Schäfler is a mountain in the Appenzell Alps in the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden in Switzerland. It forms part of the northern chain of the Alpstein massif.
The 1925-meter-high summit is dominated by the managed Berggasthaus Schäfler, a welcoming mountain inn that accommodates both day and overnight visitors.
Just beyond the Schäfler hut, there are several awe-inspiring viewpoints that overlook the northern Alpstein chain, a striking succession of vertical limestone towers.
These surreal Schäfler ridge viewpoints lure people from all over the world to Appenzellerland.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Berggasthaus Schäfler and the Schäfler Ridge is by heading to Wasserauen (by train, or by car) and ascending to Ebenalp with the Wasserauen-Ebenalp Cable Car.
From Ebenalp, it’s only a 1:20 hour hike to Schäfler Hut along an easy-moderate hiking trail (white-red-white).
This short hike in the Appenzell Alps can easily be combined with the Ebenalp-Berggasthaus Aescher Hut hike (50 minutes out-and-back).
Keep in mind that flying drones is strictly prohibited in the Alpstein in order to protect wildlife. Also, wild camping is not allowed along the Schäfler ridge. If you would like to experience sunrise and sunset along the Schäfler Ridge, stay the night in Berggasthaus Schäfler.
Hiking the Schäfler Ridge in the Alpstein, Appenzell Alps, Switzerland
- Starting/Ending Point: Ebenalp Cable Car Valley Station, Wasserauen | Google Maps
- Trailhead: Ebenalp Cable Car Mountain Station
- Distance: 5.5 km out-and-back
- Time Needed: 2:15 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 372 meters
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Minimum Elevation: 1587 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 1925 meters
- Wild Camping: Forbidden
- Flying Drones: Forbidden
- Where to Stay in Appenzell Village: Alte Metzg – Hostel (budget), Blattenheimat (midrange), Hotel B&B Stossplatz (midrange), or Hotel Appenzell (luxury)
- Where to Stay in Weissbad Village: Weissbad Lodge (midrange), or Hotel Hof Weissbad (luxury)
- Where to Stay in Schwende: Hotel Frohe Aussicht (midrange)
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Schäfler Ridge Hiking Map
Schäfler Ridge Trail Difficulty
The hike from Ebenalp to Schäfler Hut is both conditionally and technically easy. It only entails 372 meters of elevation gain/loss.
The 5.5 km out-and-back hike takes 2:15 hours to complete.
Beyond the hut, there are several sensational viewpoints along the Schäfler Ridge. If you decide to follow the Schäfler Ridge in the direction of Säntis, the trail is more technical. The ridge path is exposed, albeit secured with fixed cables and stairs.
It only takes 10 minutes to hike from the Schäfler Hut to the famous Schäfler Ridge Viewpoint. Only hike here if you’re surefooted and have no fear of heights.
Where to Start the Schäfler Ridge Hike
Wasserauen, Appenzell, Switzerland
Wasserauen is a tiny settlement in Schwendetal Valley in Appenzell Innerrhoden. At Wasserauen, there’s a large paid car park, a train station, and the Ebenalp cable car valley station.
You can reach Wasserauen by car, or by train. From Appenzell village, it’s only a 15-minute train ride to Wasserauen along the Gossau–Wasserauen train line of the Appenzell Railways.
The car parks in Wasserauen accept payment in coins (EUR + CHF) and with local parking apps.
The easiest and fastest way to reach the Schäfler Ridge is by ascending with the Wasserauen-Ebenalp cable car to the Ebenalp plateau.
This aerial cable car runs every 15 minutes during operating hours. The cable car can hold up to 40 people. The journey takes 6 minutes.
Ebenalp Cable Car Ticket Prices & Timetables | ebenalp.ch
Tip | If you stay in the Appenzell region for 3, or more nights, you will receive a “Appenzeller Ferienkarte.” This holiday card grants you free transit on regional buses and trains and a free ride (one-way, or return) on the Wasserauen-Ebenalp cable car.
Ebenalp to Schäfler Ridge Trail Description
Ebenalp Cable Car Mountain Station to Berggasthaus Ebenalp (10 minutes)
Exit the Ebenalp mountain station and locate the trail signs.
