Perched at an altitude of 800 metres, Mont Caume is one of the four Toulonais brothers which surround Toulon. It is certainly the highest; its summit is very dry as it's very exposed to winds and fluctuations in weather.
All these factors make ascending Mont Caume essential and well worth it.
The hike suggested here enables you to go all the way round the mountain and combines the pleasures of a very active route with the joys of a pretty much complete visit to both its summit and its slopes.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
You depart from the car park at the Corps de Garde pass in the village of Evenos.
Take the path which plunges into the undergrowth of Kermes oaks and some pine trees, behind the green fire cistern (see photo 17813). The path, which is quite narrow (despite being well-used), climbs quickly. Its waymarking is inconsistent and old: green markings on the ground and blue markings (splattered on stones - probably traces of a trek, but not recent). However, there is no risk of going wrong as you don't cross over any other paths, except at ref. point 660 (see below).
(1) At ref. point 660, optional detour: take the tiny trace of a path to the left (see photo 17832) which heads towards the west. Aim: to go up and above the Trou des Fées (the Fairies' Hole) and enjoy an incredible view over the calanques de Marseille (inlets). The path meets a rocky ledge quite quickly. Behind the rocky outcrop, a bit higher up on the right of the path, you will find the gap you need to go through in order to cross the ledge. The path is marked with a cairn which it is helpful to locate (see photo 17812 with the cairn highlighted. If you can't find it, just climb anywhere across the ridge, it's not dangerous).
Once you're on the rocky ledge, there is no longer a path, but scree slopes and clusters of rocks. Walk broadly due west. A pine tree with a large broken branch reaching to the ground (2) (see photo 17967) could potentially act as a reference point to help you return by the same route. At the edge of the cliff, using the map, identify the exact location straight above the Trou des Fées. However, you won't be able to see the hole from this height.
Take the same route back to return to the main path (1) - this is relatively easy to do. You have now completed five sixths of the climb. The last section is through more patchy vegetation, which is characteristic of Mediterranean shrubs at this altitude.
(3) You reach the ridge of Mont Caume via a small connecting road between the western fortified structure and the main access road.
The hike offers the chance to visit all the old military and civilian sites (over a distance of just over 1 km) as pretty much everything is open access these days.
The circuit first of all leads you up to the western structure and onto the summit of "Caume West", with an altitude of 753m (see photo 17835). Next take the path which leaves behind the western structure, go along the northern fortifications, pass by a shop without a roof, cross the small metallic bridge over a ditch (see photo 17841) and then head downhill in the direction of the four reinforced concreted tubes.
Then take the small road straight ahead which continues to climb towards the summit (see photo 17842). You will go alongside the old shooting platforms, now concreted, and a platform with a former underground shop, completely closed up with a metal door. The route leads to the eastern fortified structure on "Caume East" at an altitude of around 730m (see photo 17845). Old metal dead end signs mark out the former boundaries impassable by the public. However, this is no longer the case today.
Go alongside the walls of the condemned fortified structure, which held a large number of murderers, some of whom are fictitious. Continue on the route climbing upwards until you can take a zigzag path on the right (4) heading towards the east. You will reach a terrace which looks down over the Revest and its dam. A little afterwards, on the right, you will find steps which climb up to the heights of "Caume East". On the far eastern side, you will reach a small old building housing the dilapidated civilian antenna relay. Next take the path to the north through the old fortifications which leads to the summer lookout for monitoring forest fires (see photo 17848).
Climb the steps, go around the building and, on the small ridge, you will find the official summit (5) marked by a 11cm-sided isosceles triangle in cast iron. It is embossed with the wording: " Institut Géographique National - Point Géodésique - Ne pas détruire " ("National Geographic Institute - Geodesic Point - Do not destroy") . You are indeed at the summit. However, there's no indication of the altitude. You will find the altitude sign a bit lower down.
Go back down the ridge through the ruined walled buildings. Go alongside them on the south side. At the very end of the eastern side of the buildings, there is a walled courtyard on 3 sides. On the back wall there is inscribed (although who knows for how much longer as it's difficult to make out the letters): "Station du Mont Caume Altitude 800m". To go back down the route, don't take a risk by jumping from the very high wall, instead go back to the end of the eastern side. Take the opportunity to go down into the entirely closed courtyard with the entrance to one of the underground ammunitions stores.
