Plateau de Calern – Cipières
by Judy Churchill
One of the beauties of the Riviera is that you can still find unspoilt, off-the-beaten track trails away from the madding crowd and this hike is a great example. The ancient village of Cipières is hidden in the Siagne Loup valley, away from the traffic and off the main roads and yet easy to get to when you know where to find it. In July it comes alive with music concerts but the rest of year it is content to snooze. Perched on its rocky ridge this pretty village is the starting point of our hike to the Plateau de Calern, famous for the CERGA observatory, which carries out specialized research in measuring movements of the Earth and development of astronomical instruments.
There are apparently interesting and very informative guided tours of the CERGA installations, during July and August, given by the scientists who work there which could make the hike doubly interesting especially for the children.
This is a middle mountain, medium level hike suitable for all the family, with a gradient of 530m and about 4 hours 45 minutes long. The best time of year to do this walk is from May to November.
To reach Cipières, take the A8 motorway to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then follow signs to la Colle-sur-Loup. Drive up the beautiful Gorges du Loup on the D.6 and then the D.3 and finally take a left turn onto the D.603 up to Cipières.
The hike begins in the village square (750m). From way marker 26 take Plateau de Calern direction. You will go past the last village houses up to way markers 160 and 181 where you join the GR4. Carry on up to way marker 188 and then take the time to cross the Caussols plain to visit the CERGA observatory. Come back to way marker 188 and turn left (West) towards les combes de Poumières. You will walk past a quaint old sheep fold and shepherd’s hut (like something out of a painting) which is a really pretty place to stop for a picnic. Carry on just a little further along the grassy pathway being careful not to miss the yellow rectangular way marker indicating a change of direction, right (North). Carry on down the path to the Combe d’Anelle and take the pathway there just after the electricity pylons at way marker 182 (be careful not to miss this one). Leave that pathway at the first big bend for another old pathway (short cut), which takes you back to way marker 181 and the village of Cipières.
I advise taking hiking sticks, as they will help you on both the ascents and the way down. They also guarantee you get a full body work out. You’ll need a cap and sunglasses to keep the sun off your face (the sun is a lot stronger in the mountains so don’t forget the sunscreen) and several layers of clothing that you can shed or put on as your temperature changes. Remember to take more water than you think you’ll need (at least a litre and a half per person) and enough protein bars for during and after the hike. I always have a high fibre, high protein breakfast before I set off which means that I don’t need to carry a large picnic with me as good protein bars are sufficient (always take a couple of extra ones). Purpose-made hiking gear, boots and a rucksack are a must and you will need lighter wear for the Spring/Summer season and heavier/warmer for the Autumn/Winter period. Last but not least, you will need the IGN n° 3642 4T map (Vallée de l’Estéron) to mark out your trail before you set off (all numbered way markers are indicated on the IGN maps which are available for purchase online or at good book and sports shops). If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on this link: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/siagne-loup/plateau-de-calern-9079.html but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guide maps are only approximate. There are also hike specific apps such as Visorando, which have both free and purchasable versions and can be very useful guides and even have GPS options https://www.visorando.comhttps://www.visorando.comwhic. If you have Strava you can record your walk on this app and it will give you lots of fascinating statistics at the end as well as totalling up the number of km you do in any given year.
Enjoy your hike and don’t forget your camera!