Turn left in the direction of Schäfler, signed 1:20 hours.
Soon the trail splits. At the junction, the trail signs indicate that both ways lead to Schäfler.
Turn left, following the well-groomed trail up to the managed Berggasthaus Ebenalp, the hut that stands at a slight elevation, just a few meters away.
The Ebenalp mountain pasture is grazed during the Alp season (June – early/mid September). During that time, the path is fenced-off, so hikers do not come into direct contact with the cows.
Like anywhere else in the Alps, do not touch, or in any way disturb the animals.
Berggasthaus Ebenalp to Alp Chlus (30 minutes)
From Berggasthaus Ebenalp, the trail crosses the plateau, flanked by a metal fence and studded with a cross, weather station, info boards, and various benches.
Schäfler mountain hut, perched on the Schäfler summit, is already visible straight ahead.
After walking no more than 5 minutes (360 meters) from the Ebenalp mountain inn, you’ll arrive at a trail junction. Maintain the same direction, following the signs to Chlus and Schäfler.
The Schäfler-bound trail runs along the wide ridge of Mount Zisler in a southwesterly direction.
The path soon favors the northern-side (right side) of the Zisler crest. Amid dwarf pine, the trail rises up a rocky path, braced with timber and metal steps.
The gradient eases for a while. After joining the crest for a few meters, the trail skirts the spine to reach Alp Chlus (1726 m).
The Alp Chlus hut stands on the edge of Zisler, below Schäfler.
Alp Chlus to Berggasthaus Schäfler (35 minutes)
The trail sign indicates 35 minutes to Berggasthaus Schäfler.
The way steadily climbs up the eastern flank of Mount Schäfler, a grassy slope strewn with karst rock.
After about 18 minutes from Chlus, the stony path crests the Schäfler ridge. At the signed junction, turn left to Schäfler and Säntis.
The trail runs beneath, and later on the ridge to reach the Schäfler Hut.
With every step, the views crescendo in beauty.
The Schäfler mountain inn is a managed refuge, blessed with one of the most awe-inspiring mountain panoramas in the Alps.
You can order food until 7:30 pm. Payment is accepted in cash, or by card. The service is swift and friendly. We ate a delicious Rösti here.
Berggasthaus Schäfler is a wonderful place to linger for a few hours and watch the mountainscapes transform as the light shifts throughout the day.
Schäfler Ridge Viewpoints
While the Schäfler hut terrace offers spectacular views across the Seealpsee Valley to Marwees and Altmann, there are other notable viewpoints located nearby.
Behind the hut, a hiking trail continues in the direction of Säntis. Mount Säntis (2502 m), the highest mountain in the Alpstein, is the summit crowned with a transmission tower (radio/TV).
Follow this trail to reach the summit of Mount Schäfler (5 minutes) and the Schäfler Ridge viewpoint (10 minutes).
Schäfler Summit Viewpoint (1925 m)
From Berggasthaus Schäfler, it takes merely 5 minutes to hike to the Schäfler Summit viewpoint.
From the hut, look west in the direction of Mount Säntis. Do you see the grassy summit bearing a metal pyramid structure? That’s the highest point of Mount Schäfler. And, that terrestrial surveying device is used to measure distances in Switzerland (Trigonometric point determination).
Walk across the hut terrace and follow the path in the direction of Säntis. The trail ascends some 15 timber-reinforced steps and swings left.
The trail soon divides at the sign post.
There’s a cautionary sign that says: Danger. Starting here, the trail is only for experienced mountain hikers with good shoes. This applies to the lower right path.
Take the left upper path to reach the summit of Mount Schäfler.
The summit overlooks Altenalp Türm (Altenalp towers), Öhrli, and the spectacular Schäfler Ridge.
Schäfler Ridge Viewpoint (1886 m)
From the hut, it only takes 10 minutes to reach the riveting Schäfler ridge viewpoint. Only hike this path if you’re surefooted, comfortable with exposure (albeit secured), and have no fear of heights.
From the Mount Säntis summit viewpoint (1925 m), return to the junction, where the cautionary sign is installed.
Follow the lower trail in the direction of Säntis.
