Stage 2 of the 3-Day Alpstein High Trail Trek is a world-shifting, life-giving hike that links Mount Schäfler with Mount Säntis, Lisengrat Ridge, Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass, and Zwinglipasshütte SAC.
There are no dull moments along this spectacular high alpine trail between Schäfler Hut and Zwinglipass Hut.
This stage involves many cable-secured passages along exposed ledges and ridges in high alpine terrain. No special equipment is needed. However, I like to use Black Diamond half finger gloves when there are long stretches of fixed cables.
Though only 10.6 km in length, the trail feels immeasurably longer. Hikers need stamina and strength to complete this stage of the hut-to-hut hike.
Seasoned alpine hikers, who are familiar with secured hiking, will find this stage manageable, albeit demanding.
Hikers, who are unfamiliar with secured scrambling, may be intimidated by the novelty of a heavily-secured trail. Rest assured, all the fixed cables and climbing aids make the hike easier and safer.
Nonetheless, if you have a fear of heights, or problems with exposure (even if secured), then this stage might prove to be more challenging.
Schäfler Hut – Säntis – Rotsteinpass – Zwinglipass Hut Hike
- Starting Point: Schäfler Hut
- Ending Point: Zwinglipass Hut
- Distance: 10.6 km
- Time Needed: 6 hours (without breaks)
- Elevation Gain: 956 meters
- Elevation Loss: 882 meters
- Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
- Minimum Elevation: 1793 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2498 meters
- Route: Berggasthaus Schäfler – Lötzlialpsattel – Säntis – Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass – Zwinglipasshütte SAC
- Drones: Flying drones in the Alpstein is illegal. Drones endanger wildlife.
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3-Day Alpstein Hut to Hut Hiking Map
Stage 2 is highlighted in orange.
Waking Up in Berggasthaus Schäfler
One of the joys of staying in the Schäfler mountain inn is being able to experience the sunrise at the hut.
At sunrise, the Alpstein’s northern chain is stained in coral and violet hues. With time, the sun-kissed landscape brightens to shades of orange and yellow.
Breakfast at Berggasthaus Schäfler
Breakfast is laid out on a table inside the hut. The spread comprises fresh bread, Appenzeller butter, local cheese and cold cuts, homemade jam, yogurt, and muesli.
Coffee is self-service. There’s a modern coffee machine.
You can sit inside, or outside.
Berggasthaus Schäfler to Zwinglipasshütte SAC Trail Description
Berggasthaus Schäfler to Lötzlialpsattel (50 minutes)
Behind Schäfler hut, the trail continues to Säntis. Ascend the timber-braced steps and veer left.
Soon, the trail divides. The left path leads up to the summit of Mount Schäfler and the right path skirts the summit and follows the Schäfler ridge in the direction of Säntis.
Bear right and follow the narrow, cabled-secured path. After wrapping around a ledge, the trail crosses the ridge to the left-side and descends a few stairs.
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 famous Schäfler ridge viewpoint.
The rugged and narrow path descends, favoring the left-side of the crest. Grasp the cables when needed.
After two serpentines, the traverse continues across uneven, rugged terrain. Careful footing is needed.
The path leads directly under the Altenalp Towers (2033 m).
At the signed junction, the Mesmer-bound trail branches off to the left. Continue straight in the direction of Öhrligrueb and Säntis.
Fixed cables aid you across a rocky area, high above Lake Seealpsee.
The trail wends towards Pt (2063 m), a mighty fang of rock. The path descends a few meters, before steeply ascending to the Lötzlialpsattel saddle between Pt and Altenalp Türm.
Lötzlialpsattel to Öhrligrueb (1 hour)
The white-red-white-blazed path continues on the north-side of the crest in the direction of Öhrli, an ear-shaped pinnacle (perhaps an elven ear).
Without difficulty, the trail traverses rock slopes and then moderately ascends around the Vordere Öhrligrueb depression.
As you progress, turn around to see Altenalp Türm from a new and striking perspective.
The trail weaves between boulders and then steeply climbs up the rocky slope of Öhrli (2194 m).
The gradient relaxes as you near the saddle. The saddle is marked with a cairn and bears no name.
Views open up to Säntis.
Hugging the mountainside, contour around the Öhrligrueb depression to the Öhrligrueb trail junction (2121 m).
Öhrligrueb to Höchnideri (15 minutes)
Follow the signs to Höchnideri (15 minutes) and Säntis (1:35 hours).
