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Les Basses Beaumettes is ideal for self directed/self guided walking holidays. We are both very keen walkers and have complied a file of over seventy of our favourite walks in the area, to help give you some ideas. With descriptions, walking times and 1:25000 map extracts, these should help you choose the walks which are most suitable for you, giving more relevant walking information to this area than you would find in a guidebook.
To give you a glimpse of some of the terrain you will be able to explore here, have a look at this Vu du Ciel film made for the opening of our natural park in March 2012.
In our self catering apartment we provide a walking folder with over 70 walks described with an A4 map of each one.
Each day we provide you with any maps and information you may need and a weather forecast. Below is a suggestion of what could be possible during a week's walking holiday at Les Basses Beaumettes. You can of course do your own thing, and explore the area for yourself. We try to cater for everyone from those who enjoy rambling holidays to those who prefer walks with a few challenges. We aim to provide you with an independent walking holiday designed to give you the maximum benefit from our local knowledge, you choose where you go and what you do, we just help you with local information and weather forecasts so that you can make the most of your holiday. We do not go out on the walks with you.
There is excellent walking all year round at St Auban. With 300 sunny days a year here you have to be very unlucky not to have good weather.
In May and June there are lots of wild flowers, we even have a walk we recommend you do to see the most colourful display of peonies in the area. The website Flore Alpes gives you an idea of the flowers you can expect to see in the hills and mountains in the Alpes Maritimes.
In July and August the paths are adorned with thyme and lavender, remember to take a sunhat and lots of water with you on walks at this time of year, although there are often rivers (and fountains) to cool off in en route.
September and October are great for fruit and there are stunning displays of autumn colours. The temperatures tend to be less ferocious and flights to get here cheaper. Why not come out to our little corner of sunshine in the South East of France for some autumn sunshine when the nights and the weather are drawing in, in northern Europe?
There is an wide variety of walks for all levels of ability and fitness. In the walking folder we provide in our self catering apartment there are over 70 walks described with an A4 map of each one. There are walks passing through medieval villages, taking in hamlets that roads have yet to reach, others go to waterfalls. Walk through fields of lavender and wild thyme crossing a Napoleonic bridge on route, passing through old farm terraces. There are both high and low level walks. Many of the high level walks give stunning views from mountain tops and ridges, looking south to the Mediterranean sea or north to the Mercantour National park. At L'Audibergue you can take the chairlift up onto the ridge and look south to the Med and north to the high mountains - all for very little effort. The chairlift runs during the summer on weekends in May, June and September and every day in July and August, open 10h - 12.30h and 14h - 17.30 h.
The world famous Verdon Gorge is only 40 minutes away and has spectacular walking (photo below left). Take a picnic and have a swim in the Verdon River whilst following the course of Europe's deepest Gorge (photo below right), or explore one of the quieter walks in the Gorge like Le Sentier du Pécheur (see photo right).
The South East corner of France offers stunning scenery criss crossed with Gorges like Gorge du Riolan in the photo on the left, remarkably it is still largely undiscovered by the tourist industry. Paths are good, and are very well maintained by the local villagers who still use them for transhumance farming, which is a big part of the local economy. They are well sign-posted, quiet and free of litter.
The Grande Randonnée GR long distance walking routes GR 510 and GR 4 pass within 1 and 10 km respectively of Les Basses Beaumettes.
Arpille, the mountain in the centre of the home page photo (1,600m high) is an easy walk from Les Basses Beaumettes. Setting off from Les Basses Beaumettes at three in the morning to watch the sun rise over the Italian Alps from the top of Arpille is a memorable experience. Walk up the hidden path on the north side used in World War II by the locals to hide young men from the war, then come back down the large forestry track which traverses the front face. Linger as long as you want on the summit gathering lavender and admiring the view - see photo on the left.
The Teillon-Pensier ridge affords views of the sharp, rocky ridges of the Mercantour mountains and, again, can be walked up directly from Les Basses Beaumettes, although a two car shuttle allows the whole ridge to be explored. The Cremon Ridge (right) gives equally superb views and makes a great circular walk.
