The Wolf Trail - Argentera & Mercantour
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The Wolf Trail - Argentera & Mercantour
Entracque

The Wolf Trail - Argentera & Mercantour

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The presence of this emblematic mountain predator is betrayed by the pawprints which you may find as you head along the hike. Maybe you will even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this shy animal.
This themed trek is a fun encounter with wolves, thanks to the Alpha centre and the Uomini e Lupi centre, two museum facilities which are dedicated to this fascinating creature.

16 points of interest
Peak

Col de Fenestre

A communication route within the House of Savoy, the col became part of Italian territory in 1860 and a border col in 1947, the date at which the border was moved to the watershed. When the weather is clear, the view extends beyond the plain of Pô to 200km to the north: Cervin (4478m) and Mont Rose (4634m) are visible in these conditions.
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History and historical trail

Terre de cour

The black rock marks one of the borders of the Terre de Cour, formerly a domain of the Count of Provence, before it was returned to the House of Savoy in the 14th century. Two inscriptions on the black rock provide a reminder of the past: “B” for Belvédère, “SM” for Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Terre de Cour was located exclusively in these two communes but they have to share the ancient rights to pasture and wood with Lantosque and Roquebillière.
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Geology

The scars of erosion

When they converge, runoff streams of water leave the ground bare, breaking a fragile equilibrium. In addition, footfall due to tourism damages the ground and raises the question of preservation of natural environments. Plant cover has to be maintained as it protects the ground from erosion and guarantees its stability. Restoration work has been carried out to guide and direct the hundreds of hikers who love these wild areas.
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History and historical trail

Col de Fenestre mule track

This track has been used for a thousand years and was regularly maintained to allow mules transporting salt to pass with ease. The technique used to make and maintain these tracks involved self-locking stones. Identically sized slabs were arranged vertically in close lines. Fine materials were then used to hold it all in place. Gutters provided a run-off area for rainwater.
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Know-how

Mountain climbing in the Mercantour

At the start of the 20th century, for the first mountain climbers, the Mercantour was a taste of adventure. Little by little, the summits of the chain were conquered, initially via the normal routes and then, with the arrival of modern mountain climbing, along the most difficult routes. From Victor de Cessole to Patrick Bérhault, the greatest names have been involved in climbing in the Mercantour. Today, whether they are snowy, icy or rocky, the reputation of certain routes is well established.
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Small heritage

Cow barns

This element of the community system allowed the inhabitants of the valley to place their cows into the charge of a guardian who would be responsible for them as they enjoyed the high-altitude pastures in summer. Mountain dwellers were thereby free to participate in the hay cutting and other agricultural activities close to the villages.
The cow barns which you can see on the Erps and Le Cavalet circuit were temporarily used during the summer, which explains why they are small. Today, only two farmers still work on the site of Boréon, owning or hosting thirty or so cows each.

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Flora

Conifers

These resinous trees, with leaves shaped like needles or scales, produce conical fruits, hence the name given to this group. The larch is the only conifer which loses its needles in the winter. They are grouped together in clumps of 15 to 20. This species is only present in the Alps. It can also be found at the upper limit of the forest as it needs light to develop.

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Fauna

Wolf (Canis lupus)

In 1992, wolves came back into this area of their own accord, crossing the border from Italy, but they remain very secretive in the park.
They live in packs of 4 to 6 individuals, each pack having a territory which covers some 200 to 300 km².
Its diet is highly varied, mainly eating wild ungulates (mouflons, chamois, wild boar, deer) in addition to domestic ones (sheep), but it also eats small rodents, birds, insects and vegetal matter (wild berries, mushrooms,...).
Its role as a regulator of wild fauna needs to be underlines. This species is protected by national and international regulations and it has a natural place in the food chain and the ecosystem.

