Since moving to Provence some years ago, I’ve made it a new tradition to spend my birthday in nature, with my family, preferably on a hiking trail. Fortunately, my birthday falls in December when the weather is typically cool but clear, and the trails are relatively empty – making the experience even more special.
It was one such birthday that we first headed down to Marseille to hike to the Calanque de Sugiton trail.
Hiking Les Calanques
The calanques are always a firm favourite in our family, they offer incredible views, a varied landscape, historical interests along the way, and inevitably a stunning beach at the end.
Situated in the Calanques National Park, just south of Marseille, the hike to Calanque de Sugiton is just one of several hikes you can undertake in the park.
There are several places to enter the park. Les Goudes in the west is the starting point for hikes to Calanque de Marseilleveyre and Calanque de Podestat.
Cassis is the usual kick-off point for walks around the famous “Calanques de Cassis” which includes Port Miou, Port Pin and Calanque d’En Vau. And the middle of the park, the hikes to Calanque de Sormiou, Calanque de Morgiou and Calanque de Sugiton can be accessed via Marseille’s southern suburbs, Sormiou, Les Baumettes, and the Luminy university area.
Essential Information for Hiking to Calanque de Sugiton
As usual, we set off on this walk without doing a lot of research first (I like surprises!), but if you’re the planning type, there is some essential information you should know before setting off.
Hike Length: Approx 6-7km return
Hike Duration: 2.5 hrs return (longer to explore the beaches)
Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate – Mostly a gentle stroll but as you get closer to the beach the path is steep and rocky. And the way back is all uphill!
When to hike: The trail is best undertaken in the shoulder seasons of Spring & Autumn. In winter, however, it’s perfectly doable and enjoyable on a still day (take care in windy conditions). From June through to the end of summer, access to the park is regulated and the tracks are often closed or reduced hours due to the risk of wildfires. Check this site before you set off (near the bottom – Les Calanques).
Dogs permitted: Yes.
How to get to Calanque de Sugiton
The Calanque de Sugiton trail starts near the Luminy University in Marseille. As mentioned above, we hadn’t really done our homework before arriving, but still managed to find the entrance to the trail fairly easily.
Do note that traffic through Marseille is often very heavy, even on weekends. And if you’re not used to driving in the South of France, you may find it a little intimidating. I’d recommend bypassing the city, and driving via Aubagne area if possible.
Parking for Calanque de Sugiton
The track starts at the end of Avenue de Luminy (shown on the map above). There is parking available in the surrounding streets, and on busy days you’ll find cars parked on both verges too. Although I wouldn’t recommend this, especially on weekdays when traffic is heavier.
If you’re unable to find a park close to the entrance, you’re also permitted to park in the gravel car park next to the Business School.
Taking the Bus to Calanque de Sugiton
Luckily, if driving isn’t on the cards, this is one calanque walk that’s easily accessible via public transport from Marseille. Simply jump on the 21 bus towards Luminy at the Castellane bus station on Avenue du Prado and it’ll drop you off just around the corner from the entrance to the calanque trail.
Hiking to Calanque de Sugiton
There are several trails that you can undertake from the same starting point on Avenue de Luminy, however, for the first part they all follow the same route – the Blue Route.
The start of the walk is fairly flat and uneventful. It’s a pleasant walk through nature and a good way to get warmed up, but there’s nothing remarkable about it.
When you arrive at the Col de Sugiton (after about 30 minutes walking), you’ll have the option to venture up to the Belvedere lookout point or carry on to the calanque.
The Belvedere de Sugiton
We didn’t want to push our luck with our (then) 4-year-old son, and dogs in tow, so decided to skip the extra leg up to the Belvedere. But if you do decide to tackle it, you can expect an extra 1km round trip that’ll afford you wonderful views over both the Calanque de Sugiton and the Calanque de Morgiou on the other side.
The Calanque de Sugiton Trail
Continuing towards the calanque, you can take a left and follow the easier “road” (no cars are permitted), or take a slight right and follow the red dotted track. The latter takes a bit of a short cut down the hill before joining the road again, but it is a little more strenuous with many stairs and rocks. We opted to take the road down, and the red dotted track on the way back up.
Either way, your walk will be accompanied by the most breathtaking surroundings. Huge towering limestone cliffs, ancient stone walls, and the occasional glimpse of the sea will keep your eyes wandering. And the habitual fragrance of wild herbs will keep your other senses occupied.
The paths meet shortly before the sea fully reveals itself at the most stunning lookout point. It’s here you’ll feel the excitement of what awaits you and impatience to get down to the inviting water below.
Shortly after this lookout point, you’ll be met with another choice of routes down to the beaches below. When we walked this track, one of these routes was closed so we had no choice but to take the track that descends straight down to your right (the red dotted track shown on the sign below).
This part of the track was the trickiest to navigate with a small child and dogs. It’s very steep, with stairs in some places and conveniently placed rocks in others. But it does make the descent quick!
Once you get closer to the water, the tracks become less obvious and you can choose a number of off-shoots to venture down to the coves.
On your left, you’ll have a view of the stunning Sugiton beach. Although it looks inviting, the track to get there is now closed and access is forbidden following a fatal accident involving falling rocks in 2005.
Veer to you right instead and you’ll find two small coves ripe for swimming and sunbathing. Space on the sand is limited and gets very busy in the warmer months, with bathers taking advantage of the surrounding rocks to spread out on too. In winter, we had the coves almost entirely to ourselves.
The Way Back to Luminy
As mentioned previously, we took a slightly shorter but steeper route on the way back up, this time following the red dotted route all the way to the Col de Sugiton. This cut the ‘corners’ off the longer road route but involved many stairs.
The last stretch on the blue route was a welcome stretch of the legs after all that climbing!
Final thoughts on Calanque de Sugiton
The calanque itself is beautiful, albeit on the petite side, and the Calanque de Sugiton trail through the national park is still one of my favourite walks in Provence – mainly for the views it offers.
Although a refreshing walk in winter, going in the warmer months affords you an excuse to take a refreshing dip at the end! Just do take care if it’s very hot and windy, as those are the ideal conditions for forest fires.
Start early in the day so you can linger as long as you want at the beach. It’ll also mean avoiding the unforgiving midday heat as you hike. And be sure to take everything you’ll need with you, as understandably there aren’t any facilities nearby.
If you’re feeling particularly energetic, combine the Calanque de Sugiton walk with a trip up the Belvedere and over to the Calanque de Morgiou. Although you should allow a good half-day minimum if you decide to hike to both calanques.
What to take with you when hiking to Calanque de Sugiton
- 1-1.5l of water for every walker
- Snacks in case you decide to stay awhile at the beach
- Suitable hiking shoes
- Water shoes for the beach – it’ll make it easier to navigate the rocky seabed
- A swimsuit and towel
- A suitable baby carrier, rather than a stroller, if travelling with babies or toddlers
The Calanque de Sugiton trail is a delightful hike in the Calanques National Park near Marseille. A family-friendly walk that takes around 2-3 hours to complete, with a beautiful beach to enjoy at the end. I hope you enjoy this walk in Provence as much as I did!
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