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Rätikon High Trail Circuit Hiking Guide, Austria and Switzerland

Rätikon High Trail Circuit – Hut to Hut Hiking Itinerary

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, Rätikon is a splendid place for day hikes, hut to hut hikes, and serious climbing. We hiked five days around the Rätikon Alps, staying 2 nights in Austrian mountain huts and 2 nights in Swiss mountain huts. This route offers incredible variation in terms of culture, scenery, and terrain.

Our 5-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 this trek are blissfully easy, while the final 2 days are more strenuous. In this guide, we’ve outlined each day of our hiking itinerary. If you have less time, you can easily shorten this itinerary to a 3-day or 4-day hut-to-hut hike. We’ve included these alternative itinerary options at the end of the guide.

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

2023 Update: The Mannheimer Hütte refuge is closed for renovations until August 2023. On Day 4, you can descend from Schesaplana Peak to Totalphütte and onwards to Lünersee, thus completing the circuit in 4 days.


Rätikon High Trail Circuit Hut to Hut Hiking Route

  • 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 – Schesaplanahütte (6 hours, 15.7 km)
  • Day 4: Schesaplanahütte – Schesaplana – Mannheimer Hütte (5:30 hours, 7 km)
  • Alternative Day 4: Schesaplanahütte – Schesaplana – Totalphütte – Douglass Hütte (5 hours, 9.2 km)
  • Day 5: Mannheimer Hütte – Südwandsteig – Totalphütte – Lünersee – Douglasshütte (4:30 hours, 8 km)
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Rätikon Alps hut to hut hike in the Austrian Alps and Swiss Alps

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Guide Overview

  • Where are the Rätikon Alps
  • Rätikon Hiking Route Map
  • Tips for Hiking Hut to Hut in Austria and Switzerland: discounts, reservations, budget, insurance
  • Arrival Day in Brandnertal: Transit, Where to Stay
  • Stages 1 – 5 Explained: stage overview, where to stay
  • Alternative Hiking Routes: shorter routes
Learn more about Hiking in Austria
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Schesaplana, Rätikon Alps High Trail Circuit - Hut to Hut Hike in Austria and Switzerland

Where are the Rätikon Alps

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. 

 

Rätikon High Trail Hiking Route Map

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stages
  • Places to Stay before/after the Trek
  • Rätikon High Trail Stage 1
  • Rätikon High Trail Stage 2
  • Rätikon High Trail Stage 3
  • Rätikon High Trail Stage 4
  • Rätikon High Trail Stage 5
Lünersee Lake in the Rätikon Alps, Austria

Tips for Hiking Hut to Hut in Austria

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). Alms, or pastures, are enclosed by electric fences. Sometimes you just have to step over the fence. Other times, you have to unhook the fence. As you pass through the electric fence, only touch the handle and make sure to close it behind you.

Learn more about mountain pastures in our Alps in Summer guide.


Make Reservations for Mountain Huts

It’s important to make reservations for overnight stays at least 2 weeks in advance.

For most huts, you can choose between sleeping in a shared dormitory (“lager”) or a private room.

You can make reservations for these Rätikon huts online, with the exception of Mannheimer Hütte.

Here’s the contact information for the mountain huts along the route.

For more details re: making reservations, read hut to hut hiking in Austria.


Become a Member of a UIAA Alpine Club (Optional)

You’ll get a significant discount on your overnight stay if you present your alpine club membership card.

There are tons of UIAA alpine clubs throughout Europe which participate in the International Reciprocal Agreement on Mountain Huts. That means if you’re a member of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) or German Alpine Club (DAV), for example, you’re entitled to the same benefits as members of the Österreichischen Alpenverein (Austrian Alpine Club).

If you want to learn more about UIAA alpine clubs, read Tips for Hiking in the European Alps.


Buy a Paper Trail Map

We used this Freytag+Berndt WK374 Trail Map for this hike.


