As a family we love to go hiking and we certainly live in a great part of the world to indulge in this outdoor activity. The French Riviera and surrounding countryside in the Alpes-Maritimes département offers the keen walker plenty of choice ranging from coastal paths to mountain hikes, river walks to forest treks and more, catering to all ages and levels of fitness. This is one of my favourite walks, not so much for the walk itself which is short but for what lies at the end. Here you’ll find a magical secret area of crystal clear rock pools on the river Cagnes near Vence and St Jeannet, deep in a gorge, surrounded by cliffs, silent except for the sound of rushing mountain water, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise.
At the start of the path you’ll see signs warning that it’s narrow and dangerous and I must admit that the first time we ventured here, with a 3 year old, I did wonder if we were being foolish. The article we’d read in a local paper said there were frequent accidents, that you should take extra care and only good walkers and sporty types should attempt it. Perhaps this explains why we have nearly always been alone and even on a hot, sunny public holiday there have only been two other couples. All of which, in my opinion, makes it extra special. I don’t think it’s dangerous and recently went with four children between the ages of 5 and 9, all of whom managed it perfectly. But you have been warned and you do this walk at your own risk….
Once off the dirt track which serves as a road to the last property you cross a small metal bridge over one of the tributaries which provides the town of Vence with its drinking water and from now on the walk is pure pleasure. The narrow path starts high above the river with open views towards craggy mountain cliffs and a background noise of crashing water running through the narrow gorge. For the first part you’re out in the open, surrounded by wild flowers teeming with butterflies before the path drops down into shady forest.
Depending on the time of year the air is filled with the scent of a pretty flowering tree (photo above) or ripening figs from the wild fig trees all around. Suddenly the river is there, to your right, you catch glimpses of it through the trees. Don’t think this is it; while there are plenty of shady spots for picnics, push on five minutes further, up and over a small rise and you’ll be rewarded with the most glorious sight.
Ahead of you is an area of outstanding beauty with deep crystalline clear pools in varying shades of turquoise, trickling water running down a series of man-made steps, larger waterfalls and shallow paddling areas. This perfect river is surrounded by smooth flat boulders and high cliffs with bursts of pink and purple flowers clinging perilously to seemingly nothing.
The water is temptingly lovely and the pools are ideal for plunging into though even in high summer it remains pretty chilly. The water is so clear that you can see fish darting about easily and we’ve seen frogs, toads and even a snake. Children make dams, float sticks, throw pebbles and squeal in the icy water while adults lie back on the hot rocks and recharge their batteries. Well that’s what we do at least!
This walk is so unknown that part of me doesn’t want to give away the location and I even thought about saying if you want to go there contact me and I’ll give you directions, thinking that would deter enough people. But then I figured it won’t be over-run with gangs of my blog readers either, and hey, if it is, well then at least I know I’m reaching and inspiring lots of people!
So, to find this idyllic spot head out of the town of Vence (on the M2) following signs to the Col de Vence. Look out for signs to SPACA (animal refuge) on the right about a kilometre along. Turn right here and continue straight for about 4 kms passing houses (it’s hard to believe you’ll soon be in such a remote area), always following signs for SPACA.
The view along here, over Vence, surrounding villages and all the way to the sea is absolutely lovely. After a while the tarmac finishes and it gets pretty bumpy. Passengers may have to get out and walk for the last few hundred metres. There’s enough space on the left of the track for about 5-6 cars to pull over and park just before the SPACA which has always been plenty as there’s usually no one around. From here it’s about a half hour walk to the pools with young children in tow. If you don’t want to drive down the gravel track, park at the end of the tarred road and add another 45 mins or so to the walk.
Do you like hiking with your children? Have you got a favourite walk to share? As always I love to hear from you.
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Why not PIN this!
I don’t understand why you don’t contact me direct with your dates, I run a gite, ON THIS WEBSITE! However, I am full till 5 Sept when there are just 4 nights available. I suggest you look at the gite de France website, Airbnb or simply google gite near Nice with public transport. Without dates there’s not a lot I can suggest as pretty much everywhere is full over the summer.
I dont suppose you could help me. Im going away with my 2 kids 12yr and 8 yr and we want to stay somewhere simple. Maybe a Gites or chambers d’hotes. We want to be in country side and near places for natural swimming…rivers streams etc..We need to be not far from nice and where we stay needs to be relatively accessible by local transport . At least easy transport to get us to a place where we can stay and then we can go everywhere by foot…do you have any suggestions?
Thankyou so much. I looked at your blog and it seemed just what were looking for but we also need to find somewhere to stay.
Wow, such a stunning place, look at that clear water! Beautiful Phoebe!
Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes :d
It really is lovely Ahila!
Actually over the years I’ve had quite a lot of people tell me (and even ring me) that they’ve done the walk thanks to this blog post but it’s still not over run!
It wasn’t very big Tanja (clever photo!)
We’re so lucky with mountain rivers in this area, there are so many beautiful places to walk.
Thanks Corey 🙂
It’s always been a bit too cold for me, but I’m a real wimp with cold water! I do dip my toes in though!
It’s a very peaceful place to sit and contemplate life Gina Caro!
Wow! What a beautiful place to visit. I could just sit there for hours contemplating life #MondayEscapes
That’s a beautiful secret spot that you have there, to enjoy with your family. Thanks for sharing it at #MondayEscapes
How great! That water is crystal clear. Did you took a dip? Or, is it too cold to get in?
It does look like paradise! Beautiful photos, felt like I was there :). #mondayescapes
It does look beautiful, Phoebe! It’s an area I’d love to explore.:)
lovely spot! beautiful colour of the water. but I’d afraid of that snake:) #monday escapes
Such beautiful blue waters! This really does look like a special place. Thanks for sharing its whereabouts despite your reservations!
Gosh, thanks for your confidence Gianni, I’m so pleased you like the walk having come from Italy!
Thank you for showing this walk. We make expedition from Italy to go here and very happy. Beautiful place. Paradiso!
The snake wasn’t big and seemed harmless just sunning itself on the warm rocks! I don’t think you need worry Thomas.
Isn’t it just Rin! Thanks for commenting as always.
Sounds and looks absolutely gorgeous. Even we oldies should be able to do it. Not so sure about the snake.
Isn’t it just, Rin! Thanks for commenting as always.
Thank you for your comment Ramon, I see you’ve been to this lovely spot. I agree swimming isn’t easy owing to the temperature, but it’s very tempting none-the-less. I also agree with your plea to respect this wild place. 🙂
Brilliant walk with beautiful views, crystal clear water, gorgeous flowers and wildlife to spot. 🙂
I can only recommend it: easy walk, not so easy swim but a great reward at the end of the path. If you go there please respect nature and the environment to keep it as wild as possible, enjoy!