Best Hikes In Appenzell: Stunning Trails For Everyone

best hikes appenzell

Looking for some of the best hiking in Switzerland that is a bit off the beaten track and void of swathes of tourists? Well, you have come to the right place!

The region of Appenzell in northeastern Switzerland is home to just that! The Appenzell Alps, also known as the Alpstein Massif or Alpstein mountains are tucked away in the Alpstein Region and are separate from the Swiss Alps, which all the tourists flock to.

You might be concerned that the Appenzell mountains don’t offer the same alpine hiking experiences as the likes of the higher mountains of the Bernese Alps or the Bernina Alps, but you would be wrong.

Appenzell hiking is packed full of everything you might want to experience from alpine lakes to amazing wildlife, great food, panoramic views, and more. Plus, you get to enjoy it in peace, with just locals.

The Appenzell hiking trails are beautiful, feature wonderful mountain huts, and are every bit as good as the hiking trails in the rest of Switzerland. But, which are the best hiking trails in Appenzell?

Join me as I run through our Appenzell hiking guide below and showcase some of the top trails in the Alpstein Massif Region.

Alpstein Three Lakes Hike

Seealpsee in Alpstein
Seealpsee in Alpstein – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Alpstein Three Lakes Hike is, without a doubt, one of the very best hikes in our Appenzell Hiking guide.

You will experience the best of the Appenzell Alps by hiking past one stunning alpine lake after another and enjoying incredible views of the mountain scenery. Bring your costume if you fancy a very chilly swim with the best views!

This is a challenging hike due to the steep ascent and descent but is well worth the effort. The hike starts and ends at Wasserauen train station, as it is a loop hike.

You will follow the Schwendebach stream up to the first of the beautiful lakes, Seealpsee which is surrounded by peaks and forests. From here, the ascent continues through quaint Alpine villages and farmland to lake Fälensee.

Fälensee offers dramatic views with huge canyons cascading up on either side with wildflowers along the shores and grazing Swiss cows. From here, you will hike through a forest until you reach the final lake, Sämtisersee, which also has incredible views too, after which you descend through the forest down the mountains.

Type: Loop Hike

Distance: 17.3 km (10.7 miles)

Duration: 7-9 hours

Rating: Hard

Starts At: Wasserauen

Lisengrat

One of the very best hikes in the Appenzell Alps is the Lisengrat Ridge Hike but this is not for the faint-hearted or the unfit. It is such a challenging hiking trail that it is closed to any chance of rain or snow.

The terrain is exceptionally rugged, you will have to use the ladders and cables to make it, and have the best hiking weather too. You will traverse steep drops and very narrow paths, and if you are scared of heights, I do not recommend this hike!

But, the rewards are incredible if you can handle them. The rocky trail starts at the highest peak in the region, Säntis Peak, and takes you to Altmann peak.

There are amazing views along the way of the surrounding peaks and you might even spot some rare high-altitude wildlife along your way. You will also get the best view of the entire range along the way!

You can do this as part of a multi-day hike around the area, or as a day hike using the cable car.

Type: Point to Point

Distance: 4.7 km

Duration: 2-3 hours

Rating: Hard

Starts At: Säntis Mountain

Schäfler Ridge Hike

Alpstein area
Alpstein area – Image courtesy of Uwe Häntsch

Another of the very best hikes in Appenzell is the Schäfler Ridge Hike. The trail takes you up to one of the most stunning parts of these mountains and there is a mountain hut you can stay in overnight to make it a multi-day hike.

The hike begins at Wasserauen train station from which you will ascend through a forest until you get above the tree line into farmland. The views as you come out of the forest are magical with the stunning peaks in the background.

The ascent continues and you will pass the famous Aescher Cliff Restaurant with its amazing views across the valley. Stop for lunch if you fancy it, but book ahead if you plan to do so.

After the restaurant, you will hike through some caves and discover a small church inside, and then it is an intense climb to the Schäfler Ridge and Schäfler mountain hut. The view of the stunning ridge from the hut is mind-blowing!

It should take a maximum of 5 hours to get to the mountain hut, even going slowly. I would recommend staying overnight so you can see the sunset and sunrise over the peaks.

Type: Point to Point

Distance: 14 km

Duration: 4 – 5 hours

Rating: Medium

Starts At: Wasserauen

Seealpsee Hike

One of the epic hikes that most people can manage that comes with some leisurely picnic and swim time is the Seealpsee Hike.

This hike does have a steep ascent but it shouldn’t take you more than 1-2 hours to reach the lake shores. Seealpsee is a stunning lake surrounded by peak after peak that creates an amphitheater around it.

The lake is crystal clear and a quick dip will be something you will never forget. Imagine swimming in turquoise waters and staring at one of the most beautiful views, it will be mind-blowing but quite chilly.

Once you have enjoyed swimming, have a picnic, explore the beautiful trails around the lake, and hike back down.

Type: Out and Back

Distance: 9 km

Duration: 4 hours

Rating: Easy

Starts At: Wasserauen

Saxer Lücke Hike

Saxer Lücke and Chrüzberg
Saxer Lücke and Chrüzberg – Image courtesy of .hd.

This is one of the very best hikes in Appenzell for families who want to see some of the top views of the region as it is mostly flat or downhill with an elevation change of just 450 meters.

I would recommend starting the hike at Hoher Kasten peak. You do have the option of taking the cable car to Staubern to shorten the hike but you will miss the awesome views from Hoher Kasten.

