The Real Riviera Happy Hiker

Circuit du Cuore

by Judy Churchill

If you’re up for a challenge, fancy a whole day hiking but don’t want to drive too far, then the Circuit du Cuore is the hike for you. It’s a Happy Hiker red trail so you’re going to get a good workout and some real exercise for both body and mind. You will also have the thrill of being able to take some shots of ‘one leg in France and one in Italy’ (see photos below) when you reach the col de Cuore and the concrete France/Italy border blocks dating from 1927. 


April to November is the perfect time to do this hike as the days are long and the weather more reliable.

Sospel is easy to get to, either by train or by car (19km from Menton) on the RD2566. It’s a very pretty drive and you can park near or at the train station.

This area is our local ‘green and pleasant land’ and you will be able to enjoy lots of lush forest on this hike. Although you will be only 8km from the sea, as the crow flies, you will reach 1032m at the col du Razet which is quite extraordinary and shows that you don’t have to travel far from Monaco to find a real mountain chain. Nestled in the hinterland of Menton, Sospel has a good range of challenging hikes, typical of the area and this one has a positive and negative gain of 770m and will take you between 51/2 – 6 hours to complete.  

Make sure you have proper hiking boots with good stability and grip as simple trainers will let you down on the descent, where the path can be narrow and rocky. The beauty of this wild scenery will certainly capture your imagination but make sure you set off early in the morning as the relatively high altitude can cause cloud formation which is more likely to occur in the afternoon.

The hike starts from the town hall (350m) at way marker 105. Cross the railway line and follow the route de la piscine way marker 106, then the GR52 track on to way marker 107. Follow your IGN map to way marker 17 (wrongly marked as 90 on some maps) and then on to way markers 90a,90b and 90c. Finish by crossing back over the railway line and return to Sospel along the parallel road to way marker 103.

Sospel has a good choice of cafes and restaurants so you’ll be able have a stroll around the town and find something to eat if you want to stay on after you’ve finished the hike.

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 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 top 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 n° 3741 ET map (Vallées des Bévéra et des Paillons) to mark out your trail before you set off. 

If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on this link: but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guide maps are only approximate (especially this one). 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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