We are within driving distance to the Cote d'Azur which away from its image of jet set glitzy yachts and expensive shops does have some lovely walking. The red rocks of the Esterel Peninsula effortlessly add variety to any walking holiday, and the ascent of some of the bigger peaks gives fantastic views along the length of the Côte d'Azur. Coastal walks around the Cape d'Antibes and other parts of the littoral are also very pleasant and give a good contrast to the higher terrain inland.
In sharp contrast to the walking available at the coast are the high mountains of the Mercantour National park. Although it does take an hour and a half to drive there, the walking in high alpine scenery is stunning ranging from ambling through beautiful meadows to scrambling up rocky peaks of up to 3000m in altitude. Marmots and chamois live in these mountain meadows and are often as curious to see you, as you are to look at them.
In our walking folder we also have half-day suggestions. This sequence of pictures were taken at Annot on a walk exploring Le Chambre et Jardins du Roi. Make sure you bring a torch, as along with some of the walks in the Verdon Gorge, this walk has caves and fissures in the rocks to explore. This is an excellent afternoon walk combined with a visit to the medieval town of Entrevaux.
The Maritime Alps is also an excellent winter walking destination. Days are longer than in Britain, flights are cheap and it is an excellent way to shake off the winter blues with some sunshine and a pleasant way to stay fit over winter. This corner does not get snow bound like the northern alps. We have walks suitable for winter time which avoid any cold, icy, north facing slopes. We are within easy reach of the Allos mountains which do attract more snow, giving the possibility of trying a day walking with snow shoes. See photos at the very bottom of the page to get more of an idea of what life is like here in winter time.
Although we do provide all the maps we think you'll need, if you want to have your own, you can order them from the IGN website.
Some of our recommended walks
Les Beaumettes – Gars – Brianconnet – Les Beaumettes.
Walk from Les Beaumettes up through the pine forest to the view point at Col de Baratus where you will be able to see a stunning panorama north and in particular of the Mercantour national park. The path then descends through woodland to the charming little old village of Gars, with a mandatory lunch stop in (see photo above), or by the river which flows through the village. Follow the path up through a very arid landscape to the village of Brianconnet. Stop for a drink at the bar in the village to fortify you before descending on the GR510 down to the river, followed by a long steep ascent to Col de l’Escourissier giving views back down the Esteron river. From there it is an easy walk following an old shepherds path down to Le Defens, and back to Les Beaumettes either through the woods or on the D5.
Crete de la Bernarde and the Cremon Ridge.
Park your car at Demondolx and we’ll take you up to the old ski area of Vauplane to start your walk. (5 E supplement). Walk from Vauplane up the track then follow the cairns up onto the summit of La Bernarde. From the view point you will have excellent views into the valleys to the north. Follow the ridge along the Cremon giving views of the village of St Julien du Verdon and Lac Castillon. Descend off the ridge and drop down below the tree line onto a well marked path through the woods and back to Demondolx.
Mont St Martin, Clue de Riolan and Salagriffon.
Follow the path up through the village of Aiglun past the Calandal restaurant. Turn right at the top of the village. The path contours along some old olive terraces then zig zags up to Mont St Martin giving excellent views across to cascade de Vegay. Continue over the shoulder and down into Clue de Riolan and across the Napoleonic footbridge built in 1860 and restored in 1998 spanning the gorge. Follow the track up to the charming village of Sallagriffon. Follow the path back up through natural stone walls with stunning views of the Clue d’Aiglun onto the shoulder of Mont St-Martin. The path, originally built as a key trading route, picks its way down a stone stair case traversing the cliff which dominates the village of Aiglun, then traverses a scree slope bringing you back to Aiglun. Dinner at the Auberge de Calandal in Aiglun adds the finishing touch to a memorable day, before returning to Les Basse Beaumettes.
Experienced confident walkers only.
