You'll have to pay the piper for the first three miles of climbing, but after that, this loop stitches together quite a lot of singletrack, including very difficult optional stretches from the Col des Opies, and the Pas-de-Cerf
The difficult optional parts of this ride run along crests. Might not want to ride those when the Mistral is blowing, but the rest of the trail is mostly protected.
Some of the fields you pass through are grazed during the spring. You may have to climb over temporary fences--be sure they are intact when you are done. Stay away from the sheep, and watch out for those big white dogs!
There are many fire roads and narrow tracks in these hills. If you find a better way to stitch a loop together, let us know in the comments.
Water and services available in Aureille.
Start near the Château d'Aureille ruins and immediately begin climbing on a fire road that quickly forks. Bear generally right into Le Vallon des Opies
. Continue on this wide trail past a gate and until it reaches a col about 350 meters in elevation above Aureille. The climb to the col is quite steep near the end and you may have to push a bit. The track also narrows considerably, and bedrock outcrops appear in the limestone gravel.
From the col, take the Hike-a-Bike to Les Opies Summit
(where you'll definitely need to push!) for excellent views from the old fire lookout tower. But if you're really ready to rodeo, drag your bike over Les Opies summit for the extremely difficult Les Opies East Descent
. This trail joins the Val de Lègue
trail near the bottom of the hill.
Leave the bike behind if you prefer a rather mellower descent down the Val de Lègue
after your summit visit (as mapped). Watch out for hikers and uphill bikers! Keep an eye out for an obvious singletrack breaking right about half way down Val de Légue: it's narrow, but closed in by scrub, making it scratchy, brake-grabbing, and slow. Take it (as mapped), or stay on the main track for a smoother descent.
When you reach the fields on the valley floor, you can detour to visit the Gallo-Roman villa of Saint-Pierre de Vence
and its surrounding meadows of red poppies (if you are lucky enough to be visiting in May).
After visiting the Roman ruins (or not), you have choices: either a) traverse over and take the smooth, quiet paved D-25 road for an easy ascent, b) follow the nice singletrack that parallels the road on your left, or c) contour around to the north before you reach the paved road where you'll join a dirt road that turns into the Vallat Meyrol Balcony Trail
, paralleling the D25. If you choose the latter, when the track eventually joins the paved road and the other two options, stick to a singletrack along the edge of the road until it bends hard left and drops down into a ravine and up the other side to join the Crête du Coulet de Bisquerle
, and then Les Martelles
. If you'd rather take it easy at this point, just climb up the hill a few meters and over the guardrail, then ride on the quiet, paved D25 road until you see parallel singletrack on your left again, or until you reach the GR6.
Turn left for a few meters at the Grande Randonnée 6: Ners to Aureille
(GR6), then turn right on the Pas de Cerf
--or just follow the fire road back to town to avoid a suffer-fest. At the bottom of either, turn left on the track to return to Aureille, wander through town and to the end of your ride. There's water at the town's ancient lavoire if you need to wash off your bloody Pas de Cerf