As the name suggests, is this route ascends 25 mounds that form a circuit of the of the Trois Pignons forest. A hike amid the rocks that makes an excellent training run before mountain hikes in the summer.
N.B. The elevation is underestimated: between 800 and 900 metres total cumulative change in altitude. It’s difficult to find a larger change in altitude in the Ile-de-France, unless you want to take the steps up and down the Eiffel Tower three times on the trot. Expect to be walking for 6 to 7 hours.
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 Vaudoué the car park located at the end of Chemin de la Fontenelle. Access via the A6 motorway, at the exit for "Ury". Go through the well signposted Cailleau Rock car park, and then take the first right upon arriving in the village (there are no signs for parking).
’’Very dense Red markings along the whole circuit.'' Only the access from the car park (S) as far as the circuit proper (1) uses another colour of markings, namely the Red and White of the GR route. In some places there are colour arrows and dots (Yellow, Orange or Blue): ignore these as they are for rock climbing routes only.
Given the nature of the terrain and the great tortuosity of the course, it is not possible to write a detailed description rock by rock or turn by turn. The following description provides general directions and important landmarks, such as forest plot numbers appearing on the signs on the trees.
(S) From the car park, turn right (north-east) on Chemin de la Mée. One hundred metres further on, at plots no. 168 and 169, cross the Circuit 25 des Bosses (Red double-headed arrow on a tree trunk).
(1) Take the left path. At a T-junction, turn left onto a wider path then reach a crossroads (plot no. 164). Turn 90° to the left along a trail that leads uphill. Reach the top of the Guichot Rock (the first bump). Then turn right to head back down. At the bottom of the descent, find a good path in a pine and birch wood. At the end of this road, at a T-junction with the Chemin du Guichot (sign, plot no. 164), turn left. At the T-junction that follows, turn left onto Chemin de la Plaine de la Mée (sign).
(2) At the next junction (plots no. 142 and 143), turn right on Chemin des Sables du Cul de Chien (sign). At the following fork, take a left and go up the trail. At the top of the hill, follow the ridge with a dug out section on your right (perhaps an old ormer sandstone quarry?), ignoring the markings on the hills. Then turn left and down a sunken road. At the bottom of the descent, turn right at a right angle between two rocks. Cross a sandy area with large boulders. Pass by a big block on the right, continue between the rocks and reach a wide path.
(3) Cross the wide path (Chemin de la Plaine de Jean des Vignes, plot no. 139) and continue opposite. At the following T-junction, turn right. At the following fork (not depicted on the IGN map), go right for a very short climb. Further on, cross Chemin du Mont Pivot and continue on the path opposite to climb the eponymous Mount Pivot.
(4) The top of Mount Pivot (sign), turn right (north-east) and take a path along the ridge or below on the right side among the rocks. Reach a rock that can be climbed (using hands), or around it to the left followed by a sharp right. Finally head down around a silt fence to the right. Go and reach the secondary top of Mount Pivot (sign). Then veer right and undertake a quick descent to a path. Continue opposite and back by pressing to the right. A small step of easy climbs takes you to the top of the Jean des Vignes Rock (note the chalice engraved on the sunken rock on the right).
(5) Continue on an almost flat stretch then turn left and go down in a maze of rocks. At a junction (not shown on map) continue opposite (plot no. 129). Head uphill again and at the ledge veer right. Then turn right, go down briefly and then back up to a new summit (marker). Continue on an almost flat section and, at a fork, take the right path to get a view of a "sea of sand". Head left and down among the rocks. At the bottom of the descent, go around a vertical rock on the right and climb the winding path. At the top of the coast, walk on a flat stretch then down a path with wooden steps. Reach Chemin de la Vallée Close (sign, plot no. 117).
(6) Cross the path and bear left. Climb gently under pine trees, veer right, climb more steeply and reach the summit of the Roche au Four (sign). Turn left for the descent. Reach a sandy crossroads with small wooden houses on the left (plot no. 116). Continue opposite onto a sandy road. At a fork, take the left path, still in the sand. At the following T-junction, turn right into an undergrowth of ferns. Follow a pleasant path under pine trees slightly uphill. After a short descent, find a fork, turn right to go gently uphill amid the ferns.
