This active route will take you through the Croupatier to the Baou de Quatre Ouro, one of the four "Toulonais brothers". Paths and ledges where you have to use your hands, passages with ropes, discover the main caves of the massif, where the famous caves of the Château du Diable make the route more interesting.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
Park in Ollioules in Chemin de l'Oratoire, just before the last tarmacked section signposted "dead end". There are a few parking spaces near the Régage booster station.
Go uphill at the end of Chemin de l'Oratoire. At the last house, follow the GR51 on the right (red and white waymarkers) which climbs through the pine trees and plunges into the hill. After a good, long climb and a short descent, at ref. point 240 (1) you go around the trench for the buried gas pipeline. The path then starts to climb again. You will reach the Barre de Taillan pass (ref. point 232) (or Telegraph Pass) (2).
Grotte du Patrimoine (Heritage Cave)
After around twenty metres, on the right you will see three big pine trees - the cave opening is at the foot of the pine tree on the far left. On leaving, take the GR51 again. After the two zigzags in the path, continue a few dozen metres on to ref. point 324.
Château du Diable Caves
You will see an enormous cairn on the left there, indicating the detour towards the Château du Diable. To reach the caves, take the path on the left, which winds down a scree with a gradually increasing slope. The path ends in a small ledge, then a rock which is quite well-equipped for climbing: stone slopes, carved or built-in steps and even small sections with handrails. The path, which is not waymarked, but is easily visible in the clusters of rocks, overlooks the Destel valley 150 m below (a fairly steep slope).
On arriving at point (3), opposite the path and slightly downward, you will see the Arche d'Alliance, a magnificent stone archway above the void. Choose not to head towards the archway, instead continue along the cliff (we will cross it on the return). To the right of the archway, at the bottom of the huge rock face, you can see the entrances (porches) of the 5 cavities and, specifically, the 2 main ones close together, which are the only accessible ones. The further you advance, the more you will be able to see that the cave on the left opens up at the back. Go along the cliff on the left and behind the vegetation. The path will then reach the main porch on the left. Access to this cave presents no major difficulty as long as you don't hesitate to use your hands a bit to cross the last rocky ledge. For the next part, you're no longer on the hike, but visiting a series of caves, including the Grotte d'Amour (Cave of Love) on three levels.
The hike continues when you leave the caves through the second orifice. Go down the rocks, which aren't very steep, for about a dozen metres going under the porch with the help of a rope in a fixed position. A few metres later, you will reach the Arche d'Alliance (Alliance Archway). There's no need to be scared to cross over it, but just take care.
Immediately on the left, a rope takes you to the path which descends to meet up with the Destel gorges. Don't follow this route though, instead stay on the path and take the right straight after the archway. Climb for a few metres to reach another cavity, the "rose of the valley" cave (see the writing inside).
Take the same path again to leave it, then continue on the right to quickly re-join the access path used on the outward leg in order to re-join the GR51 again at the big cairn. Then continue on the GR to the left.
Follow the path to the north-east on the hillside. At point (4), a path heads straight on (south) towards Le Broussan, but stay on the GR51 which turns to the right at 90° to follow the ridge of the Croupatier massif, which overlooks Toulon. After about 500 m, at point (5), leave the GR and take the path to the right which comes to a pile of stones (called 'tapas' in Provençal and 'cairn' in English), which marks the border between the municipalities of Evenos and Ollioules (signpost). Then head in the direction of the high voltage pylon on the left and, as soon as possible, return to the GR51 a bit further on. Follow it towards the east for about 300 m.
Croupatier Cave (and the pothole under the cave)
You need to locate an enormous cairn on the right-hand side of the path (6). At the cairn, leave the GR and turn right (towards the south): another 'tapas' (cairn) is located on the edge of the cliff (no signposting). On the left, take the path which goes down through a gap in the rock face. A narrow path runs for a few dozen metres through dense shrubs and goes downhill quickly due south up to a terrace area a bit away from the foot of the cliff.
Next, continue in a north-west direction until you reach the foot of the cliff where an enormous porch opens into a huge cavity. In the middle, it is filled with a large raised stone foyer: this is the "Croupatier Cave". The "Aven sous grotte" (pothole under the cave) is located a few metres further to the south. Leave the Croupatier Cave via the east, this time going alongside the cliff, close enough to touch it.
