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Alpstein Trek Stage 1: Wasserauen to Schäfler Hut

Stage 1 of the memorable 3-Day Alpstein High Trail Trek starts in the settlement of Wasserauen (870 m) in Appenzell Innerrhoden in Switzerland

It’s easy to reach Wasserauen with, or without a car. Wasserauen is connected to Appenzell Village by train. 

This stage ascends from Wasserauen to the Schäfler mountain inn, passing Lake Seealpsee, Berggasthaus Äscher, and Ebenalp along the way. 

In terms of difficulty, this stage is moderately difficult due to elevation gain. Hikers must conquer 1346 meters. Luckily, there are plenty of huts and inns along the way, which offer food and refreshments. 

Though you can shave off most of the ascent by taking the cable car from Wasserauen to Ebenalp, we don’t recommend it. This shortcut will effectively cut out Lake Seealpsee and Berggasthaus Aescher, two attractions that lure people to Appenzell from all over the world. However, if you’re battling poor weather and/or unforeseeable circumstances (e.g. travel delays), it’s certainly an option. 

More Stages:

Schäfler Ridge Sunset, Alpstein hut to hut hike, Switzerland
  • Starting Point: Wasserauen | Google Maps
  • Ending Point: Schäfler Hut
  • Distance: 9.9 km
  • Time Needed: 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1346 meters
  • Elevation Loss: 307 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
  • Minimum Elevation: 872 meters
  • Maximum Elevation: 1920 meters
  • Route: Wasserauen – Klein-Hütten – Seealpsee – Seealp – Berggasthaus Seealpsee – Berggasthaus Äscher – Eremitenhöhle cave – Ebenalp – Alp Chlus – Berggasthaus Schäfler 
  • Wild Camping: Wild Camping is illegal along the Schäfler Ridge. 
  • Drones: Flying drones in the Alpstein is illegal. Drones endanger wildlife.

3-Day Alpstein Hut to Hut Hiking Map

Stage 1 is highlighted in coral red.

How to Get to the Wasserauen Trailhead 

Wasserauen is a small settlement in Schwendetal Valley and one of the gateways to the Appenzell Alps. 

It’s the southern end station of the Gossau–Wasserauen line of the Appenzell Railways. You can take a direct train from Schwende, Weissbad, Steinegg, Appenzell, and other stations to Wasserauen. 

The train schedule is synced with Google Maps.

If you’re traveling by car, you can park in the large paid car park at Wasserauen.

There are two trails that lead from Wasserauen to Lake Seealpsee. 

The most scenic approach to the lake starts at the paragliding landing area, marked by the Paragliding School shipping container, next to the Wasserauen car park. Exact Location: Google Maps

This path ascends a beech forest to the Klein Hütten mountain pasture and then gently descends to the lake. 

The other option follows a farm access road (paved and gravel) through the valley up to Seealpsee. Though slightly shorter, this is less scenic and we don’t recommend it. 

Wasserauen – Klein Hütten – Seealpsee – Ebenalp – Berggasthaus Schäfler Trail Description

Wasserauen to Klein-Hütten (35 minutes)

Wasserauen Trailhead, Appenzell, Switzerland

Head to the paragliding landing area, next to the Wasserauen car park. There are no trail signs directly at the trailhead. The closest trail signs are located at the road, a few meters away. 

At the turnstile, there are few signs indicating rules of conduct in the area.

At times, the trail traverses mountain pastures grazed in summer. It’s very important to maintain a safe distance from the cows and calves. Do not pet, startle, or in any way disturb the animals. 

Pass through the turnstile to access the trail. 

Follow the gravel path across the meadow. When the trail merges with the path from Hotel Alpenrose, turn left to Seealpsee. 

Reinforced with timber and metal steps, the forest trail ascends steadily through a thick beech forest. 

After about 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at a metal pasture gate with various signs, which we’ve translated:

Ab hier müssen Sie Ihren Hund an der Leine führen: Starting here, you must keep your dog on a leash.

Sicherheitsabstand zu Kühen and Rindern unbedingt einhalten. Keinesfalls berühren. Always keep a safe distance from cows and cattle. Never touch.

Pass through the pasture gate. The gravel-step path leads you across a wide pasture to the Klein-Hütten trail junction (1179 m). 

