Walking in Provence - East
Alpes Maritimes, Alpes de Haute-Provence, Mercantour
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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.
- walks near the coast can be made at any time of the year, but the high trails in the Mercantour are restricted to snow-free months in summer and autumn
- Vence and Grasse (Alpes Maritimes); Digne-les-Bains and Castellane (Alpes de Haute-Provence); Guillaumes and the Val d'Entraunes (Mercantour)
- circular day walks, suitable for averagely fit people and graded Easy, Medium or Difficult, depending on length, total ascent and terrain; easy walks are short, while difficult ones take up to eight hours and may include sections which are precipitous or difficult to navigate; no special equipment is needed.
- Must See
- dramatic mountain ridges, alpine lakes and deep river gorges; perched medieval villages, ruined castles and churches; the red rocks in the Estérel on the Mediterranean coast to high mountains in the Mercantour
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.
- 30 day walks in the Alpes Maritimes, Alpes de Haute-Provence and Mercantour in the sunny south-east corner of France
- walks illustrated with clear sketch maps and height profiles, as well as inspiring photographs
- all the practical information required for a perfect trip from public transport to maps and market days
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
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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.
[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
Janette Norton lived in France, near Geneva, for over 30 years with her physicist husband, Alan, raising four children and working in the marketing field. Her love of mountain walking dated from the time she was a guide in her twenties, and the proximity of the Alps and Jura to her home inspired her to continue her passion. After her children grew up, she branched out to explore other areas of France.View Articles and Books by Janette Norton
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