Follow the Waymarks

You’ll see several different trail markers throughout the trek. Most of the hike is marked with white and red stripes, indicating a moderate trail. Some of this route is marked with blue and white stripes, signifying a difficult trail.


Pack Hiking Poles and…

Read our complete hut to hut hiking packing list.


Bring Cash and Budget for 60 EUR per Person per Day

Note: budget an additional 20 EUR per day if you don’t have an alpine club membership card. In the Swiss huts, you can pay with Euro. It’s obviously better if you have Swiss Francs (because of the “poor” exchange rate given in the huts), but it’s hassle-free if you only have Euro. The Swiss huts are more expensive than the Austrian huts.

  • Dormitory Mattress (Lager): 10 – 13 EUR with Alpine Club Membership. 20 – 23 EUR without Alpine Club Membership.
  • Private room (2-beds): 22 EUR per person with Alpine Club Membership. 33 EUR per person without Alpine Club Membership.
  • Breakfast Buffet: 10 – 14 EUR per person
  • Half Board (Dinner & Breakfast): 25 EUR – 32 EUR per person.
  • Beer & Wine: 4.50 EUR+

Pack Snacks

We recommend bringing several snacks with you (trail mix, energy bars, crackers, etc…). At the huts, you can purchase packed lunches. Here are your lunch options each day of the trek:

Day 1: Eat at Douglasshütte, at the start of the trek.

Day 2: Eat at Tilisunahütte.

Day 3: Bring a snack with you, or purchase a packed lunch from Carschinahütte.

Day 4: Bring a snack with you, or purchase a packed lunch from Schesaplannahütte.

Day 5: You can eat lunch at Totalphütte. Don’t miss out on their homemade Apfelstrudel.

 
Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

Arrival Day in Brandnertal, Vorarlberg, Austria

How to Get to Brandnertal (Brandner Valley), Austria

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.

Book your Train Ticket to Bludenz.


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 1 to 2 nights 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 in Brandnertal, or on the high alpine plateau Tschengla, which overlooks Brandnertal.

Budget | 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.

Where we stayed | Schillerkopf Alpine Resort is a 4-star hotel located on Tschengla Plateau. From the moment you arrive, you feel extremely welcome and that your stay matters. We were impressed by the thoughtful details and overall concept of Schillerkopf. Your room rate includes all your meals (breakfast, lunch, afternoon cake, and dinner), fabulous wellness facilities (4 saunas, outdoor pool, indoor pool, resting rooms), garden access, and a library. 

Look for accommodation in Brandnertal.

 
Schesaplana to Mannheimer Hütte trail, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Getting to the Trailhead

Getting to the Trailhead

From Brand

Hop on Bus 580 in the direction of Lünersee. The ride takes 15 minutes. Bus Schedule.

From Tschengla Plateau

From Schillerkopf Hotel (Bürserberg, Tschengla bus stop), we took the summer bus line 81 to Lünerseebahn. The hotel staff will print out the summer bus schedule (“Sommerfahrplan”) for you, effective July 1st – September 15th, and answer any transit questions you have. There are only a few buses that depart from Tschengla to Lünerseebahn during the day, but as long as you plan ahead, you’ll have a seamless journey to the trailhead.


Riding the Lünerseebahn

Lünerseebahn is an aerial cableway to Lüner Lake, high above Brandner Valley. Our trekking route begins at the lake. You can walk from the base of the cableway station to the lake, but we suggest taking the Lünerseebahn cableway.

  • Operating hours: ascent: every 15 min between 8:00 am and 16:55 pm; descent: every 15 min between 8:10 am and 17:00 pm
  • Roundtrip Prices: 18.90 EUR for Adults; 18 EUR for Seniors; 11.40 EUR for Children.
  • Ascent Prices: 12.40 EUR for Adults; 11.80 EUR for Seniors; 7.50 EUR for Children.

Note: When we did this trek, roundtrip tickets were good for 6 days. Ask, if this is still the case. If so, you’ll be able to use your roundtrip ticket to descend to Brandnertal after completing the circuit.

