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Ratings(1-5, 1=easy, 5=extreme):


Difficulty: 2
Danger: 2
Views: 4
Interest 3
Is it worth doing? Not a must but nice.
Suitable for: Any Landrover, any driver
Time needed: about 2 hours

Paper maps: Either the 1:100.000 Top100 from the IGN number 61 which stretches all the way to the italian border which costs 36FF. Or the 1:25.000 maps of the IGN, especially for the region. But you will need more than one as Moustiers unfortunately lies in the corner of 4 maps. All those can be bought at Moustiers.

Crête du Montdenier

This nice little sidetrip offers some excellent views onto the Lac de Sainte-Croix and over the neighbouring area. But it's remarkable for the many camping possibilities, ranging from established sites to free mountain ranges.

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It all starts at Moustiers Sainte-Marie. We used the campground "Le Colombier" in walking distance from the village. Take the main road D952 to Riez. When driving out of Moustiers you will pass the last filling station.

Drive the road for some kilometres and you will go through a serie of serpentines. After the last one it's about half a kilometre more till a narrow road spreads off to the right. It's signposted, among others, "Site de Vol Libre".

This tiny, potholed stretch of tarmac will take you up the hills for quite some time.

 

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#40: Here the tarmac ends and a large dusty road begins. Keep right and stay on the main track. After a while you will pass by the place where the picture on top was taken.

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#42: You arrive at the tiny village of Marignol. It consists of a couple of houses and a rather basic and remote campground. It's a good idea to use this campground as base camp for deeper exploration of the backcountry.

Also it's home to one of the wildest 4x4's I've ever seen. Look at the pictures below! In 2001 it was still road registered.

 
   

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#43: Following the main track you arrive near the signpost pictured on the right. Take the track to the left still following the sign of "Site de Vol Libre".
   
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#44: The track was in a very bad state when I visited it in late summer of 2001. Hard rain had washed away parts of it but it was still driveable without problems. At N43.86015 E6.25948 there is an gate which might be locked in dry summer season for fire danger. Most of the time however it seems to be open.
   
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#45: A very nice place for taking a picture with the lake Ste-Croix in the background.
   

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#46: You arrive at a parking space. You can either continue left (B) or right (A). Here you find the indications for flighing on a nice poster. It seems to be one of the best places in Europe for this sport.
Possibility A:

At the end of the parking lot you find an gate with the following inscription: "Pour passer merci d'ouvrir et de refermer soigneusement la porte du grillage". Which means nothing else than "Please close the gate correctly after passage". In the folowing area you find large herds of sheeps roaming around so better do what the sign says.

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#47: The track to the right and downhill leads to the take-off places for flying. We didn't explore that one for time reasons. Anyway the one straight up looked more challenging.

 
  The track gets worser every kilometre. On an open clearing it seems to disappear but if you look close you can see it going up the hill straight in front of you. Here you have to use low gears as it's extremely stony. The rocks are all VERY sharp and a flat tyre is a definite possibility. Picture right shows this part on our way back.
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#49: To your right you see the ruins of an old bergerie. This was quite a large construction up here but only the outer walls remain

From here on the track gets even harder to see but it still gets up. You come to an large flat area looking like an golf course. Try NOT to drive through its middle but keep as much to the right as possible.

 

 
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#48: This is definitely the end of the track near some very old ruins. It's an wonderful area to camp overnight but you should do this only with permission of the landowner. If you see an shepherd on your way ask him. They are almost always very nice people.

If you don't intend to put up your tent here take the opportunity for a walk around after the shaking you just got from the rocky track. You will enjoy a wonderful view of the lake and the canyon.

Go back to #46 now.

Possibility B:

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At the table of #46 you turn uphill to your left and into the woods. Caution: There is an interdiction sign and any proceding is at your own risk. Try at least to have a good story at hand if you get caught.

The track now runs upward, after a few hundred metres you come to an normally locked gate which prevents you from further going north. So turn sharply right and continue your ascent. Soon you leave the forest and continue climbing up. You reach the summit at a sadle which gives you nice views onto the Mont Chiran to the north with his observatory and the Mourre de Chanier.

 

 

You can now continue until the track ends near an strange natural depression which looks a bit like an eroded mound of an volcano. This is a nice place for camping too.

As there is no track large enough for a car which goes down the opposite side you will have to backtrack your way

Sidenote

For those of you with an adventurous mind and who don't care for scratches there MIGHT be an alternative way back to Moustiers. On the map it shows clearly as a carriage way but it wasn't used for many years.

You will have to drive back N43.85678 E6.24431. This point is located after (from this side) you pass the campground at #42. Here a wooden sign points left to Moustiers via le ravin ... (don't remember the exact name). You can than follow this track. It soon becomes overgrown after an place where sheeps are normally loaded. Try to follow the path as close as possible. Soon you come to a serie of really tight hairpin curves. All of them need backing up. Now big furs stretch over the track and you get the first deep scratches. Some hairpins later there is an tree growing in the middle of the track and I simply had enough now. Anyway it was already 7PM and, folks, aren't you hungry?...

But the track is clearly visible as it continues with an impressing sideslope. This is surely an very intersting one- but not with a new car.