This is easiest, although not shortest way to climb Vaganski Vrh (1757m). It is second most beautiful of routes, behind Liburnija (1710m) route. Trailhead is Paklenica hut (480) in Velika Paklenica valley. Path leads through beautiful beech forest, over panoramic Buljma pass (1400m), over idyllic Struge plateau and finally high among the highest peaks of Velebit. From the hut ascent can be split in two parts by sleeping over in Struge refuge but can also be done in a day all the way from the coast and back. But in that case altitude difference is huge 3700m so this option is reserved only for strongest hikers. From parking in Paklenica canyon add 1.30h or 2.30h from Starigrad-Paklenica on the coast. That brings total to 6.30h from parking and 7.30h from Starigrad-Paklenica, only in one direction.
Paklenica hut – Buljma pass - Struge refuge: 3h
Behind the hut, by the pool, path enters the beech forest and ascent begins. After few minutes and several bends view towards peaks above and back down on Paklenica valley opens. After further short ascent path turns left and heads horizontally till Ramici hamlet and passes right of house of Jole and Maria, last inhabitants of Paklenica, 15mins from the hut. Here is important junction of paths. Left is Buljma pass and Struge route, straight up leads Bukova Staza trail, while little bit to the right Lipa Staza trail heads.
You’ll turn left. In next 10-15mins path winds through rocky fences and through pine and hornbeam groves, gradually ascending, till the junction where from left other variation from the hut joins.
Sign shows that Buljma is right. In the 1h wide path ascends gradually through beautiful beech forest, going far to the left. When you reach few sharp bends (serpentines) nice balcony, in the shadow of black pine trees, is close. This obligatory resting point which has beautiful view of Rapavac (1617m) cliffs, Sveto Brdo (1751m), in the distance, and down towards the valley.
Behind balcony path continues to ascent gradually through beech forest. Some serpentines have shortcuts. After 30mins you are on the junction where our path joins VPP trail which comes from Rujno. In that direction path also leads towards Strazbenica pass and Veliki Golic (1265m). 100 meters from the junction in that direction, right by the path, is small source with good water. It dries during summer.
On the junction wooden sign says that Buljma and Struge are right. After 5mins path leaves the forest behind, entering rocky slopes below Tadina Glavica (1500m) (which is part of Viserujna (1632m)). In many sharp bends it ascends quite nicely over steep terrain that is mostly made of cliffs. View down towards Paklenica valley and sea in the background is great. In some 30mins you are on a rocky balcony with fantastic view. This is nice place to rest.
Behind balcony path turns left into scree valley below Buljma pass that is surrounded by cliffs of Buljma cliff (right) and Tadina Glavica (1500m) (left). After 10mins over the scree you are on Buljma pass (1400m), 2.45h from Paklenica hut. Beautiful view of Struge opens here. Left behind Struge is Badanj (1638m) while right is Stirovac (1569m) and Babin Vrh (1735m).
Have one more view towards the sea before you gradually descent on Struge. 10mins behind the pass is junction where left path leads towards Visocica (1619m), right directly towards upper Struge and Vaganski Vrh (1757m) while straight is towards refuge where you are heading (most probably).
Path continues straight through the shallow valley between two hills. After 5mins it begins to ascent and enters the beech grove. 5mins from foot of last short ascent you are in front of Struge refuge (1400m), 3h from Paklenica hut.
Struge refuge – Marasovac – Vaganski Vrh: 2h
From the refuge path continues over meadows and through nice beech groves till it reaches the edge of upper Struge basin, 10mins. Here it turns right and makes semi circle around the basin to avoid loosing altitude. In next 10mins, with beautiful views towards Badanj (1638m) on the left, you’ll reach Marasovac well (1450m), the only water on the way towards summit, 20mins from the refuge.
From the well path turns sharply right and ascends over grassy/rocky slope. After few it turns left and continues to ascent more steeply, through rare beech trees at the edge of forest line. Some have bizarre shapes being moderated by fierce winds. 20mins from Marasovac there is short flat section where view of Babin Vrh (1738m) opens. Its dome towers in front. Views are now wide and fantastic. Path now ascends steeply through dwarf pines and in 10mins reaches small meadow, third terrace from Marasovac. It is short and last ascent begins. Path cuts the steep slopes of nameless peak, which is on the right (1655m). In 10mins you are on the pass between it and Babin Vrh (1738m). Altitude is around 1650m.
Those that wish to ascent Babin Vrh should turn left up the SW ridge towards the summit which is some 20mins away. From the summit return to marked path via SE head of Babin Vrh.
On the pass major ascent is over. Path now traverses steep rocky slopes of Babin Vrh above double funnel shaped basin. The other one harbors Babino Jezero (1580m) lake. In 10mins you are on the pass between Babin Vrh and Zoranicev Vrh (1712m), altitude around 1650m. Here is a junction as from right Bukova Staza route, which ascends by the lake, joins VPP.
From the pass path begins to descent traversing the slopes of southern Babin Vrh head, above deep funnel shaped basin which is on the right. Vaganski Vrh joins the view from here. After 10mins you are on the pass and bottom of descent. Behind short ascent is longer horizontal section where path traverses steep slopes above huge funnel shaped basin that is placed between Babin Vrh and Vaganski Vrh. At the end of horizontal section path turn left and ascends towards the shoulder, 20mins. Vaganski Vrh now obscures most of the panorama. In front is another horizontal section before final summit ascent. On the left is open slope towards continental terrace. Over 500m lower is Vagan (1150m), beautiful rounded grassy basin, surrounded with beech forest. After 5mins you are at the foot of final ascent which lasts 10-15mins, 2h from Struge. On the summit fantastic view opens.