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Guidebook to 30 varied day walks in the east of Provence in the Alpes Maritimes, Alpes de Haute-Provence and Mercantour, with practical information for the walker. Walks span from the Esterel on the coast to the Mercantour, and include the Verdon Gorge and Geological Reserve of Haute Provence, from bases such as Vence, Grasse and Digne-les-Bains.
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Provence’s sunshine and Mediterranean charm attract many visitors to its coast, yet the area also has much more to offer the walker. The countryside inland boasts a range of scenery from remote mountaintops to spectacular gorges. History is everywhere, in medieval villages, arcaded streets, abbeys, churches and castles.
This guide covers the eastern regions, with its companion volume, Walking in Provence: West, covering the rest of this fascinating and historic landscape. The walking is incredibly diverse, and explores the country that hugs the Côte d'Azur and Italian border. The Alpes Maritimes rise craggy and wild above towns as unique as Grasse, Cannes and Monaco. The Mercantour National Park in contrast is a partially uninhabited area of high mountains, alpine lakes and red rock gorges known for its wildlife. Further north in the Alpes de Haute-Provence is a largely unspoilt geological playground, including such spectacles as the Verdon Gorge with villages and ancient sites throughout.
Suitable for all walkers of average fitness levels, the walks range from 4 to 21 kilometres in length, and are graded for difficulty from short, easy routes to more challenging walks that can include precipitous sections, but no special equipment is needed.
Update received from reader Mick Borroff, January 2016. Thanks to Mick.
Note: Mick walked this walk - Route 19, on 22nd October 2015.
The route described by Janette has recently been upgraded with an improved path and additional railings in place along all of the Verdon Canal wall. The old ladders adjacent to the tunnel have been replaced by metal stairs. The small hut beside the tunnel entrance now houses a series of fascinating information boards about the canal.
The direct ascent to the Chapelle Ste-Maxime from the beginning of the Vallonet de Ste-Maxime described under the main route has been permanently closed by the authorities for safety reasons due to severe stonefall danger. The line of this path forking left has been blocked by trees at the bottom but there was no signposting of the closure here. Once the chapel was reached, the closure notice was displayed beside the line of the former route and a second notice attached to the signpost.
The route now continues up the Vallonet de Ste-Maxime and circles around the south side of the chapel to join Janette’s alternative route. The new route is clearly waymarked and well signposted. This adds about 1.2km to the original main route.
The description on page 163/164 could be modified to read:
“Bear left away from the edge of the gorge into a narrow bushy valley called the Vallonet de Ste-Maxime, where you glimpse tall cliffs each side. About 5 mins later, ignore a blocked former path on the left and continue up the valley through boxwood and oak following the red/white markings of the GR99. The path traverses above the Ravin de Ste-Maxime and after about a kilometre reaches a T junction. Turn left as signposted to Chapelle Ste-Maxime. In another 200m, turn left at a signpost vat a second T junction where the alternative route avoiding the tunnel is joined and followed on a narrow footpath with the gorge on the right, until you reach the Chapelle Ste-Maxime (2hrs 5mins).
Return the same way following the yellow waymarked path signposted to Carrefour de Ste-Maxim/Quinson back to the signpost v at the junction with the GR99, so the markings are red/white instead of yellow (2hrs 20mins).
Follow the sign ahead to the Carrefour de la Draille des Vaches and Quinson. The wide path still climbs …”
NB Add 20 mins to all subsequent timings.
Updates received from reader Phil Dover, November 2015
Walk 9: Esterel Circuit
There was no sign marking the path along the Ravin des Trois Terms and Lac Ecureuil, and the top third is badly washed out.
Note from the updaters of this guide: It sounds as if this section is no longer maintained, probably due to repeated flooding. It is therefore best to use the shorter route from point 1 to point 3.
Walk 19: Lower Verdon Gorge
The start of the narrow path from the Vallone de Ste-Maxime has no markings now and have been obstructed with brushwood and at the top by the chapel there is a "Sentier interdit" notice but we didn't find it difficult to do.
Note from the updaters of this guide: This part of the route was flood damaged some years back and may be unstable. The tourist office does not want to signpost it until it has been fully secured.
|A short history of Provence|
|Provençal writers and artists|
|Plants and flowers|
|Travelling to Provence|
|When to go|
|Clothing and equipment|
|Using this guide|
|Location of Walks|
|Walk 1 Baou des Noirs and Baou des Blancs|
|Walk 2 Baou de St-Jeannet|
|Walk 3 Chemin du Paradis|
|Walk 4 Pic de Courmettes and Puy de Tourrettes|
|Walk 5 Baou de St-Jean|
|Walk 6 The Route Napoléon|
|Walk 7 Vallée de la Siagne|
|Walk 8 Pic du Cap Roux|
|Walk 9 Estérel Circuit and Lac de l’Ecureuil|
|Walk 10 Mont Vinaigre|
|Alpes de Haute-Provence|
|Location of Walks|
|Walk 11 Three Chapels Walk from Digne-les-Bains|
|Walk 12 Walk in the Réserve Géologique|
|Walk 13 Bigue du Siron|
|Walk 14 The Cousson|
|Walk 15 The Cucuyon|
|Walk 16 Rochers des Mées|
|Walk 17 Gorges de Trévans|
|Walk 18 The Verdon Gorge – Sentier Blanc-Martel|
|Walk 19 Lower Verdon Gorge|
|Walk 20 Sommet de Crémon|
|Location of Walks|
|Walk 21 Moulin de la Barlatte|
|Walk 22 Plateau de la Lare from Sauze|
|Walk 23 Gorges de Daluis|
|Walk 24 Circuit from St-Martin d’Entraunes|
|Walk 25 Col des Champs from Entraunes|
|Walk 26 Lakes Circuit from the Col de la Cayolle|
|Walk 27 Mont Pelat|
|Walk 28 Circuit above Péone|
|Walk 29 Mont Mounier|
|Walk 30 Around Mont d’Auvare|
|Appendix A Route summary table|
|Appendix B Maps|
|Appendix C Tourist information|
|Appendix D Market days|
|Appendix E Glossary of Provençal words|
[Everyone visiting Provence] should really have this little book tucked away in a rucksack. It is an invaluable guide to the best spots to walk, to climb and to get the best viewpoints in a most beautiful part of France.
Whether you want to retrace, literally, the steps of Napoleon or explore giant tunnels carved out of the solid rock above the Gorge du Verdon this is your guide with masses of useful information, handy sketch maps with level variations and dozens upon dozens of colour [photographs] that could tempt you out of the armchair.'
Le Connexion, a French magazine, April 2015.
"Armed with both new volumes courtesy of Cicerone’s “new guides for old” discount scheme and a clutch of IGN maps, we took our campervan to France and headed for Digne-les-Bains in the Alpes de Haute Provence.
We can confirm that even the most newbie, incompetent or navigationally-challenged walker should have no difficulty in following the detailed descriptions provided and avoid overshooting the generous timings allowed.
[These walks are] a small selection of classics that would thronged if they were in the UK."
Read the full blog post here.
Have you ever found yourself with a map from the local tourist office; with vague French instructions and clueless as to which painted marks you should be following? Have you ever tried to read an IGN map wIthout your reading glasses? Have you had to resort to the GPS function on your smartphone to get your group out of the woods? If so these books are for you.
Perfectly Provence, Jan 2015