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Fauna

Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)

A mountain dweller par excellence, the chamois can climb 1000m upwards in 15 minutes (a hiker would take 3 hours). It is easy to spot. The population of chamois is high and it roams along the mountains, from the forests and grasslands to the peaks.
It can be recognised thanks to its horns, which are straight and then curved backwards, and quite small compared to those of the ibex. Its forehead and cheeks are white, separated by two black bands from its ears to its muzzle.

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Geology

Argentera granite

If you look closely at this grey rock, you will see that it is made of different minerals. Quartz (grey) and feldspar (white) sometimes big with a few sparkling areas here and there on the rock. This is black mica and more specifically biotite.

You have discovered blocks of granite. All the minerals it is made up of are contiguous and visible with the naked eye. The texture is igneous, characteristic of plutonic rocks which crystallised deep in the earth.  
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History and historical trail

The Cima di Fremamorta barracks

The barracks building is an imposing structure and is still in relatively good condition: The camouflage paint on the doors is still visible, and there are a good number of windows and doors left, outside and inside. Outside, there are traces of the open-air kitchen, used by the troops during the warm months. The barracks could house a garrison of 60.
Along the last stretch of uphill trail, as well as in the nearby Val Morta, there remain a few telephone poles in larch, on which were strung the wires for communications between defensive outposts.

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History and historical trail

The Umberto I shelter

This is in fact a large barracks, designed to house 130 soldiers and 4 officers. Built in 1894, it was readapted on three separate occasions, the last of which in 1934, when another section was added on one side of the main building to house the kitchen, and a freestanding structure was also erected. The ruins of an old storage barn and stables can be seen just above the barracks.

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Geology

The Pian del Valasco waterfall

The mass of rocks over which the water falls is a typical example of a glacial rock step. During the glaciations it formed the lower limit of the lake at the foot of the glacier. A tongue of the glacier extended beyond the step.

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Architecture

The Valdieri Royal Hot Springs

First cited in the mid sixteenth century. When King Carlo Emanuele III decided to valorize the Valdieri hot springs, in 1755, a building and other appurtenances were quickly built in order to create a spa around the sulfurous waters. Cavour called Valdieri "the richest in health-preserving waters in all the nation, and perhaps in all of Europe as well". Vittorio Emanuele II, who first visited Val Gesso in 1855, became a frequent guest at the spa, and it was at his behest that, on 10 July 1857, the first stone was laid for the structure that was to become the Hotel Royal.

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Lake

The Lagarot di Lourousa

Springwater, welling up among meadows and larches, forms numerous limpid pools and streams; the water is at times turquoise, at times milky and at others perfectly transparent, making this a particularly striking location, perfect for a contemplative rest. The Canalone di Lourousa, bordered by Monte Stella and the Corno Stella and scoured by the Gelas di Lourousa, lies beyond the plateau of the same name, and a look over one's shoulder yields a view of the imposing outline of Monte Matto.

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Lake

The Chiotas Reservoir, the Della Piastra dam and the Lake della Rovina

The Chiotas Reservoir is closed off by two dams: the Chiotas dam and the Colle di Laura dam. The Chiotas dam, an arch-gravity structure, is 130 meters high and stretches for a length of 230 meters. Its thickness varies from 37.5 meters at its base to 5 meters at the top. The mass gravity Colle di Laura dam is smaller, rectilinear and only 30 meters at its maximum height. Its length is 70 meters. The Chiotas Reservoir has a carrying capacity of 27.3 million cubic meters of water.

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Altimetric profile


Recommandations

This itinerary takes place along high-valley Alpine paths.

The accommodation sites listed are the only ones which are available along this route.

Before heading off on a hike, ensure that you have studied the safety advice. If you are setting off on this hike in the early part of the season, you will need to take particular care as patches of snow can still be present in higher areas.
Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.

Access and parking

Go to Vintimille on the A8, then take the N204 (towards Tende), follow directions for Roccavione, then Valdieri and Entracque.

Report a problem or an error

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