at the Fédération de pêche des Alpes Maritimes, here.

You can take out a day or week permit online, valid for the whole department. Information on the website ma carte de pêche.


Visitor advisor at the Saint-Dalmas Le Selvage Information Office, Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolitan CVB