This lower path skirts the summit (the first “Schäfler Summit” viewpoint) and leads across the grassy, northern-side (right side) of the ridge.
Following the contours of the ridge, the cable-secured path descends and clings to a ledge. There’s a sheer drop off on the right side.
Shortly thereafter, the protected path crosses the ridge and descends a few bolstered steps to the southern-side (left-side) of the ridge.
Ignore the trail that branches off to Altenalp and Seealpsee and continue following the ridge in the direction of Mesmer, Öhrligrueb, and Säntis.
The path drops down a sturdy metal staircase and continues just beneath the main crest to the ridge viewpoint.
The best Schäfler ridge photos spots are located along this 8-meter stretch of trail. Here, you’ll see the vertiginous northern flanks of Schäfler and the Altenalp Türm towers.
The entire ridge between Schäfler and Altenalp Türm is an overwhelming vision of vertical limestone towers thrusting into the sky.
How to Complete the Schäfler Ridge Hike
You have a few options. The easiest option is to return along the same trail to the Ebenalp cable car mountain station.
When you get to Ebenalp, you can continue the hike 25 minutes to Berggasthaus Aescher, the mountain inn built into the cliff of Ebenalp. After visiting this iconic timber hut, return to Ebenalp along the same trail. And finally, take the Ebenalp cable car down to Wasserauen.
Alternatively, experienced hikers can continue along the Schäfler Ridge trail for 20 minutes (853 meters) and then descend to the Altenalp mountain pasture and further down to Lake Seealpsee. From Lake Seealpsee, follow the wide gravel road all the way down to Wasserauen.
It takes about 2:30 hours (without breaks) to hike 7.4 km down to Wasserauen (0 meters elevation gain / 1019 meters elevation loss) from the Schäfler ridge viewpoint.
Schäfler Sunrise and Sunset Photography
Sunrise and sunset are equally captivating atop Schäfler. The most feasible way of seeing sunrise, or sunset along the Schäfler Ridge is by spending the night in the Schäfler mountain inn. Wild camping is not permitted along the ridge.
Schäfler Ridge Sunset
At sunset, the Schäfler Ridge is awash in a soft ethereal light. The luminous limestone peaks turn slightly pink, shortly before the sun sets.
The drama is heightened by the striking contrast between the cinematic peaks straight ahead and the rolling hills to the north. Here, severe, jagged lines rise up next to pastoral landscapes.
It’s a dreamy scene that captures the unique, unparalleled beauty of the Alpstein.
Schäfler Ridge Sunrise
At sunrise, the Alpstein is stained in bold coral and violet hues.
With time, the sun-kissed landscape brightens to shades of orange and yellow.
Where to Stay in Appenzellerland
The lovely town of Appenzell is the capital of the Swiss Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Appenzell is a picturesque town with colorful gabled buildings that house delicious bakeries, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and museums.
Accommodations are always clean and comfortable, but modest. There are no 5-star hotels in this area of Switzerland.
We recommend staying in, or near the village center of Appenzell, because of the dining options and cultural activities (museums and art galleries). After long hikes in the Alpstein, it’s ever so nice to end your day in the heart of Appenzellerland.
Appenzell is also a great base for those traveling without a car. With train connections to Wasserauen and Weissbad (bus transfer to Brüllisau), it’s effortless to get around to various trailheads.
Budget | Alte Metzg – Hostel offers 3 spotless rooms with communal bathrooms and kitchen facilities. This intimate hostel is walking distance to the Appenzell village center and train station. On-site parking is available, but must be reserved in advance (fees apply). They also run the neighboring midrange Alte Metzg Boutique Pension with private single, double, and family rooms.
Midrange | Blattenheimat – im traditionellen Appenzeller Haus (2 nights minimum stay) is a traditional, gabled house with 2-3 bedroom apartments and free private parking, very close to the Hauptgasse (pedestrain main street of Appenzell). Guests have access to a washing machine and dryer in the basement.
Midrange | Located very close to the Appenzell train station, Hotel B&B Stossplatz is a darling bed and breakfast with free private parking, free bikes, and a shared lounge. Rooms either have shared, or private bathrooms.
