The Bévéra Valley, Tour de Mont Grazian
by Judy Churchill
If you are looking for a ‘green and pleasant’ land just 40 minutes’ drive from Monaco, then Sospel (just North of Menton) is the answer to your prayers. Truly blessed with lush green hills, beautiful streams and rock pools, forests, olive groves and picturesque mountain paths, the Bévéra valley has it all. Many have chosen to make Sospel either their permanent or second home and it is close enough to Monaco to enable hikers and bikers to go there as often as they wish. Even the drive there is incredibly scenic. Here the Bévéra meets the Roya valley and creates some of the most beautiful walks in the region. This is another town that has changed hands between Italy to France several times over the centuries before becoming permanently French in 1860.
This time I’m taking you on one of my favourite Bévéra valley circuits around Mont Grazian where all the features of nature seemed to have teamed up to give you the best possible spectacle.
This is a middle-mountain, medium level walk, suitable for all the family (including the dog) and will take you around 4-4.5 hours to complete (depending on how long you stop for lunch) with 470m of gradient. The best time of the year to do this hike is between May and November.
By car from Monaco, the fastest route is to take the A8 motorway to Menton and then the D.2566 to Sospel via the road under the col de Castillon. From Sospel go East into the Bévéra Valley via the D. 2204 and then take the D.93 and park on the side of the road as close as possible to the “pont de Cai” (orange maps has the location). Start the hike just before the “pont de Cai” by taking the pathway just above road level at way marker 89 (300m). You will be tracking the Bassera stream, following the yellow rectangular way markers and always taking a right turn when you reach a crossroads. This happens twice. Do not be tempted to take a left turn however pretty and tempting it looks as this will throw you off track (I speak from experience!). Make your way up to the Garba Plateau (ruins) and then on up to way marker 96 (570m) where the path meets the GR52A. Keep right and follow the path up to the Col de Paula at way marker 119 (739m). From the col keep right again (south) and follow the path down to way marker 115 (you’ll see the village of Peine Haute to your left). Follow the D. 193 road for 500m to way marker 440 and then take the pathway down towards the Saint-Jerome chapel, past an olive grove and onto the D.93 road (just above the old border crossing with Italy) at way marker 441. Take the road on the right up to way marker 442 and then leave the road at way marker 443 and join the old path to Sospel (GR510) with the beautiful Bévéra river running below and catch some breathtaking views on your way back to the pont de Cai at way marker 89.
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 mountains so don’t forget the sunscreen) and several layers of clothing that you can shed or put on as your temperature changes. 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 gear, boots and a rucksack are a must and you will need lighter wear for the Spring/Summer season and heavier/warmer for the Autumn/Winter period. Last but not least as I mentioned above you will need the IGN n° 3741 ET map (Vallée de la Bévéra et des Paillons) to mark out your trail before you set off (all numbered way markers are indicated on the IGN maps which are available for purchase online or at good book and sports shops). If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on this link: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/bevera-paillon/tour-du-mont-grazian-9383.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 you do in any given year.
Enjoy your hike and don’t forget your camera!