The Parc du Mugel, Figuerolles and Notre-Dame de la Garde

Wondrous rock mounds in a public park

type
walk
difficulty
easy
duration
3 h min
public transport
yes
loop
forth/back
hut
built-up area
gear
walk

Introduction

La Ciotat is a town on the eastern foothills of Cap Canaille. The city has a rich industrial and maritime past. The classic shipyards have been closed, but all the cranes are still standing because luxury ships are now being serviced on the site.

The natural setting is exceptional: the eastern part of Cap Canaille plunges into the sea in the form of conglomerate rocks called poudingue (puddingstone). This rock, formed by erosion, forms very particular mounds, locally called Secs.

Between Les Secs and the city lies the Parc du Mugel, a former agricultural estate that was long ago converted into a botanical park by various wealthy owners. Since 1982, the entire park belongs to the city and department of Bouches du Rhône.

This very special coast extends further north. We then explore it. First we have a view of the Anse de Gaméou, then the descent to the beach of the Anse de Figuerolles. Finally we climb to the Chapel of Notre-Dame de la Garde. All these points after the Parc du Mugel are unfortunately linked by road sections.

The facts

7,5 km total distance

3 h min walking time

300 m total elevation

orientation easy

mark 70% of the total distance

45% quiet side streets

15% moderate trails

15% parks

10% paved paths

5% hard-to-recognize trails

5% easy trails

5% stairs

<5% country road

<5% forest roads

dangers unsecured sections

children yes

useful picnic stuff, swimwear

required trekking shoes and water

GPS coordinates (WGS84) of start and end point 43.167661,5.605668

downloads

Public transport

With the regional train TER PACA (only french) which runs between Marseille and Toulon to the station La Ciotat. Then take line 10 or 40 from CiotaBus (only french) to the bus station (Gare Routière). From here, take line 30 to the Le Mugel stop. Tickets at the counter and from the machines at the bus station or on the bus.

Access by car

La Ciotat is located between Marseille and Toulon. The motorway exit coincides with the toll station. We first follow the arrows to La Ciotat Centre, then the signs towards Vieux Port. This bypasses the village centre. Attention, immediately after turning left once, you must turn right towards Calanque du Mugel (Boulangerie Daniel at the crossroads). It goes further down along the former shipyard site before we drive up to the right. At the next intersection, the parking lot is on the right.

Useful parking spaces

The Le Mugel car park is chargeable and limited to normal cars due to a very narrow access chicane. If you cannot pass the chicane, you have to go back and turn left onto Avenue du Capitaine Marchand. Either park here at the beginning or drive towards Calanque de Figuerolles, where there is less space but also fewer chicanes. There is also a charge for parking.

The car park indicated at the entrance to the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde is tiny, so don't expect to find space there except in the off season.

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Bec de l'Aigle as seen from St.-Cyr

Hints

The park is open from April to September from 8am to 8pm and from October to March from 9am to 6pm. Warning: the park is closed during strong winds and quite often in autumn and winter. The park is completely fenced in, leaving it in the direction of Anse de Figuerolles is not possible. The massive hill that forms the cape reaches a height of 155 meters.

Access to the viewpoint on the Anse de Gaméou is without signs or security. It is a part of the coast that has remained wild.

Due to erosion, it is no longer possible to pass over the rocks between Figuerolles and the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde. For this reason, we have to make a diversion via the roads.

The markets in La Ciotat take place mainly on weekends.

The whole region is a zone with a high risk of forest fires. In summer, but also in other seasons when it is very dry or strong winds, access to the forest areas can be regulated. As a result, the roads may be closed to traffic and/or the trails prohibited to hikers. Current information: Map of access to forests and exposed areas in Bouches-du-Rhône (only french). The map shows the colours green, yellow, orange and red which correspond to levels of danger.

The sections

  1. park entrance - Anse du Sec bay - Terrasse de Mugel
  2. Terrasse de Mugel - la Bastide - park exit
  3. View on Anse de Gaméo bay and walk down to Anse de Figuerolles
  4. Notre-Dame de la Garde chapel and the viewpoint above
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The descent to the Parc du Mugel

Section 1: Anse du Sec - Terrasse de Mugel

1,4 km ... 35 min 115 m 55 m easy

30% quiet side streets, with marks

10% forest roads, few marks

20% easy trails, few marks

25% hard-to-recognize trails, without marks

20% parks, few marks

The clues

  • Anses du Mugel bay
  • Villa Nege Froume
  • Belvédère de l'Anse du Sec
  • Impluvium
  • Belvédère du Mugel

Discovery of the park overlooking the main curiosities.