Soleilhas – La Sagne – Les Coulettes – La Sagne.
This circular walk gives wonderful variety and doesn’t involve too much descent and ascent. The walk starts in Soleilhas (10 minutes by car from Les Beaumettes). Follow the GR4 which winds its way up round the cliff that dominates the village, past the ruins at Verraillon of a once grand farm house to the mountain village of La Sagne. The path takes you through pine forests which are full of primroses in the spring and lavender in the summer. La Sagne is a delight for any one interested in plants, despite being at 1200m it is sheltered in a bowl and has become a centre for organic farming and horticulture. The whole village has been gradually restored over the past 20 years. The village fountain with its hanging baskets of petunias makes a very fragrant and colourful lunch spot and is handy for refilling water bottles. From La Sagne the path then descends through a dried up river bed, past an ancient stone freezer to Les Coulettes, a mountain hamlet with no road to it. Les Coulettes’ economy is based on donkeys and they have recently built a Mongolian yourt which we can arrange for you to stay in. The path then follows the hamlet irrigation channel up to the stone Chapelle St – Pierre. Have a look at the beautiful water fall and plunge pool that feeds the hamlets irrigation system, the reason for building a village in such a remote location. Retrace your steps for 20 metres then scramble up and along the cliffs and follow the path back to Soleilhas.
This walk can be shortened by driving to le Prignolet, turn left just before the village and leave your car at the road end. This shortend version misses out the Soleihas part of the circuit. The walk can be lengthened by carrying on at La Sagne up to crete de Terrier giving good views of the Mercantour then to le Touvet, Ubraye and back to La Sagne, before continuing to Soleilhas via Les Coulettes.
Mont Pelat and Lac D'Allos
Although it takes an hour and a half to drive to the start of the walk it is well worth it. Mont Pelat at 3051m is a spectacular mountain and a relatively easy walk. The photo to the left shows the summit. A zig zag path takes you up through meadows of marmots where you will hopefully catch a glimpse of the odd friendly mouflon, chamois and ibex. The ibex were reintroduced in 1994 by the National Park. The grassy meadows then give way to rocky slopes. A scramble up onto the summit gives you the choice of a 360 degree panorama to eat your sandwiches whilst contemplating the Allos mountains to the north, the huge rocky frontier ridge of the Alpes Maritimes and the gentler hills to the south dropping off to the Mediterranean Sea.
On the way back down when you have finished taking photographs of all the marmots, the walk around Lac d'Allos will make a perfect end to a perfect day. Lac d'Allos is the largest high altitude lake in Europe (2228m) and is 48m deep. The lake is dominated to the north by Mt Pelat and in the south by five sandstone towers. The lake is located in a cirque formed by glaciers thawing in the quaternary era. The water in the lake is exceedingly cold as it comes mainly from melting snow. The main types of fish in the lake are mountain trout and arctic charr.
The Upper Verdon has an exceptional range of flora and is home to about 1500 plant species including martagon lilies, edelweiss, androsace, jovibarba and senecio doronicum.
Crete du Teillon.
We will drop you off at La Garde (5E supplement). Follow the path steeply up past a sheer cliff face, then zig zag up meadows onto the Teillon Ridge which gives spectacular views of Lac De Castillon, the Cremon Ridge, the Mercantour National park and south down to the Cote d’Azur. Follow the Teillon ridge for its full gently undulating length. At Pensier Oriental the path descends through the pine trees giving good views of St Auban, then an easy walk back across two fords to les Beaumettes.
Otherwise you can do it as a circuit from La Garde or from La Foux.
The Verdon Gorge
The Verdon Gorge is only 40 minutes drive away and affords some excellent walking. As you drive to go walking in the gorge on the south side you pass the pretty village of Trigance, the road then takes you over Pont d’ Artuby, one of the highest bungee jumping bridges in the world, a view point definitely worth stopping at.
