Stage 3 of the 3-Day Alpstein High Trail Trek follows the spine of Chreialpfirst to Mutschen saddle. From the saddle, the path descends a lonesome valley to Saxer Lücke, the famous gap in the Alpstein’s eastern ridge.
From the Saxer Lücke pass, you can detour to Lake Fälensee and Berggasthaus Bollenwees.
The trail follows the eastern ridge to Berggasthaus Staubern, a ridge-straddling mountain hut that overlooks the Rhine Valley.
The final stretch leads to Hoher Kasten summit, crowned with a cable car station, restaurant, and weather station. Take the cable car down to Brülisau village. There’s a bus that links Brülisau to Weissbad village, with direct train connections to Appenzell and Wasserauen.
Zwinglipass Hut – Chreialpfirst – Hoher Kasten Hike
- Starting Point: Zwinglipasshütte
- Ending Point: Hoher Kasten Cable Car Mountain Station
- Distance: 13 km
- Time Needed: 5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 703 meters
- Elevation Loss: 917 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum Elevation: 1523 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2124 meters
- Route: Zwinglipasshütte SAC – Chreialpfirst – Mutschen-Sattel – Roslenalphütte – Saxer Lücke – Berggasthaus Staubern – Hoher Kasten
- Drones: Flying drones in the Alpstein is illegal. Drones endanger wildlife.
- Where to Stay in Appenzell: Alte Metzg – Hostel (budget), Blattenheimat (midrange), or Hotel B&B Stossplatz (midrange)
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3-Day Alpstein Hut to Hut Hiking Map
Stage 3 is highlighted in yellow.
Waking Up at Zwinglipass Hut
Zwinglipass Hut is located in a remote corner of the Alpstein. And so, mornings are splendidly quiet here. Sunrise is a treat, because the southern flank of Mount Altmann shimmers in the early morning light.
A spartan breakfast is laid out in the hut’s dining area. Remember, bread is not provided.
Zwinglipasshütte – Mutschen-Sattel – Saxer Lücke – Hoher Kasten Trail Description
Zwinglipasshütte to Mutschen-Sattel (40 minutes)
From Zwinglipass Hut, the final stage of this 3-day Alpstein Trek leads northeast.
A few trails fan out from Zwinglipasshütte, including a lower path that leads to the Zwinglipass mountain pass and an upper trail that bypasses Zwinglipass.
We took the upper trail. The path crosses a meadow, sagging with sinkholes.
It takes 10 minutes to reach a junction above Zwinglipass. Turn right here.
Note: From Zwinglipass, it’s possible to descend to the valley between Chreialpfirst and the striking rock walls of Hundstein to Fälenalp and Lake Fählensee.
But, our high trail clings to the east wall (right wall) of that valley and ascends the wide-grassy spine of Chreialpfirst (2126 m).
This plateau-like ridge trail is waymarked with white-red-white blazes and cairns.
There are incredible views of Hundstein, Freiheit, and the Freiheittürm rock walls.
This is such an enjoyable and quiet walk, especially in the morning. We didn’t pass anyone until we reached Saxer Lücke.
The path leads to Mutschen-Sattel (2069 m). From the saddle, you can ascend 10 minutes to the summit of Mutschen (optional).
Mutschen-Sattel to Saxer Lücke (50 minutes)
Turn left in the direction of Saxer Lücke.
The path steeply descends this high, treeless valley scattered with stone. The valley is bordered by the impressive Kreuzberg peaks, a series of vertical spires, and Roslenfirst.
Soon after passing Roslenalphütte, you’ll see the Rhine Valley through the Saxer Lücke gap.
A protected path steers you to the Saxer Lücke mountain saddle (1622 m).
Saxer Lücke Trail Junction
At the saddle, you can decide whether you want to follow the high ridge trail to Berggasthaus Staubern and the Hoher Kasten mountain station, or descend the lower trail to Berggasthaus Bollenwees, Lake Fählensee, Lake Sämtisersee, and Brülisau.
The trail to Hoher Kasten, officially called the Geological Panorama Trail, follows the east ridge of the Alpstein.
This ridge is like a camel’s back, characterized by rolling ascents and descents. The 7.9 km trail to Hoher Kasten involves 564 meters of elevation gain and 432 meters of elevation loss. It takes 3:40 meters to reach the Hoher Kasten cable car mountain station.
The benefits of taking this high trail, as opposed to descending the valley via Lake Sämtisersee, are seeing the famous Kreuzberg / Saxer Lücke viewpoints, the bird’s-eye views of Lake Fählensee, and lunch at the Staubern mountain inn.
If you descend the lower trail, you’ll get to see Lake Fählensee up close, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Alps.
After Fählensee, the trail follows wide farm roads all the way down to the village of Brülisau. It requires less energy (than the ridge trail to Hoher Kasten), but it’s not as exciting.
We prefer the high trail. But, evaluate what’s best for you.
Saxer Lücke to Berggasthaus Staubern (1:25 hours)
From Saxer Lücke, the trail zigzags up a well-groomed gravel path. As you progress, turn around to see the changing perspectives of the striking Kreuzberge peaks.
The scenic path leads beneath the Hochhus and Hüser pinnacles.
After a very smooth traverse, the trail descends, wraps around a secured ledge, and makes a counter ascent to Staubern.
You’ll see Lake Sämtisersee below Alp Sigel. Hoher Kasten, our goal, is visible ahead.
The ridge-clinging Staubern mountain inn is an excellent place to rest and eat lunch. We ate a delicious goat cheese salad and Röstil here.
Berggasthaus Staubern to Hoher Kasten (2:15 hours)
The Geological Panorama Trail rises and falls along the forested ridge. During the Alp season, you’ll hear an ensemble of cow bells.
From the Wenneli (1534 trail junction), a low point along the ridge, the trail ascends 1 hour to Hoher Kasten.
The path crosses beneath the rock wall of Hoher Kasten to reach the Kastensattel mountain saddle.
From here, it’s a 15-minute zigzag ascent to the Hoher Kasten summit and cable car mountain station.
Hoher Kasten Mountain Station to Brülisau
Ride the cable car down to Brülisau village. You can buy a ticket at the Hoher Kasten cableway mountain station.
Brülisau to Wasserauen, or Appenzell
From Brülisau village, take a bus to Weissbad village. The Brülisau bus stop is located at the Hoher Kasten valley station, so it’s very easy to find.
From Weissbad, you can take a direct train to either Wasserauen (if you parked there), or Appenzell.
We recommend staying one night in the Appenzell village post-trek.
Where to Stay after the Alpstein Trek
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.
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