We start from the parking lot or the bus stop by walking up the lane with the one-way sign and then turning left.

The road leads straight down to the Calanque du Grand Mugel. Here is a restaurant with a terrace on the beach.

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Anse du Grand Mugel and Trois Secs

We stay on the road that runs along a kind of dike at the back of the beach to reach a rocky headland where the only public access gate to Mugel Park is. The opening hours can be found above on this page.

The park, with an area of about 16 hectares, is located on the Bec de l'Aigle rock. This consists of a pink colored rock called poudingue and gives the park its original and colourful character.

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Parc du Mugel entrance

We stay on the sea road inside the park and pass Anse du Petit Mugel. This street goes up and ends under the Villa Nege Froume.

It is possible to descend to the left on a path towards Pointe de Nege Froume, but it is a dead end and the surface is quite loose.

So we climbed up to the terrace of the villa. It was the home of the last private owner of the site. The mansion is boarded up and appears to have found no public function.

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Villa du Nege Froume

We continue the path by the sea to the viewpoint on Anse du Sec bay.

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Belvédère du Sec

From here we have a good view of the Île Verte (green island). Like the Parc du Mugel, this island was also fortified by the Nazi German occupiers during World War II. Log house remains are visible from the viewing platform.

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Anse du Sec and Île Verte

We go back from the Belvedere, but we take the first path on the left. It leads to a pool of water. Several other historical water reservoirs are scattered throughout the park, which also collected water for the gardens.

Here we turn left again and go straight towards the rock with the recognizable V-shaped impluvium. Poudingue, a hard and impermeable rock, allows water to be collected here.

Since the 19th century, the complex gardens have needed more and more water, so all rainwater was forced to be stored. Partially, the path installations were also used to collect the water.

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Under the impluvium

It is possible to advance to the Imluvium funnel. You have to squeeze your way through the bushes to get there.

Today the impluvium still catches rainwater, but it is no longer collected and drained. For this reason, denser vegetation is found at the foot of the impluvium.

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Impluvium funnel at Bec de l'Aigle

After this excursion into the bushes we return to the water reservoir and turn left tree times.

The path is better laid out again as you climb up to the Terrasse du Mugel. This is the steepest climb on this small tour, and this is also where most of the visitors to the park come up.

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Path in Parc du Mugel towards the viewpoint

This valley between the 2nd and 3rd Sec is very dark and a little cool. The rock face gets closer and closer as you climb.

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Tafoni-type erosion in the puddingstone at the Bec de l'Aigle

If you turn around, you can see the shipyard of La Ciotat.

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La Ciotat shipyard in retrospect from the way to the viewing platform

The paved path ends on a small platform in the sun. Here you can see the vertical part of the rock where erosion by salt and moisture is eroding the rock.

Without this sea-side erosion, the Secs would be rounded to the south as they are on the north side.

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Seaside erosion at Bec de l'Aigle

Section 2: Bastide du Mugel

1,1 km ... 35 min 15 m 75 m easy

65% parks, few marks

35% quiet side streets, with marks

The clues

  • la Bastide
  • the garden in the Parc du Mugel

Return via the park gardens. It has only one entrance through which we must exit. It is not possible to walk along this coast except by returning to the roads of the district.

The Belvedere is of course a dead end, the only way down is through the dark valley.

It is possible to leave the path to the right and go along a path under the cliff overhanging here. The floor is lined with decomposing conglomerate. Further down you have to climb over a few bushes to get back on the path.

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Overhanging conglomerate wall at the north side of the viewing terrace

Arriving at the junction where we came from the impluvium, we now turn left. We pass a small stone house before climbing slightly towards the terrace of La Bastide.

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Bench in Parc du Mugel

The building exudes an atmosphere of the beginning of the 20th century. Today, an association for the protection of the environment has its headquarters here.

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La Bastide of Parc du Mugel in autumn

Below the bastide is the landscaped part of the park's garden. You can descend to the right or left of the terrace. Various paths run through this overgrown baroque garden.

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Cacti in Parc du Mugel

We recommend descending into the valley, which ends below in the form of Anse du Petit Mugel. In the forest environment we can also see some other old installations used to tend the gardens. Bamboo grows in a hollow with very thin rods.

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Bamboo in Parc Mugel

As soon as we have arrived back at the Anse du Petit Mugel, we can start the way back via the Anse du Grand Mugel, which we already know.

Continue straight ahead without turning towards the car park to continue on section 3.