(7) The Red markings indicate two options:
- Following the dotted lines, head up to the left to reach the summit of the Butte de la Justice de Chambergeot and retrace your steps (not shown on the on the route map of this hike).
- Following the solid lines, turn right at an acute angle, walk flat or slightly downhill (the course featured on the map). Cross a sandy road (plot no. 117) and ascend steeply. Then walk in a landscape of mudflats (there may be wet areas). Veer left to head down. Continue along the hillside. Head up again among the rocks, using your hands in places where needed. Reach Pignon des Maquisards located slightly to the right of the circuit.
(8) Retrace your steps for a short distance and continue on the path to the right heading downhill. At the bottom of the descent, ignore a path on the right and continue opposite uphill. Journeying between the ferns and, at a fork, take the right path and head down. Then head back uphill squeezing between the rocks and reach Maison Poteau.
(9) Continue east on roughly flat sections or along the hillside. Pass a rock shelter with a "Danger" (probably in the process of collapsing). Wind between the rocks using your hands when necessary. Arrive at a more open area, turn right and reach a sort of clearing (with a view of the monument to the guerrillas on the right). Continue south, among the rocks and along some “runways” between them. Head down among the pines and reach a path on the borders of plots no. 114 and 118.
(10) Take the path opposite and climb, by first pressing left then nipping to the right. Skip on to secondary peak (large boulders), then back down. Then make headway along an almost flat section amid the rocks. Veer slightly to the left to avoid a gap between high blocks. Then veer right and climb some steps to follow a “runway" between two rocks. At the end, do not miss a left turn and then another to the right. Continue in a maze of rocks taking “runways" that are more or less narrow, don’t hesitate to use your hands. Follow the Red markings. Head down and finally reach a trail taken by the GR1.
(11) Continue opposite and get to a path with wooden steps. Head around a large boulder on the left (fence) and reach a point of view. Down among the rocks, with a chimney passage (can be bypassed on the right). Head back up, go by a beautiful view then down again with narrow passages between rocks. Head back up through a pine forest to reach a peak (no views). Descend and reach the Chemin de la Gorge aux Poivres (sign).
(12) Continue opposite (plot no. 126) and climb up to a path due south. Pass a view point, take a short descent and climb again. Pass under a rock then reach a summit. Head down on a path that is steep at first, then becoming gentler beneath the pines. Cross Chemin des Potets (plot no. 127) and then turn right uphill (wooden steps). Pass a summit and head back down under pine trees and reach the summit of the Rocher de la Tortue (sign).
(13) Then go down to the foot of a rock shaped like a turtle (hence the name of the previous summit). Continue downhill on a pleasant sandy path. Cross a wider path (plots no. 149 and 148) and reach the Chemin de Melun au Vaudoué. Continue opposite on a path that climbs slightly. Cross a small sandy area. Further on, climb a rock slab (with the option to bypass it on the right). To follow the sandy path which winds between the rocks. Continue on a flat section for a while then head back down winding its way between the rocks. Reach signpost.
(14) Turn left at towards Potala. Cross a paved path and climb steeply. Head back down more gently. At the bottom of the descent (tree in front with a red marker), turn left. Return to a path from the right and follow it along the left. Veer right and head up to a well maintained path. Arrive at a kind of pass with a hill to the left and turn right. Then bear left downhill. Then do not take the path to the left but head to the right among the rocks. Head down and turn left going up at a fork. After a large boulder (fence), turn right, go down and find an information board on medieval engravings in the forests of the region. Cross the road and continue across on a path up uphill. Head around a block of rock on the left, take a sharp turn to the right among the rocks, go down and reach a crossroads of trails in a sparse woods (result of a recent forest fire).