 
Hiking Lünersee, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Route Description

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stage 1

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

  • 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

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. You’ll want to 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.

Schweizer Tor, Rätikon Alps, Austria - Hut to Hut Hike

From the saddle, you’ll then 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 hour 15 min to Lindauer Hütte). You’ll see the Obere Spora Alpe and Lindauer mountain hut from here.

On the valley floor, follow the flat gravel road to the Obere Spora Alpe, a running 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.

Reading room in Lindauer Hütte, Rätikon Alps, Austria


Stay in Lindauer Hütte

  • Showers: 2 EUR for a 4 min shower
  • Drinking Water: Tap is safe to drink
  • Electronic Charging Stations: You’ll find outlets in your bedroom.
  • Payment: Credit Cards and Cash
  • Food: Excellent.
  • Half Board or à la carte: Both available. You can decide at dinner.
  • Rooms: Private rooms and dormitory-style rooms (lager) available.

Lindauer Hütte 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 – loud, screaming, jumping children ;).

 
Tilisunasee, Rätikon Alps Hut to Hut Hike, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stage 2

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

  • 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: 2338 meters

From the hut entrance, follow the sign in the direction of Tilisunahütte – Bilkengrat (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 Sulzenfluh peaks light up fantastically in the morning.

Ascent to Bilkengrat, Sulzenfluh and Drei Türme View, Rätikon

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 Tilisunasee lake 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 bowl of limestone (best way to explain it). 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 Sulzenfluh. From the Swiss side, Sulzenfluh looks like a lumpy thumb – a very impressive lumpy thumb.

Sulzenfluh, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

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

  • Showers: None
  • Drinking Water: Water available in a canister at the entrance, free of charge.
  • Electronic Charging Stations: In the Gaststube (Dining Area)
  • Payment: Cash Only. They accept payment in EUR and Swiss Francs.
  • 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 Only.

Prättigauer Höhenweg, Rätikon Circuit, SwitzerlandThis was our favorite mountain hut in the Rätikon. Facing the mighty square-shaped Drusenfluh on one side and more mountains than can be named on all other sides, 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 is changing end of summer 2019. Hopefully, the new management follows closely in their predecessors’ footsteps.

 
Drusenfluh, Rätikon Alps High Trail Circuit, Switzerland

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stage 3

Day 3: Carschinahütte (2,236 m) – Cavelljoch (2,239 m) – Schesaplanahütte (1,908 m)

  • 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

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.

Drusenfluh, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland

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 (also spelled Gafalljoch), the ridge between Austria and Switzerland. You’ll see Lünersee from here. (Note: If you wanted to do a 3-day tour of the Rätikon, this is where you’d descend to Lünersee).

From Cavelljoch, it’s 1 hour 45 minutes to Schesaplanahütte. The trail to the hut is mostly straight and characterized by pastures and a river valley below. It drags on.

Prättigauer Höhenweg, Rätikon Alps, Switzerland


Stay in Schesaplanahütte

  • Showers: 5 Swiss Francs for a 3 Minute Shower
  • Drinking Water: Tap water safe to drink
  • Electronic Charging Stations: There’s a charging in the hallway of the main hut.
  • Payment: Cash only
  • 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 serve).
 
View from Mannheimer Hütte, Rätikon Alps, Austria

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stage 4

Day 4: Schesaplanahütte  (1,908 m) – Schesaplanasattel (2,739 m) – Schesaplana (2,965 m) – Schafloch Sattel – Brandner Gletscher – Mannheimer Hütte (2,679 m)

  • Distance: 7 km
  • Time Needed: 5:30 hours. You have plenty of time today to get to your destination. The light is better in the afternoon, so really no need to rush.
  • Elevation Gain: 1205 meters
  • Elevation Loss: 435 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Minimum Elevation: 1908 meters
  • Maximum Elevation: 2965 meters

Marked with the blue and white waymarks, the trail to Schesaplana from the Swiss-side is a no-bullshit hike. 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 stripes can be hard to spot, and you’ll need a bit of trail intuition to figure out where to go.

