Paillon National Forest (La forêt domaniale du Paillon), Berre-Les-Alpes, France – 8.4 miles

A varied and interesting hike through the forestry high above the village of L’Escarène in the Alpes-Maritimes area of southern France. Reaching an altitude of 762 m (2,500 ft) the views are simply incredible. Use the information boards to identify the many different species of plants which can be found along the route. Take care on the final section across the slippery grey marl hillside! 

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viewranger-logo-new-jan-2017 Follow a map of this route on your mobile phone by downloading it HERE

parking-available-icon  Car parking available at the cemetery in L’Escarène (93-95 Allée de Verdun, 06440 Escarène)

route-image  Route:  EN FRANÇAIS // From the cemetery continue along Allée de Verdun which soon becomes Route de Pighiera. After a short distance come off Route de Pighiera and follow a wide concrete track uphill to the left. The track initially runs parallel to Route de Pighiera before bending to the left. After 250m at the fork take the track leading downhill to the right. You will begin to notice yellow way markers painted onto various surfaces: these will remain with you for the entire walk. Look out for a much narrower footpath on the left at a tall wooden way marker (Baisse de la Crox, Coaraze, Baisse de Marsan) and follow it down to cross a small burn. The path then heads uphill through woodland and open hillside, sometimes with steep drops to the right hand side. At the end of the path turn right onto a gravel road and after only 50m (before the road bends right) look for a narrow footpath straight ahead along the river bed (which might be dry!) Follow the path uphill though the trees, across some smooth rocky ground, and past a ruined building to emerge onto another gravel road. Turn right then immediately left at the tall wooden way marker. After following this footpath a short distance you will emerge back onto the gravel road which you should now follow left uphill. After approx 50m look out for a discreet fork to the left – there is a yellow marker painted on a tree beside it. After passing through some trees you will come to an area of open ground on your left. Come off the track here and cut across towards an information board which you will see in the distance. Turn left at the information board and continue uphill through more forestry and across open hillside on some interesting crumbling rocky ground which drops off at a steep angle to your right. At the top of the hill you will arrive at the Baisse de la Croix – a crossroads. Looking to your right you will see an iron cross built atop a stone cairn, however you will turn left past an information board onto a wide footpath littered with tree roots. The next section of the walk is along high ground with spectacular views. You will pass several enormous boulders along the way. Continue along this path until you reach a small fountain. Turn left here down a concrete footpath. On the right you will soon come to a sign marked ‘Point de Vue‘. This is an optional short de-tour up to a fantastic viewpoint at some picnic benches. From the viewpoint retrace your steps back to the concrete footpath and turn right to continue along it. It soon turns to a wide gravel track which zigzags it’s way down the hillside. There are a couple of points where you can take a short cut down through the trees rather than zigzag your way down however to be honest I found them to be much harder going and not worthwhile considering the small distance they cut off the walk. If you do want to take them look out for the yellow markings on the trees and follow those. Otherwise continue down the gravel track and after the third zigzag take the signposted earth footpath on the right (Capella, Berre-Les-Alpes, L’Escarène). Continue downhill following the yellow painted markings at all forks. You will pass another ruined building and several streams (most of which were dry during my visit). Eventually the path leads to a crossroads. Turn left following the sign for Les Prats Supérieurs/L’EscarèneThe next section requires care – the path begins to descend steeply down some crumbling grey rocks (marl) which I can only compare to the scree sometimes found on the Scottish hills. At the bottom you will emerge onto a track which you cross straight over, following the way marker in the direction of Les Prats Supérieurs/L’Escarène. Keep right at a fork to follow the hillside trail which leads you down onto the wide gravel track which you walked along at the start. Turn right here and retrace your steps into the village of L’Escarène. 