Klein-Hütten to Lake Seealpsee (35 minutes)

Klein Hütten mountain pasture, Appenzell, Switzerland

Turn right to Lake Seealpsee, signed 35 minutes. 

Side Note: the left trail leads to the Bogartenlücke saddle, the gateway to the Marwees Ridge. If you plan on spending more time in Appenzell, before or after this trek, we highly recommend hiking the Marwees Ridge and Meglisalp circuit trail

The Seealpsee-bound trail meanders across wide-open meadows, bordered by Marwees to the south. Cows graze freely here during the Alp season. 

Looking northwest, in the opposite direction of Marwees, you can see Ebenalp and Berggasthaus Schäfler. 

Pass by the various huts and dairies, some of which sell cheese, to the line of spruce. 

At the next junction, bear right to Seealpsee. Views open up to Mount Säntis, which you’ll summit along Stage 2

Klein Hütten Alp, Seealpsee, Appenzell, Switzerland

The gravel path gently descends across a swath of pastureland, peppered with huts, to the eastern shore of Seealpsee. It’s a magical pastoral scene juxtaposed with gnarled peaks and dramatic ridges. 

Seealpsee lies in a valley basin surrounded by soaring peaks. 

Lake Seealpsee – Seealp – Berggasthaus Seealpsee – Chobel (20 minutes)

Lake Seealpsee, Alpstein, Switzerland

Follow the level path around the lake to the Seealpmountain pasture.  

Continue around the lake to Berggasthaus Seealpsee. This is an inviting spot to grab a refreshment, before ascending to Berggasthaus Äscher. 

If Berggasthaus Seealpsee is too busy, or closed, head to Gasthaus Forelle. 

From these lakeside restaurants, follow the gravel road downhill in the direction of Chobel (10 minutes) and Wasserauen (50 minutes). 

Chobel to Berggasthaus Aescher (1:20 hours) 

Seealpsee to Berggasthaus Aescher hiking trail, Alpstein, Switzerland

At the Chobel junction (1109 meters), the Äscher trail veers left, leaving the Seealpsee-Wasserauen road. 

We hiked this Alpstein trek during a heat wave in August and the temperature was punishing. We both melted in the blistering heat, so this 477 meter-accent was harder than normal for us. 

The trail scales the forested mountainside. Sections of the rugged path are reinforced with metal steps and secured with fixed cables. 

There are some slippery areas, because the rocks underfoot are polished due to so much traffic over the years. These slippery areas are always secured. 

When you emerge from the forest, you’ll see the vertiginous rock face of Ebenalp. Merge with the trail at the base of the cliff and turn right to Berggasthaus Äscher (1884 m). 

Ebenalp Cliff, Alpstein trek, Switzerland

This famous cliffside hut was built in 1884 and is one of the oldest mountain huts in Switzerland. 

Though often swarming with visitors, this iconic destination in the Swiss Alps is a wonderful place for a meal, or even just a drink. 

Berggasthaus Aescher to Ebenalp (25 minutes)

Berggasthaus Aescher restaurant and guesthouse in Appenzell, Switzerland

The trail crosses the terrace of Berggasthaus Äscher. 

Follow the ledge and turn back at the curve to capture one of the most beloved photo motifs of Switzerland. 

The boardwalk ledge trail leads to Wildkirchli caves (10 minutes) and Ebenalp (25 minutes). 

After passing the Altarhöhle Wildkirchli chapel cave, the path continues to the entrance of the Eremitenhöhle Wildkirchli prehistoric cave. The hut (hermit’s dwelling) that stands at the cave entrance serves as an exhibit (German only). 

The path ascends the cool cavernous space. It’s sparingly illuminated, so most hikers will not need a flashlight/headlamp, etc… 

Exit the cave and continue up the well-graded gravel and then partially-cemented cobbled path to the Ebenalp pasture and the Ebenalp cable car mountain station (1590 m). 

Ebenalp  – Berggasthaus Ebenalp – Alp Chlus (40 minutes)

Ebenalp to Alp Chlus hiking trail, Alpstein, Switzerland

Just beyond the cable car mountain station, the trail splits. The trail signs at the junction indicate that both ways lead to Schäfler.