After 2 hours and 15 minutes of ascending, you’ll land at the Schesaplana saddle. It looks like you’re walking on a volcano. From here, you can head directly to Mannheimer Hütte, saving the Schesaplana summit for the next day. Or, you can continue ascending another 45 min to Schesaplana (recommended).

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.

4-Day Variation: Just below the peak (151 meters distance), there’s a trail which leads to Totalphütte and Lünersee. You can skip Mannheimerhütte entirely and descend from here, finishing the circuit today.

Schesaplana, Rätikon Alps

From the summit of Schesaplana, you’ll head back to the saddle from which you came. Follow the blue waymarks and signs to Mannheimer Hütte (signed 1 hour 15 min).

You might spot some red/white waymarks and a red-painted “Mannheimer” directing you to go down and right, but ignore those signs. That path is closed.

The terrain is uneven, and you’ll need to look for the waymarks as you head to Schafloch Sattel. The thing is that the trail is really well-marked in the opposite direction, starting in Mannheimer Hütte and heading to the Schesaplana Saddle. It’s like they got lazy, or forgot to paint waymarkers going the other way. Okay, I’m exaggerating (just a bit).

Schesaplana to Mannheimer Hütte, Trek in the Austrian Alps

As you make your way down to the Brandner Gletscher – yes that’s Glacier in English – you’ll encounter a few ropes. These ropes will help you descend a slippery steep snowfield.

Once you’ve done that (phew – the hard the part is over!), it’s time to cross the Brandner glacier. In the afternoon, when the glacier “melts” and “softens,” the texture is quite crunchy and it’s super easy to walk across.

Hiking Brander Glacier, Rätikon Alps

You don’t need any special equipment, because the crossing is flat. That being said, when we crossed the glacier the next day – in the morning – it was very icy and freakin slippery.

We could only manage the crossing because we had hiking poles. But, we really could have used our crampons.

After you cross the glacier, it’s a quick 15-minute ascent to the hut. If you have energy to burn, you can continue to Wildberg peak.


Stay in Mannheimer Hütte

  • Showers: None
  • Drinking Water: 1.50 EUR for 1 Liter / Tap water isn’t drinking water.
  • Electronic Charging Stations: Sporadic. You’ll find some outlets in the dining area and some in the rooms.
  • Payment: Cash only
  • Food: Okay
  • Half Board or à la carte: When you arrive, you can choose between the Half board menu (meat option, or vegetarian option), or the Bergsteiger meal (a discounted entrée for Alpenverein/Alpine club members).
  • Rooms: Private rooms and Lager rooms available.
 
Südwansteig, Rätikon Alps

Rätikon High Trail Circuit Stage 5

Day 5: Mannheimer Hütte (2,679 m) – Schesaplanasattel (2,739 m) – Südwandsteig – Totalphütte (2,385 m) – Lünersee / Douglass Hütte (1,976 m)

  • Distance: 8 km
  • Time Needed: 4:30 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 262 meters
  • Elevation Loss: 960 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult 
  • Minimum Elevation: 1963 meters
  • Maximum Elevation: 2801 meters

The final day of your Rätikon trek brings you back to Lünersee in a full circle. From the hut, you’ll descend to the Brandner Glacier and cross back to the Schesaplana Saddle. This is the exact same route as yesterday.

From the saddle, follow the signs to “Südwandsteig” (South Wall Route) to Totalphütte. This is the alternative route to Totalp mountain hut, if you don’t go to Schesaplana summit.

Initially, you’ll follow poles through rocky terrain. Then, you follow several red/yellow waymarks. The trail is very narrow at times along scree slopes, so go slowly.

There’s a stretch that’s secured with ropes, easing your passage along the balcony route. Overall, it’s quite manageable.

