Take the gravel road ascending from the left of the parking area. On reaching the opening called Il Salto (1184 m), we follow the signs on the left to the Garelli Refuge.
The path climbs steeply, twisting and turning through dense, shaded woods which in spring are pervaded by the pungent scent of wild garlic, a plant you can use to prepare an excellent “pesto” sauce.
After walking some way through the pine wood, we cross the wooden bridge over the Rio Sestrera torrent which, just below, feeds the spectacular Saut waterfalls. After a few more minutes, we arrive at Gias Sottano di Sestrera (1341 m), a pasture area, for our first glimpse of the imposing Marguareis massif, the highest peak in the Ligurian Alps.
The path divides: the right branch proceeds into the broad Marguareis valley towards the Passo del Duca, the left takes us to the Garelli Refuge. This is the direction we take.
Walking slightly uphill, we enter a winding fir grove. After a great many hairpin bends, we finally emerge into an open clearing.
We come to a fine slope that we ascend to approach Gias Soprano Sestrera (1842 m, fountain). The view becomes truly majestic: a single glance takes in the fantastic north face of Marguareis.
Passing around the mountain pasture (gias) on the right, it is only a twenty minute walk to reach the Garelli Refuge, located just off the Pian del Lupo. This large structure with stone walls also has a very modern glass and metal extension that reflects the mountains; it was rebuilt in 1991 after a terrible fire completely destroyed the previous refuge.
There is a botanical garden just a short distance from the Refuge, which is home to some of the most important and rare species to be found in the Ligurian and Maritime Alps. The facility is dedicated to Clarence Bicknell, an eclectic British academic who was interested not only in botany but also ornithology, archaeology and mineralogy: he was responsible for the discovery of the rock carvings in the Valle delle Meraviglie.
After a well-deserved rest, we retrace our footsteps back along the outward route. Alternatively, for those who feel up to it, the route can be extended by returning via the broad Marguareis valley or, on the other side, from Gias Madonna in the Serpentera valley.