Next take the small path on the right which leads to the entrance of the enclosure for the large metallic antennae tower and the civilian relay. Absolutely no entry permitted here. Go around the south side of the wire fence in order to reach "the other 800m summit", upon which the foundations and remains of the old radiocommunications tower still have pride of place.
Then go back down to the path, keeping an eye out for pieces of old barbed wire.
Once back on the path, find the start of the path going back downhill. (6) The start of the path, on the right of the route (going uphill), is marked with a warning sign for paragliders fixed onto the security barrier (see photo 17852). Climb over the barrier. You can see the steps below on the slope and the path leading through the bushes. Just before the first steps, you will pass by an old vaulted underground cistern (you can see the frame of its old small door).
Go down the steps (a departure point for paragliders is located here) and begin to go downhill on the path. In fact it's an underground France Telecom line, covered over in boards or concrete from end to end.
Be careful, the path is steep! This 'track' bypasses the official track on the map and chiefly enables you to avoid the tarmacked road.
You will arrive very close to a bend (ref. point 572) and a second departure point for paragliders. Make sure you don't miss the path which makes a sharp 90° bend to the left (eastwards) and plunges into low shrubs.
By going roughly upwards, you pass by ref. point 616, then carry on towards the cliffs of Bau du Midi. The route passes just below a high-voltage electricity line which goes all the way up to the summit of Mont Caume.
Unfortunately, from then onwards there is no actual path. Progress through the vegetation becomes difficult for about 10 mins. You need to find the rocky outcrop as a reference point and, once at the foot of it, head to the left (7) (See photo 17968).
Once you have passed the outcrop, the difficulties really begin! You now need to climb up the rocky side of a ravine (where the stunning cliffs of Bau du Midi plunge from its eastern ridge into the Revest valley).
There is still no clear path, even though it is clearly shown on the geoportal map. Use the small pass as a reference point which, in the absence of a name on the map, I will call the Mont Caume pass.
The route goes through this pass, which is pretty much on the boundary separating the villages of Evenos and Revest.
On the rocky flank (once you've gone past the last of the cairns which guide you over the bare rock), it's better and quicker to progress by climbing up the bottom of the ravine (to the left, westwards) under Caume East, rather than on the rocky eastern side which, although its clearer and, in principle, easier, is made harder by very dense vegetation a bit higher up.
(8) At the Mont Caume pass, you will be able to easily locate an old hunters' hide perched in a tree. Head to the right for a few metres and then quickly locate the path on the left which goes around the northern side of Mont Caume (the path continuing on towards the east takes you to the Aven (pothole) of Mont Caume).
The path then heads gradually into quite dense high shrubs. Finding the trace of the path is not easy. There is still no waymarking. Make sure you keep hold of your reference points: the map, the sun, the Mont Caume tower and... your GPS if you have one!
(9) Most fortunately, due north of Mont Caume, the path (a dotted line on the IGN map) meets a larger path (shown with a solid line) at ref. point 607. To the right this path heads towards Fontaine Saint Martin. Turn left. Follow the path downhill - going around the massif without much difficulty.
A little after ref. point 517, the path meets another path. To the right, takes you La Rouge and Robœuf. Continue to the left until you reach a crossroads of several paths at ref. point 453 (10). Take the large path on the left with the gate across with the sign "chasse gardée" ("private hunting"). Go around the gate and take the path which heads gently downhill. Don't try to go back to the Trou aux Fées via this path (dotted line on the IGN map), which heads off to the left at a small terrace on the large path and passes by ref. point 536: in many places the path has completely disappeared under the vegetation.
Cross the ravine at ref. point 430 (not shown on the map). Continue along this path which gets wider and narrower in different sections (see photo 17850). You will reach the ball-trap pass at ref. point 465 (11). A blue cistern on the left confirms this is the right large crossroads (see photo 17851). Take the partially-concreted access path opposite you which takes you back to the car park where you started.
D/A : km 0 - alt. 395m
1 : km 1.47 - alt. 665m - Ref. point 660, take the left.
2 : km 1.66 - alt. 680m - Large pine branch on the ground, go straight on.
3 : km 2.37 - alt. 710m - Route to the western fort, turn left.
4 : km 4.07 - alt. 766m - In the bend after the eastern fort, turn right.
5 : km 4.41 - alt. 770m - Mont Caume (804m)
6 : km 5.05 - alt. 760m - Departure point for descending back downhill.
