Vallon de Castelette, 83860 Nans-les-Pins.
|Classification:||Karst Spring Rimstone Pool Karst cave|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|Address:||Sources de l'Huveaune, Tel: +33-.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Vallon de Castellette ends at the Grotte Castelette, which is a small wild cave, and it is the source of the Huveaune. However, it is dry most of the year and is easy to visit. Its main passage is big enough to walk upright, there is a sort of trail, and it is more or less horizontal. Only after heavy rains the water table rises and the cave is flooded and reactivated as a spring. If there is less flow, the water springs quite unspectacular from numerous smalls springs in the riverbed 500 m below the cave.
Another spring is at the end of an 80 m long right side tributary and called Grotte des Moulins. Again this resurgence is only reactivated after heavy rains.
During the year the water comes out of the ground between the trees and rocks. Except for exceptional drought, here it flows all year round. This is the main source of the many springs of the Huveaune.
The Sources de l'Huveaune (Sources of the Huveaune river) is the name of the trail, and it leads to the karst springs. But the actual highlight is not the karst spring, but the series of rimstone pools which originates from the limestone rich water right below the spring. The precipitation of limestone forms rims across the riverbed, about 20 to 30 cm high and 2 to 3 m wide. Like leaves, they point downstream and the water forms small waterfalls in flowing from one step to the other.
The whole area is full of hiking trails, there are parking lots along the roads with maps of the trails, the whole area is a popular holiday location. On weekends the trails may even be crowded, with day trippers from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and the other big cities nearby. Actually the destruction caused by the extreme number of visitors forced the locals to respond with several restrictions. The road to the original parking lot is now prohibited, which makes the only official parking lot inaccessible. There are signs restricting access, which is generally a good thing. Nevertheless, numerous visitors are quite annoyed by the multitude of restrictions. On the other hand it's not a good idea to ignore them, the local police patrols and writes tickets. Make sure to park according to law, the fact that others are also parking illegal will not save you. If you follow the rules, the hike of 1.2 km has become a 5 km hike, one way. An effective way of reducing the number of visitors.
There are numerous alternatives for a hike to the springs and the rimstone pools. The shortest is probably from the D80 Route de la Sainte-Baume. The start is almost at the pass and the trail goes down into the valley. Longer trails start at the D 480 Voie communale numéro 1 de Saint-Zacharie à Plan-d'Aups and at the Carraire du Vallon de l'Orge at the end of Nans les Pins. However, we recommend a good map or the route from a hiking portal.