A Fantastic Circular Hike and Ridge Walk to Montagne de St-Genis - Baronnies Provençales Regional Park

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Saturday 31 October 2015

A Fantastic Circular Hike and Ridge Walk to Montagne de St-Genis - Baronnies Provençales Regional Park

When we woke up planning a hike today we had no idea what a fantastic day lay in store. We had initially considered a route we'd found on a sketch of local trails gathered from the tourist office in Laragne-Monteglin. However, when our new motorhoming friend Phil (who has been visiting this area for 25 years) suggested we try another hike he knew nearby as a three we jumped at the chance to benefit from his local knowledge.  What followed was one of the longest hikes we had taken on in some time, but with multiple 'Wow' moments, incredible autumn colours and especially the amazingly long and sheer sided ridge of St Genis overlooking the broad Durance valley towards Sisteron and the peaks beyond, the route we took was a real hiking highlight of our adventure so far this year.

Setting off from the Plan d'eau du Riou, a quite and secluded reservoir with a few motorhome friendly bays along its shore, we initially followed a road into the picturesque village of St Genis before picking up a rocky track extending into the enormous round bowl of rock ahead. This steep sided, horseshoe shaped amphitheatre, with the Roc de l'Esculier (1432m) on the north flank and the Montagne de St-Genis (1207m) on the south, was pretty much covered in trees, with a mix of evergreen pine and red/golden oaks and beech alongside a few rocky promontory's.

We had planned to head up the valley and climb to Montagne de St-Genis, but took an early left turn at some point and so found ourselves climbing steeply, first on on bare rock then through golden forest towards the peak of Revuaire (1302m) on the very north-west edge of the bowl. We soon realised our 'error' but the views were so good we decided to continue anyway and make our way back to the route later on.

At around 1100m we reach a col which turned left towards the Revuaire or right to the Pas de Jubeo and back towards our initial plan, which is the way we went. Descending briefly but steeply we soon reach another col, with great views northwards outside of the bowl of rock, then head south ourselves back into the bowl.

The next couple of hours took us on rocky 'Pistes' or dirt tracks to the Col Colombier, stopping occasionally to marvel at the colours of the trees, before turning up to the 1270m summit of Montagne de St-Genis. According to our 'guide' Phil told us how the red and gold colours would last a few weeks here but soon be a uniform brown and that we were visiting at just the right time to see this area so beautiful.

But the real treat was the view from the Montagne de St-Genis and the ridge that runs east to west back towards the end of the walk. The views were just magnificent and hard to do justice to in either words or photos. With the soft, hazy afternoon light just bright enough to allow a clear view of the distant peaks of the Maritime Alps and even a hint of the Ecrins National Park as well, alongside the rolling and still lofty hills and peaks of Provence all connected by the flat and fertile Durance valley, it was amazing.

Walking the ridge in late afternoon, picking our way along the steeply sloping path with sheer drops on our left and a steep slope away to the south we made slow progress, partly because of the terrain but also because of the urge to take photos every few hundred metres (including of the numerous fossils and even a herd of Chamois far below that we spotted along the way).

When we finally reached the end of the ridge and began our descent back to the Plan d'eau du Riou it was in fading evening light and by the time we reached Homer it was near dark, after an 8 hour hike in excess of 25km. But, as an extra bonus, spending the night by the tranquil reservoir was the ideal way to recover with just the sound of ducks the following morning to disturb us, just in time to catch an amazing sunrise over the water.

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