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Hiking the Rätikon Alps High Trail Circuit in Austria and Switzerland

The Rätikon Alps straddle the border between Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. This small, but incredibly majestic mountain range might be our favorite hiking destination in Austria to date.

With its limestone peaks and sloping pastureland, the Rätikon is a splendid place for day hikes, hut to hut hikes, and serious climbing.

We hiked several days around the Rätikon Alps, staying in both Austrian mountain huts and Swiss mountain huts. This hut-to-hut route offers incredible variation in terms of culture, scenery, and terrain.

Our 4-day itinerary follows the Rätikon Höhenweg Nord (North Rätikon High Trail) in Vorarlberg, Austria and the Prättigauer Höhenweg (Prättigau High Trail) in Graubünden, Switzerland.

The first 3 days of our Rätikon High Trail trek are blissfully easy, while the final day is more strenuous. On day 4, the 3-hour ascent (1056 meters of elevation gain) from Schesaplanahütte to Schesaplana Peak is steep and requires some scrambling. The descent from Schesaplana Peak to Totalphütte requires comfort with scree and slippery terrain.

Our route begins and ends in Austria. You could also start the circuit in Switzerland.

If you’re curious about other outstanding hut trails in the vicinity, check out the Liechtenstein Panorama Trail in the Rätikon Alps and the Alpstein High Trail in the Appenzell Alps of Switzerland.

Responsible Travel in the Rätikon Alps

  • Respect the habitats of animals and plants. Picking, or removing flowers, plants, and rocks is not allowed.
  • Take all garbage back with you down to the valley. Leave no trace.
  • Stay on the designated hiking trail.
  • Do not make loud noises (e.g. playing music loudly).
  • Drones are not permitted.
  • Wild camping is not permitted on the Austrian side. On this Swiss side, camping is possible with permission from landowners.
  • Keep a safe distance from livestock. Much of this trekking route traverses pastureland with free-roaming cattle. Don’t pet the cows, or try to take a selfie with a cow (yes – people do this and it’s damn right stupid). Learn more about mountain pastures in our Alps in Summer travel guide.

We wrote this comprehensive Rätikon High Trail trekking guide based on our personal experience. Keep in mind that things can change over time: trail difficulty, accessibility, and routing (due to rock falls, landslides, and avalanches) and hut management (reservation system, hospitality, payment, food quality, etc…). Please do your due diligence before tackling this route.

If you have questions about trail difficulty after reading our guide, please reach out to the Brandnertal tourist office.

Rätikon Alps High Trail, Switzerland

Rätikon Alps High Trail Hiking Map

The Rätkon Alps are a limestone mountain range in the Central Eastern Alps located at the border between Vorarlberg (Austria), Graubünden (Switzerland), and Liechtenstein.

The Rätikon Alps are easily accessed from Brandnertal (Brand Valley) and Montafon Valley in Vorarlberg on the Austrian side. On the Swiss side, you can access the mountains from the Prättigau valley in Graubünden.

The highest mountain in the range is Schesaplana (2965 m), which can be hiked as part of a hut to hut hike, or as a day trip. 


Where to Stay Before/After Trek

Rätikon Trek Stage 1

Rätikon Trek Stage 2

Rätikon Trek Stage 3

Rätikon Trek Stage 4

Rätikon Alps High Trail Circuit Trekking Itineraries

4-Day Rätikon High Trail Circuit Hut to Hut Hiking Route

Day 1 | (Brandnertal) – Douglass Hütte – Lünersee – Lindauer Hütte (10 km, 4 hours)

Day 2 | Lindauer Hütte – Tilisunahütte – Carschinahütte (10.2 km, 5 hours)

Day 3 | Carschinahütte – Schesaplanahütte (15.7 km, 6 hours)

Day 4 | Schesaplanahütte – Schesaplana – Totalphütte – Lünersee – Douglass Hütte (8.8 km, 5 hours)

FYI | When we hiked this trail, we hiked to Mannheimer Hütte on day 4 and then hiked down to Lünersee on Day 5 via Schesaplana, Südwandsteig, and Totalphütte. The hike to Mannheimer Hütte is not essential. Therefore, we suggest descending to Lünersee from the Schesaplana peak on day 4.

3-Day Rätikon High Trail Circuit

This is a perfect 3-day route suitable for families and anyone who wants an easy, but tremendously beautiful hike. If you’re new to hut to hut hiking, this is a great place to start. This 3-day route departs from the main hiking trail at Gafalljoch/Cavelljoch. From the Cavelljoch saddle, descend to Lünersee.

