Easy Autumn Hike in the Esterel
Circuit du Grand Duc
by Judy Churchill
Outdoor Pursuits Editor
The Esterel is always a feast for the eyes whatever the season, but if you’re looking for an easy hike as the autumn sets in, then choose a sunny day and set off on this scenic circuit. However, if you’re doing this hike from January to March then you will soon realise you have landed on ‘planet Mimosa’ where the scented yellow blooms will be all around you.
This is a Happy Hiker Green trail with a distance of 6.1 km and a positive gain of 220m. It will take you about 2 hours to complete.
Drive to Mandelieu via the A8 (exit Mandelieu-centre). From the town centre follow signs to Tanneron via the RD 92 and stay on this for 4 km until you get to a parking area on the side of the road.
From the car park (290m) cross the route de Tanneron to use the DFCI track de Barbossi (waymarker 470) and stay on this for 1.2 km (Red and white GR waymarkers). You will come out at a large intersection (350 m) with a sign giving information about the Mandelieu forest.
Leave the GR and go right (waymarker 475) on the Grand Duc pathway and take in the incredible views over the bay of Cannes, the Lerins islands, and Siagne Plain.
Ignore two paths on the left, cut across the track, and still on the path, go down through the cork oaks.
When you arrive at a track, go down right (North) until you reach an intersection and then continue left (waymarker 472) via the Fenouillers track.
When you get to the next turn, go up left (waymarker 473) which takes you up to a reservoir, and then go left (waymarker 474) onto the Barbossi track which goes up to 316m.
Return to the large intersection you came to on your way out, avoiding the track by taking the cork oak-lined path on the left. The intersection is at the end of the pathway on the right (waymarker 471).
Follow directions to Mandelieu via the DFCI track back to the car park.
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: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/pays-cannois/circuit-du-grand-duc-9322.htmll 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 totalling 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