Tour of the Estenc plateau
Tour of the Estenc plateau

Tour of the Estenc plateau

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Enjoy a family walk, discovering the refuge of La Cantonnière, where the workers building La Route des Grandes Alpes used to stay.
In the far north of the department and at the sources of the Var river, the Estenc plateau is one of the most peaceful and bucolic sites in the valley, providing a striking contrast between the imposing and wild grandeur of the mountains and the charm of the magical prairies and undergrowth, with musical accompaniment provided by countless birds.

3 points of interest

  • Refuge

    La Cantonnière refuge

    The history of the refuge is closely linked with the Route des Grandes Alpes connecting Lac Léman with the Mediterranean. It was built in the early 20th century by the French Touring Club with the very rudimentary means of the period by Italian workers, for whom the imposing Cantionnière house was built.

    Accessible in summer 1913 to the few automobiles which were around at the time, the road was to be inaugurated by President Poincaré in August 1914. But the declaration of war deprived the people of Entraunes of this visit.

    The building today serves as a refuge and has been fully renovated by Mercantour National Park.


    Capacity: 36 in dormitories of 2, 4, 5 and 18.

    Prices and opening periods:


  • Pastoralism

    Estenc plateau hay meadows

    The term “hay meadows” means areas of production of fodder which was not deliberately planted and which are rich in variety of species. The hay is harvested to feed animals. These meadows are part of the non-intensive and environmentally friendly practices and they encourage a wide variety of plants to grow.

    Mercantour National Park has 1000ha of hay meadows, included in a pastoral and grassland domain covering around 120000ha. Within this, 90 professional farms are based in the Park’s communes and 268 transhumant farmers are present in summer.
  • Geology

    The souce of the Var

    It is on the Estenc plateau at 1790m altitude that the source of the appears. Of course, this is not the biggest spring on the slope nor is it the highest but it is said that it is the only one never to have dried up.

    The Var is a coastal river whose 114km course ends in the Mediterranean between Nice and Saint-Laurent-du-Var.


From La Cantonnière refuge, head down the road for 50m until you reach marker 41. Follow the path which is bordered by fields, whose rich grass is still used for agriculture, until you reach the small artificial lake.
A short return trip of a few minutes to the right will allow you to discover the source of the Var river.
Continue on the left, following a path which heads upwards alongside the Sanguinière brook. After having crossed the latter via a footbridge, you will enter a pretty larch forest.
At the crossroads, turn left where you will cross three small bridges and continue heading alongside the Sanguinière brook.
At the intersection of the paths, turn right and head upwards until you reach a light clearing which is dotted with rocks. You will then need turn left to follow the hairpins of the path with yellow markers.
At marker 282, continue on the left on a path which runs alongside a canal then cross a wide footbridge when you reach marker 281.
Turn left onto the road and go back down to the refuge.

  • Departure : La Cantonnière refuge
  • Arrival : La Cantonnière refuge
  • Towns crossed : Entraunes

Altimetric profile

Information desks

Point d'Information Touristique Entraunes

La Mairie, 06470 Entraunes

mairie@entraunes.fr04 93 05 51 26

Access and parking

La Cantonnière refuge is located 800m after you leave the hamlet of Estenc, at the roadside on your left (6km prior to Col de la Cayolle).

The refuge can be accessed all year by car. In the winter, it represents the end of the D2202 as the snow is not cleared from the road any further than this point.

Parking :

La Cantonnière refuge carpark


Free loan of "la joëlette” off-road-wheelchair:

Refuge de La Cantonnière - Estenc - 06470 Entraunes
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 05 51 36
Emergency number :114

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