Sunday, June 3, 2018

Vitrolles: The eastern ridge of Grand Luberon – 3 hours walk

Very close to the most eastern point of the open ridge of Luberon.
This walk will give you a taste of the ridge of Grand Luberon with its views in all directions. You start at a high altitude (700m) and the trail is fairly gentle going up, so it would also be one of the easiest ways to get up on the Luberon Ridge in only about 1 hour.

This would be a great walk for winter time also, as long as the wind stays moderate. To get maximum sunshine, however, use the return route also for the onwards walk up the mountain.

Drive up past the village of Vitrolles-en-Luberon and continue the D33 till you reach the highest point on the road (le Crete), called Aire des Mascas, and park here. The walk starts along a wide trail going west and is marked yellow and GR (blue & white).

This is where this 3 hour walk ends.
The trail turns slowly north and goes almost parallel to the unsurfaced fire road, both rising slowly. After about half an hour you almost join the fire road for a small section and after another 5 minutes you branch off on the GR trail to the right (just after the 840 meter point). The GR trail will take you gently all the way to the ridge of Luberon (939 meter point) in another 25 minutes. I suggest you climb another 15 minutes up the GR trail to the top at the 1038 meter point for fantastic views in all directions.

This is a bit futher west if you chose to walk longer.

If you have got a taste for this section of the Luberon, you could extend this walk by simply following the GR trail further along the ridge and turn around later.

This walk turns around here on the 939 meter point. However, when you have returned back down on the 939 meter point, follow strait on and take the brisk climb straight ahead. It takes you further on the ridge, first to the 974 meter point and then the 967 meter point. From the last point, you need to head south-east down through some forest to get on the fire road as quickly as possible (5 minutes).

St. Martin and La Motte in front of Etang de la Bonde
You follow around the bend of the fire road (another fire road joins in from the right) and you get down to the 840 meter point in about 30 minutes from you where you left the ridge. Following the fire road all the way back to the car will take about another 35 minutes.

Basic information:

Duration:       3h (excluding lunch)
Distance:      11 km.
Ascent:         400 m
Difficulty:      Easy
Start/finish:   Vitrolles-en-Luberon (Parking des Mascas, 700m)
Map:             IGN 3243 OT (Pertuis Lourmarin)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Falaise de Lioux (Madeleine) – 2 hours walk

Falaise de la Madeleine is an impressive 100 meter high vertical wall that is situated just behind the small village of Lioux. The ridge goes on for quite a while, but the main 3 km. is just like any mountain ridge with great views in all directions.

This is a nice afternoon walk along the top of Falaise de la Madeleine from the start at Ancien Moulin de Lioux to la Verrerie. You have fantastic views all along at every angle, but you better stop to view the landscape because it’s easy to trip on a stone.

You park at Parking de la Combe, down on the main road to into Lioux from the south, where you have the bridge across the small river. Start the walk across the bridge on the road in south eastern direction towards the Falaise. After only 5 minutes you take the road sharply to the right (yellow signpost here – follow for Roussillon) in south western direction along the Falaise.

You reach the big intersection at Ancien Moulin de Lioux (also a parking here) in another 10 minutes and here pay attention. You do not want any of the big forest roads going from here, but you take the very first path (green markers) that enters the wood on your left (sharp left!) as you approach the parking. This is the start of the green markers that follows along the entire length of the Falaise.

You will quickly enter into the open rocky ridge that goes north eastern direction. You could try to follow the green markers all the way, but you might miss out some because the path is marked the other way; i.e. you see green arrows for people taking this route the other way. Don’t worry about that, just keep left everywhere possible, just about.

View south: Roussillon and Le Luberon (Mourre Negre)

You could of course take the walk the other way. In winter time and early spring, this will mean more shadow along the ridge below (unless you start very late in the afternoon) and you will get a low sun straight in your face going up on the ridge itself. In the summer it does not matter which way you go. It will be hot anyway.

La Verrerie

It will take you about 45 minutes to walk the length of the ridge to the point where you for the first time will see a good track going down on your left, and it takes only 5 minutes to walk down to La Verrerie, where you turn left just before you come to the main house (homemade signpost here). Make sure you pay attention after 7-8 minutes walk from La Verrerie. Here, you meet some houses and a road. Make sure you follow the yellow markers, first sharp left and then sharp right after only some 50 meters.

