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France/Normandy: Carolles

The Peaceful Side of Mont-St.-Michel

The Walk

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Time: 1 1/4 hours

Distance: 1 to 2 1/4 miles

Parking: There is ample parking at the entrance. A sign displays a map and information (in French) about the area.

Viewpoints: You will find impressive views along the cliff, starting near the beginning of the walk, and many places for picnics.

Precautions: The trail follows rocky, slippery trails, and there is one steep, short descent. Do not attempt to descend the slopes to the sea unless accompanied by an experienced local. If you visit the shore using the route mentioned below, watch for rising tides that each year cause the drowning of an unsuspecting wanderer.

Maps: The local Syndicat d’Initiative (tourism office) in the center of Carolles, has maps, mostly in French, of many local trails and bike routes, and information on things to do in the area. There are also French guidebooks of local walks.

To Begin

From your car, head downhill on the path toward the sea. The information signpost will be on your left.

Waypoint 1

In a minute, you will encounter a T intersection with the Grande Randonee “Sentier Littoral” (Coastal Walk), blazed with a red-white stripes. Make a right toward La Cabane Vauban, marked by a sign. Along this portion of the walk, take in magnificent views of Mont-St.-Michel over the bay in the distance toward your left. At La Cabane Vauban, coastal sentries took shelter during patrols. From La Cabane Vauban, continue walking on the trail along the towering cliff top for about 10 minutes. In the brush to your right, there was once an ancient abbey, possibly the Abbaye de Maudane. Pass by a wooden sign and follow the arrow to Port du Lude.

Waypoint 2

You will soon reach another intersection with a signpost. Go right down a very steep hill, which can be muddy and slippery when wet. This descent is not for the casual stroller, so, if that describes you, have a seat on the rocks to enjoy your view and retrace your steps to your car.

If you go straight at Waypoint 2, you will reach another very steep decline to the Port du Lude. It is not recommended except for very experienced walkers.

Waypoint 3

At the bottom of the hill, you cross a small bridge and reach a three-way intersection. Go right. To see the Port du Lude and walk on the rocky, rugged shore, go left and walk for about five minutes along the stream beneath towering moors, often bright yellow with wildflowers. Port du Lude was once a favorite of smugglers. The rocky shore and tidal pools are tempting to explore, but unless you know the tide timetables, it’s best to play it safe and stay inland. In rough weather, there can be rogue waves, unexpectedly big swells that can sweep you out to sea.

Waypoint 4

After walking a few minutes from Waypoint 3, you reach another intersection. Take the trail to the right, which crosses a bridge and is marked by a sign to La Cabane Vauban. Head uphill for a short while. This stretch is short but somewhat steep.

Waypoint 5

At a T intersection at the top of the rise, go left. You will notice a ridge of dirt paralleling the trail on your right. This is part of a Roman fortification. Just a short distance later, beyond a field thick with underbrush, tiny trails lead into the dense forest and along the edge of the ancient dirt walls of the fort. Follow the trail straight for about 10 minutes through the forest and gradually downhill into the river valley. Ignore trails going off to the right and the left.

Waypoint 6

On the valley floor, a trail enters from the left at the Pont de Harel, a tiny bridge crossing the river. (The French have a way of making even the most simple things sound romantic.) Continue straight on the trail you’re on, remaining on this side of the river, heading up hill and to the right of pasture land.

Waypoint 7

At the top of an incline, a signpost points to the right and uphill. You can take this if you wish to return to your car. At the top of the hill, you will make a right on the paved road back to the parking lot. Otherwise, continue straight for a few minutes.

Waypoint 8

You reach the paved road you drove up on. Follow it a short way back to your car. Watch for motor vehicles.

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