Happy hiker Vence

by Judy Churchill

How would you like to see the oldest oak tree in Europe and come face to face with a legendary 400-600-year-old piece of history? Tempted? Then this is the hike for you and the rest of the family. This is a Happy Hiker blue trail only 40-45 minutes’ drive from Monaco starting from the village of Gattières and will take around 3.5 – 4 hours to complete depending on your pace and how long you stop to admire the incredibly spectacular view from the top.

There is a positive gain of 580m and you’ll cover a total distance of 8km so both the children and the dog can cope with this one. The word Baou means a rocky summit so you’ll often see this word around the Vence region as the rocky outcrops characterise this area.

Once in Gattières, park your car in the car park at the entrance to the village (260m) and take the Super-Gattières road up to the cemetery. Just before the cemetery, you’ll see an old sign post (GR51) new way marker 61 going up right (West).  This will take you up to a small road which goes through the residential quarter of Ferraillons and then continues up a path lined with oak trees up to the old Carros road, way marker 71. Go left along this road for 200m (South) until you see the start of the chemin de Bézaudun (West), way marker 72 and carry on up past way marker 73 and 74. You’ll see that some of the way markers which should be white/red are actually grey and that the sign post numbers don’t always correspond to the new numbers on the map. The new maps are published long before the region gets around to updating the sign posts so don’t be surprised if the two don’t always correspond. It looks like they are currently redoing the way markers so they tend to alternate from grey to white/red and once you are on the plateau they become yellow!

Once you arrive at the plateau, way marker 75, change direction and follow the flattish path south past way marker 95 following signs to the Gros Chène. The old oak tree is slightly down on the righthand side of the path near a doline. After you have enjoyed a moment by the tree you can carry on up to the summit (South) and have your picnic while enjoying the amazing view over the coast and the Mercantour (796m).

When walking, I advise taking hiking sticks, as they will help you on both the ascents and the way down. 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 protein bars are sufficient (always take a couple of extra ones). Purpose-made hiking boots/shoes, a roll-up rain jacket 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, light-weight golfing jacket from One Eagle Monaco which not only enables full range of movement but is also great for cooler Spring/Autumn walks as it keeps you at the perfect body temperature. Last but not least, you will need the IGN TOP 25 map n° 3643 ET map (Cannes/Grasse) to mark out your trail before you set off. 

If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on this link: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/pays-vencois/baou-de-la-gaude-9308.html but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guide maps 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.comhttps://www.visorando.comwhic. 

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.

When you’re done, I heartily 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!

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