Top 10 excursions in the Alpilles Regional Nature Reserve

Treat yourself to a fabulous discovery tour of one of Provence’s most gorgeous gems: the Alpilles Regional Nature Reserve. From confidential addresses to adventure playgrounds, follow the guide and revel in a full immersion in this enchanting natural site!

“Arboretum du Badon” and “Calans” trails in Eygalières

Resembling a mosaic of mountains, forests, arid garrigue and wetlands, the Alpilles Regional Nature Reserve is a genuine Garden of Eden, home to very diverse flora and fauna. Delve in with a 2½-hour hike around the charming little medieval village of Eygalières: the 9 km trail at the foot of Les Calans – the Alpilles’ iconic jagged rock formation – crosses part of the GR®6 long-distance footpath and features 190 metres of uphill and downhill slopes. This thyme and rosemary-scented walk boasts magnificent panoramic views over the valley and Alpilles mountain chain, spanning pines, olive groves and pretty limestone peaks all the way to Mont-Ventoux. At the foot of Les Calans, the ancient Mas de Badon quarry, now a Mediterranean arboretum, is a photographer’s dream.

“Our Lady of the Castle” awaits you in Saint-Étienne du Grès

A must-see, tucked away in the heart of a pine forest and dear to the heart of the inhabitants of Saint-Etienne-du-Grès, Notre Dame du Château with its keeper’s cottage and chapel promise a delightful family foray. The 3.8 km short walk lasts 1½ hours with 185 metres of uphill and downhill slopes, between an intimate valley and rocky outcrop gazing out over the landscapes of the Alpilles. Revel in a gentle stroll topped with pleasant glimpses of the varied scenery of steep slopes and deep valleys where bulls graze and crops nestle snugly in the limestone folds. It’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Aleppo pines that reign here and little brooks of Traversières and Almeran, adding gentle freshness to the scene.

Get into your stride at “La Croisée de Saint-Gabriel” in Tarascon

An assembly point for flocks on the Routo de Transhumance route, “La Croisée de Saint-Gabriel” follows in the footsteps of the great summer translocation of sheep to greener pastures and features a loop and various alternative itineraries suitable for cyclists of all levels. Ranging from 1½ to 5 hours and 4.4 km to 14.7 km, the route offers a full array of magnificent Alpilles vegetation, including a vast pine wood surrounding the superb Romanesque chapel of Saint Gabriel. On the way, you’ll no doubt come across a few Rove goats nibbling on the grass. Hill grazing preserves the landscapes, biodiversity and exceptional historic legacy of the Alpilles; it’s also an efficient way to prevent devastating forest fires.

A family walk in Le Paradou at “Les Tours du Castillon”

Adventurers and seasoned hikers alike will love this trail on the mountain pass of La Pène, between the Alpilles and Marais des Baux, marking the northern edge of the marshes. The 2-hour / 5 km walk, with 95 metres of uphill and downhill slopes, leads to rocks crowned with the ruins of three impressive medieval towers in Castillon. In days gone by, the village was a defence post for the seigneury of Les Baux-de-Provence. Today, you can walk among the ruins while admiring the panoramic views, plant life of the dry garrigue and typical old country houses – a reminder of the not-so-distant days when the marshes were filled with water. This limestone site is particularly stunning bathed in gentle autumn sunshine.

Discovering geological heritage at the Musée Urgonia in Orgon

Enjoy a hike on “Le Sentier de la Pierre” in the capable hands of a fossils expert and discover the unique local urgonian limestone. This 3.5-km trail dotted with natural geological curiosities departs from the Musée Urgonia and leads to Notre-Dame de Beauregard chapel, via an ancient fossil quarry. Don’t forget to lap up the incredible 360° panoramic views over the Luberon and Alpilles from the chapel’s lookout and orientation table.
“This stroll around the village of Orgon offers a new angle on the local landscapes. It’s an opportunity to observe pure urgonian limestone and fossils, and admire sweeping vistas over the Vallon de Lavau, with its lake set amid steep cliffs. It’s a genuine voyage back in time. The variety of geomorphological and geological features visible from the orientation table at Beauregard has opened my eyes to the diversity of our area.” Fabrice Aubert, Director of the Musée Urgonia.