Lioux village
The path will meet the main road into Lioux from the north about 25 minutes after La Verrerie and now just follow the road through the village of Lioux and further along till you return to the car about 20 minutes later.

Basic information:

Duration:       2h (excluding lunch)
Distance:      7 km.
Ascent:         250 m
Difficulty:      Easy
Start/finish:   Lioux (Small parking lot on main road to Lioux)
Map:             IGN 3142 OT and IGN 3242 OT (1cm=250 m)

Lioux village

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Les Alpilles – along the ridge from Col de Vallongue, passed the Pas de l’Aigle and down by the Rocher des Deux Trous. (6 hours including 1 hour for lunch.)

This is a great hike in the Alpilles between Saint Remy and Eygaliere. It is also good for winter because most of the walk is well exposed to the sun. The ridge is a little difficult at times, but for an experienced walker with a good balance you should be ok.

Drive towards Saint-Remy-de-Provence from Cavaillon on the D99 road, but 2.5km. before the City center of Saint-Remy you turn left off the D99 by the Restaurant (on the right side of the road here). Dive on till you meet the GR-trail (and yellow trail) going eastwards here on the plains (see my markings on the map).

The walk starts off eastwards along the GR-trail, so just follow the red & white markers (and yellows). Nice country side with lots of vines and olive trees, but because of private property, the path takes you left and right in places you don’t expect (follow the path on the map).

Col de Vallongue
After about 50 minutes walking, you come to right turn at “le Mazet” wine domain. You turn right here and walk straight on (I suggest you ignore the non-pedestrian sign on this road because the GR trail is marked here and alternatives are difficult). The non-pedestrian zone lasts only for about 500 meters and is difficult to understand. About 15 minutes after “le Mazet” you come to a signpost where the GR6 trail comes down from the mountain. You want to take right here and follow the GR6 the 25 minutes climb up to Col de Vallongue and further westwards along the ridge of les Alpilles.

If it’s already lunch time when you reach Col de Vallongue, this would be a nice place. Otherwise walk along the ridge for about 30 minutes. Here the path turns right and you need another good 5 minutes to reach the top of the ridge here. This is where I would recommend for lunch, even with cold northern winds (you will find shelter).

After a good 30 minute’s walk you reach “Pas de l’Aigle” where the ridge is narrow and goes up and down a few meters. Take your time and hold on with your hands. (No walking sticks, please. That would be dangerous.) Afterwards you climb up to the Plateau de la Caume where you will walk “around” the first (small) antenna about 15 minutes later. (Make sure you follow the GR markings here to get to the straight road towards the next (big) antenna in another 15 minutes.)

Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the background
Just before you get to the big antenna, the GR turns right along the forest road that winds around and down to the next sign post at the 302 meter point in about 15 minutes. Here you should consider using an extra 20 minutes looking closer at the big rock with 2 large wholes (Rocher des Deux Trous) by taking the trail that starts about here going north east for about 500 meters.

Rocher des Deux Trous
From the 302 meter point you return to the car by taking the GR6 further down along the valley below you here. It will take you about 40 minutes to the next sign post, where you will turn right and right again after only some 5 minute’s walk along the GR653 eastwards. You will find the car in another 15 minutes.

Basic information:

Duration:       6h (including 1h lunch)
Distance:      15 km.
Ascent:         400 m
Difficulty:      Moderate (but steep and rocky in places)
Start/finish:   Saint-Remy (on the GR653, about 3km east of city center)
Map:             IGN 3042 OT Tarascon (1cm=250 m)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pic des Mouches, Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1011 meters) – (5,5 h incl. 1h for lunch)

Pic des Mouches is an easy 1 hours walk from Col des Portes (on the D10 road about 15 minute’s drive east of Vauvenargues), where one park at 630 meters. But for the more experienced walker, the south face of Victoire might be more tempting. From the car park about 2,5 km along the D17 road from Puyloubier (going west), you have 2 almost parallel paths going up to Pic des Mouches. Here the steep mountain side literally meets you face on for a 500 meter steep ascent, which will take you anything from 1,5h to 2h, depending on fitness and balancing techniques.