The Saxer Lücke takes you along the epic Saxer Lücke ridgeline. You will follow an obvious rocky path the whole way and the sections are very manageable for all abilities.

As you hike the trail you will see magical lake views, snow-capped peaks, wildflowers, ridges, and more. You will stroll past the Staubern Mountain Hut with the option to stay overnight, and from here, you will have 360-degree news the whole way to the Saxer Lücke viewpoint.

Type: Loop

Distance: 17 km

Duration: 6 hours

Rating: Medium

Starts At: Hoher Kasten

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Ebenalp to Schafler

The Ebenalp to Schafler out-and-back hike is another of the best hikes for families or anyone looking for a quick and easy hike with incredible views along the way.

You can choose to get the cable car from Wasserauen to Ebenalp which cuts out a 1000-meter ascent or hike. I would recommend hiking down if you want to extend the hike.

From Ebenalp it is a short hike up to Schafler with a small elevation gain which should only take an hour. Once there you will be standing on the most famous viewpoints in the region featuring an amazing ridgeline.

Once done, hike back to Ebenalp and grab the cable car or hike down to Wasserauen.

Type: Out and Back

Distance: 5.2 km

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: Easy

Starts At: Wasserauen

Mount Säntis Hike

Schwägalp (Säntis)
Schwägalp (Säntis) – Image courtesy of Kecko

Mount Säntis is the highest mountain in the Alpstein Range and you can hike to it in various ways.

An awesome option is the Alpstein Loop hike which takes multiple days and will have you staying in mountain huts along the way. The route begins at Wasserauen, then goes to Ebenalp, Schäfler Hut, Ohrli, Mount Säntis, Lisengrat, Rotsteinpass, Meglisalp, Seebergsee, and then back to Wasserauen station.

It is a great way to see the entire range and it features a lot of the hikes we have already mentioned above, but it is quite tough.

You can also do the Mount Säntis Hike in a single day by doing half of the Alpstein Loop and using the cable car. You can either hike up and take the cable car back down or get the cable car up and hike back down.

Type: Multi-Day Hike Loop

Distance: 40 km

Duration: 2-3 days

Rating: Medium/Hard

Starts At: Wasserauen

Aescher, Ebenalp & Seealpsee Hike

Aescher
Aescher

The Aescher, Ebenalp & Seealpsee Hike combines some of the most picture-worthy parts of the range into one amazing trail. Also, you can use the Ebenalp cable car to make the hike a lot easier, and skip either the ascent or descent.

The hike starts at Wasserauen where you can either take the cable car to Ebenalp, or hike up to lake Seealpsee, onto Aescher, and then finally to Ebenalp where you can cable car back down.

Or, you can do it the other way, taking the cable to Ebenalp and then descending through Aescher and to Seealpsee. This route is much easier.

The views from the Aescher mountain hut are magical and you can stop at the famous Aescher Cliff Restaurant along the way too.

Type: Loop

Distance: 7 km

Duration: 3.5 hours

Rating: Medium

Starts At: Wasserauen

Petersalp

Petersalp
Petersalp – Image courtesy of Peter

The Petersalp is located in the hills close to the Alpstein range and is a trail that not many people know about. If you want to hike without anyone else around, this one’s for you.

It is quite an easy hike that takes you to a peak with 360-degree views featuring Lake Constance and the Alpstein Mountains too!

But, there is a catch to it being off the beaten track, as the trail is not well signed. Starting at Blattenduerren follow anything yellow, from sticks to signs and yellow painted on rocks.

Head left up the road which becomes a grassy path and then right up into the woods along the smaller path. From this point, the trail is well-marked and takes you to the mountain peak.

There will be a fence on the peak which you then follow to your right and leaks to another peak with great views. After this, head down into the main valley, past a farmhouse on your right, and then onto a lovely waterfall. From here turn right and head through the fields to the road, turn right again and you will be back at the start.

Type: Loop

Distance: 6 km

Duration: 3 – 4 hours

Rating: Medium

Starts At: Blattenduerren

Fälensee Hike

The Fälensee Hike is a shortened version of the 3 lakes hike we discussed at the beginning of the article. Instead of doing 3 lakes, you will only do two.

The hike starts at Wasserauen where you have a steep ascent to Seealpsee from which you continue going until you read the stunning lake of Fälensee. Once you have arrived, enjoy the stunning landscapes, and views, have a swim and a picnic and then head back down the way you came.

Type: Out and Back

Distance: 10 km

Duration: 4 hours

Rating: Medium

Starts At: Wasserauen

Where to Stay in Appenzell

Booking.com

A great place to stay in the Appenzell region is the small town of Weissbad. Weissbad is centrally located, has great restaurants, and excellent access to the mountains too.

You will find numerous hotels available in Weissbad too and I’d recommend using Booking.com as they always have the best rates. Be sure to try and stay for 3 nights or more to have enough time to explore the mountains, plus this should give you a free pass on the cable cars too!

When to Go Hiking in Appenzell

When you are hiking in Appenzell, you want clear skies and this is for two reasons. Firstly, if it’s cloudy, the views will be mostly of clouds, and secondly, the rocky terrain needs to be dry for it to be safe, so rainy days are often no-go hiking days. Just be sure to always keep safety in mind when in the mountains. It is not Disneyland, as I always tell my partner.

The months of June to September are therefore the best as this is when clear skies dominate the weather reports.

With many mountain huts opening at the beginning of July, you may want to delay your visit until then if you plan on staying in them, which is recommended!

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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