The best mountain-biking trails around Nice, Marseille and the Côte d’Azur

The Côte d’Azur is a popular region among holidaymakers who enjoy the contrasts between the sea and the mountains. Nice, Marseille and plenty of other towns in the south of France boast breathtaking landscapes on the Mediterranean coast. On a mountain bike ride, you can throw yourself into discovering this stunning destination, pedalling along gently on a family day out, or more energetically if you’re a thrill-seeker. Here are a few trail ideas.

Among the mimosas for downhill trail lovers

At the foot of the Estérel mountains, the commune of Mandelieu-la-Napoule (Alpes-Maritimes) is known for its mimosa festival. If you want to ride in full colour, surrounded by the red rocks of the Estérel and the yellow mimosas bordering the paths, spring is the ideal season. It’s an opportunity to try out some unusual activities and discover the Côte d’Azur in all its unique glory.

You should allocate 1 hour 45 minutes for this 13km trail. Downhill lovers will be delighted to find various obstacles and jumps, and of course a few technical sections to be enjoyed.

Start from the car park on Avenue Janvier Passero in Mandelieu-la-Napoule. After an initial steep climb to reach Route du Tanneron, you can enjoy all the bumps of a great descent. You can finish your trail by demonstrating your technical prowess.

More information on this trail here.

Two trails from Pernes-les-Fontaines in Vaucluse

Around Mont Ventoux you’ll find 13 bike trails covering 220km of signposted routes, two of which start in Pernes-les-Fontaines, the birthplace of Paul de Vivie, who wrote under the nom de plume Vélocio and was a key figure in French cycle touring.

In fact, before you launch yourself along the trails, you can visit the only bicycle museum in Provence, the musée Comtadin du Cycle. It traces the history of the bicycle and exhibits some stunning collectors’ items.

Both trails start from the sports centre car park in Pernes-les-Fontaines (Route de Saint-Dider). They share a significant portion of the circuit. The first trail heads off to discover the hills of Pernes-les-Fontaines and covers a distance of 10km in an hour with a slight height gain. This family-friendly trail snakes along pathways through the countryside, going through the communes of Pernes-les-Fontaines and La Roque-sur-Pernes.

The second trail is an extension of the first one, with more technical sections for more advanced cyclists. You will need at least two hours to complete the 20km trail. You will go through the communes of Pernes-les-Fontaines, Velleron and La Roque-sur-Pernes.

More information on this trail here.


In the mountains of the Alpes-Maritimes: a bike tour of Raton

You can enjoy this long ride all year round on the fairly easy slopes of Haut Cians, alternating pine forests and barren landscapes with the red rocks so typical of the region. You’ll have the pleasure of looking down on the Clue du Raton, and the hamlet of L’Illion will make a lasting impression. Just after the hamlet, you can quench your thirst at a spring of fresh drinking water. This high-altitude ride (1,500-1,900m) can be enjoyed in the summer, because the slopes become part of the Valberg ski area in the winter.

Start from the edge of Valberg in the Haut Pays Niçois, one of the Alpes-Maritimes’ superb ski resorts, for a 20km trail lasting around three hours. The route is recommended for experienced cyclists only, despite being partly made up of tracks.

More information on this trail here.

In the coastal region of the Alpes-Maritimes: a family ride around Mont Cima

This ride takes place on roads and tracks with a regular contour and is therefore suitable for mountain biking families. Inland of Nice, there are four well-known peaks with rounded shapes: Mont Macaron (something to do with those yummy biscuits, perhaps?), Mont Chauve de Tourrette, Mont Chauve d’Aspremont and the highest of the four, Mont Cima. The scarcity of vegetation is very noticeable, as it has disappeared after numerous fires.

Start in Aspremont, a small village in the Alpes-Maritimes to the north of Nice, not in Apremont, the village in Savoy famous for its white wine. Halfway along the circuit, above the village of Saint-Blaise, you can admire the remnants of a 14th-century castle, including the keep and jagged walls, which are still standing.

It will take you about 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the 16km or so of this family ride.

More information on this trail here.

Close to Marseille: Calanques Trilogy

As soon as you set foot in the city of Marseille, you’ll be wanting to get on your bike to explore the Calanques. The route is relatively easy as it is mainly on roads with a few stony tracks. Are you feeling fit? Then you’ll be able to handle the few short but rather steep climbs. You can alter your route by descending to one of the Calanques for a swim. The descents are on tarmac roads so look out for cars.

This 3-hour ride is best done in the morning when it’s still cool, or at the end of the day to admire the sunset over the Mediterranean and the islands of Riou, when you get there. Starting at Marseille harbour, this route covers approximately 28km taking you to the Calanque de Callelongue, the Parc Pastré and then up to the viewpoints of Sormiou and Morgiou.

More information on this trail here.

Do you want to discover all the secrets of the renowned Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region the minute you arrive? A region gradually reveals itself to those who are happy to take their time. Cycling is a perfect way to soak up the essence of the Mediterranean coast, far away from the hubbub of the beach. You can ride on the many bike-friendly trails at your own pace, whether it’s a gentle family trip or a fast paced workout with your friends. Along the coast or further inland, everyone can enjoy visiting the south of France while discovering its riches. If travelling solo doesn’t appeal, and you’d like some guidance from cycling professionals, please don’t hesitate to contact them.

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