Ken Roberts - - Bicycling

what's here

earlier in this year

see also:  more Europe stories | public discussion | more on Europe


Provence random road riding

09nov

what's here

  • Grand Canyon du Verdon loop

  • Mont Ventoux

  • les Baronnies

  • Cotes du Rhone / Montmirail loop

  • Cap Canaille

  • rating climbs + rides: quaeldich.de

Grand Canyon du Verdon loop

see also: photos slideshow on Picasa

Biggest canyon in Europe (I think more proper to call it the "Gorges du Verdon"). Not as big as the Grand Canyon in Arizona USA -- but likely prettier and more interesting for a road-bike ride.

It's special ride for its unique views deep into the big canyon -- and some riding inside the canyon (a less-deep part) -- and some great lake views -- and some fun descents. The good parts are really great -- but there also is substantial not-so-interesting riding thru non-great sections.

Definitely worth doing if you're around the region and can handle the climbs (mostly long rather than steep).

I rode the obvious loop clockwise on well-paved roads around the canyon: both the "rive droite" (northeast side of the river), which includes the "Pointe Sublime" viewpoint, and the "rive gauche" (southwest side of the river) which has several viewpoints on its "Corniche Sublime" -- about 87km with +1850 vertical meters of climbing (54 miles with 6000 vertical feet). Climbs in the clockwise direction felt well-designed evenly-graded at steepness felt around 6-8% grade -- one short section felt perhaps steeper climbing up from Trigance.

I did not include the "Route des Cretes" side loop on the northeast side, because I got started late and anyway it was closed in late November. It adds lots of climbing and offers some big far views, but I do not know if it adds much different for seeing deep down into the canyon. Sharon and I once drove its northwest end in a car, but that did not include the steeper higher section. (Be glad to learn more about it from riders who tried it.)

Whether you think it's one of the greatest rides in Europe depends much on what you think about views down into canyons versus views up to mountain peaks. Myself I find I'm more excited by peaks than down into gorges. There are mountains in view around this loop, but the peaks are not as dramatic as some other places in Europe. With gorges and canyons I find it's more dramatic to be there down deep inside the gorge than it is to look down there.

For Verdon this is sharp for me because Sharon and I have also done the remarkable Sentier Martel hike down inside near the bottom. So when I look down in from my bike, it's hard not to think, "But why can't I be hiking down inside there again now?" (? or floating ?)

Reflections:

  • whatever you think about whether it's worth traveling across Europe to do this ride (versus some of the passes of the Dolomites or Switzerland), it's definitely worth riding if you're around Provence.

  • clockwise direction worked well: straightforward climbs, fun descents. Especially the hill east of Aiguines: the east side would be boring as a descent if going counter-clockwise, while the west side is exciting and spectacular as a descent going clockwise (and as a reward for a long not-so-interesting climb).

  • glad that I allowed lots of time, since lots of the best views down into the canyon require dismounting from the bike to lean over the edge, and some require walking a short distance away from the road.

  • November worked out well because I could see more out to the side of the road because fewer leaves on the trees - (In summertime I think more of the riding would have been just "slogging thru the forest"). On the other hand, need to be careful to start earlier (and colder) because of fewer daylight hours in November. And part of the Routes des Cretes side loop was marked closed (though I do not know that it was unridable on a bicycle).

On the other hand, in summertime more sunlight might reach down deeper into the gorge. In November it mostly looking down into shadow - (but maybe that's better somehow? more mysterious? intimidating?)

  • the southeast-side road ("rive gauche") has at least three substantial ups and downs between Trigance and Aiguines. The high point of this road which is closest to Aiguines is substantially higher than the altitude of the Col shown on some maps.

extensions and side trips:

  • Routes des Cretes side loop (from near La Palud on northeast side). (I've only tried part of it)

  • Couloir Sampson side road (near Pointe Sublime on northeast side). (I hiked it)

  • more riding along or around Lac Ste Croix on west end of loop. (I haven't tried this)

shorter alternates:

ride the "rive gauche" (southwest side) road from where the Verdon river flows into Lac Ste Croix generally southeast thru Aiguines and along the "Corniche Sublime" to the Balcon de la Mescla viewpoints, turn around and go back the same way. But that misses out on riding inside the gorge, in this section . . .

ride the "rive droite" (northeast side) road from the Pont de Soleils (or the bakery near it) generally northwest up to the Pointe Sublime viewpoints (perhaps with side trip to Couloir Sampson?), turn around and go back the same way. (? or perhaps continue further northwest to La Palud and climb the east end of the Route des Cretes road up to Belvidere de l'Escales ? before turning around)

If riding along the Gorges in only a single-direction as part of a multi-day tour, then "rive gauche" takes priority -- but consider doing the east end of the "rive droite" up to Pointe Sublime as a side trip.

