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Hiking trail

Walk to Plan d'Aups

Hiking trail · Bouches-du-Rhône
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    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
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Head into the Provencal hinterland towards the town of Plan d'Aups. Be sure to look back for panoramic views of the city of Marseilles.
15.7 km
6:00 h
850 m
280 m

Initially this is a walk in a rural environment with small holdings and no large scale agriculture; it becomes dry, steep sided, eroded valleys and ridges with multiple lime stone outcrops and wooded areas made up of pine and mountain oak. Shrubs abound; cistus, broom, rock roses, geraniums, and also herbs; rosemary, thyme, lavender.

Leaving from the centre of Pont de l'Etoile, at the medieval stone bridge, you cross beneath the Marseilles and Toulon expressway before immediately becoming immersed in the Provencal hinterland of small hamlets and small holdings as you climb towards the ridge above Vallon St Clair. On joining the Crete de la Galere, the views span four minor valleys with a panorama of Marseilles and the Provencal coast beyond.  On reaching the high point at Col de Bertagne you descend down the rough remains of an old railway before you enter the high alpine village of Plan d'Aups-Sainte-Baumes. User
Sarah Stone
Updated: July 25, 2018

Highest point
880 m
Lowest point
128 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) GR Routes of France -The GR routes of France are part of a wider network that links much of continental Europe. Classified as: Grandes Randonnees (GR), important long distance routes & marked with white/red flashes; Grand Randonnes du Pays (GRdP), major circular routes & marked with yellow/red; Promenades et Randonnes (PR), local paths & marked with yellow. Especially in tourist areas, further colours are used to differentiate between PRs and they are often combined when paths coincide. Black should be ignored as they are simply corrections and white/red/white is usually for forestry purposes. Further symbols, in appropriate colours, are used to indicate turns or forks and crosses means that you are leaving the marked path. Keep your eyes peeled and if you lose all signs, retrace the trail to find them.

2) La Maison de celle qui peint- is the house with the extraordinary blue facade opposite the ancient Pont de l'Etoile. This unusual, three dimensional mural is the work of Danielle Jacqui and is in its fourth revision since the year 2000.

3) Chapel of St Clair - The 17th Century chapel of St Clair was a place of contemplation before a statue of the saint. Having fallen into disrepair, the chapel was rebuilt in 1996 with a replica figurine.

4) Cisterns - The large, circular ground-level cisterns are used as part of an extensive infrastructure for fighting forest fires in Provence. They are generally numbered and marked on IGN maps as a small blue square, making them useful way marks for the walker as well as the firefighter.



Ancient stone bridge, Pont d'Etoile (134 m)
43.326581, 5.596614
43°19'35.7"N 5°35'47.8"E
31T 710525 4800356


Mayor's office/Mairie

Turn-by-turn directions

START: On the ancient stone bridge in Pont d'Etoile with your back to the house with the ornate facade.

0.00km - TURN RIGHT towards “Gemenos”. Continue on the pavement beside the road until the Hotel “Le Mas de l'Etoile”.

0.40km - AHEAD, (if staying at the hotel, turn right through the gates) continue around the roundabout and under the motorway bridge, then around second round-about in the direction of “Gemenos” on the D396. CAUTION: road busy. Continue past the church, until a narrow tarmac lane on your left, signposted “Chemin Tante Rose”.

1.70km - TURN LEFT uphill into Chemin Tante Rose. At the first fork in the tarmac lane bear right uphill, follow sign for Chemin Tante Rose until a junction with statues of two stone men and multiple mail boxes.

2.30km - TURN LEFT uphill on a gravel track, beside the outbuildings of a private house to cross over a cable barrier. Track becomes a stony path with high voltage power cables on your left. Do not cross under these cables. Climb up to the clearing with a large green storage tank, then ahead towards a large house. Turn right just before the house to join a stoney path downhill. Path is overgrown initially but widens amongst the trees. Continue downhill towards the village, through an open area until you reach the tarmac road beside the chapel.

3.10km - TURN LEFT up tarmac road, then within 50m turn right at T junction following sign “Residence St Clair”, turning left uphill at mini round-about. Ignore side turnings to the houses, keeping the green chain link fence on your right, until the low metal barrier.

3.70km - AHEAD cross the barrier, continue up the gravel stoney track which becomes a rough narrow road. Do not deviate from this rocky road as you pass the ancient chapel of St Clair (look behind you), water cistern 11 until water cistern 56 and junction of tracks.

7.40km - SHARP RIGHT continue on the track downhill until a junction.

10.00km - BEAR LEFT uphill towards the huge columned rock formation and sign “Col de l' Espigoulier” (Note: sign post is broken, on this occasion ignore crosses painted on the rocks). Continue until cistern 55 and the tarmac road (D2).

10.80km - TURN RIGHT along tarmac road for 30m, then bear left off the road, up a narrow stoney path, marked with a yellow flash and painted sign “Col du Cros” & “Col de Bertagne”. Bear right at a fork with a path not marked on the map. Continue on the lower path following intermittent yellow flashes until an open area at a junction of paths, with a single tree marked with a yellow flash & “Le Col du Cros”.  

12.80km - TURN RIGHT, follow yellow flashes along a wide stoney track to a second junction with signpost and signs “Col de Bertagne” on a stone. Go straight ahead on a stoney path with yellow markers. On leaving the woods, go straight ahead, following the alignment of the yellow flashes until the Col de Bertagne, an area of open woodland with a maze of paths. Find the Peace Memorial and veer left downhill, towards the tarmac road & barrier, looking for yellow flashes on a large Scots Pine on your left & nearby wooden signpost to “Plan d'Aups”. Following the sign and yellow/red/yellow flashes.

13.60km- TURN RIGHT following the wooden sign “Plan d'Aups” & yellow/red flashes as the track becomes stoney. Later just after an open area, the path forks. Bear right onto the larger track following yellow/red flashes until the tarmac road and car park.

15.10km -BEAR LEFT downhill on the tarmac road until the outskirts of the village, the hotel Lou Pebre d'Ai and “La Mairie” (mayor's office) opposite.

15.70km - FINISH


all notes on protected areas


43.326581, 5.596614
43°19'35.7"N 5°35'47.8"E
31T 710525 4800356
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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15.7 km
850 m
280 m


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