Among the 11 French national parks, four are located in the mountains
. From Vanoise to the Pyrenees
, passing through the Ecrins and the Mercantour, here are protected areas where nature flourishes freely. Here, we pay the greatest attention to wildlife, especially in winter when it becomes more vulnerable. Man makes himself very small, and carefully chooses his activities to mingle as discreetly as possible with the life of nature.
Snowshoeing, observing animal tracks, building igloos or even astronomy trips, there is no shortage of activities! We preferably turn to guides labeled “National Park Spirit”, or directly to the national parks teams, who will know better than anyone how to help you discover all the treasures of nature without endangering it.
The Ecrins National Park: for hikers and gourmets
The Briançonnais, the Oisans, the Valbonnais, or even the Valgaudemar: here are valleys that are more confidential than their big cousins of the Vanoise, but which are the joy of hikers in summer and winter. The Ecrins National Park forms a steep passage between the Alps
of the North and the Southern Alps, with more than 15 peaks above 3,000 meters, pierced by deep valleys and chiseled by glaciers.
The teams of the Ecrins National Park organize numerous thematic hikes, specially designed for families, for example to meet chamois. In these large wild spaces, you can also opt for a snowshoe walk and take yourself for a trapper for half a day: accessible from 5 years old, a walk accompanied by a naturalist guide promises nice encounters!
Les Ecrins is also a region renowned for its excellent mountain products: at La Grave or La Meije, you stroll through the mountain villages and discover with delight the producers’ farms. Cheese, meats, pasta, honey, nougat…Gourmets will be served!
Ecrins National Park
Vanoise National Park: heading for the high peaks
Here we are in the heart of the Savoy Alps, between the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys. Here, the peaks rise to more than 3,000 meters above sea level and majestic glaciers sparkle. If the park is surrounded by sports resorts
famous winter (Tignes, Val d’Isère , Les Ménuires or Val Thorens), its heart is a protected area in which there are no ski lifts.
With gentle steps, accompanied by naturalist guides from the Vanoise National Park, families can set off in the footsteps of wild animals. Outings are organized several times a week during school holidays, for example in Pralognan-la-Vanoise. In the snow, it is a real naturalist treasure hunt that is organized, very discreet: no question of disturbing the emblematic species of the park such as chamois, hares or black grouse!
Want a more sporty day? Meet in the resort of Aussois or Val Cenis to try your hand at ski-joering, towed by a pony or a donkey, or why not at the yooner, a snow scooter that promises great sensations. The more daring can go paragliding or learn to climb on an icefall: contrary to popular belief, it is accessible to all levels! And for an unforgettable outing, head to Aussois: sled dog teams offer family outings. Magical !
Vanoise National Park
The Mercantour National Park: the wildest
The Mercantour has not usurped its reputation as the wildest national park in France: it is here that the wolf made its big comeback on French territory, in 1992. Nestled against the Italian border, between Barcelonnette and Monaco, the Mercantour National Park is the southern tip of the Alps, where the mountain range teases the Mediterranean Sea. Enough to breathe a very special character into these summits, tinged with maritime influences.
Winter and summer, the Mercantour is one of the most famous places in France to admire the stars. Families can enjoy an observation of the sky at nightfall, around Lake Allos. Far from any light pollution, we discover the Milky Way and the main celestial objects with a specialized guide, in French or English: an outing accessible to children from 8 years old.
The next day, we put on our snowshoes for a walk in the Cluite forest. From 7 to 77 years old, the guide Marc Aynié trains you to spot in the snow the traces freshly left by the animals. And why not continue the adventure by building an igloo? From 6 years old, everyone gets involved. Once the camp is set up, we taste a hot chocolate to reward the courageous workers.
Mercantour National Park
The Pyrenees National Park: a strong character
From the immense limestone massif of Gavarnie to the granite mountain of Cauterets, from the elegant volcanic silhouette of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau to the secret valleys of the Aspe valley, the Pyrenees National Park plays on contrasts.
Here, the alpine chamois has no say in the matter: the local star is the izard, its Pyrenean cousin. Snowshoe hikes are organized for the whole family in the circus of Anéou, one of the most famous in the Ossau valley, to meet this emblematic inhabitant of the Pyrenees mountains. It is also an opportunity to watch for the birds of prey that inhabit these summits, such as the circaetus Jean-le-Blanc, the bearded vulture or the golden eagle.
Nestled against the Spanish border, the Pyrenees National Park also offers itself a culture of its own, the result of a clever blend of French and Spanish influences. Here are born legends shaped by centuries of mountain culture. Departing from the village of Guchen, the storyteller Maelle Benureau takes you for a two-hour walk, on foot or on snowshoes: while walking, let yourself be carried away by her tales of the life of the inhabitants of the valleys and summits, by their traditional tales. and their myths. A dive into Pyrenean culture that will delight young and old alike.