Mont Ventoux

Highest summit in Provence -- wide asphalt road goes all the way to the top -- with a great view. Very popular climb for road-bike riders, including pro racers -- but lots of non-racers also. (? rumored to have an interesting off-road descent for mountain-bikers ?)

I finally climbed it "the hard way" from Bédoin (hard because has steeper more sustained section)  -- but I did it on inline skates (also with hiking poles so I could use my upper body to add more power) -- which was harder + interesting + satisfying.

The road above Chalet Reynaud was closed + gated in late November, but luckily still free from snow. I left my road bike near Chalet Reynaud, and used it to descend the road from there back down to Bédoin (because much of that road was too steep for me to go down on inline skates).

A few years ago I had climbed it the easier way from Sault -- which I remember had more variety and views along the way. Much of the climb from Bédoin was a slog thru the forest with not much variety of steepness or scenery - (though the low section closest to Bédoin is rather pretty farmland). On the other hand I was so close to the limit of my body climbing thru that main long steep section, I don't think nicer scenery would have mattered to me anyway.

On the other hand I found the descent thru the main steep section to be pretty exciting on a bicycle, with interesting curves -- provided you're comfortable with curves and speed at that steepness.

So perhaps better way for me to ride Mont Ventoux would be to climb up from Sault and descend to Bédoin (? and then the D942 and Gorges de la Nesque to complete the loop back to Sault ? but I haven't tried that)

les Baronnies

North of Mont Ventoux are some hills/mountains called les Baronnies. I'd heard from a couple of sources that they had some nice riding, so I drove my rental car there. But I wasn't feeling like riding that day. Instead I parked in the village of Buis-les-Baronnies and climbed the Rocher-Saint-Julien, the most dramatic rock peak around there (climbed its easiest summit by the easiest route) . Afterward I drove around on the roads over some of the passes I'd heard about.

My impression: the area is pleasant and pretty and quiet. Lots of farmland, so often you can see off to the side of the roads (instead of lots of slogging thru forests). Some big views near some of the passes. The only shortcoming is lack of dramatic peaks or bodies of water. Seemed like lots of views, but not views of something really striking. Farmland was pleasant + pretty, but not much "special" to notice about it. Or maybe somebody just needs to tell me about where to find the "special" things there.

I do like "atmospheric" / "ambience" rides -- and it felt like that's what this region is about (not so much ticking off "I rode to X and then I saw Y".)

Côtes du Rhône / Montmirail loop

see also: more info + links to map w GPS | photos slideshow on Picasa

Sharon and I rode thru some of the villages of the Cotes du Rhone wine region, stopped to walk around the streets of two of the villages -- and then continued  in a moderate loop around the steep rocks of the Dentelles de Montmirail.

A pleasant "atmospheric" ride on mostly quiet roads. Usually we think that when we ride thru farmland we want to see animals to make it more interesting. On this ride we saw almost no animals -- mostly vineyards -- and yet somehow those turned out to be "interesting" enough.

Though we were interested in the Dentelles de Montmirail as rocks, and the theme of our ride was to go around them, we actually didn't see the Dentelles much on our ride, and they didn't look very big at times when we did see them. Somehow our ride worked fine with a smaller does of Dentelles than we expected. We could have ridden closer to the Dentelles, but the obvious asphalt road was closed, and we didn't feel like trying to explore possible dirt roads.

Next time we'd do some more research on what to see for walking around in Vaison-la-Romaine -- since we'd heard it was supposed to be very good, but when we got there we didn't know where to go.

On another day we drove our rental car to a different village Chateauneuf-du-Pape, famous for wine but not near this loop route. We didn't taste any wine there, but walking around the village was nice, and it seemed to have lots of nice riding terrain around it. So maybe someday we'll try riding near there.

Cap Canaille + around Cassis

see also: more info + links to map w GPS

One of the most spectacular roads I've ever ridden is the Route des Cretes over Cap Canaille between Cassis and la Ciotat. Sharon and I rode it three years ago, but not on this trip. Instead we drove our car there on a rainy day to check out the hiking trails near the road.

