Hiking (mountain trail, in places narrow and exposed)
Alpine route (equipped or very exposed section, snow field, blocks)
Refuge de Longon » St Sauveur-sur-Tinée
Via Alpina takes the GR® 5 to leave the core zone of the Mercantour national park just after the Longon hut. It then descends steadily via the typical village of Roure to the stage destination, St-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, a fortified medieval village.
Red and white markings all along this stage. Leave the Longon hut towards the east. The trail starts in hairpin bends, following the left-hand bank of the Longon stream. Cross the stream on a footbridge (1,785m) to wind its way down rapidly into the forest. Pass the Autcellier ridge (1,502m) and then cross the Arcane stream (1,463m) in the steep valley to reach the little Rougios plateau (1,467m). The trail continues in a region that is still very alpine, with little wooden pastureland chalets, fresh meadows and larch trees carpeting the ravines. Enter the Fracha wood on the little dirt track offering plunging views over the deeply embedded Tinée valley and over the high peaks of the left-hand bank and the little Mollières valley that dips down to the east. Continue to the south, still halfway up the wooded slopes. Walk past the isolated Traverse and Puge de Selvanière barns and then a little pass called La Barre. After this, the forest comes to an end and the view opens out down towards the Tinée valley. The descent continues in a southward direction on the bare slopes that passes the Roure arboretum (visit free of charge). Leave the track just after the first bend to take the path to the right and reach the chalets and chapel of Saint-Sébastien (frescoes dating back to 1510 by Andréa de la Cella). Next, a little road takes you to Roure (1,096m). Junction with the GR® 52 A trail. Leave Roure behind along an old path that takes numerous hairpin bends and cuts across the road several times. This is a demanding descent, which should be avoided on hot afternoons! You will reach the road bridge over the Tinée river, allowing you to enter Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (496m). (Paul Guglielmi, CDRP 06)
Natural and cultural heritage
This stage, which brings you to the exit from the Mercantour National Park central zone, forms a junction between high-altitude mountains and inhabited valleys. From the Longon Hut, situated in the sheltered area between the Autcellier mountain to the South and the Gravières mountain to the North, an outstanding vantage point, the trail descends on a constant gradient towards the village of St-Sauveur-sur-Tinée. Halfway down the slope, it crosses wolf territory. These large predators reappeared in France in 1992 and have generated countless disputes between ecologists and shepherds. The mineral landscape quickly gives way to larch and oak forests, criss-crossed by the numerous forest roads that provide access to the felling areas (larch is a rot-proof wood used as a building material). A few ruins suggest the past presence people whose water supplies came from the spring water collection systems located at frequent intervals along the route. A mountain arboretum is located just before the village of Roure. It is the only one is this administrative department and features almost all of the existing conifer species from all 5 continents. Roure is located on the outskirts of the Fracha forest, a rocky oasis with a castle dating back to the Maginot line, a military parade intended to offer protection against Italian invasions. Further down, the fortified town of Saint Sauveur-sur-Tinée (since the XVth century) stands out against the castle. This alpine town is not only a strategic military location – it is also a fertile agricultural zone that benefits from exceptional sun exposure. The Blavets people, inhabitants of St Sauveur, even cultivated figs there, which represented a substantial part of the local economy at the time. Curiously, this species, which thrives in high temperatures, grew there at over 1,000m in altitude on embankments on the south-facing slopes of the mountains. The two villages were first of all connected by a Roman road, used over 2,000 years ago by the legions of Augustus come to conquer the Celto-Ligurian people (first Alpine population) of the Var and Tinée valleys. Later in 1927, a ropeway for agricultural use was set up to facilitate the transport of merchandise from the Roure hill to the town. It was only in 1935 that the current road was constructed. In the centre of St-Sauveur, a few inscriptions representing the various trades of the past are still chisel-etched onto some of the door lintels. In spite of their laborious work, the inhabitants did not abandon their faith. The pyramidal bell tower of the church of St Michel, proof of the local fervour, has stood over the narrow paved streets and numerous little chapels since the XIVth century. Today, St Sauveur is the main town of the canton and its houses stretch out along the verdant land set in a loop of the Tinée river. (Sara Zeidler, Gilles Chappaz, Grande Traversée des Alpes)