Day 1 | (Brandnertal) – Douglass Hütte – Lünersee – Lindauer Hütte (4 hours, 10 km)

Day 2 | Lindauer Hütte – Tilisunahütte – Carschinahütte (5 hours, 10.2 km)

Day 3 | Carschinahütte – Gafalljoch/Cavelljoch – Lünersee (5 hours, 13.6 km)

Schesaplana Hut lager dormitory, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

How to Book the Rätikon Alps High Trail Hut Hike

All mountain huts along the Rätikon High Trail Circuit must be booked individually and independently. 

It’s important to make reservations for overnight stays in huts several months in advance. You may be able to book more short-term, if you have a flexible start date. 

Though huts open up for the summer season as early as mid-June, the trails linking the huts may still be covered in snow. Conditions are ever-changing. Reach out to the tourist office in Brandnertal to inquire about current trail conditions before embarking on your trek, especially early in the season. To be on the safe-side, book your Rätikon trek in July, August, or early September.

You can make overnight reservations for all huts along this Rätikon Hut-to-Hut hike using the Alpsonline online reservation platform.

For more information about booking huts, read our guide to visiting Austrian Mountain Huts. For information about pricing, hut etiquette, joining the Austrian Alpine Club, helpful German phrases to know for hiking in Austria, read hut to hut hiking in Austria.

Arrival Day | Stay in Brand at Pension Bergkristall (midrange), Hotel Lün (midrange), or Aktiv-Hotel Sarotla (luxury).

Stage 1 | Lindauer Hütte (Austria) – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Stage 2 | Carschinahütte  (Switzerland) – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Stage 3 | Schesaplanahütte (Switzerland) – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Stage 4 | The trek ends at Lake Lünersee. We recommend staying in Brand after the trek: Pension Bergkristall (midrange), Hotel Lün (midrange), or Aktiv-Hotel Sarotla (luxury).

Carschinahütte mountain hut, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

Arrival Day in Brandnertal in Vorarlberg

How To Get to Brandnertal Valley

Brandnertal is a valley in Vorarlberg at the base of the Rätikon mountains. It’s easy to reach Brandnertal by public transit from Austria’s major cities.

From Innsbruck, Linz, Salzburg, and Vienna take a direct train to Bludenz.

From Bludenz, take bus line 580 to Brandnertal (direction: Lünerseebahn). The bus station in Bludenz is located directly outside the train station. Bus Schedule 580. You can purchase your bus tickets on the bus.

Where to Stay in Brandnertal

Your journey to Brandnertal in Vorarlberg will likely be a long one. For example, it’s a 7-hour-long train ride if you’re coming from Vienna. 

We recommend staying at least 1 night in Brandnertal, before starting the hike, so you’re fully rested and better acclimated.

While Bludenz serves as a main transit hub for the region, the town is too far from the start of the trek. 

We suggest basing yourself in the town of Brand (1,036 m) in Brandnertal.

Midrange | Pension Bergkristall is an apartment-style accommodation in Brand, next to the Dorfbahn Cable Car Station. If you’re planning to base yourself in Brandnertal for a few days, or even a week, you’ll feel very comfortable here. Breakfast is available upon request.

Midrange | Hotel Lün is a top-rated modern alpine hotel in Brand, offering double rooms as well as apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes and dining areas. Highlights of staying here are the spa area, the breakfast buffet, the fresh and cheerful design.

Luxury | Aktiv-Hotel Sarotla is a stylish and modern hotel with excellent spa facilities, spacious rooms with balconies, and a fabulous hotel restaurant and bar. Guests can participate in guided hiking and cycling tours free of charge.

Look for accommodation in Brandnertal.

Swiss Gate, Rätikon Alps High Trail Stage 1, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Stage 1: Lünersee – Lindauer Hütte

Stage 1 Trail Stats

Distance | 10 km

Time Needed | 4 hours

Elevation Gain | 580 meters

Elevation Loss | 827 meters

Difficulty | Easy – Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 1738 meters

Maximum Elevation | 2330 meters

Route | Lünersee / Douglass Hütte (1,976 m) – Schweizer Tor – Öfapass (2,291 m) – Obere Spora Alpe (1,739 m) – Lindauer Hütte (1,744 m)

Lunch Option | Douglashütte at Lünersee

How to Get from Brand to Lünersee, the Starting Point of the Rätikon High Trail Circuit

From the village of Brand, hop on Bus 580 in the direction of Lünersee to the Lünerseebahn cableway valley station. The ride takes 15 minutes. Bus Schedule.

