Hiking on the Côte d’Azur: enjoy the autumn colours in the hinterland
Autumn is certainly the best time of the year to go hiking and enjoy the mellow colours that this season brings to nature. From its magnificent mountainous landscapes and its sparkling peaks, here are our ideas for re-energising hikes to enjoy a complete change of scenery and explore the mountainous region behind Nice.
HIKING IN TINÉE VALLEY
The Bois d’Anelle circuit
Start from Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée to explore the Bois d’Anelle loop trail. This 4-hour hike promises a rural visit to the Anelle plateau, a name derived from the Provençal word ‘agnel,’ meaning ‘lamb.’ And this makes total sense! Because along your hike, you will come across numerous alpine barns built of larch wood. In the past, they were used to store the precious cattle food in readiness for the long winters.
If you want a hike with a medium level of difficulty, the Bois d’Anelle loop trail is the perfect choice! Following the route of the GR®5, it will take you through the magnificent fir and spruce forests. You can’t help but be captivated by the beautiful scenery around you while breathe in the intoxicating scents of woody aromas and damp earth. The experience will take you deep into woodland’s soul.
On the northern side of Anelle peak, you’ll find several options to discover the mountains which border the Alpes-Maritimes and Piedmont, in Italy. One of them is Mount Ténibre, the highest point of the Haute Tinée, which majestically dominates the whole valley from its 3,031-metre peak.
Starting from Rimplas, the Couletta circuit is a relatively easy loop trail. Lasting 3.5 hours, with elevation gain of about 400 metres, the walk gives you an aerial view of the village of Rimplas and its military fort which formed part of the Maginot line.
Throughout your walk, you will pass through spectacular scenery of the Tinée valley. Deep ravines, red pelite rocks, mountain villages and in the distance, the larch forests of the Mercantour and their autumn foliage.
Starting from Belvédère, a rather demanding hike awaits you this time! The Mont Péla and hop-hornbeam forest hike takes you to a forest where Mediterranean region encounters the first foothills of the Alps.
Over the 6-hour walk, you will discover a special tree endemic to the Alpes-Maritimes and Corsica: the hop hornbeam. This species is only found in the extreme South-East of France since it prefers dry climates. Frequently found on shady slopes at an altitude of between 300 and 1,000 metres, it takes its name from its fruit, which resembles that of the hop.
When you arrive at the top of Mount Péla, your efforts will be rewarded with a magnificent panorama over the valley’s villages and ridges.
Your Calmette circuit adventure will begin at the Col de Turini, a mountain pass perched at 1,604 metres! The 10-kilometre loop trail alternates between open landscape and forest sections providing exceptional views from Calmette’s ridges. From Turini to the ski resort of Peïra-Cava, you will be immersed in autumnal colours in the heart of an immense forest of pines, spruces and firs, as you cross the fresh and limpid watershed between the Vésubie and the Bévéra.
If you are an avid mushroom hunter, you will also love this walk! Finally, when you pass through this famous Col de Turini, you will be following the route of the Monte-Carlo rally. Indeed, this legendary pass is very famous in the auto-racing world! The roads leading to the top of the pass have many hairpin bends providing magnificent views over the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.
Head off to Breil-sur-Roya to discover a small pristine corner of paradise at the entrance to the Mercantour National Park. The hike from Breil to Piène-Haute is a magnificent journey through the land of olive trees. It mixes spectacular views and a baroque architecture, typical of the Vallée des Merveilles. The route will take you above the Roya and the Bévéra valleys, to Piène-Haute. About 60 souls live in this marvellous hilltop village. The village of character which is notable for its baroque church, a scheduled historical monument and its narrow and coloured lanes, characteristic of hilltop villages of the Côte d’Azur. Situated at the top of a rocky spur, this eyrie village offers a breathtaking view over the Roya valley. The trail, named after the villages perchés (hilltop villages), is a 5-hours round trip that will take you through olive groves, chestnut and conifer forests. All your senses will be stimulated by the stunning landscape!
Starting from Saorge, a 3.5-hour loop trail will take you to the splendid Malmort Castle. On this hike, nature and culture live in harmoniously side by side. The path climbs gradually through the forest to reach the rocky spur of Malmort castle.
The fortress, whose ruins are still there, served as a strategic point to defend access to the upper Roya valley for several centuries. In fact, Saorge was once defended by three castles: Malemort, Saint-Georges (destroyed in 1794) and Salines (above the village, where you can see the ramparts). Malmort castle, mentioned as early as the 13th century, was part of a defensive system which kept the Roya valley under the domination of the House of Savoy.
This hike has everything to charm both history and nature lovers! Along the way, you will be engulfed in shimmering green, orange and reddish colours that merge with the traditional architecture. The autumn light provides striking contrasts of light and shade which are also reflected onto the majestic mountains of the Roya and the Caïros valleys.
To the east of the village of Beuil, the Ars barns circuit gives you a complete change of scenery on the beautiful Beuil plateaux. This 3.5-hour loop trail between Beuil and the Col de La Couillole will take you past the Ars barns, the Creuset barns and vast sinkholes. The path will lead you to the last ruined barns of the Conchas valley, before going back up to the Col Saint-Pierre and its watering holes which culminates at an altitude of 1,712 metres. These plateaux were used very early on for grazing sheep. Moreover, during your hike, you may come across one or more patous, one of the breeds of dog most used to protect flocks from their predators! Breeders and shepherds still leave these guard dogs with the sheep to dissuade any intruder from approaching them.
If you see one, give it a wide berth! Don’t forget that his job is to watch over his flock!
Finally, starting from Guillaume, the Amen loop trailtakes you through open landscape amid the red pelite rocks of the Daluis canyon regional nature reserve. This magnificent trail, a 6-hour round trip for the most experienced hikers, will take you to hamlet of Amen which is probably one of the last hamlets which cannot be reached by road.
This village stands like a sentinel in the heart of the red landscape, it keeps alive the memory of a self-sufficient life that generations of miners and farmers once led there. The walk takes you through the fabulous scenery of the valleys, which photographers will not be able to resist! After passing above the ruined house of La Vigière, you will find yourself in a luxuriant natural setting where the scents and colours of autumn mingle. Going around a ridge gives you a wide view of the Daluis canyon, the first nature reserve ever established in Alpes-Maritimes.