Picnic pick France– Hiking the Massif de L’EstErel

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

What do you get when you mix a little bit of Colorado with a splash of southern European flora and fauna and intertwine the edges of the resulting mixture with the northern hemisphere most notorious sea? You get the Massif de L’Esterel!

The French Riviera has some ridiculous points of interest. If you're in the market for nature, hiking picnicking and wildlife, this has got to be the crown jewel! Located about 30 minutes away from Cannes, this mountain range that boarders the Mediterranean Sea sits right in the middle of one of the most iconic coastlines in the entire country.

Just Tap The Directions on the Map and it will navigate you towards the peak. Once you are there you can decide what you prefer and where you want to stop, super easy as you can see there are not many roads to choose from.

The first time I noticed the mountains was on a New Years Trip we took to the St Tropez region. We had gotten up early and hiked to the Cap Camarat to go photograph the iconic lighthouse. The lighthouse is fantastic, but once we walked a bit further towards the point, we soon realized that there was a much bigger draw. The view from the point in front of the lighthouse, is in my opinion is the best coastline view in France. From here you can get a full view of the Mediterranean coastline while gazing in the direction of Italy. In the middle of all this, a little red ruby sticks out. An odd ball that certainly doesn’t fit in with the towering white peaks in the background. This striking rock formation had grabbed our attention among the giants it shares the horizon with, so 6 weeks later we returned to check it out.

Have you ever taken a trip that was super easy to book, beyond simple to plan and relatively close in proximity to home? Then once got there, said to yourself “How in the hell did I not come here before!?!” That’s what this trip was to us. It’s funny how we so often look for the grand things on the other side of the globe when we often have amazing things so close to home.

Visiting the area turned out to be much easier than we had planned. Since we were traveling with my in laws, steep long hikes were off the table. We were pretty glad to find that the place is accessible to pretty much anyone.

There is only one road along the coastline that connects Cannes to St Tropez. Scattered along this road are loads rest areas, look out points and small parking lots with beach access. This is what we did our first day. Was an awesome stretch of coastline to get the drone up into the air and makes for a super beautiful car ride. A great way to get a taste, but far away from taking a good bite.

You gotta head in and up if you want to explore this area at its best.

The amount of trails in the area is staggering. With signs and marking posts scattered everywhere, there are an endless amount of variations for you to explore. Starting in Frejus, there are paths that connect the rural areas of the region to the wildness. There are hikes for every level of fitness, even some that are wheelchair accessible.

There are 2 main arteries that allow for cars to make their way up the side of the mountain. You can’t drive to the tip top of the highest peak, but you certainly can get yourself within a very short hike of it. The few roads in the interior will bring you to different hiking departure points. Absolute stunning roads winding through the rugged terrain…however…. the roads are super narrow….. dangerously narrow in certain areas. I am 100% certain that multiple people have rolled their cars to their deaths over the years. You need to be comfortable with heights and passing within centimeters of other vehicles and the edge of the road. Not all the roads are as tight or complicated, so be careful to not drive down any route that is outside of your comfort zone.

The driving hiking combo is truly the best of both worlds. Why spend your energy and time hiking it from the base, when you can cut the time by more than 50%….. thus leaving you with more time for happy hour…. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out this math!

There is even one road that at one point is blocked off to cars and can be continued by foot. The road doesn’t change much in elevation so even if you got someone in a wheelchair it is very possible and relativity easy to visit the area with them. We stumbled upon this place on our final day and not only does it seem to be the easiest view point at altitude to access, but also one of the most beautiful. The road winds and bends around the mountain and around every corner the views completely change. Each one being as grand as the previous. We were there at 9 am on a Wednesday end of February….so I could only imagine how busy it must get during peak season and peak hours.

The mountain Range that we had first noticed as a ruby in a sea of white had completely shattered any expectation we may have had .The Massif de L’Esterel is definitely an absolute must do in the region. In an area that is renowned for being a haven for the wealthiest French citizen. This mountain range provides an alternative to shopping in Cannes or Lunch in St Tropez. Nobody has built a single house or should I say mansion on it, there are no ice cream shops and Louis Vitton boutiques at the top…….and it’s 100% Free!