The dream of Provence: four tours to discover Sainte-Victoire from all its angles

Large open landscapes with peak views, dizzying cliffs stretching to ridges or valleys embroidered with scrub, the Aix mountain range offers tourists numerous scenery.

Sainte-Victoire appears in nearly a hundred works by Cézanne. The painter was sensitive to the silhouette, the colors, the sovereignty of this mountain that outlines the sky to the east of Aix-en-Provence. Inspirational, it’s still for tourists.

Depending on the starting point, it resembles a rock wall rising above a plateau, a petrified wave cutting the horizon or a long ridge covered with Mediterranean vegetation. Here are our recommended routes to discover its different faces.

In the footsteps of Cézanne: the Zola dam and the Bibémus quarries

The path climbs very quickly through scrub and undergrowth to reach an open space watched over by a sculptural mountain.
Cintas Flores

The village of Tholonet flatters the eye with its yellow bastide lined with a long avenue of hundred-year-old plane trees. Here begins this hike in the footsteps of Cézanne, as the artist spent years exploring the surrounding trails with his easel. The path climbs very quickly through scrub and undergrowth to reach an open space watched over by a sculptural mountain. We continue along a wide road to the Bimont Dam, a water structure on the Canal de Provence that forms an intensely blue lake, reflecting a pine forest.

Further on, the path, narrower and shadowy, becomes more intimate. Winding at the top of the valley, it offers a beautiful view of the mountain. We approach the Bibémus quarries, ocher and mineral decoration present in several Cézanne works, before descending to the Zola Dam. Built by the writer’s father, a painter very close to him, this small body of water nestled among the trees seems so rare that its image is taken to Tholonet.

In practice : Approximately 9 km. Easy level, suitable for families. Elevation: 400 meters.

South face, a dizzying climb in a mineral environment

The red earth that lines the southern slopes of Sainte-Victoire sets the tone for a grandiose itinerary.
E. DAUTANT / Provence Tourism

The red earth that lines the southern slopes of Sainte-Victoire sets the tone for a grandiose itinerary. Above, behind the bushes, high cliffs stretch from east to west for almost 20 kilometers. From the Deux Aiguilles car park, we walk through the bush to the Elephant Pasture. A regular climb begins along a path cut into the rocky side of the mountain. Several aerial passages where you have to climb (easy) or scree will allow you to experience the mountain character of Sainte-Victoire.

THE garage, this impressive break in the rock to be overcome heralds the arrival of the ridges where we quickly reach the Croix de Provence at an altitude of 946 meters. From Écrins to the Alpilles, from Sainte-Baume to Mont Ventoux, you can admire the regional peaks on a clear day. The descent goes further west, through the Pas de l’Escalette, to the village of Le Trou, from whose ruins the scent of melancholy emanates. The path then winds around the base of the cliffs, giving an opportunity to contemplate the stone scrolls until you return to the starting point.

In practice : Approximately 7 km. Difficult level, avoid if you are afraid of heights. Elevation: approximately 600 meters.

North wall, forest atmosphere

From the village of Vauvenargues, dominated by Picasso’s pot-bellied castle, the disputants’ path climbs through a pine forest.
MAMP

A change of scenery on the northern slope of Sainte-Victoire, a long gentle slope covered with vegetation. Without a slope, the mountain seems more modest. From the village of Vauvenargues, dominated by Picasso’s pot-bellied castle, the contenders’ path climbs through pine forest and green-and-white oak grove to the Col de Suberoque on the ridges. At the end of this pleasant, mostly shaded climb, a 360° panorama of the Provençal relief awaits the tourist. A moment of contemplation.

On a rocky ridge that flirts with 1000 meters, we continue our journey a few kilometers to the west. The last stop on the ridges: the Croix de Provence and the Priory, whose origins date back to the 13th century, when the chapel was an object of pilgrimage. We return to Vauvenargues through the scrub, via the Chemin des Venturiers, which was captured by yesterday’s pilgrims.

In practice : About 15 km. Average level. Elevation around 700 meters.

Pic des Mouches: the peak from Puyloubier

Vineyards line the road before reaching Puyloubier, a pretty Provençal village resting on the slopes of Sainte-Victoire.
B. BECHET / Provence Tourism

Vineyards line the road before reaching Puyloubier, a pretty Provençal village resting on the slopes of Sainte-Victoire. We are at the eastern end of the mountain. A short but sharp climb takes hikers to the mountain ridge, nearly 600 meters, revealing stunning views in all directions. In the north we can see the snowy Écrins massif in winter. The peak of Sainte-Victoire is not the Croix de Provence (946 meters) at the western end, as is often believed, but the Pic des Mouche (1011 meters) at the east.

Along the ridge we walk and climb without realizing it towards this elevated point that cannot be seen in the distance. Welcome, the orientation table shows the Provençal landscape that stretches on the horizon, from Sainte-Baume to Ventoux via the Alpilles and the Luberon. On a clear day, the sea also enters the panorama. It’s hard to start coming back down, but the stony path that connects to the relay and the vineyard of Saint Ser near Puyloubier crosses beautiful wild and little-visited corners.

In practice : About 10 km. Medium difficulty level. Elevation: almost 700 meters.


Practical

Mount Sainte-Victoire, as well as the Concors massif in the north, are the subject of a conservation, management and development project called “Grand site de France”.
C. DUTREY / Provence Tourism

Grand Site de France Concors Sainte-Victoire

Mount Sainte-Victoire, as well as the Concors massif in the north, are the subject of a conservation, management and development project called “Grand site de France”.

A welcome is provided all year round at the headquarters of the large complex on the southern slope: La Ferme, 66, route de Meyreuil, 13100 Beaurecueil. Phone: 04 42 64 60 90
Open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Two information points also open their doors in season in Vauvenargues (in the north) and in Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde (in the west).

House of Sainte-Victoire

Department Road 17, 13100 Saint-Antonin sur Bayon. Such. : 04 13 31 94 70.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 6pm.

At the foot of the southern slope, this information point managed by the department offers museum premises, an exhibition room, a discovery trail and a restaurant.

Preferred Periods – Access:

Avoid the summer season when high temperatures and peak crowds make hiking uncomfortable. In addition, from 1ahem from June to September 30, access to the forest is regulated due to fire risks. Find out the day before from 18:00 on the Internet or by calling 0811 20 13 13 whether access is allowed.

Some trails may also be temporarily closed during breeding season for sensitive species. Information is available on the main website.

Maps and topoguides

IGN 82017 Montagne Sainte-Victoire maps from the “Discovering Extraordinary Places” collection, more accurate than classic IGN maps.

Mount Sainte Victoire topo guide, 5th edition, April 2019.

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