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| 1h50 | 7.9 km | 81 m | 766 m
From the Valmasque hut, the trail follows the Valmasque stream towards the valley, leaving the territory of the Mercantour national park behind and reaching the next stage destination in the valley, the hamlet of Castérino.
Double back to cross the EDF dam again and take the trail on the left that circumvents the rocky hill to the east. At marker 98, take the trail heading to the left and descend in hairpin bends on the valley line (towards the north east), marked in yellow and green, to arrive in the valley, where the trail runs along the right-hand bank of the Valmasque river. Walk to the track again and continue on the route that first heads eastward, still bordering the right-hand bank of the Valmasque, and pass the outskirts of the park (marker 394) (it is possible to visit the alpine garden above the track to the south west). Continue along the road that is later asphalt-coated and take the south south-east direction to the hamlet of Castérino.
The trail leaves the little Valmasque valley, the birthplace of legends about witches and other mysterious beings and joins the Roya section, an administrative enclave of French territory in Italy. Like many sites in the Alps, this peripheral zone of the Mercantour National Park is predominantly used for pastoralism. After the mineral terrain of the earlier, high-altitude stages, the alpine grassland and the larches start to take over. In the early days of pastoralism, the peasants uprooted any tree shoots that were not larch. This conifer, the only one to lose its needles, offers major advantages: its rot-proof wood is used for buildings, its deciduous needles fertilise the underwood and its low density together with its light foliage does not hamper grass growth, thus creating a particularly favourable environment for livestock (wooded meadowland). This section is grazed by cattle in transhumance, essentially consisting in the white-coated Piedmontese cow. The herds come up in the summer months from the Italian plains and the shepherds stay in the casouns, a name given to the seasonal dwellings built in arched brick. The trail circumvents the Paracouerte mountain, where there are often chamois and ibexes, species typical of the Alpine fauna and which are particularly present and approachable in this region.
Useful topographic maps
Last update : 2013-03-27