Here, the 500 meter ascent starts.
The red marked path via the Ermitage de St-Ser is the most difficult with 4 – 5 meter passages with cables or chains to help you. We chose the green marked trail (takes off to the right from the red path after only some 10 minutes from the parking). This has no cables etc., but is still difficult, mainly because much of the path is made up of small stones that can easily roll away. But in general, the green path seems to have been made quite recently and is a very good and fairly safe path for an experienced and fit  walker with a good balance. But make sure you do not lose the green markings!

We prefer to park the car in Puyloubier and walk along the D17 road for the 2,5km (0,5h) to the car park underneath Pic des Mouches. Fantastic views along the way of the mountain side and the nice landscape on both sides of the road (not much traffic in the morning).

At the car park, you could study the information boards for routes, but to-days route described here starts off on the red marked path going north, but you leave this trail after only some 10 minutes, where you have a good sign saying the start of a green trail off to the right. Here you start a long climb that will eventually take you up to the Victoire mountain ridge at 971 meters in 1.5 – 2 h depending mainly on your fitness and techniques.

The green trail must be fairly new, nicely designed to walk the mountain side as gently as possible in these parts. It has its challenges, but they are really not much problem for an experienced walker with a good balance. You might lose sight of the green paint in places, but make sure you do not lose them (go back and find it). There are so many old small trails in this area; easy to get stuck unless you stick to the green markings. In general, the trail is very good marked with green markers!

You arrive up on the Victoire mountain ridge at Garagai de Cagoloup Gouffre (971 meters),where Pic des Mouches (1011 meters) is only a 15 minute’s walk there and back. It’s well worth the fantastic 360 degrees view and you see as far as Montagne Ventoux and the alps.

The return walk to Puylobier is along the GR9 trail going east on the mountain ridge (try to keep out on the actual ridge for as long as possible, rather than taking the Red & White markers) for the nice views. You will pass the large Oratoire at the 776 meter point in about 30-35 minutes and continue the GR9 towards Puyloubier which will take another 1h. However, after having been walking only some 5 minutes from the Oratoire, make sure you take the left turn on the GR9 (easy to miss).

Basic information:

Duration:      5,5h (incl. 1hour for lunch)
Distance:      8 km.
Ascent:         750 m
Difficulty:      Difficult
Start/finish:   Puyloubier village (near D17 exit)
Map:             IGN 3244 ET Montagne Ste-Victoire (1cm=150 m)

View north from ridge:  Luberon and Mont Ventoux

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Les Calanques: Col de Sormiou - Crete and Cap Morgiou - Morgiou and Sormiou villages

This walk is another good one day introduction to the Calanques. Essentially, you follow several mountain ridges (cretes) all the way from Col de Sormiou to Cap Morgiou with fantastic views of the sea with all its islands and finally the Calanques themselves, Morgiou, Sugiton, St.-Jean de Dieu, Devenson etc. with the massive wall of la Grande Candelle in the background.

You finish the walk by returning down to the old fishing village of Morgiou where you have a nice bar/restaurant (closed Mondays) and some small beaches. Thereafter you need to walk up again to the Crete de Morgiou and down to the village of Sormiou, also with some beaches, before returning back up to Col de Sormiou. Not such a long walk in distance, but hard enough because of the steep mountain sides and accumulated ascent.

Mont Puget, highest peak in the Calanques (503 meters)
Start by driving to Mazargues, on the southern fringes of Marseille City. From the north we use the tunnel under the Vieux Port of Marseille and we do not exit till after the next tunnel, following signs for Mazargues. In or close to Mazargues you follow signs for Sormiou. You will pass la Crayolle with its large shopping area (incl. Decathlon) and the road may stop at a barrier at the parking marked on the map by the large sewage complex marked “St. epur” on the map.

In winter/spring (October – May) the road is open for traffic, so simply drive on to the highest point on the road (Col de Sormiou) and park here (1 hour drive from Pertuis outside rush hours, but drive back again via Cassis to avoid the Marseille rush hour (1h 30 min). In the summer/autumn you must first call the day before (after 18.00) to check if the Calanques are not closed for walking (see Safety and Practicalities under Pages in this Blog) and walk from the parking up to the Col (only  about 15 minutes).

From spring 2018, the road up to Col de Sormiou is closed for ordinary traffic from 31 March to 4 November! This means that you park the car below the Col (just before the barrier) and walk the 15 minutes up to the Col. So you need to add 30 minutes to the duration of the walks.