Eventually, the Südwandsteig intersects with the Schesaplana trail on the Austrian-side. Continue descending to Totalphütte. The trail is difficult because of the crumbling terrain. At Totalphütte, enjoy the view and a delicious homemade Apfelstrudel.

View of Lünersee, Schesaplana Path

The trail continues to descend to the lake. Eventually, the trail will split. You can head straight down, or take the left “high” path to Douglasshütte, which runs parallel to the circuit trail, just higher (recommended).

Eventually, the trail descends down to the main circuit path and it’s a quick flat walk to Douglasshütte, just in time for lunch.


Stay in Brandnertal

Head back to your hotel in Brand for a restorative stay after your trek.

Budget | 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.

 
Rätikon Alps, Vorarlberg, Austria

Alternative Rätikon High Trail Hiking Routes

Rätikon High Trail Circuit 3 Day Route

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. You can follow the itinerary outlined above. On Day 3, you’ll descend down to Lünersee from Gafalljoch/Cavelljoch.

  • 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)

Rätikon High Trail Circuit 4 Day Route

This 4 day route follows the exact route outlined in this guide. However, on Day 4, after ascending to Schesaplana, you’ll continue to Totalphütte and down to Lünersee, instead of hiking to Mannheimer Hütte.

  • 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 – Schesaplanahütte (6 hours, 15.8 km)
  • Day 4: Schesaplanahütte – Schesaplana – Totalphütte – Lünersee (5 hours, 9.2 km)
 
Rätikon Alps, Schesaplana View from Glacier
@moonhoneytravelers
  • Avoid this mistake, so you’re not completely confused when you get to the Dolomites 🇮🇹⤵️

Don’t just learn the Italian names of Dolomites destinations. 

The Dolomites are located in 5 different provinces within 3 regions in Northeastern Italy. One province, South Tyrol (Südtirol in German, Alto Adige in Italian), was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I.

German continues to be the primary language spoken in this region. When traveling and hiking through South Tyrol, every street, advertisement, natural area, mountain hut, etc… is written in both German and Italian. Generally, South Tyroleans are culturally Tyrolean (Austrian) rather than Italian.

Another language that you will encounter is Ladin, a romance language spoken in the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino, and Belluno, by the Ladin people. The Ladin people are the oldest inhabitants of the Dolomites valleys. 

Around Val Gardena, Val Badia, Val di Fassa, and Ampezzo Valley, you will see signage and names (e.g. towns, mountain huts) in three languages: Ladin, German, and Italian. 

For example: Alpe di Siusi (Italian), Seiser Alm (German), and Mont Sëuc (Ladin)

While English speakers tend to use Italian names, it’s important to be familiar with the German and Ladin names as well.

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  • Trail Stats ⤵️

9 Amazing Hikes around Cortina d’Ampezzo, Dolomites

1. Tofana di Rozes Circuit Trail (Moderately Difficult)
Where | Dolomiti D’Ampezzo Natural Park, Belluno
Trailhead | Rifugio Dibona
Distance | 11.9 km circuit
Time Needed | 5:30 hours

2. Lago di Sorapis Circuit Trail (Difficult) 
Where | Ampezzo Dolomites, Belluno
Trailhead | Passo Tre Croci, halfway between Cortina d’Ampezzo and Lake Misurina
Distance | 13.2 km circuit
Time Needed | 5:10 hours

3. Passo Giau to Monte Mondeval (Moderate)
Where | Ampezzo Dolomites, Belluno
Trailhead | Passo Giau
Distance | 12.8 km lollipop-circuit
Time Needed | 5 hours

4. Croda da Lago Circuit Trail and Lago Federa (Moderately Difficult)
Where | Ampezzo Dolomites, Belluno
Trailhead | Ponte di Rocurto
Distance | 13.1 km circuit
Time Needed | 5 hours

5. Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit Trail (Easy – Moderate)
Where | Tre Cime Nature Park, South Tyrol, and Belluno
Trailhead | Rifugio Auronzo 
Distance | 9.7 km circuit 
Time Needed | 4 hours