Mountain biking around Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The “Pèr draio y pèr camin” route, meaning “by sheep paths and trails” in Provencal dialect, invites mountain bikers on the ancient routes of the Alpilles shepherds and their flocks. On Petite Crau plateau, to the North of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, adventurers pedal in the footsteps of the transhumance: the ancient tradition of translocating sheep to green alpine pastures in summer. In days gone by, the plain to the East of Petite Crau was covered with marshland, meaning shepherds and their flocks had to cross the plateau. This itinerary links the typical villages of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Noves, via the peaceful village of Eyragues.

Explore “Les Caisses de Jean-Jean”

This mythical Alpilles trail whisks you off on an 8.9 km / 3-hour hike with 189 metres of uphill and downhill slopes around Mouriès, France’s leading olive oil producer. This charming, picturesque village set at the foot of the Alpilles and at the heart of the Vallée des Baux, surrounded by little hills and olive groves, promises to please. Drink in the panoramic vistas over the summit of Les Opies to the East – the highest point of the Alpilles – and plain of La Crau to the South. The Vallée des Baux canal, which runs alongside part of the route, gives way to more olive groves irrigated by the canal. Archaeology lovers and curiosity-seekers won’t want to miss a visit to the Oppidum des Caisses de Jean-Jean.

“This loop is one of my favourite walks in the Alpilles. You can literally feel the presence of ancient civilizations here through the many marks left by them. This fertile area, with its picturesque, ivy-covered cliffs and varied landscapes, is home to very diverse plant and animal life. It is the kingdom of the eagle owl, but in winter you often see a remarkable little climbing bird here called the Tichodroma muraria, or wallcreeper.” Lisbeth Zechner, LIFE des Alpilles European Project Manager.

An invigorating climb to “Le Défens d’Eyguières”

A remarkable view awaits you at the summit of “Le Défens d’Eyguières”, the highest point of the Crête du Défends mountain pass between Eyguières and Lamanon. The peaks of the Luberon and Pays d’Aix, Tour des Opies, Plaine de Crau plain and Camargue seem tiny from up here and yet… This gorgeous walk lined with dry garrigue and olive groves, at the crossroads to the mountain ranges and swathed in bird song, promises to delight. Steeped in the typical atmosphere of the Mediterranean garrigue, it heads round the Massif du Défends to form a loop dotted with views to remember. Don’t forget your camera!

Relaxation in Sénas along “La Cabre et la Pécoule”

The charming little town of Sénas harbours a haven of peace where nature lovers come for a breath of fresh air. This country escapade adjacent to Orgon and Eyguières abounds with beautiful views over Les Opies, the plain of Roquemartine and part of the Massif Est. The “La Cabre et la Pécoule” trail is a delightful way to discover Sénas and its surrounding orchards and farmland. Pause awhile to observe the birds heading to La Pécoule, a tiny island in the middle of the vast Durance plain. The perfect place to empty your head and recharge your batteries in just 2 hours, the walk is 5 km long with just 45 metres of uphill/downhill slopes.

On your bike on the “Circuit Alpilles-Roquemartine”

If you’re a cycling and nature fan, you’ll definitely love the Alpilles-Roquemartine route around Mouriès. Roquemartine was the name of an ancient Roman castrum (fortified camp) in the village of Eyguières. The loop is 31.7 km long with an uphill/downhill slope of 390 metres – a peaceful, 3-hour escape in magnificent and varied scenery alternating plains and rocky relief, crossing vineyards and olive groves before penetrating the Massif des Alpilles and its impressive rocky slopes. Our fave: the little village of Aureille, a magnificently tranquil and authentic site crowned with a beautiful old church.