The morning sun will meet you even in the winter here at Col de Sormiou, and you start walking east along the blue 1 trail (also GR until you reach the Crete de Morgiou). You are quickly on Col des Baumettes (10 minutes) and here you “branch out” to the right on the blue trail towards a fantastic viewpoint only some 4-500 meters ahead. Next the trail descend a little before going up on the Crete de Morgiou (40 minutes) and it’s here you lose the blue and white GR markings.

Falaise des Toits, behind Sugiton
After some 30 minutes along the Crete de Morgiou, you meet the intersection where your red marked return trail for this afternoon crosses your blue trail (1h). Another 30-40 minutes and you will be down from the Crete on the 85 meter point (1h 45m). Here you have the black trail going down to Morgiou Village and you will have to decide whether or not to take the extra 15 minutes (one way) out to Cap Morgiou (2h) and back again. It’s a charming little walk with fantastic views all the way and a nice place to pick-nick.

Calanque de Morgiou and Cap Morgiou
The walk back up to Morgiou village takes about 45 minutes and is very scenic all the way. You see the little beach across the bay and you pass the Café/Restaurant in the Port before heading northeast along the road to start with. Only some 3-400 meters after the port, you want to turn left off this road onto the red 5 trail. The ascent up to the ridge of the Crete de Morgiou from the road takes a good 30 minutes (3h 30m).

Old defensive wall just before Cap Morgiou
The descent to Sormiou village takes a good half an hour and it takes you almost 15 minutes to walk through the village to the large car park (follow the red trail and then the brown trail). The brown trail breaks off from the red trail just after the parking lot to the left. The ascent back up to the car at Col de Sormiou takes about 20 minutes.

Shorter alternatives
This walk will probably be too long for the summer heat for most people, but there are a few things that could be done to cut the walk shorter. Cap Morgiou itself could be avoided to save some 35 minutes.

The return walk from Morgiou could be made less hard going by going up along the road or the red 6 trail in combination with the road to the highest point of the road (213 meter point). Here you continue the road down on the other side for some 600 meters (you see short cut possibilities on the map) before taking left onto the forest road that will take you back to Col de Sormiou. This way will not be much shorter, but it will take a lot less energy and for most people less time.

Alternative for a short walk
The first 40 minutes of this walk is in itself a good introduction to the Calanques. Continue another 30 minutes to the crossing of the red 5 trail and take left down to the beach at Morgiou (another 30-40 minutes) where you could take a swim or have a café at the local bar. The return walk could be the same as you walked out, or you could consider the “shorter” alternative described above. I would have taken the same route back for a nicer scenery.

Basic information:

Duration:       6h (including 1h 20min for lunch and swimming)
Distance:       13 km.
Ascent:          650 m (accumulated)
Difficulty:       Moderate
Start/finish:    Col de Sormiou (Marseille)

Map:              IGN Les Calanques de Marseille á Cassis (1cm=150 m)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Montagne de Vautubiere – short and easy

West face with the Durance valley and Luberon.
This is a great walk for winter time, when you want plenty of sun shine along the way. Easy and a fairly short walk that could be expanded with almost an hour along the ridge of Montagne de Vautubiere and another hour for lunch. The ridge has some of the best 360 degrees views in the area and you can see the Alpes, Ventoux, Victoire, the Durance valley and almost to the coast and plenty of nice spots to lunch. 

The Villemus ruins

The walk could also be shortened by parking closer to the west face of Montagne de Vautubiere (just drive on passed Notre Dame and park by the road side somewhere) and climb the mountain from the west, returning down the same way. This will make the walk just under 2 hours in total including short stops. The original walk could also be taken walking in the opposite direction, making sure you get up to the top in time for early lunch. 

Drive in to Jouques from Peyrolles and after the village center you take left for Bedes and St-Paul. Follow this small road for 2 km. up to Bedes and park in the car park on the left as soon as you see the entry sign for Bedes. 

Montagne Vautubiere from the north.
The walk starts across the road, going east along a local road marked with blue and yellow signs occasionally. After 10 minutes (just before Notre Dame), you take off the road to the left onto a dirt track and after another few minutes you turn left again at the 358 meter point. At the end of the fields you turn right and you will shortly walk passed the Villemus ruins. The blue and yellow signs are now getting more frequent and you follow these, taking off left only some 100 meters after the 377 meter point (about 30 minutes from the car). 