6. Sentiero Bonacossa North Trail Circuit (Demanding)
Where | Cadini di Misurina Group, Belluno
Trailhead | Rifugio Auronzo or Lago d’Antorno
Distance | 12.5 km circuit
Time Needed | 6 hours

7. Crepe de Zumèles (Moderately Difficult)
Where | Cristallo Group, Belluno
Trailhead | Rio Gere
Distance | 10.6 km circuit
Time Needed | 4 hours

8.  Alpe di Sennes Circuit (Moderate)
Where | Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Park and Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park
Trailhead | Malga Ra Stua
Distance | 17.1 km circuit
Time Needed | 5:30 hours

9. Rifugio Nuvolau and Cinque Torri (Moderate)
Where | Nuvlau-Averau Group, Belluno
Trailhead | Col Gallina
Distance | 9.6 km circuit
Time Needed | 4 hours

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  • Call us old-fashioned, but nothing beats a regular paper trail map. 

❤️ Double tap if you agree! 

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  • 10 Easy Hikes in the Dolomites👇

1. Seceda Ridgeline to Regensburger Hütte Circuit Hike
Trailhead | Seceda Cableway Mountain Station
Cableway Ascent/Descent | Ortisei-Furnes-Seceda Cableways, Ortisei, Val Gardena
Distance | 8.9 km circuit
Time Needed | 3:00 – 3:30 hours 
Difficulty | Easy – Moderate

2. Adolf Munkel Trail
Trailhead | Zannes/Zans Car Park, Val di Funes
Distance | 9.2 km circuit 
Time Needed | 3:00 – 3:30 hours
Difficulty | Easy – Moderate

3. Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit Trail (Drei Zinnen Rundweg)
Trailhead | Rifugio Auronzo, Auronzo di Cadore
Distance | 9.7 km circuit 
Time Needed | 4 hours
Difficulty | Easy – Moderate 

4. Armentara Meadows
Trailhead | La Crusc Church 
Cableway Ascent | Santa Croce Chairlift followed by the La Crusc Chairlift, Badia, Alta Badia
Distance | 9 km point-to-point 
Time Needed | 3 hours 
Difficulty | Easy 

5. Baita Segantini Hike
Trailhead | Passo Rolle
Distance | 9.2 km circuit
Time Needed | 3:00 – 3:30 hours 
Difficulty | Easy

6. Sentiero Viel del Pan
Trailhead | Passo Pordoi
Distance | 6.4 km out-and-back
Time Needed | 2:10 hours
Difficulty | Easy (Moderate difficulty if you add the Alta Via Della Cresta circular route).

7. Sesto to Val Fiscalina (Sexten to Fischleintal)
Trailhead | Sesto/Sexten
Distance | 12.2 km circuit
Time Needed | 3:15 hours
Difficulty | Easy

8. Santa Maddalena Panorama Trail
Trailhead | Santa Maddalena Village, Val di Funes
Distance | 9.5 km circuit
Time Needed | 3:30 hours
Difficulty | Easy

9. Monte Specie (Strudelkopf)
Trailhead | Prato Piazza Car Park
Distance | 8.8 km circuit
Time Needed | 2:50 hours
Difficulty | Easy

10. Alpe di Siusi Meadows Circuit Trail (Seiser Alm Rundwanderweg)
Trailhead | Oritisei-Alpe di Siusi gondola mountain station
Distance | 14.4 km circuit
Time Needed | 4:25 hours
Difficulty | Easy

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ℹ️ We have trail guides for all these hikes on our blog. 