Take the Lünerseebahn aerial cableway to Lake Lünersee. Our trekking route begins at the lake. 

Operating Hours | Every 15 minutes between 8 am and 4:55 pm

Opening Times | For current opening times check out Lünerseebahn Opening Times.

Pricing | For current pricing check out Lünerseebahn Prices

Douglashütte to Lindauer Hütte (4 hours)

Lünersee Circuit Trail, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Your hike begins at Lünersee, one of the most beautiful lakes in Austria. If you’re hungry, definitely grab lunch at Douglass Hütte, the impeccably-run mountain hut located at the Lünerseebahn mountain station. They make a superb “Bauern Salat” (Farmer’s Salad).

From the hut, continue left over the reservoir wall. Follow the circuit path (Lünersee Rundwanderweg) to the opposite side of the lake (40 minutes).

Shortly before the Lünersee Alpe, there’s a trail leading off to the left in the direction of Lindauer Hütte. You can take this trail, or hike a few more minutes to Lünersee Alpe, and then follow the trail to Lindauer Hütte. From here, it’s approximately 3 hours to the hut.

After crossing the Alpe, the trail soon divides. Stay to the left and then cross the stream. If you continue straight, you’ll end up at Gafalljoch (Cavelljoch) ridge.

After the water crossing, the trail ascends 320 meters up grassy slopes to the saddle below Kirchlispitzen. White limestone boulders accent the green meadows and cotton grass line the river below.

Schweizertor mountain pass, Rätikon Alps High Trail trek, Austria

From the saddle, descend to an old stone shelter called Altes Zollhaus, which is located at the Schweizer Tor (Swiss Gate). As you head down in the afternoon, the Schweizer Tor shimmers with the midday sunlight.

The “gate pillars” jut out of the soft green earth dramatically. It’s a spellbinding landscape and a great place for a break! When you get to Altes Zollhaus (not managed), you’ll look through the gate into Switzerland.

From here, it’s another soft ascent to Öfapass (30 min). From the pass, the trail makes a final descent to the valley below, signed 1:15 hours to Lindauer Hütte. You’ll see the Obere Spora Alpe and Lindauer mountain hut (1,744 m) from here.

On the valley floor, follow the flat gravel road to the Obere Spora Alpe alpine dairy farm. You can purchase fresh dairy products from the farm, including Keese (cheese), Milch (milk) and Buttermilch (buttermilk), as well as Kuchen (cake).

As you walk through the Alpe, it feels like walking into a 19th-century pastoral landscape painting.

Stay in Lindauer Hütte (Austria)

Lindauer Hütte mountain hut, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Lindauer Hütte (1744 m) is a modern, well-run mountain hut. Surrounded by pine trees and with views of the Drei Türme (Three Towers), this is a lovely place to relax, read, and eat. Definitely order their Kaiserschmarrn.

There’s even a quiet room for reading. The staff was friendly and fast. Overall, we had a great experience here. If you can, avoid coming here on weekends. It’s a popular hut for families with children.

Reservation | Lindauer Hütte – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Payment | Credit Cards and Cash

Showers | 2 EUR for a 4 min shower

Drinking Water | Tap is safe to drink

Electronic Charging Stations | In bedrooms

Food | Excellent

Half Board or à la carte | Both available. You can decide at dinner.

Rooms | Private rooms and dormitory-style rooms (lager) available.

 Lake Tilisunasee, Rätikon Alps hut to hut hike, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Stage 2: Lindauer Hütte – Carschinahütte

Stage 2 Trail Stats

Distance | 10.2 km

Time Needed | 5 hours

Elevation Gain | 899 meters

Elevation Loss | 429 meters

Difficulty | Easy – Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 1650 meters

Maximum Elevation | 2346 meters

Route | Lindauer Hütte (1,744 m) – Bilkengrat (2,006 m) – Schwarze Scharte (2,346 m) – Tilisunahütte (2,211 m) – Carschinahütte (2,236 m)

Lunch Option | Tilisunahütte

Lindauer Hütte – Tilisunahütte – Carschinahütte (5 hours)

Lindauer Hütte - Tilisunahütte - Carschinahütte hiking trail, Rätikon Alps, Austria

From Lindauer hut, follow the sign in the direction of TilisunahütteBilkengrat (signed 3:15 hours). You’ll initially head down the gravel road from the hut. A narrow trail cuts right from the gravel path.

You’ll descend gently through pine forest, cross a meadow and then reach a signed intersection at Tramrosa (1,684 m). Take the left trail to Bilkengrat and cross a stream. You’ll ascend quickly, following a steep hairpin trail.

