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near Cassis, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (France)
The area is often closed to the public from 1st July till 15th September (except for morning walks till 11 am) because of the risk of forest fires. But call 0811 201313 after 6pm the day before for exact information.
Approaching Cassis by car, simply follow the well signposted route to “Les Calanques” with parking on the Presque Iles (Port Miou). On the way there, just west of the town centre, you pass a small beach with a car park on the opposite side of the road (La Plage du Bestouan). I normally take my coffee here before walks (Henry Blanc coffee from Marseille at the café along the road there!). Drive on, following signposts for Calanques and Presque Iles, and another 3 minutes you park you car along Avenue Noire Dame, or at the end of this Avenue, where there is a car park. The best place to park is around the point where this Avenue is at its highest, because here the trail out to the calanques starts.
The trail (marked 8a on the local map) starts off by crossing down to Avenue des Calanques and hen take the main trail (trail 8) out along Calanques de Port Miou. You gain a little hight and I suggest you take right and follow trail 8b all the way up to the Youth Hostel (Auberge de jeunesse) at the 192 meter point. Here you head straight south, but only for about 150 meters, where you turn right along trail 7a, marked for Maison Forestiere. You meet the main trail 7 at the 209 meter point near the Maison Forestiere, and simply follow this all the way down to Calanque d’en Vau for lunch and a swim.
If it’s during the winter, or you simply fancy the lunch high up with a really good view of the sea and nearby islands, take trail 8 (GR51 & 98) to the right up to Col de l’Oule and follow trail 2 out to the view point (Belvedere d’en Vau).
From the beach at En Vau, return back again the same route for about 10 minutes before you turn right up trail 8 (GR51 & 98). This is a short but breathtaking climb that will take you anything from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on fitness. Once you are up on this plateau, don’t continue trail 8 straight for Calanque de Port Pin unless you are in a hurry. Use a good hour on the magic rout along the two calanques by following blue markers all the way (trail 4). The views along this route are just too good to be believed, especially late in the day when the sun is right and you have the back drop of Cassis town and the large cliffs on the eastern side (highest cliffs along the coast of France – Cap Canaille – 400 meters strait down).
Finally at the beach Calanque de Port Pin, take another swim, or follow trail 8 (GR 51 & 98) up the hill towards Cassis (30 minutes to the car). On top of this first hill, don’t follow the main trail to the left, but go slightly to the right and you see a large trail going down to the left much closer to the sea. Simply follow this trail along the water front and you eventually join up with the main trail at the large flat area (old quarries). You are now back where you started. Return to the car the same way as you came.