Seeing the views reminded me of how much I wish we could ride it again on a sunny day. And now with the context of lots of pretty climbs I've seen since then, reminded me how outstanding it is.

Instead I confirmed details of the route, and spent more time checking out how some clever way to connect to the pretty waterfront streets of la Ciotat and Cassis. But didn't find any good way, so I just posted the loop on Bikely.com without any connections to the waterfront streets -- let each rider figure out if and how for themselves.

Why haven't you heard more about riding Cap Canaille?

I think because the road and the obvious loop is short.
So the question is how to make it long enough to make it worth traveling to that area.

What about additional roads to ride on nearby?

Some like the Col de la Gineste (west from Cassis toward Marseille). Some visitors find it pretty and interesting -- and I saw several riders doing it from east to west. I rode it from west to east. Views seemed nice but not outstanding -- except the section close to Cassis -- otherwise it's mostly inland.  The Col de la Gineste road does get a significant amount of motor traffic. Most of it going over the col is reasonably wide and has well-marked bike lanes (not real wide). But further west in the city of Marseille, the road is narrower -- so though I made it thru that narrower section once in the uphill direction, I'd much prefer to ride it downhill, in agreement with the several riders I saw going east-to-west.

But I don't know how to make Col de la Gineste part of a larger loop -- need to know some rides north further inland. Or maybe there are some pretty roads more inland (? near the Massif de Sainte Baume ?) which make a worthwhile loop without Gineste?

rating climbs versus rest of Europe / quaeldich.de

I really like www.quaeldich.de because they rate the prettiness of climbs all over Europe -- gives each climb 1 to 5 stars for "schön", separate from the rating for difficulty.  And I found the quaeldich.de ratings helpful for Provence for suggesting lesser-known climbs for me to check out.

But compared with climbs in German-speaking Europe (with the ratings I found in 2009), I felt the climbs in Provence were getting higher ratings for prettiness, like almost one extra star. That is, I felt some of the climbs given 5 stars in Provence were comparable i prettiness to climbs which quealdich gave 4 stars in the German-speaking mountains.

These comparisons are tricky, because the roads and terrain of Provence (outside the Alpes Maritimes) are rather different from Austria and Switzerland -- so in part it's just a matter of "taste" preferences. And perhaps if you drive to Provence all the way from Germany there's a "thrill of discovery" of finding roads which are different in a positive way. But also I suspect there are some "technical" problems.

(A) lack of trees: Lots of climbs in (non-Alpes-Maritimes) Provence have have views to the side because they pass thru farmland or vineyards or soil which does not support trees -- while lots of climbs in German-speaking Europe have lots of healthy trees alongside the road which block the view to the side. Which makes riding less interesting, long sections of "long slog up thru the forest".

So it's a "relief" to arrive in Provence and discover climbs with much less "slogging thru the forest". And it's "objectively" reasonable to want to give such climbs a higher rating for "prettiness".

The problem is that it doesn't address the question: "But why do we want to do climbs at all?" The "Difficulty-rating" answer is: because they're harder than riding some distance on the flat - (though lots of the prettier climbs in Provence are not very hard compared with German-speaking Europe).

I think the "Prettiness-rating" needs it's own answer. And I think it's that climbs take us to places where we see different kinds of things than we see on flat-gentle valley rides. Things like snow. Like pointy rocks. Different animals.

A shortcoming of climbs in Provence is that they tend not to deliver so much different kinds of things than valley riding in Provence. Yes there are views out to the side, but views of what? I think the "what" on the climbs tend to be a similar "what" to the valley roads in Provence. So why not just ride on the valley roads? Much of the Rhone valley is sufficiently flat that just getting up onto a little hill provides a big view. There's no need to climb over some col or pass.

While it's true in Austria and Switzerland you often do a long "slog" up thru the forest, when you do get up high you get a very different kind of "prettiness" than you could ever see just riding on the valley roads.

(B) size: It's easier for shorter climbs to be prettier, and climbs in (non-Alpes-Maritimes) Provence tend to be smaller. This is a key difference between "Prettiness-rating" and "Difficulty-rating". Adding 500 vertical meters over 5 km of non-steep climbing adds to the Difficulty. Adding 5 km of slogging thru the forest dilutes the Prettiness of the climb. So climbing up the north side of the Grimsel pass (2165m) starting from the "bottom" at Innertkirchen (625m) is less pretty (on average) than starting higher from Handeck (1400m) -- because starting higher eliminates lots of "slogging thru the forest". Similarly if you could start the west side of Sustenpass from say 2km below Steingletscher, instead of down in Innerkirchen.

