If Mars had vegetation and water, we can imagine that the Cap Roux in the Esterel mountains would be a close image of a Martian scenery . Amazing color contrasts ...

Are you by any chance on holidays on the Côte d’Azur? Here is one of the most stunning hikes that we have had the opportunity to do in the Alpes-Maritimes region – the Esteril at Cap Roux. I have lived 8 years on the Côte d’Azur and I was dazzled by the beauty of this place that I only knew of by name.

The te Mountain is visible from Cannes but it’s officially located in the Var, by Fréjus or 45 min drive from Nice. What makes the e Peak so interesting? Well you must know that it’s a volcanic mountain consisting of red rock (rhyolite for the connoisseurs) that appeared in the Mediterranean. This mountain went through massive erosion that allowed water to infiltrate in the rock thus facilitating vegetation growth in these acidic soils. This reddish rock gives the impression of having landed on Mars. 

cap roux esterel cote d'azur tourism

The Estérel Mountain is a unique mountain of its kind

The mountain served once as a hideout for bandits who attempted to rob travelers until it started being exploited for its wood before the huge fires that devastated almost all of its forest in the 20th century. Since 1964, the site has ceased to be exploited and associations have started to reintroduce animal species such as the red deer. A part of the forest (approximately 800 hectares) is also now under the protection of Natura 2000 to facilitate the growth of the deer population.

This however doesn’t prevent activities such as hunting to persist in the region. Although regulated, it remains a double-edged sword. It regulates certain animal populations living on the mountain but it also contributes to the contamination and destruction of other species such as some raptors (hawks or eagles).

animals mountain esterel wildlife tourism

But the good news is that another activity is gradually replacing hunting – ecotourism. Numerous cyclists and hikers have taken by storm these Martian colored rocks to enjoy strolls along the cornice and more climbing excursions, such as those of Cap Roux. Incredible landscapes are present amidst the clear blue water and the reddish rock – you won’t know what to take a picture of first!

The hike towards the Cap Roux of the Estérel Mountain

There are several biking and walking paths. The many marked trails offer you the opportunity to discover the sights and sceneries of this domain.

paysages massif esterel frejus france

The Ours Peak, the Saint-Barthélemy rock, the cove and the Cap Dramont, the viewpoint of Cap Roux, the Vinegar peak (highest point at 614 m), the ravine of Perthus and that of Malinfernet with its streams, the gorges of Blavet in the town of Bagnols en Forêt. We chose to visit the Saint-Barthélemy rock and to hike to Cap Roux. The trek is divided into 2 parts, one on a paved path that is called the coastal path up to a junction (yellow and white markings), then going up to Cap Roux. We followed the yellow signs up to Cap Roux and we came down following the blue markings.

randonnée cap roux esterel tourisme activités cote azur var

All routes are anyways detailed on the Estérel Mountain website (available in english) Initially we wanted to start from the parking of Sainte Baume but we didn’t manage to find it, therefore we continued and we departed from a higher point – the parking of the Anthéor plateau.

carte parcours massif esterel cap rouxhttps://goo.gl/maps/mLbhyPVWthH2

Trip duration: 4 hours

Distance : 11km

Parking : Plateau d’Anthéor

Points of interest: Saint-Barthélemy rock, Col Cap Roux and the Cap Roux viewpoint

Access to the Estérel Mountain and to Cap Roux

By Car

Choose carpooling or rent a car from this electric car rental company! Follow the A8 – exit 38 “Fréjus/Saint-Raphaël”. Take the RN7 in the direction of Saint-Raphaël centre, then Agay through Valescure or by the seaside. And after that, simply follow the signs to the Estérel Mountain

Carbon footprint for the trip: 20.17kg CO2

By public transport

This option is a bit more challenging. You have to take the train to Agay. The train runs about every hour from Nice. The trip lasts between 55min and 1h20min. From the Agay central station you will figure out how to get to Estérel Mountain by taking into account the following instructions.

Carbon footprint per person for the train ride: 2.43kg CO2

You will have to walk along the seafront to the left in the Rue d’Agay (immediately after you get out of the station) up to the roundabout. At the roundabout, take the road towards A8 and pass under the railway bridge. After the bridge, take the Chemin du Petit Paradis. You will continue this way until you reach the end of the path, you will see a road that’s not accessible to cars. From there you can reach the Boulevard du Rastel and continue towards the peak. Google Maps will indicate several small paths to reach the Anthéor plateau.

With this option, take into account 13km extra return trip so a minimum 3/4h of walking. If you are biking the trip should be faster.
Please see below a map displaying the itinerary advised from the train station

carte gare sncf agay

Environment and GreenPick “green” grade

This hike was incredible in terms of scenery and if you are warm and you dream of cooling off after your trip by bike or on foot, go to Agay! The beach is gorgeous and not as touristic as others on the Côte d’Azur.

However we found a pile of handkerchiefs/tissues and plastics such as diapers, water bottles and straws. We took the time to clean up what we found on our way and we collected approximately 1kg of waste. Such a beautiful place deserves to be taken care of. 

dechets massif esterel pollution

Every waste has an ecological cost. It can be found in the ocean and contaminate marine life, or be swallowed by an animal thus killing it or even cause a fire. It is difficult to compute how much our kg of waste would impact nature but, either way, the consequence of picking up this garbage is positive, at least from a visual pollution standpoint.

Every year there are 20 billion tons of waste that are found in the oceans and in nature. Certainly, 1kg of waste doesn’t seem too significant and it’s true that on a distance of 10 km this is not huge. However, don’t discard your handkerchief after using it for a bio break in nature. The lifespan of a tissue is about 3 months. And frankly, in the Estérel Mountain you see a bunch of these little tissues lying around. And it’s ugly. And it can heavily contaminate the environment. Moreover a non-biodegradable tissue is not at all ecological. Treated with chlorine after undergoing transformation processes that consume a lot of energy from the tree from which it is delivered, the paper tissue is everything but “green”.

tourism cote d'azur french riviera esterel outdoor travel


Ideally, you should use a 100% biodegradable box like in the United States (where it’s forbidden to use nature as a toilet spot) or to make a hole to avoid visual pollution and limit the environmental one. Burying human waste instead of leaving it in plain sight, allows for a faster decomposition and thus environmental pollution and contamination can be avoided (especially that of water streams).

Our “Green” grade for this place? 4/5

And if you are travelling by car, take the Route of Corniche d’Or towards Cannes along the sea. Simply breathtaking…

Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu

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