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Autumn is the Perfect Time for Hiking in Provence

It’s a few weeks since Andy’s little ‘finger’ incident happened and we’ve been settling into life without cycling, as riding with a heavy-duty bandage protecting the stitches, doesn’t really make gear-changing particularly easy. I know I can go out on my own, but somehow, it just doesn’t seem right, so the bikes have remained in the garage, and we have put on our walking shoes instead.

We’ve really discovered the walking here over the last 12 months, and now love finding our way between villages and through the local hills, following the well-marked tracks, that criss-cross the area. In fact, we never imagined we would say it, but we have found ourselves looking forward to the slightly cooler days of autumn so that we can start doing longer walks with Millie again, as during the summer it is far too hot to do much at all.

Original contributor blog post by: Vaucluse Dreamer

Great Hiking in Provence

There are many hiking trails throughout Provence, from the moderate Luberon and Alpilles hills to the steeper pitches near Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. You can also choose to head to the coast in either direction (east or west) from Marseille to find some beautiful hikes along the coast, although some of these trails could be difficult if you suffer from vertigo. The standard hiking rules apply in Provence, as they should anywhere, good shoes, sunscreen, hats, water, a snack and a mobile phone.

Near Gordes

Abbaye de Senanque to Gordes: Julie took her dog on a walk from the infamous Abbaye de Senanque to equally renowned Gordes. The Abbey can be a mass of people at the height of the lavender season, with everyone attempting to get that perfect shot of the lavender rows framing the Cistercian monastery. However, in the off-season, this part of the Luberon is magical for hiking. Here are the details.

Follow the Plague Wall

Mur de la Peste: When most people hear of “the Plague,” they shudder and think of the Black Death that killed nearly a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s. But did you know that as late as 1720, an outbreak in Provence took the lives of over 100,000 people? And that the Pope and the King of France built a great wall to stop its spread? Today, the Mur de la Peste is seen mostly by hikers and dog walkers. Sections of the wall are still visible, and some areas are restored (approx. 6km) to demonstrate the enormity of this project and the desperate attempt to stop the spread of the plague. Find more details here and here.

Mur de la Peste Luberon ExploreProvence

A Slot Canyon

Les Gorges de Régalon is located between Cavaillon and Mérindol, in the Luberon. The circuit is only 9km and offers a bit of everything in a three (3) hour hike. The walk starts at the easily accessible parking, where it is free to park, and you may even find a spot in the shade. The first stretch is a walk along a creek bed past a small grove of olive trees. Immediately after the olives, the trail heads straight into the gorge. The direction of the path is evident as the steep canyon walls close in quickly. There is only one way forward, leaving no choice but to scramble over the rocks to follow the narrow corridor. This hike is not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia and is not advisable on a wet day.

Gorges de Régalon Hiking

Colourful Roussillon

The Ochre Trail (Le Sentier des Ocres) is more of a walk than a hike. There are two trails of different lengths (30 or 60-minutes). Once you have paid the entry fee, you can stay as long as you like. Information signs along the route describe the geology and the history of the ochre deposits in the Luberon. The trail closes on an annual basis in January (exact dates vary from year to year). Tip: leave your visit for late in the day as sunset is stunning, and wear a pair of older shoes.

Provence's Natural Ochre Roussillon

Andy Goldsworthy’s Refuge d’Art

Works by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, known for creating outdoor installations from natural materials found nearby, form part of a new 150km “art” hiking route which stretches across the north of our region. Named the Refuge d’Art, in the Unesco Geopark reserve in collaboration with the Gassendi Museum in Digne-les-Bains and the Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence, it is the largest public collection of his work. For more information please click here.

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.

Alpilles Hiking Tips Trail Markers

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. Here are the details on a couple of our favourite hikes.

Estérel French Riviera

Located in southeastern France, the Estérel coastal mountain range straddles both the Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments. Of volcanic origins, the massif is roughly 32,000 hectares of rugged terrain awaiting exploration. Mont Vinaigre is the highest peak at 618 metres. According to the Estérel Côte d’Azur tourism office, there are 72 trails for biking (road, gravel and mountain), hiking, and walking that crisscross the range, including many within the protected Forêt domaniale de l’Estérel. We highlight a few of the popular trails in this article.

French Riviera Hiking and Biking in the Estérels Vallon de la Camandre

Vallon de la Camandre ©Estérel Côte d’Azur

Tips for Hiking in Provence

The 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.

Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended.
Take water, sunscreen and snacks.
If you are challenged with steep downhill grades, hiking poles are a good idea.
There are signs, rock piles and paint flashes to indicate the way.
DO NOT hike if there is any threat of bad weather.

Due to forest fire risk, during the summer months, there are restrictions to hiking in some areas. During this period, before you head out, you should check in advance to see if it is safe to access the trails. This is the rating system.

Green (clear) – a light risk of fire and it is safe to hike.
Yellow (moderate) – a minor risk of fire and it is safe to hike but be cautious.
Orange (severe) – hiking is not recommended
Red (extreme) – hiking is not allowed

Vaucluse: call this number +33 (0)4 88 17 80 00 or +33 (0)4 28 31 77 11. The teleprompters on the system allow you to choose your particular region.

Var: from June 21 through September 20th use the interactive map on this webpage to determine hiking conditions.

Bouches du Rhône: from June 1 – September 30th check this website for the current access status for the hiking trails.

Guidebooks for Hiking in Provence

To order a copy, please click on the book cover images or titles. As an Amazon Associate, this website earns from qualifying purchases. Note: if you purchase a book via these links we receive a small commission that does not impact the price you pay.

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Julie Whitmarsh

Julie Whitmarsh

Julie and her husband Andy started visiting the Vaucluse area 25 years ago & over the years have increased the amount of time they spend there with their growing family. She has a deep affection for the area, finding it is a great place to visit, where the whole family can relax and enjoy time together.

She longs for the day when she can ‘up-sticks’ from her home on Dartmoor & relocate to the Luberon and spend her days cycling, walking, visiting markets & brocante fairs and of course enjoying the local food and drink.

Her blog VaucluseDreamer gives her a space to highlight some of her favourite things about the area from places to visit to particular activities that she and her family all enjoy.

She hopes one day it will be a place where she can share the process of renovating a house in France, but at the moment that will have to wait.

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