I think there's a similar problem within Provence itself, where the Mont Ventoux climbs from Bedoin and Sault get only 4 stars for prettiness on quaedich.de, while some smaller cols get 5 stars. But if you consider only the top section of the southeast side of Mont Ventoux above Chalet Reynaud, it's more spectacular than those 5-star climbs - (but understandably if you "average" that with the long slog in the forest coming up from Bedoin it goes down to 4 stars).

(C) Also there's some unfairness where the three different (unnamed) high points on the "rive gauche" road of the Grand Canyon du Verdon in Provence are lumped together as a single climb on quaeldich.de, but Grimselpass is separate from the Oberaarpanoramastrasse in Switzerland -- even though though Oberaar is a straightforward extension of the Grimsel north-side climb.

claim

If we could magically transport from Switzerland to Provence the north side of Grimsel above Handeck with the Overaar road attached -- and set it down in between Mont Ventoux and Grand Canyon du Verdon, Grimsel would immediately become the most spectacular and popular climb in Provence. (likewise the upper section of Sustenpass starting just below Steingletscher). In Provence their prettiness would be rated as 7 stars (or 8) out of a possible 5 stars.

Because once you take away the dilution of prettiness in the long forest slogs, you get to the simple fact that the upper sections of Grimsel + Oberaarpanoramastrasse and Susten are in the midst of great + serious mountains, while if you moved Mont Ventoux and the hills around Gorges du Verdon into Switzerland, they'd barely be considered as foothills.

But on quaeldich.de as of 2009, Grimsel gets only 4 stars, while Gorges du Verdon gets 7 stars (and Col d'Ey just north of Buis-les-Baronnies gets 5 stars). I'm willing to accept that some people might think that Verdon is prettier than Grimsel with Oberaar, but no way the gap is that wide. And the idea that Col d'Ey is as pretty as Grimsel with Oberaarpanoramastrasse is just not credible. (Especially when noting that the most interesting section just north of Buis-les-Baronnies is not really part of the Col d'Ey climb).

Rather than waiting for quaeldich.de to sort out the trickiness of rating Prettiness, it's simpler just to remove a star from its ratings for the Provence climbs.

hiking + scrambling seaside Marseille - Cassis

09nov

Hiking along the Mediterranean Sea around Marseille and Cassis was very spectacular -- white rock and blue water. Some of the prettiest seaside hiking I've found anywhere. If you're an hiker visiting Provence experienced on not-smooth trails able to navigate with a map, spending time in this area is a must.

But accessing the hikes can get complicated, and there are seasonal closures, so advance planning helps.

Sharon and I got in there together twice: a short afternoon rock scrambling around Callelongue, and a day hiking from Morgiou to Sugiton to Luminy. Another day we did some short explorations of trails west of Cassis around Cap Canaille. I did two longer hikes alone: Callelongue to Col Sormiou, and Cassis to Morgiou. For three of those I used my bicycle to connect the ends of my one-way point-to-point hike. About three years ago Sharon and I had hiked from Cassis to Calanque d'En Vau and back.

Looking forward to getting back there again.

photos:

map:  IGN 1:15000 les Calanques de Marseille à Cassis is indispensable for hiking in the Calanques. (but does not cover Cap Canaille).

IGN TOP25 map 3245ET Aubagne - La Ciotat - Massif de la Sainte Baume 1:25000 -- Covers Cap Canaille and much more -- but if the only interest is in hiking Cap Canaille, I'd guess it's simpler to just use the map segments in the Ferriera guidebook.

IGN TOP25 map 3145ET Marseille - les Calanques 1:25000 -- Does not include all of the Calanques, unless used together with 3245ET. Unlike 1:15000 les Calanques, does not show the specific colors of which the individual trail markings are painted.

guidebook: Des Calanques à la Côte Bleue, by Fernando Ferreira (Éditions Glénat, 2005 - Les Nouveaux Guides Franck Randonnées 81) -- (title translates to: "from the Calanques to the Blue coast") -- Valuable for the more spectacular and challenging hikes, and includes good map segments. Loose-leaf binder format makes it easy to bring just the page and map segment you need for your day.

Les Calanque a pied, de Marseille a Cassis (ffrandonnee.fr - Topoguides, 2007) is more for the gentle + moderate hikes.