The Drei Türme and Sulzfluh peaks light up fantastically in the morning.

When you reach Bilkengrat, it’s a bit underwhelming. It’s like a landing area, granting you space and time to take a breath, before continuing the 340 meter ascent to Schwarze Scharte (45 min). There are a few ropes securing your passage to the Scharte.

From here, you’ll walk along an easy, flat balcony path for about 70 meters. The view of Lake Tilisunasee is one of the most memorable views during the trek. Next, you’ll walk down to Tilisunahütte – your lunch stop. They accept payment in credit cards and cash.

From Tilisuna mountain hut, the trail continues into Switzerland. At the border, you’ll dip into a limestone basin. Surrounded by walls of stone and hiking to the sound of bell-wearing cows, it feels like you’re in a singing bowl.

You’ll eventually ascend out of the “bowl” and slowly progress in the direction of Sulzfluh. 

Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

From the Swiss side, Sulzfluh looks like a lumpy thumb, nonetheless a very impressive lumpy thumb.

You’ll continue along a mostly flat and easy balcony trail that hugs the side of the mountain. 

You’ll see Partunsee below, a pool of teal waters. The trail divides. Take the upper trail to Carschinahütte, not to the lake.

The trail crosses more pastures and you’ll hear more cowbells than people. The final stretch brings you across a field of limestone boulders to Carschinahütte.

Stay in Carschinahütte (Switzerland)

Carschinahütte mountain hut, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

Carschinahütte (2236 m) was our favorite mountain hut in the Rätikon. Facing the mighty square-shaped Drusenfluh (2827 m) on one side and more mountains than can be named on all the other side, Carschinahütte is the ultimate destination for a godly sunrise and sunset.

We are so impressed by the food and service at Carschinahütte. The hut management has since changed since our visit. Hopefully, the new management follows closely in their predecessors’ footsteps.

Reservation | Carschinahütte  – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Payment | Cash Only. They accept payment in EUR and Swiss Francs.

Showers | None

Drinking Water | Water available in a canister at the entrance, free of charge.

Electronic Charging Stations | In the dining room.

Food | Excellent! All ingredients served in the hut are sourced from Swiss farms.

Half Board or à la carte | Only Half Board Available

Rooms | Lager dormitory only

Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

Rätikon High Trail Stage 3: Carschinahütte – Schesaplanahütte

Stage 3 Trail Stats

Distance | 15.8 km

Time Needed | 6 hours

Elevation Gain | 326 meters

Elevation Loss | 653 meters

Difficulty | Easy – Moderate

Minimum Elevation | 1907 meters

Maximum Elevation | 2261 meters

Route | Carschinahütte (2,236 m) – Cavelljoch (2,239 m) – Schesaplanahütte (1,908 m)

Lunch Option | None

Carschinahütte – Cavelljoch – Schesaplanahütte (6 hours)

Carschinahütte - Cavelljoch - Schesaplanahütte trekking route in the Rätikon Alps, Swiss Alps

The route on Day 3 of the Rätikon Circuit follows the Prättigauer Höhenweg. As you hike on the Swiss-side of the Rätikon range, you’ll see the Schweizer Tor (Swiss Gate) from a new perspective. But, Drusenfluh is the showstopper today.

From Carschinahütte, follow the gravel road down a few meters to the signed intersection. You’ll head right, passing through the electric fence. As you walk along an easy, flat path, the sun slowly washes the meadows and mountains in warm light. It’s pure magic.

After about 2 hours, you’ll reach an intersection, where you can head right to the Schweizer Tor or left to Scheseplanahütte. Continue left. The trail dips and then ascends in earnest, reminding you that you’re indeed on a hike.

Once the trail plateaus, you’ll follow a level path to Cavelljoch (2239 m, also spelled Gafalljoch), the ridge between Austria and Switzerland. You’ll see Lünersee from here.

Note: If you want to do a 3-day tour of the Rätikon, descend from Cavelljoch to Lünersee.

From Cavelljoch, the hike continues to Schesaplanahütte (1:45 hours). The trail to the hut is mostly straight and characterized by pastures and a river valley below. It drags on.

Stay in Schesaplanahütte (Switzerland)

 Schesaplanahütte mountain hut, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

Reservation | Schesaplanahütte – Online Reservation via Alpsonline

Payment | Cash only

Showers | 5 Swiss Francs for a 3 Minute Shower

Drinking Water | Tap water safe to drink

Electronic Charging Stations | Hallway of the main hut

Food | Good

Half Board or à la carte | Half Board Only. If you have dietary restrictions (vegetarian, etc…), let them know when you make your reservation, or a week in advance. This hut isn’t flexible when it comes to accommodating dietary needs at short notice.

