Our across-the-street neighbors recommended hiking the vallon obscur du Donaréo, a hidden valley just outside of Nice. I'm writing up about our hike because we had the hardest time finding the trail head! It's not even a proper trail, except there is one sign at the beginning. Unless you know where to go, you'd never find it.
As we began the hike, the canyon walls lengthened and narrowed, cutting off the sunlight and casting us into a cool gloom. We had entered a magical world. We hopped over a small stream running through the bottom, occasionally dipping our feet in the cool water. The canyon walls were covered with moss, ferns, and sub-tropical vegetation. Mist and water droplets falling from above kept us cool--not that we needed to cool off any more!
Back to reality--how do you get there? I visited many French sites describing the hike (here, here, and here, for example, but they weren't helpful enough to get us to the right place. We finally found it thanks to flagging down an old Niçois hiker.
Directions to the vallon obscur du Donaréo:
The valley can be hiked from the top (from Castagniers) or from the bottom, which is where we started.
1. Drive to the crematorium of Nice (Chemin du Roguez, 06670 Colomars). Take the road towards the crematorium, not to the Nécropole. Drive past the crematorium gates. 20 meters after the gates, park alongside the road or pull into a little gravel parking area on your right.
2. On your left, you'll see a chained-off road. Walk over the chain towards the concrete structures at the end.
3. Once you get to the end, slip through the little area on the right.
4. Walk along the wood planks, following the canal. Soon you'll cross over the canal and see a sign with information about the hike.
5. Go onto the little stream bed and start hiking up the valley. You can go as far as you wish. Near the top you will see an aqueduct; we didn't go this far as our kids were getting tired. The hike isn't strenuous, but there is some climbing over boulders and scrambling up and down steep slopes. Be sure to wear shoes that can get wet!
A short preview...
A longer look...