Aven du Croupatier (Croupatier Cave)
Quite soon, a small gap then appears on the left. Do not be frightened to go through it using your hands, even if you don't have equipment. After a large rocky ledge, you will find a small ledge about two-thirds the height of the cliff - this is where the "Aven du Croupatier" nestles, with its small entrance, accessible with equipment (no larger than a human head).
Afterwards, you can easily finish the climb. You will reach a pine tree at the foot of a tapas (cairn).
Rejoin the GR51 again. Continue on eastwards towards an old building and the ruins of its cistern.
Grotte Sud "du gaz"" (South Gas Cave)
Just before this building (7), take the path on the right which goes over a small bridge and follow it up to the cliff. A gap opens up, heading south-eastwards. A very small path takes you downhill going through very dense vegetation. At the bottom of the cliff, the path reaches a shelter under a medium-sized rock. You will see that the porch is partly hidden by a small tree which fell from the top of the cliff. This cavity does not have a registered name. Take the same path again and re-join the GR51.
Croupatier-Baou de Quatre Ouro - Cap Gros
Go between the ruined building and its old cistern. Carry on along the GR51 in an easterly direction, going by an old watchtower on the edge of the cliff (all that remains of it is its well-restored base), pass the "chemin du gaz" (gas path) which crosses the GR51 until you reach the pass at 490 m.
The location is waymarked with a signpost saying "Ollioules 4.5 km". The GR joins the D262 route here, coming from Toulon.
Turn left towards Baou. The path is wide and there is no risk of going wrong. Go past the Rouvière Plane crossroads (signpost). At ref. point 509 (8) (large military cistern), leave the D262 and take the path on the right. A bit further on, rejoin the D262 and continue south then east, towards the summit of Baou. You will quickly reach the summit which is without vegetation (360° panoramic view).
__Pas de la Cavale (Cavale Steps)
(9) At the tip of the Cap, go around the old building for the antenna relay and the traces of the old mast, and take the path directly on the right, waymarked in green, which goes steeply downhill via the surprising "Pas de la Cavale" (Cavale Steps), a path cut out by men. Via a series of zigzags, the route first reaches a few short terraces on a west-east axis. After about fifty metres of going downwards, the path branches off towards the south following the axis of the scree. The path here is much less well-maintained, so although several traces of path show routes directly over the scree, stay on your right, quite close to the cliff where the path is waymarked and a bit better preserved.
The path then goes across several wooded and bare sections, still waymarked in green, but not regularly.
Turning towards the right, as soon as possible, the path then joins a circular route which goes along the bottom of the south face of the Baou, very popular with climbers. This path, which is not waymarked, more or less follows the contour level at about 430 m.
"Note: another path doubles alongside parallel to this path, a few metres lower down along a second rocky ledge. Be careful not to confuse them! Don't turn right too late.
Next, take the path on the left waymarked in green which goes downhill towards the Hautes-Pavègnes car park.
However, on the right you will go by several small gaps until you can very clearly see a quite large terrace a dozen or so metres higher up. Next, take a minuscule path on the right (10) until you reach this terrace covered in grass.
"No stress" shelter
There is a wide shelter under the rock at the back of this terrace, which is quite wide, but not very deep and not very big in size. Here you will find a climbing route called "no stress" (it's even painted on the rock).
Continue on the same path to re-join the main path which continues on towards the west, still going along the cliff. When it starts to go downhill towards the north-west, the path crosses a scree slope cluttered with lots of charred or fallen tree trunks (the remains of a fire in 2009).
A bit further on you will reach the last scree slope (funnel-shaped) which ends very close to a big stone arched bridge, on the D262 route coming from Toulon via the south and heading to Baou.
Go down this track for about 300 m towards Hautes-Pavègnes. In a straight line, at a smooth metal spike (11), take the small path on the right going downhill through the Vallon de Bonnes Herbes (Valley of Good Herbs).
Shelter No 2 in the Vallon des Bonnes Herbes
Go downhill for about fifty metres and then on the right you will find a small cave under a large white limestone slab more than a metre thick. The cave is situated only a few metres along the path - it is a marvellous natural shelter converted into a sheepfold.
Leave the shelter via the same path. Go down the bottom of the valley and then climb again up towards the path's stone bridge: continue on 300 m along a difficult path and go under the archway of the bridge. We then reach the end of the Vallon des Bonnes Herbes (12).
Shelter No 1 in the Vallon des Bonnes Herbes
Leave the path about 70 m after going under the bridge to quickly climb up the scree on the left. There isn't a path, but you need to head towards the cliff, at the foot of which you will see another natural shelter under the rocks. Return to the route via the same path and go over the bridge, then climb the path to the right.
Follow the path to the west and, at the first fork (13), take the path on the left which goes back down to Ollioules via the village of Détras. On the second section of the route, we cut off the zigzags on the track via very small paths which are in a very good state. It will take a bit more than 20 mins (2 km) to reach the ruined village of Détras (14).
Continue along the path on the right of the bridge, signposted in fluorescent orange, along the stream through the woods. Take the secondary paths through full pine woods (be careful as some of the paths on the map no longer exist, stay on the route shown for this walk). Then join the GR51 at the crossroads of the Chemin du Gaz (Gas path) of the Barre de Taillan (1). Take the GR on the left and then go back to the departure point.
D/A : km 0 - alt. 132m
1 : km 0.74 - alt. 240m - Gas path
2 : km 1 - alt. 239m - Col de la Barre de Taillan - Grotte du Patrimoine (Heritage Cave)
3 : km 2.11 - alt. 245m - Grottes du Château du Diable - - Climb the ledge using rope ladders
4 : km 3.24 - alt. 373m - Crossroads - take the left
5 : km 3.69 - alt. 436m - Tapas (cairn) Evenos-Ollioules- Leave the GR, head
6 : km 4.27 - alt. 466m - Grotte du Croupatier - Leave the GR51, heading to the right
7 : km 4.68 - alt. 481m - Grotte du Gaz - Leave the GR51, heading to the right - Tapas (cair
8 : km 6.45 - alt. 504m - Military cistern - Leave the D262, heading to the
9 : km 7.37 - alt. 562m - Cap Gros/Baou de Quatre Ouro - Go downhill via the Cavale steps
10 : km 8.38 - alt. 430m - Brèche de Madema - "No Stress" shelter Leave the path, heading to th
11 : km 8.94 - alt. 324m - Abri N°2 du Vallon des Bonnes Herbes - Leave the D262 route, heading to the right
12 : km 9.25 - alt. 375m - Abri du Vallon des Bonnes Herbes - Climb the scree slope to the foot of the cliff
13 : km 10.25 - alt. 413m - Turn left at the fork in the path towards Détras
14 : km 12.48 - alt. 182m - Village Le Détras (Ruines) - Continue straight on, leaving the bridge to your l
D/A : km 14.22 - alt. 132m
Near the caves, the route shown reflects the path only approximately.
This walk is referenced as "difficult" for two reasons: (1) the length of the route, the cumulative drop, the existence of steep sections and the section reserved for expert hikers; (2) in several sections you have to continue on without waymarkers on the very steep slopes, with often quite dense vegetation (including thorns, which are classic Mediterranean vegetation).
The time indicated includes several breaks for taking photos and detours via all the caves described, but also for going down several sections in "running" mode.
Take lots of water! Hiking shoes are obligatory. Robust clothing (jeans and long-sleeved top, just in case).
Nearly all the cavities detailed on the walk are accessible without equipment. However, in the absence of specialist equipment and an experienced guide, do not enter the "Aven sous grotte" (pothole under the cave) in the "Aven du Croupatier" (Croupatier pothole) and avoid the two higher cavities in the "Grotte d'Amour" (Cave of love). Many cavities (caves, shelters, balsams) can, however, act as refuges in the case of a storm so remember to think of them!
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Several "gas" paths scratch across the Croupatier massif. Not all their routes are shown on the map. On the ground, they are marked with yellow waymarkers.
The most remarkable cavities are described perfectly on the website of the Var Departmental Caving Committee (Comité Départemental de Spéléologie du Var (CDSV)): http://www.fichiertopo.fr/. I encourage you to look at the information sheets on each of the cavities before going on the hike - it is for this reason that they are not described here. The caves of the Château du Diable are well worrth the detour to them!
The site of the village of Détras benefits from the lake, which you can find out more about on-line due to its particular dragonflies: http://faune-libre.fr/les-libellules-de-...
The villages of Evenos, Ollioules, the heritage site of Courtine, the Oppidum, the Ollioules Gorges, the Gorges and Destel kettles (giant's cauldrons), Châteauvallon, etc.
The GPS track and description are the property of the author.