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Anse du Petit Mugel

Section 3: Anse Gaméou & Figuerolles

1,9 km ... 45 min 70 m 55 m average

30% quiet side streets, few marks

40% moderate trails, without marks

10% country road, few marks

5% stairs, few marks

10% moderate trails, without marks

5% stairs, few marks

The clues

  • Avenue du Mugel and Avenue des Myrtilles
  • Walk up the slope
  • Unknown viewpoint over Anse de Gaméou

A bit of road and a quick climb on a wild path.

Coming up from the beaches under the park, we continue straight on into the Avenue du Mugel. We are slightly uphill on this road.

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Avenue du Mugel

Here we pass the primary school.

We turn left at the first road without a barrier, it is the Avenue des Myrtilles. It goes slightly downhill and makes slight turns.

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Alphabet board in La Garde primary school

At the next intersection, we continue straight on.

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Cul-de-sac extending the Avenue des Myrtilles

It is a cul de sac that ends with an access to a last house, but on the left is a passage closed by a chain. We go through it and climb up on an unmarked path.

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Access to the cliff above the Anse du Gaméou cove

After a short climb, we see the Trois Secs from a new angle.

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Trois Secs

At the highest point there are several paths leading off in different directions, but those all end at fences. You can anyhow go slightly downhill, turn left a little and reach the edge of the cliff. On the left is an impressive overhang.

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Overhang under the third hill Sec

The puddingstone, which looks so patched up, forms a wall over 100 metres high here. The pebbles, which seem to fall away at any moment, are nevertheless held in place by the wall.

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Detail of the eroded vertical wall of the Secs puddingstone

The vertical view is possible by lying down on the ground, but beware of gales. Even without vertigo, your head is bound to spin.

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Vertical view towards the sea

A small path leads to the right. There is a good view of the Anse de Gaméou with the Trou du Diable on the right.

The Anse de Figuerolles is the bay just behind. Further on, you can see the ND de la Garde Chapel and the Cap Canaille semaphore.

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Anse du Gaméou cove

It is not possible to go north without ending up on private land or at the abyss. We return along the same path at the last intersection and turn immediately right into Avenue des Falaises.

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Avenue des Falaises

After about 50 metres, we can already descend to the Anse de Figuerolles. A concrete ramp and stairs lead down to the site, which is well loved by the locals.

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Access to the stair of the Anse de Figuerolles cove

Figuerolles is a small cove in the same rock type as the Parc du Mugel. The blue and turquoise water is easy to approach here.

Its name refers to the cultivation of fig trees in Provençal.

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Anse de Figuerolles cove

The beach is of course formed of pebbles from the erosion of the puddingstone. This erosion also forms the emblematic rock, Rocher du Capucin (monk's rock), also called Tête de Chien (dog's head).

You can walk along a rocky strip to a sort of landing stage on the left of the cove.

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Path of the Anse de Figuerolles quayside

As before, one would be tempted to go through the rocks towards the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde. This was possible by climbing for a long time behind the huts at the bottom of the beach. However, due to landslides and the danger of falling rocks, this passage is now officially barricaded and forbidden.

All we have to do is go back to the car park at the top of the cove.

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View back to Figuerolles beach

Section 4: Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde

3,1 km ... 1 h min 100 m 115 m easy

25% quiet side streets, few marks

10% paved paths, few marks

10% moderate trails, without marks

10% paved paths, few marks

25% quiet side streets, without marks

5% parks, without marks

15% quiet side streets, few marks

The clues

  • Go down all of Avenue de Figuerolles
  • Walk up Chemin de Notre Dame de la Garde and its Way of the Cross
  • Climb to the viewpoint above the chapel
  • Come back to the starting point

A little walk to the best view.

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Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde as seen from Parc du Mugel

Coming up from the Calanque de Figuerolles, we turn left and now proceed in a straight line along the Avenue de Figuerolles.

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Avenue de Figuerolles

The road widens and we take the first road on the left. This is the Chemin de Notre Dame de la Garde, a sign also indicates this direction.

It's a bit of a tough climb along a narrow road with no real walkway for us pedestrians. It takes about ten minutes to climb thirty metres.

After some slight bends and when a pedestrian walkeay starts on the right, we spot the sign for the chapel on the left. Here we descend to this access to a housing estate.

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Crossing Ave. de Figuerolles and Chemin de Notre Dame de la Garde

At the next crossroads, continue straight ahead on a narrower path that is not suitable for vehicles. This is the old way of the cross that goes up to the chapel. There are another 40 metres of ascent to climb here. At the beginning, there is some shade.

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Way up to N.-D. de la Garde

Further up the path widens to form the chapel forecourt. To the left are holiday homes of dubious style.