Luxury | Hotel Appenzell is located on the historic Landgemeinde Square in the center of Appenzell village. Boasting an excellent restaurant with an outdoor terrace as well as a confiserie (patisserie), this traditional Appenzell hotel is a great option for your stay. Breakfast and parking are included in the rate.
Luxury | Adler Hotel is centrally located at the start of the pedestrian Hauptgasse (main street), across from the Parish Church of St. Mauritius and the Metzibrücke Bridge. This traditional hotel with two restaurants is a great place to stay if you’re traveling without a car. No parking available on-site.
Weissbad is a quiet village in Schwendetal Valley between Appenzell and Wasserauen.
Situated on the Gossau–Wasserauen train line of the Appenzell Railways, Weissbad is a great base for exploring the region. It takes a mere 6 minutes to reach Appenzell village by train. It takes only 10 minutes to ride the train to Wasserauen (Ebenalp cable car valley station, Seealpsee trailhead, Marwees trailhead, etc…). And, it’s only an 8-minute bus ride to Brüllisau (Hoher Kasten cable car, Saxer Lücke and Fählensee trailhead).
Midrange | Weissbad Lodge, not to be confused with the nearby sister property of Hotel Hof Weissbad (luxury), is a comfortable accommodation with spacious, modern rooms and free on-site parking. The lodge is located on the bank of the Sitter River, just a block away from the Weissbad train station and bus stop. The only negative is the self-service breakfast.
Luxury | Hotel Hof Weissbad accommodates luxury-minded travelers with its two restaurants and bar, two swimming pools, fitness center, spa and wellness area. Breakfast and parking are included in the room rate. The price is rather steep.
Schwende lies in Schwendetal Valley, just south of Weissbad.
This village is also located along the Gossau–Wasserauen train line, with direct connections to Wasserauen, Weissbad, and Appenzell.
Midrange | The family-run Hotel Frohe Aussicht, which means “happy outlook,” is a hillside hotel and restaurant surrounded by beautiful countryside. It’s a short uphill walk from the Schwende train station to the hotel. Guests love the views and the restaurant!!!
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Alps Trip Planning Essentials
When to Visit the Alps
We recommend visiting the Alps in summer (June – mid September), fall (mid September – late October) or winter (late December – March).
Read Alps in Summer to learn everything you need to know about visiting the Alps between June and mid/late September.
Alps Road Trips
Most destinations in the Alps are accessible by transit. If you’re visiting during peak seasons, we recommend traveling with trains and buses.
If you’re visiting during shoulder seasons (late May, early June, late September, October), a car is often essential in getting around.
When we go on hut-to-hut hikes, we always travel with transit. When we want to do a lot of day hikes, we find it easier to travel with a car.
We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
Alps Road Trip Itineraries
- Italian Alps: 5 Day Dolomites Road Trip
- Italian Alps: 7 Day Dolomites Road Trip
- Italian Alps: 10-14 Day Dolomites Road Trip
- Bavarian Alps and Tyrolean Alps: 10-Day Bavaria and Tyrol Road Trip
- Austrian Alps: 2-Week Austria Road Trip
- Austrian Alps: 1 Week Austria Road Trip
- Slovenian Alps: 2-Week Slovenia Road Trip
- Slovenian Alps: 5-Day Slovenia Road Trip
Alps Hiking Guides
Hiking in the Alps is our passion.
For region specific trail inspiration, read:
- Bavarian Alps: Best Hikes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Italian Alps: Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites
- Austrian Alps: Best Day Hikes in Austria
- Slovenian Alps: Best Hikes in Slovenia
Alps Hiking Essentials
- Day Pack: Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Backpack / Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Backpack
- Grade B/C high-cut hiking boots: Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (Kati’s Boots), Women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (Sabrina’s Boots), Men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (men’s equivalent)
- CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Backpack Camera Clip: Peak Design Camera Clip
Appenzell Travel and Hiking Guides
- Best Hikes in Appenzell
- Marwees Ridge Trail
- Hoher Kasten – Saxer Lücke – Fählensee Hike
- Lisengrat Ridge Trail
- Lake Seealpsee
Self-Guided Hut-to-Hut Hiking Tours: