A loop hike on the south side of Sainte-Victoire Montagne allowing access to the ridge via the Marbrière and the Brèche du Clapier (gap). The walk along the ridge towards the Croix de Provence offers splendid views. Descent via the Priory, the Pas du Berger and the Cézanne Shelter.
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.
Starting from the Deux Aiguilles car park, 500 metres east of the Maison de la Sainte-Victoire, near Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon.
(D) From the car park, cross the road towards Saint-Victoire Montagne. The waymarks can be found on a rock.
Head towards the Refuge Baudino - Chapelle Saint-Ser following black waymarks (the Garagaï route, which is fairly difficult) on the right-hand side. Ignore the next three tracks to the left. The waymarks then veer left and head north-east, straight towards the cliff. After 150m, continue uphill following a track coming in from the right.
(1) At an intersection, ignore the tracks to the left and straight ahead to turn right following the brown waymarks. The path leads down into a little valley and up the other side. On the way up, a cairn marks the start of a narrow path to the right leading to a cave, from which you return by the same route. Continue on the main path, which goes uphill and flattens out several times until it reaches a junction.
Follow the trail, which bears left, still following the brown markings. After a few metres heading due north, the path bears left (west), then turns sharply back to the right towards the old marble quarry (the Marbrière). Just before the quarry, a cairn marks a path on the left which passes above it. The path levels out, continues, crosses a small rocky spur facing north (the Pas du Clapier) and arrives at a large cairn on another level section.
(2) Take the path to the left following green waymarks which leads steeply up towards the rock face. There are many scrambling sections on the way up, but they are never too dangerous or too airy. A final oblique fault gives access to the ridge.
(3) After admiring the view, continue to the left on the long-distance path GR9 (red and white waymarks). The GR marking occasionally runs at some distance from the ridgeline. Feel free to leave it and walk a bit to the left to take full advantage of the view, but be very careful. Go past the Signal (969m) and continue. Follow a route marked with red and white dots leading up left to the Croix de Provence (4). Go down to the right of the hut to return to the GR, which heads left to pass above the Sainte-Victoire Priory (5).
A quick look round the site, then resume the descent to the left on the GR. At a fork about 200m further down, leave the GR when it heads right and continue straight down following the blue waymarks (Bimont). These follow a stony path and approach the ridgeline. After crossing a wall, turn left off the path and head for a large cairn.
(6) Continue down to the left following the red waymarks. Negotiate a little drop (the Pas du Berger) then continue to a rock which indicates the point at which a route marked with red dots comes in from the right.
Continue down to the left, reaching an intersection 600m below, just beside the Cézanne Shelter.
(7) Turn left towards the Oppidum Untinos and the Maison de la Sainte-Victoire. A few metres further on, take the opportunity to visit the Cézanne Shelter (8). Continue on the track with brown waymarks, coinciding with the GR653A as far as the Oppidum. 300m after the shelter, bear left following the waymarks.
After about 500m, ignore the green waymarks indicating the Forcioli route on the left and, after a short but steep climb, the Oratoire de l'Amitié shrine is worth a quick look.
Continue about 300m to an intersection.
(9) Head right towards the Oppidum and the Deux Aiguilles car park, leaving the brown waymarks for yellow.
At a fork, ignore the path to the left and continue straight on following the yellow waymarks towards the Oppidum. The path passes round the ruin, skirts the top of the bluff and passes beneath a rocky outcrop. When it returns to the yellow waymarks from which it had previously departed, continue to the right to complete the descent to the car park.
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0
1 : km 0.61 - alt. km 0.61 - Right following brown waymarks
2 : km 2.46 - alt. km 2.46 - Left following green waymarks
3 : km 2.85 - alt. km 2.85 - Left on the GR9
4 : km 4.79 - alt. km 4.79 - Croix de Provence
5 : km 5.05 - alt. km 5.05 - Prieuré de la Sainte-Victoire
6 : km 5.66 - alt. km 5.66 - Left following red waymarks
7 : km 6.76 - alt. km 6.76 - Left following brown waymarks
8 : km 6.95 - alt. km 6.95 - Refuge Cézanne
9 : km 8.3 - alt. km 8.3 - Right following yellow waymarks
D/A : km 9.73 - alt. km 9.73
Some steep sections on the green route on the way up and a steep drop on the way down on the red route (Pas du Berger) make this a circuit for an informed public. As a precaution, children should be secured with a rope.
• Non-drinkable water and dry toilets are available at the Priory.
N.B.: The route indicated differs from that shown on the IGN map after the Marbrière, but accurately matches the situation on the ground.
We advise taking IGN maps with you on this walk. Click here to buy : 3244ET.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
The Oppidum Untino stands proud above the village of Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon. Excavations yielded limited Celto-Ligurian findings indicating that the site was occupied in the second century BC. The section of wall on the south edge of the plateau is the remains of a mediaeval fort.
The Marbrière: For many years, a marble quarry was operated half-way up the hill on the south side of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire.
Various floors where the quarrymen used to work still exist on site. Huge blocks were detached from the face by sawing.
The 1933 Bouches du Rhône Encyclopaedia states that the workforce ranged from 15 in 1851 to 30 in 1930, less than five years before the quarry closed.
Works were carried out on the hillside:
An access track with a reinforced retaining wall to allow the blocks to be transported;
holes drilled in the rock for oaken stakes around which ropes were passed to restrain the blocks as they were moved down the hill.
The primary blocks were 9 m long by 5 m wide and were subsequently resized.
They were transported to the railway stations at Aix or Fuveau, first by horses and later by truck.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.