(15). Turn left and go up towards the rocks. Then walk on top of the rocks, keeping heading to the east. Here and there you will need to jump from one rock to another. If you are worried do not hesitate to go around the difficult bits (usually to the left). Head down and reach a rock shelter with a chimney (note again a chalice engraved on the rock). Then turn right at acute angle. At a fork, go left on a sandy path. A sign indicates that, due to erosion, the route has been changed: turn right and at a T-junction, turn left. Follow the Red markings with care. After taking the wooden steps, pass under a rock. Then easily climb the steps back to the top of the rocks between which you will need to jump. Then down to a desolate area (due to a recent fire) and walk along the area on your left. Cross a wider path and continue north and then north-west.
(1) Turn left onto Chemin de la Mée and quickly reach the starting point.
D/A : km 0 - alt. 74m
1 : km 0.2 - alt. 76m - Start the of the circuit proper
2 : km 1.66 - alt. 76m - Chemin des Sables du Cul de Chien
3 : km 2.78 - alt. 74m - Chemin Plaine de Jean des Vignes
4 : km 3.38 - alt. 94m - Mount Pivot
5 : km 4.67 - alt. 101m - Jean des Vignes Rock
6 : km 5.06 - alt. 80m - Chemin de la Vallée Close
7 : km 6.23 - alt. 99m - Junction at the base of Butte de la Justice
8 : km 7.51 - alt. 94m - Pignon des Maquisards
9 : km 7.81 - alt. 108m - Maison Poteau
10 : km 8.41 - alt. 98m - Crossroads
11 : km 9.03 - alt. 105m - Junction with the GR1.
12 : km 9.62 - alt. 109m - Chemin de la Gorge aux Poivres
13 : km 10.41 - alt. 106m - Rocher de la Tortue
14 : km 11.68 - alt. 80m - Signpost
15 : km 12.88 - alt. 109m - Crossroads before the loop of the Cailleau Rock
D/A : km 14.56 - alt. 74m
Although the hike follows paths or trails it very often leads out on the rocks. It is therefore essential to have hiking shoes, preferably low tops (high top shoes will still do), or sports shoes with good grips.
Without presenting any major technical difficulties, this hike has a good few easy climbs, many sections where you have to squeeze between the rocks and even more where you have to jump from one rock to another. A good sense of balance is required. Hikers who use walking sticks are informed that in the cases mentioned above, these sticks can be very cumbersome.
Do not go on this hike in wet weather because the rocks will be too slippery.
A long hike without water refill points: bring plenty of supplies.
A 1:25000 map is a must, a compass is also very useful. Despite the density of markings and good maintenance (thank you to the markers!), we recommend you take care to not lose the route. A good sense of direction is required. If you don’t come across a marker for some time, do not hesitate to retrace your steps to find your bearings and the route markings.
Other optional starting points
- Coming from Milly-la-Forêt by the D16, the first car park that we encounter is the one called “Parking du Cimetière". At the east end of the car park, take the Chemin de la Plaine de Jean des Vignes to the north-east and begin the circuit at point (3).
- At the car park of the Saint-Jérôme (not indicated on the map), take Chemin de la Vallée Close and find the circuit at point (6).
- From the car park beside the D64, near the A6 motorway, take Chemin de la Sambine north-west. At the T-junction with the Chemin de Melun in Vaudoué, turn left and find the circuit between points (13) and (14). Expect roughly an extra 45 minutes for the round trip connection.
- ‘’Shortened circuit at Butte de la Justice de Chambergeot'' - Between (6) and (7) and after the sandy crossroads, do not take the left path but instead continue north-east to find the circuit and turn right towards the Pinion des Maquisards.
- ‘’Shortened circuit looping around the Cailleau Rock (if tired at the end of the hike or if you do not like jumping from one rock to another)'' - At point (15) turn right (west) and quickly find the way back to the starting point.
- West half loop - Follow the route to the Pignon des Maquisards (8) and make the descent. At the bottom, turn right on a trail that leads to Chemin de la Vallée Close. Head south-east on Chemin du Pied des Monts. Then turn right onto Chemin de la Mée and keep heading south-west to the start point. This walk takes about 3.5 hours in total.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Several viewpoints. Varied landscapes: forests of various species, rocky areas, mudflats, etc.
Pignon des Maquisards (8): monument in homage to the "Publican” network.
The GPS track and description are the property of the author.