Happy Hiker Walks the Vésubie Valley
Utelle – Hameau de la Villette
The Vésubie valley locally known as ‘little Switzerland’ has to be seen to be believed. When you first discover it you wonder why no-one told you about it before and it’s hard to believe your eyes when you encounter the breathtaking views from the huge range of beauty spots along this valley. Happy Hiker trails aim to show you some of the most scenic trails in this vast area and this one is a blue trail with a positive/negative gain of 650 m and has the advantage of being walkable all your round.
Starting from the Hameau de la Villette only 35 km from Nice airport, this hike will take you approximately 4 hours or under to do and so is easily achievable as a day excursion. You will need good walking boots as the last part of the trail is quite steep and rocky but suffice it say that in front of us we had a hiker who was well into his 80’s galloping his way to the top on the final stretch, more nimble than a mountain goat!
The views are breathtaking and there is a fabulous spot for a picnic at the top by the orientation table and you can also visit the sanctuary of the Madone d’Utelle which was erected in honour of a local legend. The story goes that the sanctuary was build in 850 after 3 Spanish sailors, lost in a storm off the coast of Nice saw a strange light which guided them safely to shore. They build an oratory on the summit of their mountain saviour, which was destroyed and rebuilt as a chapel in 1806 and then restored in the 20th century. In 1936 a road was built to allow access by car. Drinks can be bought at the sanctuary and information on opening hours and the history can be found on this link: http://www.madonedutelle.com. Many miracles have taken place at this place so if you are in need of one, this is the hike for you.
To reach the start point leave the motorway at the N.202 exit and drive up the Var valley to Plan du Var, take a right turn into the Vésubie valley D.2565 and follow this road as far as Cros d’Utelle (careful not to miss the left turn). Go up the narrow, windy road on the left which ends at the Hameau de la Villette (620m).
From La Villette at way marker 102, climb eastwards up past the highest houses to way marker 103 and then take the path on the right, direction Collet de la Signora, way marker 104. Carry on up to the plateau at way marker 105 (1043m) and then start going down, north west through the woods until you get to the Col d’Ambellarte at way marker 118 (967m).
Start climbing again up the steep adret de la Ragaissa and you will come out onto the route de la Madone at way marker 117. The orientation table marking the summit is up the road on the left (1194m) and will give you vast and amazing 360° views over the mountaintops of the mercantour. The sanctuary is down the road on the right and worth a visit. Three pilgrimages per year take place from la Tour-sur-Tinée up to la Madonne d’Utelle so the miracles must work!