Happy Half-Term Hikes in the Vence Hinterland
Circuit de Pié Martin
by Judy Churchill
With half-term approaching and so many valleys having been destroyed by storm Alex, here is a hike in a beautiful area that lends itself well to spending a weekend in St Paul de Vence. This will give you a chance to visit the beautiful village of St Paul, visit the various artisanal boutiques, and also pay a visit to the famous foundation Maeght.
This is a Happy Hiker Blue trail that covers a distance of 7.5 km with 450 m of positive gain. It will take you around 3 hours to complete and can be done all year round.
Drive to Tourettes-sur-Loup and park in the large car park at the entrance to Tourettes, situated 500m east of the village.
From the square at the centre of the village, there is a small road that goes up through the residential area of St-Martin which you take for 2 km (North-west). Carry on up a path (waymarker 183) through a forest and then keep climbing, winding up through the trees.
When you reach an intersection of paths (waymarker 184) go right on Chemin des Courmettes, then take another immediate right turn (North) on a wide, shady path that comes out onto a horizontal path further up.
Follow this path bearing right (East) for about 300m until you see the start of another track on the right (waymarker 186). Start going down (South) to the vast panoramic plateau of Pié Martin before starting your descent by going down a rocky ridge. The pathway winds down to the first houses (waymarker 182) and the steep tarmac Villars road (waymarker 181). You end your circuit on the route de St-Martin which takes you back to the centre of Tourettes (1.5km).
N.B. Part of this circuit goes across the Domaine des Courmettes with its flocks of sheep. Make sure you respect the flocks and close any gates. This is a private domain and closed on Thursdays during the hunting season from October to mid-January.
When walking, I advise taking hiking poles, as they will help you with both the ascents and descents. They also guarantee you get a full body work out. You’ll need a cap and sunglasses to keep the sun off your face (the sun is a lot stronger in the hills and mountains so don’t forget the sunscreen). Remember to take more water than you think you’ll need (at least a litre and a half per person) and enough protein bars for during and after the hike. I always have a high fibre, high protein breakfast before I set off which means that I don’t need to carry a large picnic with me as good quality protein bars are sufficient (always take a couple of extra ones). Purpose-made hiking boots/shoes, a roll-up rain jacket, first aid kit, and a rucksack are a must and you will need lighter wear for the Spring/Summer season and heavier/warmer for Autumn and Winter. I have a Bogner zip-up, long-sleeved, lightweight golfing jacket from One Eagle Monaco that not only enables a full range of movement but is also great for cooler Spring/Autumn walks as it keeps you at the perfect body temperature. In the winter months, you will need extra layers of clothing, gloves, a warm hat, and thicker socks. In the summer months when doing high mountain trails, do check the temperature at your destination before setting off as you may need some extra layers. Last but not least, you will need the “Cannes-Grasse” TOP 25 n° 3643 ET map (can be purchased online or in some newsagents and sports shops) to mark out your trail before you set off.
If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on the following link:
but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guides are only approximate. There are also hike specific apps such as Visorando, which have both free and purchasable versions and can be very useful guides and even have GPS options. https://www.visorando.com
If you have Strava you can record your walk on this app and it will give you lots of fascinating statistics at the end as well as totaling up the number of km/altitude you do in any given year. You can also use the health app on your i-phone to record steps, km, and gradient.
When you’re done, I strongly recommend a foot massage using Young Living Essential Foot Oil (a combo of Rosemary, Peppermint, and Lavender) – your feet will thank you later!
Enjoy your hike and don’t forget your camera