Rooms | Rooms and dormitory-rooms (lager) available. They will show you where to sleep (not first come first served).

Lake Lünersee, Rätikon Alps trek, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Stage 4: Schesaplanahütte – Lünersee

Stage 4 Trail Stats

Distance | 8.8 km

Time Needed | 5 hours

Elevation Gain | 1063 meteres

Elevation Loss | 994 meters

Difficulty | Difficult

Minimum Elevation | 1908 meters

Maximum Elevation | 2965 meters

Route | Schesaplanahütte  (1,908 m) – Schesaplanasattel (2,739 m) – Schesaplana (2,965 m) – Totalphütte (2,385 m) – Lünersee / Douglass Hütte (1,976 m) – (Brand)

Lunch Option | Totalphütte or Douglashütte

Schesaplanahütte to Schesaplana (3 hours)

Schesaplana Peak, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Marked with the blue and white waymarks, the trail to Schesaplana from the Swiss-side is a serious alpine trail. It’s steep and requires a head for heights. It’s also a lot of fun. You’ll ascend over 1000 meters in 3 hours.

This is definitely not something you want to do in bad weather when there are slippery conditions and poor visibility. Honestly, the waymarking could be a lot better. The blue-white trail markers can be hard to spot, and you’ll need a bit of trail intuition to figure out where to go.

After 2:15 hours of ascending, you’ll reach the Schesaplana saddle. It looks like you’re walking on a volcano. Continue ascending another 45 min to Schesaplana Peak (2965 m), the highest mountain in the Rätikon Alps.

From the saddle, the path to the summit is steep, but the terrain is a lot easier. At the summit, you’ll have epic views of Lünersee and the Rätikon range you just spent the last few days walking around.

Schesaplana – Totalphütte – Lünersee – Douglashütte (2 hours)

Schesaplana - Totalphütte - Lünersee - Douglashütte hiking trail, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Just below the peak (151 meters distance), there’s a trail which leads to Totalphütte and Lünersee.

It takes about an hour to descend 2.2 km (600 meters elevation loss) to Totalphütte.

The descent is slippery due to scree and crumbling terrain. Take extra care. Hiking poles are very helpful.

At Totalphütte (2385 m), enjoy the view and a delicious homemade Apfelstrudel.

Totalphütte mountain hut cake and coffee, Rätikon Alps, Austria

The descent continues all the way down to Lünersee. Before reaching the lake, the trail splits. You can head straight down to the lake, or take the left “high” path to Douglasshütte, which runs parallel to the circuit trail, just at a higher elevation (recommended).

Eventually, the trail joins the Lünersee circuit path. It’s a quick flat walk to Douglasshütte, just in time for lunch.

Douglashütte to Brand

Take the Lünerseebahn cableway down to Branderntal Valley.

Stay in Brand

After completing the trek, stay in Brand for the most stress-free experience.

Midrange | Pension Bergkristall

Midrange | Hotel Lün

Luxury | Aktiv-Hotel Sarotla

Look for accommodation in Brandnertal.

Vorarlberg Hiking and Travel Guides

More Hut to Hut Hiking Trails





Rätikon Alps hut to hut hike in the Austrian Alps and Swiss Alps

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Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails, Sabrina and Kati

6 thoughts on “Hiking the Rätikon Alps High Trail Circuit in Austria and Switzerland”

    • Hi Grace,

      I recommend following the Rätikon trail as described, in order to tackle the most difficult section (stage 4) ascending, rather than descending,


  1. Thank you for your helpful writeups! We’re looking forward to doing the 3 day version of this hike in July as a family. What is the typical temperature range in the mountains in the summer? I wonder what mix of clothing we should bring to be comfortable hiking in the day and relaxing in the evening.

    • Hi Stacey,
      It’s impossible to predict the temp/conditions. In July, we’ve experienced cold, rainy days as well as heat waves. We always pack a rain jacket, puffer jacket, and hiking vest, whenever we go hut to hut hiking in the Alps.
      Have a great hiking trip.

  2. Hi there,

    We are planning on doing this hut-to-hut hike this july and we were wondering if it’s worth it to hike to the mannheimerhütte as well?

    • There are interesting views from the Mannheimer Hut, but ultimately it’s an unnecessary detour.
      Happy trails,


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