We turned left, following the trail that passes by Berggasthaus Ebenalp

From Berggasthaus Ebenalp, the trail crosses the plateau and then runs along the wide ridge of Zisler in a southwesterly direction. 

You can see Hoher Kasten peak, Marwees peal, Lake Seealpsee, Meglisalp mountain pasture, Altmann peak, and many other summits.

The path soon favors the northern-side of the Zisler crest. Amid dwarf pine, the trail moderately ascends 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 private Alp Chlus hut stands on the edge of Zisler, below Schäfler. 

Alp Chlus to Berggasthaus Schäfler (35 minutes)

Schäfler Hut, Alpstein, Appenzell Alps, Switzerland

The trail sign indicates 35 minutes to Berggasthaus Schäfler. 

The way steadily wends up the eastern flank of Mount Schäfler, an unremarkable grassy slope strewn with karst. 

After about 18 minutes from Chlus, the path crests the Schäfler ridge and follows it, either directly on, or beneath, to reach the Berggasthaus Schäfler hut.   

Stay in the Schäfler Hut

Berggasthaus Schäfler Hut Room, Alpstein, Switzerland

Check-in is at 5 pm. You can order food and drinks at any time. 

The Schäfler hut terrace commands heart-expanding views of the Appenzell Alps. You could spend hours blissfully sitting, eating, drinking, and reading here.

One of the highlights of staying at Berggasthaus Schäfler is being able to watch the sunset and sunrise along the Schäfler Ridge. 

Reservation: Online

Pricing: See pricing. Schäfler Hut is not an alpine club hut, so Alpine Club members do not receive discounts here. 

Payment: Cash or Card in CHF (Swiss Francs). The hut staff collect payment in the evening. 

Showers: None. 

Running Water: Yes. There are gendered “Waschräume” (wash rooms) with water basins. 

Drinking Water: Yes. There is a drinking water faucet in the breakfast room. Only drink this water, not the water in the wash rooms. 

Electronic Charging Stations: We had one in our room. (Swiss Converting Plug essential). There is a big communal charging station in the hallway on the first floor of the hut. 

Rösti at Berggasthaus Schäfler Hut, Alpstein, Switzerland

Food: We ate one of the best Rösti here. 

Half Board or à la carte: à la carte only. Dinner until 19:30 (7:30 pm). Breakfast is included in the room rate (7:15 – 9:00 am). 

Rooms: Double (private) or dormitory rooms available. 

You need to bring a sleeping bag liner like this Sea to Summit liner in order to stay overnight in this hut. You can also rent one for 5 CHF. 

Check-in: 5 pm

Check-out: 8 am

Dogs: It’s only possible to bring one dog if you book a double room. Fees apply (15 CHF). 

Watch the Sunset along the Schäfler Ridge

Schäfler Ridge Hike, Alpstein, Appenzell Alps, Switzerland

Just beyond the hut, there are a few riveting viewpoints of the northern Alpstein ridge. We recommend watching the sunset from one of these two viewpoints. 

The first viewpoint is the grassy summit of Mount Schäfler (1925 m) crowned with a metal pyramid structure, which 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 a few steps and then swings left. 

The trail soon divides. Take the left upper path to reach the highest point of Mount Schäfler. The grassy summit overlooks Altenalp Türm, Öhrli, and the spectacular Schäfler Ridge. This viewpoint is only 5-minutes away from the hut. 

To reach the second viewpoint, head back to the junction, and follow the narrow trail in the direction of Säntis for 10 minutes. This exposed, albeit secured, high trail runs along the ridge to a stunning viewpoint, which commands unbeatable views of the serrated underbelly of the Alpstein’s Northern Ridge. 

You’ll hike this trail along stage 2, but it’s worth venturing here for sunset, given its proximity to the Schäfler mountain hut. 

Keep Reading about the Alpstein High Trail Trek and Appenzell

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Appenzell Hiking:

Self-Guided Hut-to-Hut Hiking Tours:

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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.

To learn about when to hike, where to hike, and hiking safety, read: Hiking in the Alps: Essential Tips. For trail inspiration, check out Best Hikes in the Alps.

For region specific trail inspiration, read:

Hut to Hut Hiking in the Alps

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Mountain Hut Essentials

Pack these mountain hut essentials in addition to a Kindle, sun protection, cosmetics, and ear plugs.

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Sabrina & Kati

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