7 : km 6.27 - alt. 590m - Go left at the foot of the rocky outcrop.
8 : km 6.88 - alt. 708m - Go left at the foot of the rocky outcrop. - Collet du Mont Caume
9 : km 7.64 - alt. 611m - Ref. point 607, take the left.
10 : km 9.5 - alt. 440m - Ref. point 453, take the left.
11 : km 10.22 - alt. 457m - Ball trap crossroads, continue straight on.
D/A : km 11.23 - alt. 395m
I graded this hike "difficult" because in several sections you have to proceed without waymarkers on very steep slopes, with often very dense vegetation (including thorns, which are classic Mediterranean vegetation). These constraints make it hard to imagine this hike as a peaceful family day out! Also, the starting premise was the desire for an active route!
The time indicated includes several breaks to take photos, the detour (described) to end up above the Trou des Fées (optional) and an extensive tour through the fortified buildings.
It does not include the hour-long detour (not described here) which led me to ref. points 536 and 544 (on the IGN map), but not to the Trou des Fées so there's no point describing or including that time.
Take lots of water! Hiking shoes are obligatory. Robust clothing (jeans and long-sleeved top, just in case).
There is a cave which could act as a shelter - climb up on the left of the path (towards ref. point 560, 15 mins from the departure point). Several shelters at the summit of Mont Caume in the event of severe weather, but not on the return route.
The exact altitude of Mont Caume varies between 800 and 804m depending on the source.
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
At its summit you can see the surrounding areas all around, up to several dozen kilometres away.
In good weather you can easily see from the Marseille calanques up to the îles d'Hyères. Inland, at the foot of Mont Caume, you can see the Roboeuf farm and a lake fed by the Destel (which then flows into the Reppe and the Ollioules gorges). Beyond that is the Siou Blanc massif. To the west you can see the whole of the Sainte-Baume chain perfectly. To the east, you can see all the way to the Alpilles - especially in winter if they have snow on them and it's a perfect clear day.
We get a better understanding of how its dominant position, close to the military port of Toulon, has been a strategic surveillance position over the centuries.
Whether you're passionate or not about the art of war, one can only be amazed by the efforts made in the 19th century (between 1887 and 1890) to construct these two small fortified structures and the three gun batteries (totalling nine platforms) on the summit of Mont Caume. There are also all the fortifications, barracks, billets, all the buried ammunitions shelters, the dozens of ammunitions storage galleries, etc. close to the military lookouts. It makes you think of the hundreds of men garrisoned here in this austere, isolated and, no doubt, glacial (in the winter) place.
However, in exchange for their time spent here, they did have the most spectacular view of the Mediterranean coast.
The military presence was active during the beginning of the 20th century, but was abandoned a little after the end of the second world war.
Even though there is open access to everything here now, you still need to remain vigilant as the site was never cleared. There is a lot of metal and construction waste littered across the ground and the surroundings of the defence points. Be careful where you walk in these areas.
The site is of significant ecological interest. In fact, Mont Caume is a rupestral biotope favourable to many animal and plant species. Several publications and websites cover these topics and I encourage you to take a look at them before your hike!
On the eastern face, you can reach the Aven (pothole) of Mont Caume. With a depth of 116m and 100m of expansion, its entrance is quite large (2 x 1.5m) and provides access to the 110m well. This cavity is only accessible to experienced people. You come out quite a bit further away by another entrance.
You can see the Trou des Fées on the north face of Mont Caume. With a depth of 66m, its entrance is in the shape of a large porch. It has a 51m well with 2 entrances. I wasn't able to reach the entrance in February 2015 as the vegetation covering the paths (for accessing the hole from the bottom of the cliffs) was so overgrown. The cliff was less steep, maybe we can access it from there. If a Hikeideas hiker knows how to access it, please say how on the forum!
A large number of other paths enable you cross the south and certainly the north face. The north side should be particularly lovely in the summer because the undergrowth is very wet in the winter as it doesn't receive much sunlight.
This chapter cannot be closed without mentioning the particularly high number of wild boars in the massif. With a bit of luck (like me) you will see lots of them as a hunters' association is using its land to build up a herd.
At the summit of Mont Caume, you may also see a quite considerable herd of goats, grazing or relaxing completely freely in nature. Some of the females and the male have remarkable pairs of horns!
So, I wish you the best of luck in hunting down the wonderful sights on this hike!
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.