Le hameau de la Colle
Star gentian (Gentiana cruciata)
Observing marmots (Marmotta marmotta)
If you want to observe marmots, in the valley below the path which runs alongside the agricultural terraces, you will need to be quiet, attentive and position yourself upwind, then look in the meadows for the holes they make, with fresh earth around them and linked by a network of tracks. With the help of a pair of binoculars, you will have no problem spotting same marmots and their young eating, playing or sunning themselves.
A long, repeated call signifies that an unfamiliar presence has been detected (very probably you). A single sharp call means that the golden eagle is around, looking for its favourite prey. In this case, they all dash off to their burrows!
From the Col de l'Espaul, leave the Bois Garnier forest and the Lac de Beuil on your right. At the park signs, follow the dirt track which leads to the hamlet of La Colle.
After the first houses, at marker 8 (directional arrow), take the Mont Mounier route which goes around the houses alongside the drinking trough and then the old sheep dips (dipping is a way of removing parasites).
A wide path climbs upwards, touching upon agricultural terraces still covered in pasture. This is a very good area for seeing marmots.
At marker 44, a delightful panorama over Beuil and Valberg opens up to you. At this marker, head down towards Beuil until you reach the sheep pens.
Go pack up the path to get back to the hamlet of La Colle and the Col de d'Espaul, watching the delightful passerines such as shrikes or hoopoes. Migrating from Africa, this bird comes here to nest, setting a record for altitude!
No buses to Col de l'Espaul. The nearest public transport service stops at Valberg.
Lignes d’Azur - Alpes-Maritimes network
Number 770 Vallée du Haut-Cians (July/August only)
reservations possible at http://www.lignesdazur.com/ Randobus section
Tel.: 08 1006 1006
Access and parking
Go to Valberg, near to Beuil. In Valberg, opposite the chapel of Notre-Dame des Neiges, turn left onto the Route des Huerris, which rises via Avenue Jean Ray until you reach the Centre de l'Equipement.
Then turn right on the Colle road and you will reach the Col de l'Espaul (1748m) carpark 3km further along.
Free loan of “la Joëlette” off-road wheelchairs:
Valberg Tourism Office
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 23 24 25
Mercantour National Park House at Valberg
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 02 58 23
Work for adapting access at Col de l'Espaul is programmed for 2015.
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