The secured path scales the crag.
When you reach the Höchnideri saddle, views open up to a karst rockscape.
Follow the white-red-white waymarks across the karst pavement to the Höchnideri trail junction (2130 m).
Höchnideri to Säntis (1:20 hours)
The way to Säntis follows ocher-colored sandy paths across a rolling green meadowscape strewn with Betlis-Kalk limestone (Pygurus-Member) and Helvetischer Kieselkalk (Helvetic siliceous limestone). It looks like a time-forgotten graveyard, sinking into the earth.
We spotted a few marmots here.
The path dips down and runs along a ditch. Enjoy the flat walking while it lasts.
As you draw closer to Säntis, the sandy trail melts away before a chaos of stone.
Angle up the rock slope to a cable-secured ledge. Hike from waymark to waymark across the limestone landscape. Snow fields linger here throughout the summer.
Another rather long and steep cable-secured section helps you zigzag up to a ridge.
Turn left to Säntis.
The final leg to the summit follows this secured ridge and then the steep Heaven’s Ladder (Himmelsleiter in German). Given the engineering of the trail, this ascent is far easier than it looks.
Säntis is accessible by cableway from Schwägalp, so this part of the trail is heavily trafficked with day hikes. Exercise patience as you ascend. Based on what we observed (shaking legs, painfully slow hiking, etc…), many people hike here who probably shouldn’t. Oh well!
At the top of Heaven’s Ladder, follow the tunnel system.
When you emerge from the tunnel, follow the cement stairs up to the summit of Säntis (2502 m), the highest peak in the Alpstein massif.
Lunch Break at Berggasthaus Alter Säntis on Mount Säntis
The whole summit is built-up with viewing platforms, a transmission tower (radio/TV), restaurant, an interactive adventure world, and mountain inn.
It’s a bit overwhelming, because of the sheer amount of people.
Berggasthaus Alter Säntis is the mountain inn that stands below the summit.
Though Kati and I would have preferred to keep going to get away from the chaos, we really needed to take a break. So, we ate lunch at Berggasthaus Alter Säntis.
Despite how many people are flooding in and out of the hut, the staff is remarkably unfazed and attentive.
Säntis – Lisengrat Ridge – Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass (1:15 hours)
Lisengrat is the ridge that connects Mount Säntis with Mount Altmann, the third highest summit in the Alpstein.
The hike from Säntis to Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass follows the Lisengrat ridge trail, an exposed, but generously secured white-red-white path.
Atop Säntis, you can see the start of the Lisengrat trail and the Rotsteinpass mountain inn, beneath towering Fliswand and Altmann.
From Berggasthaus Alter Säntis, hike down the cement stairs and cross the rocky slope beneath the covered walkway.
A series of chiseled rock stairs, flanked by cables, steeply steer you up a rock slope.
After wrapping around a ledge, the trail continues across the wide, grassy ridge of Chalbersäntis.
The path gently descends, often winding around massive limestone outcrops and walls. Keep your eyes out for ibex.
The path continues along an impressive ledge carved into the Wisswand wall.
A short cabled-secured ascent brings you to the top of the ridge, where a formidable-looking staircase plummets and rises before you.
Follow the staircase, lined with cables, downhill and then uphill. When you get to the top of the stairs, you’ll see the Rotsteinpass mountain inn once again, backed by the Fliswand mountain wall.
The Lisengrat trail descends more steeply now, twisting down scree.
Cross the grassy slopes of Lisengrat to reach the Rotsteinpass hut (2122 m).
Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass to Fliswand Pkt 2334 m (30 minutes)
After a coffee break, Kati and I pressed on to Zwinglipasshütte. However, we were feeling pretty tuckered out (especially because of the heat). We would have gladly stayed in this hut.
Follow the sign to Fliswand Pkt. 2334 (30 min) and Zwinglipass (1:10 hours).
From the mountain pass, the trail immediately climbs up the rocky mountainside. The ascent is steep and involves some secured scrambling. Rungs and metal steps abound.
The ascent continues through a channel.
It takes 30 minutes to crest the ridge, signed Fliswand Pkt (2334 m).
From here, you can ascend to Mount Altmann in 20 minutes (white-blue-white trail).
Fliswand Pkt 2334 m to Zwinglipasshütte SAC (40 minutes)
The 1.5 km trail from Fliswand ridge to Zwinglipass hut mostly descends (339 meters of elevation loss).
