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Maritime Alps: Plan it

If the February '08 Backpacker article "Magnifique" inspired you to take a hut trip to France's Maritime Alps, here are ten lodging options.

Getting there The nearest large city is Nice (served by plane and train). To reach the trailhead at Larche (or other points along the route), contact local outfitter Sunny Days (www.perso.orange.fr/sunny.days; 011 33 (0)493.721.479)

Route First follow the GR5, linking these villages/huts: Larche, Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage, Roya, Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinee, Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore. Then follow the GR52 linking these stops: Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore, Le Boreon, Madone de Fenestre, Refuge de Merveilles, Sospel, Menton.

Huts Prices range from 7 to 65 euros per night (expect to pay 100 euros for hotels the final two nights). Most include dinner and breakfast; sack lunches are almost always available for an additional fee.

Maps Get topos for the entire route from the National Geographic Institute (in local bookstores or go to www.ign.fr).

Season Mid-June to the end of October. September and October offer the best combination of weather, scenery, and low-season airfares.

Permits None required.

Guides: A three-hour guided tour of the Valley of Wonders costs about 10 euros. Regularly scheduled tours depart daily from Refuge des Merveilles. To make a reservation with Jean-Jacques Dellepiane, go to www.lemirval.com.

Contact: www.mercantour.eu

Hut details: Below is a list of recommended gîtes, huts, and hotels in order of appearance along the trail. For the most part, breakfasts and suppers were taken at our accommodations.

1) Larche: Au Relais d’Italie:
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 92 84 31 32
E-mail: olivierpalluel@wanadoo.fr
Website: www.haute-ubaye.com/larche/hebergements

2) Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage: Gîte d’étape
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 02 44 61

3) Roya: Ma Vieille Ecole
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 03 43 05
E-mail: mathieu.porcier580@orange.fr

4) Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinee: Gîte d’étape
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 02 00 22
(Dormitory and camping only)

5) Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore: Gîte d’étape Les Marmottes
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 02 89 04
Website:
www.lesmarmottes.com

6) Le Boréon: Gîte d’étape du Mercantour
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 03 27 27

7) Madone de Fenestre: mountain hut
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 02 83 19 or 4 93 03 20 79
E-mail: cafnice@cafnice.org
Website: www.cafresa.org or www.cafnice.org

8) Refuge des Merveilles
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 04 64 64 (after June) or 011 +33 (0) 4 93 04 69 22 (before June)
E-mail: cafnice@cafnice.org
Website: www.cafresa.org or www.cafnice.org

9) Sospel: L’Auberge Provencale
Telephone: 011 +33 (0) 4 93 04 00 31
E-mail: aubpro@aol.com
Website: www.aubergeprovencale.fr

10) Menton: Hotel Riva
Website: www.hotel-riva-menton.cote.azur.fr/page_en_1.html

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