For a slideshow of l'Esterel, click above (you'll need Flash Player).
The Massif de l'Esterel may be small (about 30 kms long), but it's fierce. It brandishes its red porphyry lava rocks like bloody teeth above the blue sea.
Inside the Domaine Forestier de l'Esterel, you can hike all morning and see no other life than a caramel-colored squirrel dashing up a cork-oak tree, a rabbit scurrying under heather, a harmless grass snake crossing the trail, a raven circling overhead.
L'Esterel has a tradition of reclusion, due to its rugged geology.
In the late 4th century, Saint Honorat sought quiet contemplation in l'Esterel and lived as a hermit below the majestic Cap Roux peak, in the Grotte Sainte-Baume cave. He later founded a thriving monastic community on the islands of Lerins whose tradition still lives on today.
A less welcomed visitor was bandit Gaspard de Besse, a provençal Robin Hood who prowled the Malpey (South West of Mont Vinaigre) in search of travelers to rob.
Today, visits are safe. The main danger is forest fires, and the park closes on hot windy days when fire risks run high. The park otherwise closes from 9PM to 6AM. Check with the local Tourism Offices for status before entering the Domaine Forestier de l'Esterel. The offices also organize group walks often with the National Forestry ONF staff.
Here are some of our favorite hikes within the Esterel:
- From Le Trayas to the Pic de l'Ours (562m).
- By the ciselled shore around Le Dramont (<-- click to read more).
- To the picnic-friendly Lac de l'Ecureuil from inside the Esterel.
- By the Grotte Sainte-Baume up to panoramic Cap Roux (454m).
We will cover each of them in detail over the next four weeks. A bientot!