The path skirts Altmann, crossing paths scattered with rocks. Follow the waymarks.
Next, the trail traverses a sinkhole-punctured meadow.
As you wrap widely around the base of Altmann, the summit looks like a giant white blade.
The trail splits. Head right to the hut. Because of the abundant karst, this final descent to the hut is not very easy when you’re tired.
Carefully descend to Zwinglipasshütte (2000 m), bypassing the Zwinglipass mountain pass.
Note: Zwinglipass Hut is located 400 meters (distance) below the Zwingli mountain pass at the foot of the south wall of Altmann.
The hut enjoys views of the Alvier group and Churfirsten, the southern chains of the Appenzell Alps.
Where to Stay: Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass, or Zwinglipasshütte
You can end stage 2 at Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass, or Zwinglipasshütte SAC.
Zwinglipasshütte SAC is a simple hut with dormitory rooms only. It’s run by volunteers of the local alpine club. Berggasthaus Rotsteinpass has two double rooms, one 4-bed room, and many dormitory rooms.
The reason we stayed in Zwinglipasshütte SAC was to ensure that the total distance of the trek was well distributed across the three stages.
Though convivial, the food is served in spartan quantities. You have to bring your own bread for breakfast, which is irritating, since you still have to pay for breakfast (instant coffee, cheese, butter, and jam).
The main benefit of staying in Zwinglipasshütte SAC is that it’s cheaper and offers a more “authentic” mountain hut experience. Authenticity be damned, I’d rather have the extra comfort.
All that being said, we did enjoy our stay at Zwinglipasshütte.
Pricing: We paid 51 CHF/person for the overnight stay including half board (Alpenverein discount included), excluding drinks.
Payment: Cash only (EUR or CHF).
Running Water: There are two wash rooms (“Waschräume”) in the hut with running water.
Drinking Water: Yes. Overnight guests receive 1 complimentary liter of water (per person) for hiking, on the day of departure. If you would like more water, you can purchase water for 3 CHF per liter.
Electronic Charging Stations: In the hallway, next to the entrance.
Half Board or à la carte: Half board only. Half board includes a soup, main course, and dessert. Vegetarian options are available. You have to bring your own bread for breakfast. Coffee (ready-made), tea, hot chocolate, cheese, butter, and jam are provided. If you are vegan or you have other dietary restrictions, contact the hut several days in advance.
Rooms: Dormitory only (8 – 14 persons). The hut can accommodate 42 people.
You need to bring a sleeping bag liner like this Sea to Summit liner in order to stay overnight in this hut.
Check-in: Flexible, usually around 4-5 pm.
Keep Reading about the Alpstein High Trail Trek and Appenzell
- Best Hikes in Appenzell
- Schäfler Ridge Trail
- Marwees Ridge Trail
- Hoher Kasten – Saxer Lücke Hike
- Berggasthaus Aescher
- Lake Seealpsee
- Lisengrat Ridge Trail
Self-Guided Hut-to-Hut Hiking Tours:
- Swiss Whiskey Trek
- 8-Day Hut to Hut in Appenzell Alps Standard Itinerary
- 6-Day Hut to Hut in Appenzell Alps Active Itinerary
- 6-Day Easy Appenzell Alps Relaxed Itinerary
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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 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
Hut to Hut Hiking in the Alps
Learn more about hut to hut hiking in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia:
- Hut to Hut Hiking: An Introduction
- Hut to Hut Hiking in Slovenia
- Mountain Huts in Slovenia
- Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria: Essential Tips
- How to Visit an Austrian Mountain Hut
- Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites
Hut Hiking Packing List
Read our complete hut-to-hut hiking packing list.
Mountain Hut Essentials
Pack these mountain hut essentials in addition to a Kindle, sun protection, cosmetics, and ear plugs.
- Sleeping Bag Liner: Sea to Summit Silk-Cotton Blend Travel and Sleeping Bag Liner (what we use). Other options: Cocoon Cotton TravelSheet and Yen’s Mulberry Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
- Waterproof Slippers: Crocs. I also like bringing these Crocs Women’s Swiftwater Sandals, because they’re more versatile.
- Headlamp: Black Diamond Equipment Spot 350 Headlamp
- Hut-to-Hut Hiking Backpack: Osprey Kyte 36 Women’s Hiking Backpack / Osprey Kestrel 48 Men’s Hiking 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
- Reusable Water Bottle: Ion Leakproof 32 oz Water Bottle