Sites and activities: Nature
Visiocarte circuits in the Eastern Part of the Esterel
Circuit 12 – Mount St Martin
At a walkable distance from La Napoule bay, the forest world of the Esterel opens up, a vast preserved space where rocky towers mix with mountains in warm shades of red-orange, secret valleys which sometimes exude a trickle of pure water and of course multiple essences with fragrant Mediterranean scents.
To be discovered after the passage of the Sarrazin Bridge, concealed in the shelter of the high rocks of Mount Saint Martin, the remnants of a vast Oppidum takes you back to historical times once again: under the thick cover of a grove of yeuses, cork oak and arbutus, you can still detect the geometric layout of dry-stone walls, whereas a vaulted building reveals a more recent occupation.
Lower down, the Maure-Viel mine and its ghostly buildings evoke the intensive exploitation of the 60s-70s, when the deposit of fluorspar produced 80,000 tonnes per year, employing up to 65 people.
The woodland formations largely comprise populations of maritime pines. A cork-oak forest, an oak forest or a cork-oak forest, having resisted the subsequent fires, stretches across the valley costs of Maure Vieille up to the south of the Mount Saint Martin, where you will find the presence of both green oaks and maritime pines.
Circuit 13 – California
You are in the Esterel Departmental Park. A symphony of colours on the azure… Located in the municipalities of Mandelieu-La Napoule and Théoule-sur-Mer, this park of more than 700 hectares was acquired by the Conservatoire du Littoral, with the support of the General Council between 1997 and 2009
This natural area of ecological interest, fauna and flora is home to almost 34 animal species of heritage interest including notably a population of wild cats, roe deer, bats as the Molosse de Cestoni and birds: the Mediterranean Warbler and the Tichodrome. As for birds of prey, you may encounter: the Short-toed Snake Eagle, the Peregrine falcon, the Eurasian Eagle-owl and the Eastern Screech-owl.
To discover at the end of the track that leads to near Mount Théoule, the «California balcony», the splendid viewpoint offered over the Gulf of La Napoule, a geographic name which is incorrectly called the Bay of Cannes and the coastline below.
Circuit 14 – Le Rocher des Monges
It is at sunset that the rocher des Monges rock reveals all the warmth of its sandstone ochre cliffs rising from the scrub 300 m above the waves.
The ports of La Figueirette to the south, from La Rague and La Napoule in the north are far removed from the maritime reality of the places from the high belvedere which keenly defends its access by a few meters of optional climbing. Toward the interior of the land, the Esterel unrolls its carpet of greenery, marrying mountains and glens as far as the eye can see to form a huge natural backdrop.
Only the maze of tracks protecting the massive from fires attests to the presence of man in this preserved space, unfortunately extremely vulnerable because of the warm climate, sometimes violent winds from the west and the multiple flammable trees which cover it.
This circuit can be done as an extension of circuit 13.
Circuit 15 – La pointe de l’Aiguille (tip of the needle)
Under the very tourist route de la Corniche d'or, the pointe de l’Aiguille [tip of the needle], with its rugged relief made of solidified lava dating from the end of the primary era, conceals a beautiful pebble beach sheltered from the mistral wind. This route unveils the colour of red-garnet rock, typical of the porphyry cliffs, which gives the landscape a particular pimento. The vegetation of course follows this geological mutation: heather trees, cork oak, eucalyptus, mimosas and arbutus jostle with pine trees.
Nearby an audacious arch overlooks a secret creek, this is the cave of Gardanne where the waves come crashing in a resounding crashing. A favourite stash for the smugglers of yesteryear, this cave owes its name to one of them who managed to escape from the customs in a felucca by taking refuge in this impregnable place.
Circuit 16 – L’Esquillon
This route which overlooks the coast offers have superb sea views against a background of volcanic red rocks, facing the Lérins Islands.
A few amazing constructions will intersperse your journey such as the Liberation cross, Our Lady of Africa or even the bubble houses built by the architect Antti Lovag.
Circuit 17 – La Crête des Grues
The most sporty of the circuits presented in the Visiocarte. A rounded mountain located on the outskirts of the Alpes Maritimes and the Var, the ridge connecting the Small and Large cranes home of the mistral the amazing site of Miramar and the La Figueirette cove.
A discreet short trail along this panoramic ridge, insinuated in the undergrowth of heathland, arbutus and cork oaks, climbing a few steep rocks here and there in warm volcanic colours.
Pre-Alpine in Grasse, Argentera-Mercantour link, La Napoule Gulf or the Bay of Saint Raphael, all this far into the distance with first the scope of the Esterel and its infinite latticework of hills and valleys dominated by Mount Vinaigre and the cork-oak treetops in the north by the Pic de l’Ours in the south, recognisble by its high emitting position.
Circuit 18 – Lake Ecureuil
This hike is located in the national forest of the Esterel, the State forest managed by the National Forestry Office (NFB). It now seems poorly-named, since the lake was emptied for safety reasons in 2009. In fact, cracks were observed on the dam and to prevent the dam form succumbing one day, the authorities decided to drain the water dam. Although disproportionate to the tragic memory of the Malpasset dam, it is still present in people's minds. Also two alternatives presented to the State (represented by the NFB) and the local communities: to recreate all or part of the dam, and well let nature take its course.
The beauty of the Esterel Massif is no less present on this route which lets you explore the primary forest next to the Maison Forestière des Trois Termes with the cork oak trees, so far spared by fire, and before arriving at Lake Écureuiln, the wooded passages of oak-pubescent.
Circuit 19 – Le Pic de l’Ours
This hike which starts by the sea leads us to the middle of the state forest. The alternation of traditional trails and forest tracks adds a healthy diversity to the progression, permitting a few moments of relaxation after the steady climb of one of the three summits of the Esterel, the pic de l’Ours (492 m) whose peaks reach 562 m. The ascension of this summit, an incomparable panoramic view on the Corniche de l’Estérel is the culmination of this journey which are given a special glow by the bright winter days.
If the hike is conducted in the summer, just cross the road at the end of the hike to end the day with a well deserved swim before returning to La Napoule by car or train!
- Eastern part of the Esterel Massif >>
- Tanneron and the Forest of the Grand Duke to find out more >>