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Arrival in front of the Notre Dame de la Garde chapel

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Guard is usually closed, but it has a large porch.

The site also offers a good view, which is why a first lookout was installed here in 1543 to ensure maritime surveillance against pirates. Later on, this lookout was moved higher up, where the present semaphore is located.

This chapel was built in the 17th century by the brotherhood of the Pénitents Bleus. It is dedicated to the people of the sea. Since the 19th century, it has been filled with ex-voto and models of ships.

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Porch of the Notre Dame de la Garde chapel

As we can't see much of the inside of the chapel, we explore the outside. We start first by the left.

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Secs de la Ciotat

As we move forward here, we can see at first very well back towards the Anse de Figuerolles. You can also see that the passage here is not impossible. But it is at the bottom left that things get tougher.

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View deep in the Anse de Figuerolles

Straight ahead is a curious rock with a hole in it. It is possible to walk forward and look through it. But beware, the abyss is just behind. The rocks are not slippery, however.

We then return to the square in front of the chapel because it is not possible to go around it on the sea side.

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Natural hole in the puddingstone

On the right is a passage in the wall. It allows you to climb the mound to the north of the chapel.

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Passage right of the chapel

This is where the lookout was located and this is also where the Nazi Germans maintained a battery. These remains make it easy to reach the summit on a path that forms a lace.

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Way up behind the chapel

The view of the Bec de l'Aigle is ideal. The land mass on the left is the Green Island that we saw from the coast under the Parc du Mugel.

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Bec de l'Aigle as seen from the hill behind the chapel

You can also see very well on the shipyard cranes.

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La Ciotat and Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde

In good weather, it is useful to climb here with a good lens.

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La Ciotat Krupp 650 ton gantry crane

To the north stands the military semaphore on the Tête de l'Aigle. The 16th century lookout was relocated there in 1794.

Here we can study the geology. The puddingstone is found under the limestone layers of the Cap Canaille (white and yellowish), so it is older and this also explains its solidity.

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Geology under the Semaphore of the Soubeyranes Cliffs

Below the semaphore is a secluded, cliffside house. It was renovated in 2015.

In the background, you can see the limestone finger called the Grande Candelle in the Calanques of Marseille.

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Exposed house near Saint Frétouse

Puddingstone is also eroded inland as long as there is moisture approaching from the sea.

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Poudingue and tafoni

The mound is preceded by a point that juts out into the void above the cliff. It's wide enough to go on, but of course there is no safety here.

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L'espoir fait vivre (hope makes us living)

It's a great place to recharge your batteries.

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Young man and the sea on the hill behind N.D. de la Garde

But one should not be afraid of the void because the verticality is overwhelming.

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Vertical view from the hill behind the chapel

Tourist boats and fishermen pass by.

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Fishing boat in the sea

The lights are best here out of season. The photo is from October 2015.

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Eroded puddingstone

This is the highest point of the tour, so all we have to do is climb down from the rock, back up to the Chemin de Notre Dame de La Garde and down to the crossing.

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Path north of the mound

At the intersection with Avenue de Figuerolles, turn right and take the side with the pedestrian walkway. After the large building there is an open square which serves as a car park. Turn left to pass by the transformer. This cuts through a somewhat neglected park. At the end of the park, turn right and you come across the intersection between Avenue des Myrtilles and Avenue du Mugel that we already know.

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Turn and walk through the park

We go down this road to return to the starting point.

Looking over the houses, you can see the Trois Secs on the right.

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2015 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id6715)
randos photo

Trois Secs

Sources and additional information

It is better to have a good topographic hiking map: this tour is on the IGN map "Aubagne, la Ciotat, Massif de la Sainte-Baume", scale 1:25000, 3245ET.

If you don't want to bother with a paper map, you can also use mapping apps on your cell phone. On the one hand, it is the Géoportail app from the official map service IGN. However, it requires access to the data network and this is sometimes difficult in canyons or remote locations.

Alternatively, you can use apps that store data directly on the device. They're generally not free, but they don't cost much. We mainly use OSMAnd, here it is possible to add contour lines, relief shading, markings and others. To store this data on your phone you need a lot of space.

Of course, one needs access to satellites for the GPS signal with any app. In some canyons this is not the case. Therefore, do not rely on the position shown, but read the map on your phone as you would read it on paper. Most apps are available for Android and iPhone. The applications usually allow us to record the route travelled and also view the GPS files offered for each of our hikes.

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Note

The information about this hike was collected with the greatest care in 2021. Nevertheless, all information is provided without guarantee. Should you find any errors, please contact the author of this site, thank you!

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2019 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id6712)
randos photo

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