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  • Save this for trip planning ⤵️

Where to Stay in the Dolomites for Hiking 👇🇮🇹

⛰️Val Gardena, South Tyrol 
Pros: Very transit friendly, long summer season (end of May - end of October) 
Cons: Very busy during high season

⛰️Cortina d’Ampezzo, Belluno
Pros: No cableways needed for most hiking trails, gorgeous and dramatic setting, especially stunning in mid-late October
Cons: transit is difficult to navigate

⛰️Alta Badia, South Tyrol
Pros: Excellent wellness hotels, dreamy scenery, reliable easy-to-navigate public transit 
Cons: Difficult to find budget-friendly accommodations 

⛰️Alta Pusteria, South Tyrol
Pros: Many Dolomites attractions are concentrated in this region. Ideal between mid-September - late October.
Cons: Traffic restrictions in high season (mid July - mid September), which means either driving to trailheads early, or pre-booking parking, or pre-booking transit. 

⛰️San Martino di Castrozza, Trentino
Pros: Dramatic mountain landscapes and thrilling trails
Cons: Short summer season (July - mid-September). The hotels aren’t as nice as those in other regions. Not transit friendly.

⛰️Val di Funes, South Tyrol
Pros: The most beautiful valley in the Dolomites, picturesque views, fantasy-like scenery
Cons: Though the hiking in Val di Funes is excellent, it’s limited. 3 nights in Val di Funes is sufficient. 

⛰️San Vigilio, South Tyrol
Pros: San Vigilio is tucked away in a side valley of Val Badia and is thus often overlooked. There are many quiet trails around San Vigilio.
Cons: Further away from iconic Dolomites sights 

👉Follow @moonhoneytravelers for more Dolomites tips. 

👩‍💻 Read the full guide to where to stay in the Dolomites on our blog. 

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  • 10 Best Hikes in Val Gardena, Dolomites, Italy👇 🇮🇹

1. Seceda Ridgeline to Rifugio Firenze (Easy)
Trailhead | Seceda cableway mountain station
Distance | 8.9 km circuit
Time Needed | 3:00 – 3:30 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 575 meters

2. Resciesa to Rifugio Brogles and Seceda Ridgeline (Difficult)
Starting Point | Resciesa Funicular mountain station
Ending Point | Seceda cableway mountain station
Distance | 14.4 km
Time Needed | 6:15 hours
Elevation Gain | 1087 meters
Elevation Loss | 737 meters

3. Col dala Pieres (Difficult)
Trailhead | Col Raiser gondola mountain station
Distance | 13.7 km lollipop-circuit
Time Needed | 6 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 1220 meters

4. Piz Duleda (Difficult)
Trailhead | Col Raiser Gondola Mountain Station
Distance | 12.4 km lollipop-circuit 
Time Needed | 5 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 980 meters

5. Vallunga and Val de Chedul Circuit Trail (Moderate – Moderately-Difficult)
Trailhead | Parcheggio Vallunga Car Park 
Distance | 16.1 km circuit
Time Needed | 6 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 1061 Meters

6. Sassolungo Circuit Trail (Moderate)
Trailhead | Passo Sella 
Distance | 17.7 km circuit
Time Needed | 6:15 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 853 meters

7. Lake Pisciadù and Pisciadù Peak (Difficult)
Starting Point | Passo Gardena
Ending Point | Corvara
Distance | 12.1 km point-to-point (a circuit is also possible)
Time Needed | 6-7 hours
Elevation Gain | 980 meters
Elevation Loss | 1570 meters

8. Monte Pic (Moderate)
Trailhead | Cristauta/Praplan Parking Lot above Santa Cristina
Distance | 13.9 km circuit
Time Needed | 6 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 1064 meters

9. Alpe di Siusi Meadows Circuit Trail (Easy)
Trailhead | Ortisei-Alpe di Siusi Ropeway (aka Mont Sëuc gondola) mountain station
Distance | 14.4 km circuit
Time Needed | 4:25 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 483 meters

10. Sass da Ciampac (Moderate)
Trailhead | Passo Gardena
Distance | 14.7 km lollipop-circuit
Time Needed | 6 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss | 931 meters

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#hiking #dolomites #dolomitesunesco #italiandolomites #valgardena #seceda #dolomiteshiking #dolomitestrip #dolomiteshikes #southtyrol #italianalps #hikingtrails