A Winter Walk in the Esterel 3 December 2008
The national park around Le Trayas, "Forêt domanial de l'Esterel" is one of the few protected patches of nature on the Cote d'Azur. It extends ca 40 km from Théoule-sur-mèr to St. Raphael.
The Esterel is a wonderful place for outdoor activities. We go almost every day for a hike, and this page tells you about a walk around two nearby hills, the "Grues", on December 3, 2008.

 

 

 

Some pictures are clickable for a larger image

Les Grues
Map of the "Grues"

Above The two"Grues".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above The walk takes us from the upper entrance of the park on the northern side of our own hill, the Pic Martin, up to the Col de Notre Dame, then on the western side of the Grues to the Col de la Cadière, and then back south on the eastern side of the same hills (col means mountain pass in French). The walk covers a distance of 6 km and takes ca 1.5 hours.

Pic de l'Ours

The Mediterranean

Above The Pic de l'Ours (Bear Hill) comes into the view a few meters into the park. With an elevation of 500 m it is one of the larger hills of the Esterel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above A few more meters, and we reach the other side of the Pic Martin. Below, it's the Mediterranean. We are at an altitude of 250 m.

Right 400 meters ahead, we reach the Col de Notre Dame. In the distance to the west, it's the Mont Vinaigre, with an elevation of 614 m the highest hill in the Esterel. We are 325 m altitude.

Mont Vinaigre

Right The road ahead, gently descending toward the Col de la Cadière. We are on the western side of the smaller Grues hill (official name: "le sommet des petites grues", don't ask).

 

 

Road Western Side Les Grues

 

Right After one kilometer, the bay of Fréjus is coming into the picture in the west. The valley itself ("ravin de la couche de l'âne")contains the Lac de l'Écureuil (Squirrel Lake, invisible from here), with fishing and more outdoor fun.

Bay of Fréjus

 

Right A European oak in full foliage. The tree next to it, a Mediterranean oak, is evergreen; it updates its leaves in the spring. In the background, the Sommet du Marsaou and the Sommet Pelet, both exceeding 500 m altitude.

Two Oak Trees
Bay of Fréjus

Above The bay of Fréjus in the distance (the whiteish patch). St. Tropez is also visible, theoretically speaking.

 

Right We are approching the Col de la Cadière. The road is lined with Ecalyptus trees.

Road

 

 

Right Local honey production. We are at the Col de la Cadière now, where we turn to the south. We are at 245 m altitude.

Beehives

Right The Mont St. Martin, 287 m high. To the right, a first glimps of Mandelieu, built on the slope of the Tanneron hills. On the horizon, the first chain of the Alps, ca 1000 m high.

 

 

Mont St. Martin
Mandelieu and Grasse

As the attentive reader may have noticed, our modest elevations are called "pics", "sommets", and "monts". We do not have "collines" (hills). Technically, the place is a has-been mountain chain with geological ties to Corsica. It has nothing to do with the nearby Alpes and is much older. (The Alpes were caused by Italy deciding to leave Africa and join Europe ca 60 million years ago).

 

 

Above Focus on Mandelieu. In the background, Grasse. The white mountains here constitute the second chain of the Alpes, ca 1700 m high, at a distance of ca 40 km. Gréolière, the nearest ski resort, is located on the other (northern) side of the ridge. The snowcover this early in the year is very exceptional.

 

A glimps of Cannes
Mercantour

Above A first glimps of Cannes...

 

 

 

Left The Mercantour, the principle mountain chain of the southern Alps, which divides France and Italy, at a distance of ca 70 km. The highest mountains reach 3300 m. The best local ski resorts are in the Mercantour, notably Isola 2000.

Cannes

Above Focus on Cannes, with the Mont de Théoule, 266 m, in the foreground. Right in the center the Palais du Festival with the pier of the old harbour extending to the right.

 

Right The road ahead.

Road

 

 

Right A treehouse for hunting. We have wild boar, deer, and vermins. The hunters feed the animals during the summer.

Treehouse for Hunting

 

 

 

Right Le Trayas coming back into the picture.

Le Trayas

 

 

 

Below Oak and sea. The last view of the walk.

Bay and Marina
Oak with Sea

Above Bay and Marina of Le Trayas