English-language? oddly the English hiking guidebooks for Provence which I've found so far don't have much about the Calanques (perhaps because there aren't many easy hikes here?).

bike: Several of the one-day hikes can be done by using a bicycle on the roads to connect between the ends. Or can do a hike (and swim) in the morning, road-bike ride in the afternoon. (Cap Canaille road Route des Cretes is a very spectacular road-bike ride -- see more info + links)

Ferry boats could sometimes by used to support one-way hikes.

Here's some ideas I'm interested in (west to east):

Callelongue

  • ? explore for seaside rock scrambling west of Callelongue village ? [ didn't try that at all ]

  • seaside rock scrambling east of Callelongue [ photos slideshoe on Picasa ] -- the scrambling goes roughly as far as the "beach resort" at Calanque de la Mounine: East from there the seaside scrambling goes away for awhile. Can return to Callelongue village either by the shore trail [ didn't try that ] or some interior hiking trails [ didn't try that ] -- or could stop the seaside scrambling earlier, scramble up to the abandoned semaphore building (or the pass just NE from it), then take hiking trail (with nice views) down to Callelongue village.

of course could do similar loops using the shore trail instead of seaside rock scrambling -- or some mix of scrambling and trail.

? could continue even further E to the “ancient battery” just E of Calanque de Marseilleveyre, then ? Green trail 3 partway up Grand Malvallon, then ? NW on Yellow 2b over Col de la Galinette ? [ didn't try most of that ]

  • ? a couple of higher white rock peaks inland roughly NE from Callelongue ? [ didn't try that at all ]

  • ? islands near Callelongue + les Goudes ? [ didn't try that at all ]

  • from Callelongue east to Col Sormiou (I used my bicycle to get back to Callelongue) -- the obvious way is to follow the GR98 trail -- though I substituted other things for two sections of it: seaside rock scrambling (see above) near the beginning near Callelongue, the (challenging, exciting, tricky) Green trail closer to the shore further east.

seaside rock scrambling: It's easy to spend lots of time on this and not cover much distance -- so I suggest set a cut-off time to allow plenty of time to finish the rest in daylight.

Green trail: spectacular, tricky navigation, includes some rock scrambling. Committing -- once you're in the midst of it there's no way to re-connect with the GR98 except to make it out to one end or the other. I lost the trail at least twice -- there are some "false leads" worn in by previous confused hikers (and by rock climbers with seeking different objectives). So read the 1:15000 topo map carefully as you go -- even better is to also have a good GPS track.

continue further East than Col de Sormiou? Obvious goals further E could be Calanques de Morgiou or Luminy. My feeling is that doing some Callelongue rock scrambling and the Green trail along the way made it plenty exciting just getting to Sormiou. Seems unlikey that the trail thru Calanque de Sormiou to Morgiou is as exciting as that - (anyway that can more easily be done as a separate loop from Col de Sormiou or les Baumettes or the Chemin de Morgiou road). Finishing at Luminy makes the parking easy, but requires a long section away from sea views.

Col de Sormiou

  • Sormiou to Morgiou is the obvious loop [ didn't try that at all ]

  • Calanque de Sormiou + E to Morgiou + Calanque de Sugiton and return W to the Chemin de Morgiou road looks interesting. [ only tried the part from Morgiou to Sugiton, which was great ]

  • from Sormiou W one-way to Callelongue: see above under Callelongue.

Morgiou

  • road access and parking are tricky: Some seasons the road down to near the sea isn't open to visitors. Any time of the year it's steep and curvy and rather narrow -- possible need to back up if encounter a car coming the other way. And there's not many parking spaces anywhere near the sea.

Driving to the start of the road at Les Baumettes is tricky in itself. We were glad we had a GPS to guide us thru the streets of Marseille to it. Allow extra time, be prepared for difficult narrow streets - (or instead take bus or taxi).

The high point of the road is not the same as the "Col de Morgiou" crossed by the hiking trails.

Loop hikes: Looks to me like the loop hikes with Calanque de Morgiou can all be done just as easily from parking higher up away from the sea (like there's a small number of spaces at the high point of the road, and a short ways west from the high point -- or the much larger parking lot at the beginning of the road just S of Les Baumettes. On busy days and seasons, get their early while there's still parking places available (otherwise try parking at Luminy)

One-way hikes starting from Calanque de Morgiou: options: (a) bus to les Baumettes and walk to Calanque M (note that there's a hiking trail that avoids much of the narrow road); (b) taxi down to the sea; (c) park as for Loop hikes above, then walk to the sea; (d) drive the road early in the morning with less traffic, drop off people, then one person drives back to the higher parking and hikes down (or runs down the road) to rejoin the others.

