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)

1 comment:

  1. Belle balade avec beaucoup d'infos descriptives...gros boulot de publication, donc. En plus, vos articles me permettent de réviser mon anglais. Merci. :-)