Happy hiker

Esparron de Verdon

by Judy Churchill 

Outdoor Pursuits Editor 

During the lockdown, it’s always nice to be able to plan the hikes you’ll do when it’s all over.

Having spent lockdown walking around the block, one of the best antidotes, once it is over, is to plan to do a hike off your beaten track. So, take the car and get away to see some new, unfamiliar views.

There is nowhere better to my mind than the Gorges de Verdon to do this. Of course, you’ll need to drive into the Var but you can couple it with a weekend away so that you’ll have an opportunity to visit the area and perhaps stop off for lunch at the beautiful Moustiers Sainte-Marie. This is a great opportunity to pick up some of the famous Moustiers pottery for your home.

I’ve chosen a hike that won’t take you too long (around 2hours 20 minutes) and will give you great views across one of the lakes. Driving there and back, especially if you choose to take the scenic routes, is a real pleasure in itself as there are amazing views around every bend.

This is a Happy Hiker blue trail that covers a circuit of 6.12 km with 211 m of positive gain.

The trail can be done all year round but late autumn and winter are particularly good times as you should have the place to yourself. Summer is beautiful but packed with tourists.

Leave your car in the car park on the rue de la Barque on the banks of lake Esparron in front of the restaurants.

Start the circuit by leaving the village of Esparron via the D82 in the direction of the ‘Château’. Take the road lined with plane trees and go past an old washing ‘lavoir’ on your right.

When you get to the plane tree with the large hole in its trunk, take the road on the right called Chemin de la Tuilière.

70m further on, take the track on the left ‘sentier de découverte’ and when it starts to double back, turn right. The track then narrows into a pathway, goes up to a plateau where it meets another path. Carry on straight ahead to the ridge and with the slope on your right carry on along the path, keeping right where the path flattens out. You will come close to a ravine, go left and you will come out onto another track a little further on. Follow this right.

You will end up on what’s called the chemin botanique. Turn right and cross the plateau de la Séouve. Carry on along the track for 2 km and you’ll see a radio pylon on your right. Continue, bearing slightly left. When you arrive in the woods you will see a path on your left. Take it and continue straight. You will arrive at a stony clearing: go down carefully as this part is a bit tricky.

You will come out at another clearing in the woods where you’ll be on the banks of the lake.

Go right along this track alongside the lake and you’ll see a road up ahead. When you get to the entrance to the campsite, carry on and go past an old building on the left. After the building go left on a path that goes back down to the lake. Further on, on the shore of the lake go left back up to the road.

 Once you arrive at the road, you’ll see the castle on your left and the D82 road opposite. At the end go left towards to castle and the ‘lavoir’. Continue towards the village and you’ll be back at 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, a 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 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 3342ET or 3343OT map(can be purchased online or in some newsagents and sports shops) to mark out your trail before you set off. 

If you speak French you can pick up the guide to this hike on the following link: https://www.visorando.com/randonnee-esparron-de-verdon/ 

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 iphone to record steps, km and levels climbed. I also have an altitude app which is very useful.

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

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