Saturday, May 7, 2011

Petite Luberon – along the western ridge

This is a particular good winter tour, as you have almost unlimited sunshine all the way. It also involves some trotting along surfaced mountain roads. There are fantastic views nearly everywhere you go, because we are now in a very open landscape with little forests. (It could get a little too hot in the summer.)

The main difficulty is perhaps finding the right road to drive up into the mountains from the main road D 973 between Merindol and Cheval-Blanc. Driving from Merindol, just having passed the small hamlet of Font Vive, you take a right turning after 2.1 km. You want the road straight across the Carpentras Canal and follow it straight on high up into the mountains. After about 5 km driving, you pass the “le Trou du Rat” refuge, but drive on and park the car after another 1.0 km, at the 397 meter point.

The walk starts simply following the road even further up into the mountains, with greats views all the way. The road reaches the top at the 556 meter point, but only some 400 meters before this, in a 360 degrees bend, you take the small forest road to the right. This small track road quickly turns into a very small path, but very quickly you will be out on an opening in the mountain by the Tete des Buisses. Follow this ridge along a small path with old green markings for as long as the ridge will go (562 meter point, about 10-15 minutes). Nice place for a rest.

Now you want to get straight north to join the main road along the Petite Luberon ridge. If you look straight north, the hill that rises nearest you is quite open and it will be easy to follow this hill upwards if you first go back the path you came on about 250 meters and turn right down and directly onto this hill (no path). Keep a little to the right in the start and follow it straight north upwards. You will joint the main road at the 599 meter point after only 15-20 minutes.

You have just come out from a protected forest area (Réserve Biologique Domaniale) and you should take great care not to generate unnecessary noise and certainly have no dog with you. You can easily skip this detour into the wilderness by following the main road the last 400 meters to the 556 meter point and turn right here where the Petite Luberon ridge road starts.

From the 599 meter point on the ridge road it takes about 45 minutes to the Bastidon du Pradon, a shelter for hikers. In the winter you can make a fire inside this shelter to keep warm for lunch. Here the GR6 crosses the road, and you turn right from the road along this. The first section out on one of the ridges along the GR6 takes you very near the areas where there still might be Bonelli eagles nesting, and the views in all directions are fantastic. This must be the most spectacular descent from the Luberon!

Follow the GR6 all the way down to the big crossroads at the top of Vallon de la Galere (about 1.5 hours from Pradon). Here you follow the fire road you joined about 100 meters back around the 360 degrees bend and continue it as it starts mounting the hill to the west. At the 369 meter point (with a water reserve – Citerne), you turn right along the fire road that bends away north-westwards. This road will eventually pass the 433 meter point and shortly afterwards take a 90 degrees bend to the south and bring you back to the car at the 397 meter point in about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Vallon de la Galere.

Basic information:

Duration: 6h
Distance: 17 km.
Ascent: 550 m
Difficulty: Moderate
Start/finish: Le Trou de Rat refuge (1 km north)
Map: IGN 3142 OT (1cm=250 m)

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