On the south side of the gorge, leave your car at Auberge des Cavaliers, follow the steep path down into the gorge which gives superb views back up the sheer rock walls. The path continues along beside the river often on walkways cut into the stone to l’Imbut, giving plenty of swimming opportunities, provided that the dam is not releasing water. From there you follow a spectacular path cut into the cliffs with steel ropes to hold onto and a ladder to help you up the final bit of cliff back to the road.
The walk back along the rim of the gorge to your car gives you the chance to look back down into the gorge and take in some more breath taking views.
If you would like to do a longer walk in the Gorge, Sentier Martel on the North side, is well worth doing. Either start at Samson's Couloir and walk to Chalet de la Maline, or walk from Chalet de la Maline to Samson's Couloir. For information about transport to get back to your car please see the Verdon Gorge page.
The Sentier Martel on the north side of the Gorge is perhaps the most famous walk in the gorge.
This account on the Fodor's website gives an idea
of what to expect.
The Gorges du Verdon draws hard-core hikers who are willing to forego the local rosé to keep their wits about them as they tackle France's answer to the Grand Canyon.
Make sure you're in shape before you test your mettle along the Sentier Martel---it's no Sunday-after-lunch promenade. The famous 14 kilometer (9 mile) stretch of the GR4 follows a steep, narrow path flanked on one side by rock wall and the other by nothingness, sometimes passing over loose rubble and sometimes over slick, mossy limestone at a 45-degree rake. And those are the easy parts. One of the trail's many engineered challenges: a series of wrought-iron ladder-stairs (240, count them if you dare) bolted deep into rock cliff and suspended over the chasm below. The grand finale: two womb-dark tunnels through shoe-deep water, one of them 2,198 ft long. If you're an experienced hiker, however, you'll be able to take your eyes off your feet and appreciate the magnificent setting. It is, indeed, one of the grandest canyons in Europe. The Sentier Martel takes anywhere from six to nine hours to complete.
You can arrange a taxi pickup at Point Sublime based on a rough estimate of your own abilities, or leave a car at the final destination and ask a taxi to carry you to your take-off point. Most people depart from the Chalet de La Maline, striking out on the long descent and then working their way back up gradually to the Couloir du Samson and the Point Sublime.
The Gorge du Daluis
If you are worried that the Gorge du Verdon might be a bit crowded in July and August why not consider one of our recommended walks in the Gorge du Daluis which is an hours drive north of Les Basses Beaumettes. The stunning red schist rock is to be seen to be believed. It is often in layers which give natural terraces to walk on. Where ever you walk in the Gorge du Daluis you will have views down onto its magnificent river.
I've got blisters get me out of here!
If you fancy a day off there are lots of other activities to enjoy - rafting in the Verdon Gorge or Gorge de Daluis, canyoning, doing an underground or over ground via Ferrata, or visiting the medieval villages of St. Paul de Vence and Tourette sur Loup, Entreveax or Gourdon. Fishing for trout in the trout ponds in St Auban or visit the vultures at Rougon, or discover the local area horse riding with our local out door centre. We also have a large selection of short local walks if you want a half day walk. A popular option is to combine a visit to the Wednesday or Saturday morning market in Castellane with a short / half day walk going up to the chapel overlooking Castellane, or to the fossil fields at Col de Leque. For those with blisters by this stage we recommend sunbathing in the garden enjoying life in our little hamlet with a medicinal glass of pastis.
Other spring, summer and autumn walking suggestions
Those who like sporty walks should try the Gorge St Pierre - as you can see from the photos below it is definitely not for the faint hearted.
It is also possible to continue up Gorge St Pierre and up onto Grand Coyer.
Winter time in Les Basses Beaumettes
Winter time in Les Basses Beaumettes often gives days of blue skies and sunshine, perfect for a day out on the hills.
You can hire raquettes locally and explore some of the forestry tracks and ridges.
We have an excellent snow clearing service in St Auban, the local snow plough comes up to the hamlet every day - usually dragging our garden fence behind it!
Hanging out the washing isn't always the easiest!
It is always a really good idea to remember where you parked your car!