Hikes of Mount Pelee
Mount Pelee by way of l'Aileron

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Time: 5 hours. Difficulty: 4-5. A steep slope to descend into the Caldeira. Also possibly dangerous holes covered by moss.

Trailhead: Leave RN3 just after the northern exit from Morne Rouge. Take the road that goes up to the Aileron parking lot; a sign indicates the entrance. The trail departs from the TV relay tower.

Characterized by a beautiful view over the entire Atlantic coast, this walk permits a rapid ascent to Chinois, which--at 1,397m--dominates the volcano and all the island. A guide is highly recommended for this trail, which is rarely explored, even during the dry season.

From the Aileron parking lot, go around the TV relay tower, then immediately begin one of the steepest climbs of the trail. Before reaching Aileron, after about 45 minutes, the trail crosses several different pumice ravines that can be slippery. It then continues into narrow passages where it is necessary to hoist yourself from rock to rock.

From Aileron, you'll discover a splendid view of the entire Bay of Saint Pierre, the mass of the Carbet Peaks, sometimes even as far as St. Lucia. The ascent, taking 30 minutes to reach the Caldeira itself, is easy, going along a ridge road and a short climb.

Next, you follow the ridge of the Caldeira for 15 minutes, before arriving at a shelter situated on a plateau overlooking the Caldeira, bordered on the east by Morne Macouba.

The deep crater of the volcano is entirely covered by mosses, ferns, lycopods and mountain pineapple, topped off 250 meters higher up by the impressive summits of Mount Pelee.

After passing another cone, at nearly the same altitude as the preceding one, you'll have another 30 minutes of ascent, sometimes perilous because of the many holes and crevasses hidden by moss. From the summit, the panorama covers all of Martinique and the neighboring islands.

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