Courmes and the Saint-Barnabé Plateau
This time I’m taking you on an easy hike that can be done all year round, in the beautiful and relatively undiscovered Siagne-Loup Valley. Hidden away between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Grasse, the village of Courmes will give you a real taste of mid-mountain walking without being too demanding. This is a walk that’s suitable for all the family. The circuit can be completed in 2-2.5 hours and has a mild gradient of 350 m. The only challenge is the numbers on the main way markers. All the recent guides and maps have the new numbers but you may find (as I did) that the old numbers still appear on about 50% of the way markers so to help you on your way I’ll give you both old and new numbers. The circuit is simple to follow so you shouldn’t encounter any issues.
The drive to Courmes will take you through the beautiful Gorges du Loup and upon arrival in Courmes you already have the feel that you are in the middle of the mountains. Courmes is situated 32 km from Nice airport. Take the A8 motorway to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then follow signs to la Colle-sur-Loup. Go up the Gorges du Loup by the RD6 until you reach Bramafan and turn right to follow the narrow road up to Courmes where you can park in the large village car park at 630m altitude.
The hike which has been completely retraced and rerouted from the old version (so be careful if you have old hiking guides) starts from the car park behind the communal buildings at new way marker 250 (le chemin des Combes) but you may still find the old way marker as I did (83). The important thing is that you should be following signs to Plateau de Saint-Barnabé and have this circuit plotted out on your detailed TOP 25 3642 “Vallée de L’Esteron” map.
The path goes up through a pretty forest of oak trees to way marker 256 where you turn right and find yourself on a gentle, level ‘balcony’ pathway which you stay on until you reach the plateau and “la Baisse” at way marker 255 (86). Turn right to join the GR51 which crosses the plateau until you reach the edge at 948m and way-marker 254 (85). Stay on the GR51 and you will have incredible views at this point over the surrounding villages and valley. Continue right, way marker 253 (84), and descend before crossing a pathway which takes you slightly up to rejoin the GR51 at way marker 252 (83) and then back to the village.
I advise taking hiking sticks, as they will help you both on 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 as I mentioned above you will need the IGN n° 3842 OT map to mark out your trail before you set off (all 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-saint-barnabe-9071.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!