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Ring of the Benigni refuge and the Trona and Zancone lakes

A long itinerary in the Alta Val Gerola, passing a refuge, 4 lakes, and some ibex.
6:00 h


Finding a broader and more colorful loop among the peaks and lakes of the upper Val Gerola is a challenge. This route skirts the waters of four Orobian lakes, offering sweeping views of the Valtellina peaks, accompanied by groups of ibexes that gather near Rifugio Benigni.

From Gerola Alta, the ascent begins on a narrow switchback road to Pescegallo (1454 m), where you can park in the spacious parking lot of the chairlift to Rifugio Salmurano, which operates even in the summer months. Take the steep path from the eastern edge of the parking lot, to the right of a small stream, until reaching an alpine pasture where a beautiful trail, at times stepped, delves into a coniferous forest. It emerges later to reconnect with the dirt road that, winding uphill to the east, quickly leads to the dam of Lake Pescegallo (1862 m, 1 hour) and its crystalline waters.

Retrace your steps along the dirt road just traveled, then take a small trail that branches off to the left, leading, on a level path, to the back of Rifugio Salmurano (1830 m, 30 minutes). Those who wish to shorten the itinerary can use the chairlift from Pescegallo.

Now ascend the meadows that unfold before your eyes (in winter transformed into wide ski slopes), where your gaze often falls on the improbable shapes of Denti della Vecchia, the rocky pinnacles on our right.

Once you reach Passo Salmurano (2017 m, 30 minutes), the landscape becomes rougher. Descending on the Bergamo side, traverse to the base of an enjoyable rocky gully and scree; once overcome and a few hairpin bends ascended, you finally reach the rocky balcony hosting the diminutive Rifugio Benigni (2222 m, 45 minutes). Numerous ibexes populate the scree around the refuge and the shores of the nearby Lago Piazzotti, seemingly unfazed by human presence, more intrigued by the crowds of hikers who gather here on summer Sundays.

After a well-deserved rest, take the trail veering southwest; after a descent, you reach the end of a small grassy valley where, with a couple of switchbacks, you easily conquer a first saddle, then continue on a level path to the nearby Passo Bocca di Trona (2224 m, 30 minutes). From the pass, descend among scree with an irregular path, accompanied by the towering shapes of Pizzo Tronella and the view of lakes Zancone and Trona, which you reach shortly after passing a suggestive cemetery of huge boulders, fallen from the surrounding walls. It's a true pleasure to linger among the rhododendrons of Lago Zancone (1856 m, 45 minutes).

Next, follow the shore of the large artificial basin of Trona (1806 m, 15 minutes); upon reaching the dam, take the trail that veers eastward. A long traverse, at times through the woods, at times over scree or meadows, brings you back towards Pescegallo; after passing a small pond, the trail enters the Val Tronella for a few tens of meters, then descends two hundred meters with a succession of wide switchbacks; finally, after a last stretch through the woods, the trail emerges onto the chairlift's square (1454 m, 1.30 hours).






The mountains are a dangerous environment: make sure you always have the right equipment — hiking or trail shoes, warm clothes and waterproofs in case of unexpected changes in weather conditions, a small emergency kit.


I've made an Amazon "shopping note" to make sure you have everything — ps if you buy from these links, 3% goes to support the development and maintenance of Hikes of the World 🙏.


  • Breathable t-shirt ( example )

  • Sweatshirt, fleece, or light jacket

  • Waterproof windbreaker (for example: men / women )

  • Gloves and hat (you never know)

  • Backpack with rain cover

  • Trekking poles (not essential, but they help to unload the weight of the backpack and ease the impact on the joints)

  • Trekking or trail running shoes (in great vogue lately because they are lightweight. These Salomon ones - for men and women - are an excellent entry-level, preferably Gore-Tex)

  • For via ferratas: complete via ferrata kit (I have this one , very light and compact, with this harness and helmet — or you can buy complete kits ). Buy in store to receive ad hoc support

  • To sleep a night in a refuge: sheet or light sleeping bag

  • Water bottle or thermos

  • Light crampons if you think you will find ice or snow on the route

  • Power bank or cell phone charger

  • Camera

  • Drone, for those who love to "fly" (used in moderation and at a distance from other people. I have had the DJI Mini 2 for over 2 years and have found myself very happy with it. The DJI Mini 3 also allows you to take vertical photographs)

  • Small emergency kit ( example )

  • Sun cream (essential)

  • Sunglasses


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