France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France

July 3, 2016
Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Montagne Sainte-Victoire is where Cézanne received inspiration for many of his landscapes and where Picasso is thought to have reached peak creativity. Though my artistic expression while hiking in Provence didn’t quite reach the level of these impressionist masters, it was an amazing journey across the mountain and an unforgettable view.

Hiking Difficulty

3.5 out of 5

We hiked up the Blue trail, starting from bus stop J04 on the Bus Line L140, up to the Sainte-Victoire Priory and refuge. The trail is rocky and exposed, which made it a bit harder as it was incredibly windy the morning we hiked up. We headed down the other side of Sainte-Victoire mountain to Vauvenargues using the Red and White trail, which is clear and wide, but very steep. Each way took about two hours. We recommend starting from the dam and ending in Vauvenargues due to the steepness of the red and white trail (better down than up), and it’s more fun celebrating the end of your trek with some delicious food and a cold drink in the town with a view of the peak you just climbed.

Getting to Montagne Sainte-Victoire

We stayed in Aix-en-Provence, so to get to Montagne Sainte-Victoire we took Bus Line L140. We hopped on at the Arts et Metiers stop in Aix and bought the €1 bus ticket from the driver, which will get you to any stop on the line. We got off at the J04 stop. From there it was a short hike to the Barage De Bimont dam. Walking across the dam, you get a great view of the beautiful teal-colored lake. After crossing the Barage De Bimont dam, the Blue Trail begins on the left. It’s important to follow the painted markers as parts of the trail can be confusing with trails splitting into smaller trails. A marker with a straight line indicates you are going the right way. And an X, well, in this situation doesn’t quite mark the spot, but that you are heading in the wrong direction.

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Barage De Bimont dam and the Blue Trail up to Sainte-Victoire Priory

The view of the lake from the dam is picturesque but gets better as you climb. The trail quickly ascends making the way for fantastic views of the lake and the southern valley. First, you think you see most of the lake, but then as you go up and up, it gets bigger and bigger. The morning we trekked the mountain, it was extremely windy, and there is almost no shelter from the elements on the trail. Below is a map showing the blue trail that leads to the top of the mountain.

Trekking in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence Map of Blue Trail

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France | Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence | Bimont Dam

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence | Bimont Dam

Sainte-Victoire Priory

As we continued to hike, we could see the tallest peak far in the distance. Little did we know that we’d actually be reaching that peak before heading back down. When we finally got to the end of the Blue Trail, we went by the Sainte-Victoire Priory. This little refuge was built in the 17th century as a reminder of a 5th-century hermit who found safety in this spot. There’s often a fire where you can warm up on colder days, or take shelter from the wind! The Croix de Provence, or Cross of Provence, is another 15 minutes up the mountain.

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence | Barrage de Bimont Dam

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence

The Red and White Trail down to Vauvenargues

After taking in the views at the top of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, we took the red and white trail down to Vauvenargues. For the first 20 minutes or so, it was a rocky, narrow path with switchbacks similar to the Blue Trail. But soon we reached a spot where the path opens up wide enough for a car to drive through. It’s very steep (and hard on the knees!), and a bit slippery with small loose rocks. Below is a map from the top of Montagne Sainte-Victoire to Vauvenargues. We took the longer route that went along the D10 so we were able to watch bicyclists in a triathlon race down the hill.

Trekking in Provence, France: Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence Map of Red Trail

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence | Hiking in Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence | Hiking in Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence | Hiking in Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence | Hiking in Provence, France | Vauvenargues

Reaching Vauvenargues, home to Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso

When we reached Vauvenargues, we looked back to share the same view of Sainte-Victoire as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. We marveled at the height of the massif we’d just crossed and appreciated its beauty. We finished our trek in the tiny town by grabbing a bite to eat and admiring Picasso’s Château de Vauvenargues from a distance before hopping back on the L140 bus to Aix-en-Provence.

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence, France

Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence, France

An Alternative trek on Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Another option for hiking on Montagne Sainte-Victoire would be to hike the southern part of the rim toward the town of Puyloubier. Use bus route L110. For more details about the trails and hiking in Sainte-Victoire mountain, we recommend getting a map from the tourist office in Aix-en-Provence.

Have a favorite hike in Provence, France? Let us know below!

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5 Comments

  • Reply Destiny July 9, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Looks like a really cool hike!

  • Reply Mel I TravelingMel May 2, 2017 at 3:26 am

    So glad I found this, Thanks for all the details (including bus details). We are staying in Aix right now and hoping it stops raining long enough to do this walk.

    • Reply nomanbefore May 2, 2017 at 6:55 am

      Hi Mel! Figuring out the right bus stop to get off was a bit tricky for us, so I hope this helps! Hope the rain stops too so you can enjoy the views up top. Have a wonderful time exploring Aix with your family.

  • Reply Rana Kayal April 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Aaron and Kelly,
    Love your write-up and the photos and that little guy is getting exposure that most adults don’t get in a life time, very cool.
    I live in Denver and have an apartment in Aix (it’s in Airbnb – and this is not a plug). I have been travelling and doing hikes with my wife and kids (in 20s now ), love your website – what a great idea, its what our family does. In any case, I just did the hike up to St. Victoire, Croix de Provence – started in Parking Bouquet on South Side and went up the red trail. I think the trail that you said is red going to Vauvenargues is the red and white trail – on the north side (just to be clear for your followers). The red trail is very steep and there are two sections (harder and easier, I took easier and in some parts had to crawl down; I have done the one from Vauvenargues before and it was just as fun. Glad to see you have done the Calanques also – beautiful are they not?

    If you ever want to go to Steamboat Springs, Colorado and hike the Continental Divide or 450 miles of other trails in NW Colorado including the Zirkel Circle (goes to several alpine lakes and Gilpin Lake sits at 10400 ft. with 3 peaks surrounding it) or the Devil’s Causeway in the Flattops let me know. I have a small apartment in the town and happy to make it available to people who do what you do. I am also in Instagram under ranakayal61 and there is a small video of the Devil’s Causeway with my son (blue hair or Youtube it – really beautiful place).

    Thanks
    Rana

    • Reply nomanbefore April 8, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Hi Rana,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’ll update the post to note that our route shows the red and white trail. 🙂 Aix would be such a wonderful place to be able to visit regularly; I’m sure there are so many more beautiful hikes in the area!

      We haven’t been hiking in Colorado, but would love to go. I just looked up the Devil’s Causeway. Stunning! We’ll let you know if we head up there!

      Best,
      Aaron & Kelly

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