Erps and Cavalet circuit
Village of Boréon
In the past, Boréon was part of Italy and only became French in 1947; its access road dates from the 1950s. This domain of more than 4000 hectares, a former reserve of the kings of Italy, essentially consists of pasture and forests. It was formerly a haunt of salt smugglers.Today, all of this natural valley is a classified site. Its development is based on tourism which respects natural environments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Head past the last chalets in Le Boréon. At marker 371, turn right. Head past Le Boréon lodge and the Park signs and follow GR52. A fairly steep but short (30 minutes) leads to the old Erps cow barns. From there, look out for marker 378 and turn left onto a path which first rises gently and then flattens out. Go through a forest of Scotch pines which have taken over this hot and arid slope. Although it is not rare to spot the slender outline of a chamois here, wolves do not show themselves.
At marker 373, you will reach the Cavalet plateau with its magnificent larch forest. Continue the hike as you rise slowly to the Cavalet cow barns (markers 374 and 375).
From there, it is possible to head back using the same itinerary or decide to continue in the same direction, along flat terrain, on the Cavalet path. It subsequently heads downward, reaching the Salèse road (marker 399), from where you can get back to Le Boréon in around a quarter of an hour.
Minibuses available between Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Le Boréon.Information available from St Martin Tourism Office: 04 93 03 21 28
Access and parking
From Saint-Martin-Vésubie, go to Le Boréon, go past the lake and then the reception chalet and turn left.
A hundred metres after the bridge, park alongside the road, close to the turning for Le Boréon lodge (marker 370).
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