Finishing one-way hike at Morgiou: Leaving a bicycle down by the sea doesn't help much because the road is so steep. And it commits you to finishing at Calanque de Morgiou village, while leaving the bicycle by one of the higher parking areas allows more options of how to finish the hike.

  • Calanque de Morgiou thru Calanque de Sugiton then the alternate trail under the Falaise des Toits cliffs was great [ photos slideshoe on Picasa ]

We finished at Luminy, which enabled Sharon to avoid more down-walking while her knee was recovering, then rode our bicycle to parking near the high point of the Morgiou road. But after all the exciting spectacular hiking we had a long slog on unpaved roads to Luminy -- and not simple to navigate the various roads to which one of two parking areas in Luminy if did not start from Luminy. (At the start I first drove Sharon down to by the sea at Morgiou so she could avoid down-walking on her recovering knee.)

Next time I think I'd finish by hiking W from the top of Calanque de Sugiton to Col de Morgiou, make a loop back to the parking along the Chemin de Morgiou road -- to avoid the complexity of car-bike shuttle with Luminy.

Slight trickiness in finding the alternate more interesting trail underneath the Falaise des Toits: When climbing north out of Calanque de Sugiton, we hit an unpaved road. There we made the unexpected move of turning right to go southeast down the road for a ways, then turned left off the road to follow the red trail up to the cliffs, and it soon goes roughly northwest underneath the overhanging cliff ("falaise" in French), then roughly north climbing up a little couloir, then moderate to reach an unpaved road, turn left on that road toward Luminy - (can later turn off the roads onto trail toward Col de Morgiou).

  • Sormiou: most of the loops from there could also be done starting from the high parking areas for Morgiou.

Luminy

Main advantage of Luminy is that it's easy to drive to big parking areas - (or I suspect there's regular bus service). Note that there's at least two parking areas by hiking trailheads, so be clear on which one you're using. In case you need to ask directions, it helps to know which school or college of the university it's near.

Disadvantage is that Luminy is a sizable distance from the sea. On the other hand the trails are mostly gentle or moderate, which is good if want to avoid impact on knees + ankles.

  • out + back to Belvidere de Sugiton -- easy hike to a nice viewpoint over the sea and white peaks around it - (but it's nowhere near the shore of the sea).

  • down + back to Calanque de Sugiton: consider going down on the main trail, returning on the alterate trail underneath the Falaise des Toits - (more details see above under Morgiou).

(bicycle on the unpaved roads could be very helpful in cutting down the time of gentle-moderate slogging)

  • Sugiton - Morgiou loop (though I think this is shorter if park near high point on Morgiou road -- but sometimes it's not permitted to drive there) - see above under Morgiou.

  • one-way hikes from other places (Cassis or Morgiou) can connect to Luminy:  advantage is if start from seaside and finish at Luminy then avoid some down-walking (with its impact on ankles + knees). If doing a car+bike shuttle, then less uphill and more downhill on the bicycle segment.

But it's not simple to navigate the various roads to which one of two parking areas in Luminy if did not start from Luminy. Make careful use of IGN 1:15000 Calanques map (and a good GPS track couldn't hurt). Be clear about which of the parking areas in the university you're trying to reach (and if you need to ask directions it helps to know the name of the specific college or school it's near).

Cassis

  • Calanque d'En Vau loop - [ photos ]

Spectacular seaside hike with some rock scrambling -- good choice for maximum views + closeness to sea for minimal slogging.  I've explored it twice, will gladly go back more times. Several variations possible -- bring the !GN 1:15000 Calanques map.

The loop I'd think of doing next time with Sharon would be to go out by way of the Blue trail which follows the coast between Calanque de Port Pin and Calanque d'En Vau, meet the GR98, then side trip down into Calanque d'En Vau, then return to Cassis by the GR98 trail.

Possible side trip to the Belvidere d'En Vau (west of the Calanque) -- remarkable viewpoint of blue sea and white rocks.

