Alpilles Hiking Tips Top Summit Hikes
Exploring the Alpilles
Established in 2007, the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles is a relatively new park. However, the mountain range itself is the result of millennia of continuous geological evolution. Artifacts from human settlements found in these hills date back to the Neolithic era.
The Alpilles (small Alps) is a natural paradise protected from development. There are trails for hikers and mountain bikers, and cliffs for climbers. The rolling hills offer excellent training for road cyclists looking for vertical challenges. The mountain ridge, a jagged line carved by centuries of wind currents, is a magnet for glider pilots (read about the St Remy Aeroclub here).
The natural topography and arid soil along with a regular mistral wind, mean that the Alpilles and surrounding area is the right environment for growing grapevines, olives, and stone fruit. Read about 12 reasons to visit the Alpilles vineyards and the lady winemakers of les Baux de Provence.
There are 16 villages and towns surrounding the Alpilles with roughly 68,000 inhabitants. Although in peak tourist season the population count easily doubles. Even with that annual spike in human activity, it is always possible to find a quiet trail in this park.
It’s common during the colder months to see sheep grazing on the garrigue (scrub brush) in the Alpilles while the shepherds and their herding dogs survey the activity. The Alpilles offer a challenging terrain for hunters during the autumn wild boar hunt.
There’s something for everyone.
Hiking in the Alpilles
The beautiful thing about this 30 kilometre stretch of mountains is you might never tire of the opportunities to explore on foot. The Grande Randonnée (GR) #6 traces the summit from Tarascon to Aureille. Look for red and white flashes to follow sections of this multi-stage trail.
Crisscrossing the agricultural land surrounding the peaks are other walking trails marked by yellow paint flashes. These routes are shorter, but no less scenic than the high-level trails. From the centre of most of the Alpilles villages, you are spoiled for hiking choices. Head towards the hills, and it’s almost impossible to miss the trail marker signs.
Two Favourite Hikes
Hike the ridge line between St Remy and Eygalieres:
This walk follows the GR6 the whole length of the hike. You can start in either village, but you need a car at the endpoint or a friend who might be willing to drive you back.
There are steep ascents and descents, some exposed parts, a few sections of scrambling and fantastic views. Agile younger dogs can handle the trail, but it’s not recommended for older pets.
Level: This hike is a 6 out of 10 on the sporty scale. Not recommended for weak hikers.
Take: hiking poles, water, and lunch
Time: 4 1/2-5 hours
Hike to the Tour des Opies:
The ruins of a watchtower mark the highest peak in the Alpilles at 496m. There are several options for this hike, which can be completed as an out-and-back or a loop. You can start this walk from Aureille (park near the cemetery – see the location on the map) or Eyguieres (park near Domaine Vallon des Glauges (map view) or the near arena and follow the yellow trail markers.
To access the summit, the trail turns southwest at a large rock cairn and begins to rise steeply. The final section of the trail, about 50m, is nearly vertical, but the view is well worth the effort.
Level: It is possible to walk to the cairn and back to your starting point or walk the loop, in this case, the hike is suitable for average hikers. The ascent to the summit is very challenging for anyone with vertigo.
Take: Hiking poles, water, and lunch.
Time: 4 1/2 -5 hours for the whole loop including the Tour des Opies
Maps, Apps and Resources
Institute National de l’Information Géographique et Forrestiére (IGN) maps are detailed and very accurate. There is also an IGN application for smartphones. IGN website.
St Remy tourist office has a map (2 Euros) of trails accessible from the centre of town.