WALK REVIEW: 16th February 2017

It is very rare that I get the chance to go a whole day hiking with my husband but whilst holidaying with family in the south of France we had the opportunity to do so and what a brilliant day we had! Generally when we visit Nice we don’t venture much further than the old town and the promenade and so it was really refreshing to gain an insight into life in one of the small surrounding villages and to explore the hills in the area.

The 40 minute coach journey (complete with music!) from Nice to L’Escarène cost only 1.50 Euro which I continue to be amazed by! Public transport is so affordable that it makes driving seem senseless.  I had found the route beforehand on the French site Visorando and had prepared a map on my Viewranger app so that we wouldn’t get lost. After a few days of overcast we were fortunate to fall on a lovely sunny day and perfect hiking temperatures of around 12°C.

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The first turn: where we came off Route de la Pighiera to start climbing uphill along this concrete track shown on the left.
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It wasn’t long before the views opened up across the village to the hills behind Nice and Monaco
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There were some interesting rock features along this section.
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It was early in the walk when I decided that this one should be labelled ‘not suitable for people suffering from vertigo’. Little did I know that scenes such as this one were nothing compared to the steep drops we would later experience!
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Some of the biggest pine cones I have ever seen!!
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Wild rosemary still managing to hold onto it’s pale blue flowers. There was TONS of it on the initial sections of the walk, not surprising since they are well known for enjoying the dry soil of rocky limestone hillsides such as this one.
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The path passed by this lovely stone ruin which I managed to climb onto from the other side and peek out the “windows”.
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Typical signage of the walk. Between following these and the yellow painted markings on rocks and trees you can’t go far wrong.
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Baisse de la Croix at 641 m (2,103 ft) altitude.
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The point at which my husband realised I am a little crazy 😉 The section after Baisse de la Croix had several huge boulders. This was one of the smaller ones which was easy to climb onto. It had a steep vertical drop to the left hand side but once up there I couldn’t see that 😉
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Love a good high level footpath with an open view! It was so hard to believe that we were hiking at just above 762 m (2,500 ft) at this stage – the height of some of the highest hills in Scotland! Just couldn’t get my head around it; we were still technically in forestry!
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Can you spot the lizard? This is one of the few we actually saw however we heard plenty of them scurrying around in the twigs and bushes aligning the footpath.
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Pretty man-made fountain
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Just after the fountain there is a short de-tour to a viewpoint which we decided to check out. I am so glad we did because the views were simply incredible. I could easily have spent the rest of the day sitting on the rocks up there watching the sun set. This is just one part of a panorama of views – I will not spoil it for you 😉
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A slightly “hairy” section where the path was so narrow and the drop to the left so steep that someone had kindly provided a handrail to reassure us……
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The directions we were following from Visorando mentioned streams in several places however every single one of them had been dry which I was a little disappointed about. Then we arrived at this beautiful waterfall and all was forgiven 🙂 Add to this the fact that it was surrounded by long drapes of ivy and I was in love ❤ Very picturesque don’t you think?!
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And now a few photos from the really tough part……!! First, a narrow ledge with steep drop to the left…..
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……with another handrail to make things a little safer 😮
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This LOOKED ok however we soon found out that looks can be deceiving when we realised how brittle the rocks were. Scrambling down a slope made of loose scree anyone? My husband loved it and ran all the way down. I was the slow coach at the back sweating with every new step… Since coming home I have researched the rocks because we were really fascinated by how easily they would break apart – the slightest touch with your hand and it would crumble. It is called grey marl and is a mixture of limestone and clay.
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Looking across to our right at the mounds of grey marl. I was amazed by the trees growing out of the cracks and all the visible layering in the rocks.
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The robust shelter of the pine processionary moth – they can house hundreds of caterpillars over the winter months! Unfortunately the caterpillars are responsible for the widespread loss of pine needles on the trees of Southern Europe and can also be harmful to humans if skin contact occurs. As adults they are brown-coloured moths which only live for one day. Read more here.  We found lots of them, including this one, towards the end of the walk.

 

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