? Might also be possible to scramble on steep loose rock directly between the Blue scenic trail and Calanque d'En Vau -- to make going down into Calanque d'En Vau a loop instead of side trip [ didn't try that ]

Note that cannot normally park by the start of the trail at Port-Miou, but the walk on the streets of Cassis from the obvious parking to the trailhead is pretty. On busy days and seasons, get their early while there's still parking places available. Bring lotsa coins for paying for parking in Cassis.

  • Falaises du Devenson + Aiguille de l'Eissadon loop

Remarkable seaside cliffs, but a much longer loop from Cassis than d'En Vau.

I didn't do it as a loop, but here's how I think I would try it: From Cassis, roughly west on GR98 to past Calanque d'En Vau. Turn off onto Green trail to go more south close to shore, then west to Aiguille de l'Eisssadon, then to les Falaises du Devenson. At junction with GR98, turn right to go roughly east back toward Cassis. On the way back, side trip to Belvidere d'En Vau recommended if time, also possible non-GR98 sections of the Calanque d'En Vau loop (above).

  • one-way from Cassis west to Morgiou (or Luminy)

spectacular challenging hike with some routefinding complexity -- IGN 1:15000 Calanques map very valuable (perhaps also a good GPS track). Various spectacular alternate routes + side trips possible -- I did not try all of them.

I got the idea for doing this hike from the Lonely Planet Walking in France guidebook, which has lots of valuable ideas for hiking in France - (but I would not try following the map + directions in the book without also using the IGN 1:15000 Calanques map).

I started from Cassis on the GR98, did the Blue scenic trail from Calanque Port Pin to near Calanque d'En Vau (but did not go down into Calanque d'En Vau, because I had done it before and wanted to be sure I had time for later segments) then GR98, then side trip to Belvidere d'En Vau, then Green trail thru Aiguille de l'Eissadon and les Falaises du Devenson, then a long ways on GR98 trail until it met an unpaved road, crossed that onto Red trail down underneath the Falaise des Toits into Calanque de Sugiton, then the obvious trail to Calanque de Morgiou. Hiked the trail (and road) up to near the high point on the Chemin de Morgiou road, rode my bicycle over Col de la Gineste back to Cassis.

What I did not do was try the Red trail closer to the sea starting a bit west from the Devenson cliffs -- stayed on the GR98 instead.

If not sure about time, I think it makes sense to skip the non-GR98 sections further east closer to Cassis, because those could be done instead as a loop from Cassis.

Luminy versus Morgiou finish? Luminy is easier, but it's still a long slog from the junction choice point, and misses going thru the beautiful and interesting Calanques de Sugiton. My feeling is that if you're going to the trouble of setting up the shuttle logistics for the one-way hike, then it's worth including the Sugiton - Morgiou segment.

Navigation: What made it tricky is that there were so many other trails and unpaved roads crossing and joining and forking away from the trail I was trying to follow.

  • seaside south + east from Arene by Cassis

We only tried the first short section of this on a rainy day -- looked promising -- but it was too muddy -- sticky clay mud.

It's supposed to be possible to hike out along the seaside a ways under the Cap Canaille, then return on a higher trail to a different point further east along the road -- hope to try that sometime on a dry day.

There's no way go hike the seaside all the way from Cassis to la Ciotat.

Parking: We got there very early morning on a bad-weather day, so there were some spaces off-street right next to the stairs going down to the Arene beach. But I sorta doubt that's legal. There's pay parking nearby on the street, and more pay parking a bit further west by the sports stadium. I suspect that if you park in a place where you're not paying, you're in some locals-only space which is not legal for you. Bring lotsa coins for the parking.

Cap Canaille

  • along the cliffs

The trail along the cliffs of Cap Canaille is kinda famous for its views. We didn't hike on it, because it was a rainy day. We drove our rental car on the Route des Cretes road which goes near the cliffs. That road is also famous for its views, and we rode our bicycle on it once on a sunny day and agreed with its fame. The road touches the trail at one of more points. From what we could see, the trail has some short steep rough sections.

The main section of the trail isn't very long (? 4 km ?) and likely it's straightforward to set up a car-bike shuttle.

Extensions: A trail also starts from the Route des Cretes lower northwest toward the Cassis end. From what we could see it was more moderate and smoother than some of the steep sections we saw higher south + east. Didn't see much parking near the start. Another possibility is to start all the way down in Cassis and hike up, first on some narrow steep streets, then perhaps a ways on the Route des Cretes road.

  • side trips

We've heard there's some side trips south or north off the trail, but didn't get to check any of that.

See the guidebook.

more . . .

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