Duration: 6 hrs
Vertical: 1100 m
Mostly a loop, some out-and-back.
Venanson village, in the Vésubie Valley, 4 km from St Martin-de-Vésubie. The trail begins at borne 51, at the south side of the main square. Down a few stone steps, a descending cobblestone street to the lavoir (with the resident colorful fishes), and another descending cobblestone street.
Lower in the village, at borne 50, you cross the road and go down, beneath a house, and leave the village along a very ancient cobblestone way, with a nicely fluted/zigzag edges. We speculate that this ancient track dates back several centuries, perhaps even to when the Templars were here.
At borne 49, the route follows the road towards La Grange, a small hamlet of mountain-style houses and barns, and once the site of the original village of Venanson. Just a couple of minutes along the road to #48, where a proper little trail branches off to the left, down the hillside to the south. There are some nice views back to the village from here, where the trail passes through orchards.
At one point here we were joined by a young black cat. After receiving a few pets, it bounded up to a ridge running above the trail and began stalking us, running ahead and then bounding out of the grass as we passed by.
At borne 46 the trail joins the road again, but only for a couple of minutes.
Borne 45 [30-min], at the place of Les Condamines (a couple of buildings) is 30 minutes from the start in Venanson. The trail goes down through the woods at the left (southwest), arriving at an old stone bridge, the site of the ancient mill (moulin). Along the trail we passed a boars' "rubbing tree". From the worn circle around the base of the tree and the rubbed-off bark, it seems that wild boar rub against this meeting-post tree.
The old bridge [40-min] is in good shape, and its 4-meter width is unusual for old stone bridges. Of the ancient mill, nothing remains but a pair of tall stone columns, probably where the waterwheel was once located.
From borne 44, just south of the bridge, we took the right branch, up the hill in the direction of Libaret and Roquebillière (we'll later return to here from the left, eastern trail).
After a 20-minute hike up through the trees to #43 [1h], we turned left (northeast). This trail is rather steep, and comes out at a forestry road at the site of Le Libaret, a forestry building.
Borne 42 [1h30], Le Libaret, is an hour and a half from the start. But, we spent an additional half-hour exploring an ancient chapel and attendant hamlet in the woods nearby. The trail approaching Le Libaret passes by the old chapel site, with one building visible to the left of the trail, but it takes a bit of exploring to find a way in to the site. The chapel and site is "recent" ancient, probably abandoned in the 1930s. There's a plaque inside the old chapel marking the resting place of Le Chanoine, QUENTIN Guigo, deceased Dec 1936.
Back at #42, Le Libaret forestry site, the trail goes up the hillside to the east. The trail follows the mountainside, paralleling a forestry road some meters below. With a lot of ups and downs, the trail rises from 1225 m to 1341 m at borne 41 (Fontaine de Serente), a 1-hour section.
Along much of the eastward trail through the forest, from above the stone bridge at #44 to #41 where we started down at the eastern end, there were signs of wild boar along the sides of the trail. A great deal of rooted-up earth and boar tracks in the softer dirt. We also saw 5 or 6 wallows along the route of the hike.
Borne 41 [2h30], excluding chapel exploration], we branched left (northeast), steeply down through the forested mountainside. Crossing a forestry road at #41a, we continued down the mountain to borne 41b.
Borne 41b [3h15] at 950 m altitude is the lowest point of the loop. Branching right (south) here would follow a long trail that comes out at the Vésubie river to the east and follows it down to the village of Roquebillière.
From borne 41b we continue east, then the trail north and northwest, up and up and along the mountainside.
At borne 41c [4h35], 1hr20 from the low point at #41b, we continue east on the right branch. (Good news, since the left branch climbs very steeply up to the south.)
Borne 44 [5h05], back at the stone bridge and the site of the ancient mill, is 1h50 from the low point at #41b. Mostly uphill, but a lovely trail of dirt over centuries of pine needles and beneath a very shady forest.