After about 20 minutes walking you will join a surfaced road and walk along this for about 1 km. Here, at the 444 meter point you take right on to a fire road marked DFCI in red and now you simply follow this fire road all the way to the tower on top of Montagne de Vautubiere. This takes about 45 minutes from the 444 meter point, or 1h 45 min. from the car. 

The Observation Tower (fire protection)
The walk back to the car is about 1 hour, but it is strongly recommended to explore the mountain ridge going north along a small path. After only 10 minutes, you see nice areas for pick nick and all the way to the end of the ridge (about 25 minutes one way) it is fantastic 360 degrees views. You see a massive 2 meter high cairn at the very last part of the ridge, and this is also a very nice place for lunch. 

At the northern tip of the mountain ridge.
You return to the car on the blue and yellow marked path going down (more sideways at first) from a point on the road only some 40 meters south of the observation tower. It takes about 30 minutes down to the first “opening” in the form of an olive grove and another 30 minutes’ walk back to Bedes, mainly along a surfaced road.

Basic information:

Duration:        3h (no lunch break)
Distance:       10 km.
Ascent:          300 m
Difficulty:        Easy
Start/finish:     Bedes, 2 km. north of Jouques, direction St-Paul-les-Durance.
Map:               IGN 3244 ET Montagne Saint-Victoire

Walking down the west facing of Montagne de Vautubiere

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gigondas – Dentelles de Montmirail (5h)

This is a walk along the highest part of the Dentelles (Dentelles Sarrasines). It gives you a real touch-on feeling for the place and has fantastic views in all directions. Given the fact that we follow the trail along its high ridge, it will be steep parts that in places could be difficult for some because of the sheer steepness, slippery stones or simply because of vertigo.

From Pertuis, I was surprised to discover that the “country route” by car to Gigondas was quicker than using the motorway to Orange Sud, as I usually have taken. (From Cavaillon, follow at first for Carpentras, but at Velleron go straight on for Monteaux, Sarrians and Vacqueyras.) When approaching Gigondas village, take left in the round, signposted for Dentelles de Mintmireil. Drive all the way up to Col du Cayron and park here.

You start walking along the forest road going uphill in a general westerly direction. After about 20 minutes, you are on the next Col along this road, and here you see a signpost and a path with blue markings taking sharply left off the road just before the road turns. Follow the blue markings all the way up to the top, but do not cross over to the other side for Col d’Alsau. Continue along the northern side of the Dentelles till you see another path coming up from the left, directly from Col du Cayron. Do not take this path down, but continue a little bit longer along the top till the blue path takes you up to a Col on the Dentelles near the 563 meter point. You have now walked about 1,5h from the car.

We suggest a stop for lunch up here on the south side (several places to sit), before continuing the walk on the other side of the Dentelles, now following the blue markers westwards. You are now passing some of the more known rocks up in the Dentelles, like Rocher du Turc and Tete Vieille. As you get closer to the latter, you take the blue marked path down to the road near Col d’Alsau (about 30 minutes from the 563 meter point).

Follow the road upwards towards the Col (it’s a Parking here), but you turn right after only some 100 meters; up the stairs that is made here, and follow the blue marked path of Le Gand Montmirail. When you are approaching the Col at the 464 meter point, make sure you have taken the left fork of the blue markers to reach the Col easily (another 30 minutes or so).

At the 464 meter point (the Col), there is a blue marked path that continues on each side of the mountain. Take the left hand fork and keep following the blue markers (northeasterly direction) till you get right down into the bottom of the Ravin du Vallat de l’Aiguille. Here the path crosses over to the other side of the valley and follows the valley right down to the end.

Towards the end, I suggest you follow the blue marked path straight on up to the road that passes right in front of the big Rochers d’escalade (398 meters), rather than trying to find the path to the left indicated on elderly maps (including my own).

The road that passes here will take you all the way back to the car at Col du Cayron.

Basic information:

Duration:       5h (including 60 min. lunch)
Distance:      10 km.
Ascent:         400 m
Difficulty:      Difficult parts along the ridge
Start/finish:   Gigodas (Parking at Col du Cayron)
Map:             IGN 3040 ET Carpentras (1cm=250 m)