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Hiking trail

Loop Walk in the Saint Baume Mountains

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    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
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A pleasant loop walk through the holy Saint Baume mountains.
13.9 km
6:00 h
615 m
615 m

This walks commences from a small alpine community and quickly enters a cool forest of mixed mountain trees. You will climb a rocky mountain path of thin soil, gaining height rapidly to emerge above the tree line upon the ridge of a large limestone massif with numerous outcrops of white rocks. The walk continues along the ridge for several hours before descending steeply through the same shady forest to return to the village.

You step out of the hotel to commence this walk through the clean ordered streets of Plan d'Aups Saint Baume. On leaving the village you are immediately immersed in the colours and smells of the alpine meadows of the L'Ubac estate. Soon the gradient increases and the path zig-zags as you ascend steadily through the cool, densely wooded Vallon de Betton. The vegetation thins and the outcrops of white stone increase as you approach the crest and you arrive on the service road for the communication facilities on the Pic de Bertange. The over whelming vista covers a huge swathe of Provence. You encounter ancient chapels, an abandoned hermitage and prehistoric caves as you return through the forest that provides welcome shade from the afternoon sun. User
Sarah Stone
Updated: October 04, 2017

Highest point
1008 m
Lowest point
689 m
Best time of year

Safety information

Always check the weather before setting off, and take heed of any paths that have been closed by the authorities.

Temperatures in Provence can soar, and you can't always rely on passing a water supply on your walk. Take at least 2 litres of water per person, perhaps even more on very hot days. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and take regular sips as you go.

Tips, hints and links

There is no where to pick up food or drink along the way so a picnic and plenty of water is necesarry. You can ask you hotel to provide this (always ask upon check-in) or you can pick up supplies from the local bakery or supermarket before setting off.

Points of Interest

1) Shrines - The principle shrines of Ste Marie-Madeleine are in Provence, although modern historical opinion holds her to be a composite of several different Marys. The legend that she arrived near Arles, having been hounded from the Holy Land with Lazarus and other followers, had great local appeal in the Middle Ages. Her acclaimed conversion of Gaul to Christianity and subsequent self exile to a Provencal cave, or “baumo” in the local dialect, strengthened the connection. Throughout history the sacred mountain has had strong spiritual connotations: kings have walked the “Chemin de Roys”, newlyweds pose before the Chapelle de Parisiens and in France today pilgrims still travel to pay their respects at the Sainte's Sanctuary at the foot of the cliffs of the Massif de la Saint Baume.

2) Grotte Aux Oeufs - An interesting geological feature of this mountain chain is the Grotte Aux Oeufs. The naming of this cave has nebulous origins, some credit its renown to the discovery of dinosaur eggs, and others link its shape and form to ancient fertility rites. Either way, the walker needs to take a torch and treat it with respect.

3) Massif de Sainte Baume - The Massif de la Ste Baume is the highest and longest in Provence, 35 km overall. Its ridge line is 13.3 km in length with the Pic de Bertagne, 1042m, to the West and the Joug de l'Aigle, 1148m, to the East.


La Mairie (692 m)
43.326668, 5.711682
43°19'36.0"N 5°42'42.1"E
31T 719855 4800663


La Mairie

Turn-by-turn directions

START: Stand between La Mairie and the fountain facing the massif.

0.00km - TURN LEFT along the pavement of “Av de la Liberation”, turn right into “Chemin de l' Ubac” at the first road junction by the crucifix. Follow the yellow flash on the lamp post and bear left at the entrance to the L'Hubac Estate. Continue on the path, passing a domed water cistern & following the yellow flashes. Cross a major track across your path (you return to this point later today) and continue ahead up the steep rocky path marked with yellow flashes, until a T junction of paths and a large red paint spot on a tree.

2.20km- TURN LEFT, (Note: Ignore yellow crosses on this occasion) continue gently downhill on a broad gravel track until a second major junction with a tree marked with a red paint spot.

2.80km- SHARP RIGHT, following the broad track uphill as it becomes a steep stoney path.  Follow old green paint marks and small stone cairns until the tarmac service road.

3.40km - TURN LEFT on the narrow road, veer right at the gates of the military radio station and join the rocky GR98 path alongside the fence following the white/red flashes until the ancient chapel. (Note: this the Chapelle of St Pilon, the Grotte de St Marie is at the bottom of the cliff and not visible.)

7.40km - AHEAD. Continue along the GR98 until the sign post “GR98 - Chemin des Cretes”, “GR9 – Chemin du Canape”, GR9 – Chemin des Cretes” and numerous other paint markings. This is the Col du St Pilon.

7.90km - TURN LEFT, descend the stony zig-zag path which becomes a broad stone stairway.  (Note: you can continue along the ridge (GR9) to the observation table at Pic St Pilon and return to this point to continue). Continue past a stone shrine and the Chapelle des Parisiens until a major junction of large paths and another shrine.

8.40km - TURN LEFT, then fork left immediately ignoring all indicated directions and climbing uphill on the broad gravel path.(Note: on this occasion ignore the GR and yellow crosses). Continue through the 'Place of Silence” beneath the Sanctuary of St Marie Madaleine, and at the Crucifix join the path into the forest until you reach an indistinct junction of paths by an uprooted tree.

9.00km - BEAR RIGHT, take the lower path in the direction of the faint painted marks, passing an ancient hermitage on your left until another indistinct junction.  (Option: Take the upper path to visit the Grotte aux Oeufs. This requires some scrambling, a head torch to enter the cave and a steep descent to return to the main path, approx 15mins extra). Continue on the lower path, ignoring any minor paths until a small open glade beneath large beech trees. The broken tree and rocks on the left have green paint marks pointing upwards. (Option: the Grotte aux Oeufs can be visited from this point also, an energetic climb up and back of 15 mins).

10.10km - AHEAD, on the descending path, turn left at a nearby T junction and continue along a broad earthen path passing the oratory “Sauvgarde du Roy”, ignoring the side path to the right and to the “Hotellerie”. At a later Y junction, avoid the vehicle track and bear left on the path through the trees. Bear left again at a signpost and a low water cistern on your left and walk behind houses with a green chain link fence for approx 40 mins. Observe a single large pine with a yellow flash in a clearing on your left and continue a further five minutes until a path junction with large yellow stones.

13.20km - BEAR RIGHT downhill. (This is the path you climbed this morning.) Retrace your steps on the yellow flashes. Turn left on reaching the junction with the tarmac road, until the Mayor's office.

13.90km - FINISH


all notes on protected areas


43.326668, 5.711682
43°19'36.0"N 5°42'42.1"E
31T 719855 4800663
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Sturdy and comfortable walking boots or shoes are a must. You may like walking poles to assist with the descents.

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13.9 km
615 m
615 m


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