5 Appenzell Hiking Trails You Can’t Miss

This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more about it in our Terms & Conditions

In a hiking powerhouse such as Switzerland, the Appenzell District usually falls under the radar with tourists. Known for its delicious cheese and beautiful farmland, Appenzell also hosts the dramatic Appenzell Alps. This sub-range of the Swiss Alps isn’t located near the heavy tourist favorites along the Bernese Alps. 

If you’re searching for a quieter and more authentic Swiss hiking vacation, then Appenzell is a fantastic spot to explore. There are dozens of well-maintained hiking trails and cozy mountain huts to rest in between treks. And there are hikes suitable for all skill levels throughout its picturesque landscape. From dangerous ridgeline hikes to peaceful strolls through rolling pastures, Appenzell hiking is a magical experience. 

To help you plan your Appenzell trekking adventure, we’ve created this Appenzell hiking guide. Discover some of the exhilarating hikes in the region and unique sights you won’t find elsewhere. Grab your hiking boots and get ready to explore this underrated Switzerland hiking gem. 

Where is Appenzell and how to get there? 

Situated in northeast Switzerland, the Appenzell District rests in the beautiful Alpstein region near Lake Constance. You can easily reach the rural district from Zurich, and trains to Appenzell take around 90 minutes. If you’re driving to Appenzell, the road journey is roughly 90 km and takes between 60-90 minutes. 

Once you arrive in the Appenzell District, trains connect most rustic villages to Appenzell via the Appenzellerbahn. There’s also an extensive bus network operating in the region for villages that have no train station. If you need a boost hiking the Appenzell Alps, numerous cable cars provide transport to various peaks.

Appenzell hiking trails map 

What to know before you go

Before you hit the trail, make sure you are prepared for a long and exhausting day. Hiking in the Alps means a lot of elevation and a slower hiking speed. Make sure to always bring enough water and snacks to survive a full day in the mountains. Don’t forget to bring an extra layer, as it’s colder at the top.

Check out our guide on what to look out for when buying a daypack to make sure you bring a proper one that fits all your stuff and is comfortable to wear a full day.

Inspirational: The greatest hiking trails in Europe of all times

5 best Appenzell hiking trails

Hiking around Appenzell can be a magical experience for those wishing to escape the touristy areas of Switzerland. The Appenzell Alps don’t receive as much fanfare from foreign visitors as other regions of Switzerland. Instead of hiking with tourists, you’ll spend your days walking alongside locals going on their favorite hikes. 

The Alpstein region has an extensive network of hiking trails, and most are accessible from Appenzell. It’s a beautiful part of Switzerland adorned with rolling pastures, craggy peaks, and crystal-clear lakes. And the region clings to its historic charm of wooden chalets, traditional customs, and scenic farmlands. 

Although this only scratches the surface, here are 5 of the best hikes around Appenzell for a thrilling adventure.

1. Lisengrat Ridge Hike 

  • Distance: 4.5 km (2.8 miles)
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Starting Point: Säntis Mountain
  • Route Type: Point to Point

Probably the most daring hike in Appenzell, the Lisengrat Ridge Hike is for experienced, adrenaline-seeking trekkers. This thrilling ridgeline hike connects Säntis, the tallest peak of the Alpstein massif, and the jagged Altmann peak. The rocky trail is extremely technical, and the most challenging sections use steel cables and ladders to move. Whenever there’s rain or snow, this trail is automatically off-limits. 

If you’re afraid of heights, this path will make you queasy the entire length. Long-distance trekkers often navigate the ridgeline on a multi-day hike around Appenzell. When you reach the Rotsteinpass, you’ll have jaw-dropping views of other limestone spires jutting from the landscape. There’s also a solid chance of spotting wildlife that lives in the high altitudes of the Appenzell Alps. 

Many sections are very narrow, and the drop-offs can be intimidating when you look down. On the descent to the Rotstein Hut, continue to be careful due to the steep, rugged path. But if you can stomach the heights, this is the best hiking in Appenzell you can imagine.

Interesting: The ultimate Mürren hiking guide

2. Alpstein Three Lakes Hike

  • Distance: 17.3 km (10.7 miles)
  • Duration: 7-9 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard 
  • Starting Point: Wasserauen 
  • Route Type: Loop

The Three Lakes Hike of the Alpstein lets you visit three stunning lakes: Fälensee, Sämtisersee, and Seealpsee. Although the terrain is manageable, the steep ascent and descent will test your endurance. Your journey starts beside the Wasserauen train station and follows the Schwendebach stream to Seealpsee. The lake sparkles beneath the sunlight as serrated peaks, sharp ridges, and verdant forests fill the backdrop. 

Powered by Wikiloc

As your steep climb continues, you’ll traverse through peaceful farmlands and alpine villages high in the mountains. Fälensee sits in a sharp valley with rugged canyons towering above you on both sides. Just above the shoreline, blooming wildflowers flutter in the breeze, and grazing cattle may visit you. 

You’ll trek into a forest before reaching Sämtisersee, the final lake on your expedition. Rugged peaks and evergreen forests dot the horizon beyond the shimmering waters of the lake. After Sämtisersee, you’ll descend through lush woodlands before heading onward to Brülisau to finish your Appenzell hiking trail. 

Also read: Interlaken hiking guide for adventure seekers

3. Saxer Lücke Hike

  • Distance: 17.0 km (10.5 miles)
  • Duration: 5-7 hours 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Starting Point: Hoher Kasten
  • Route Type: Loop

This Appenzell hiking trail presents some of the most breathtaking vistas of the geological wonders of the Alpstein region. You can complete the entire circuit by starting from the nearby Hoher Kasten peak. If you’re not up for a long hike, the Staubern cable car cuts off a lot of distance. But we suggest starting from Hoher Kasten since the panoramic views from the mountaintop restaurant are unbelievable. 

As you start your journey, snow-capped peaks and a sharp valley loom on the horizon above Sämtisersee. The rocky path hugs the ridgeline, but there aren’t many dangerous sections with sudden drop-offs. You eventually have a jaw-dropping snapshot of the sparkling lake with the verdant forests and rugged mountains forming a surreal backdrop. 

The path offers a little bit of everything as you venture past beautiful wildflowers, sharp ridges and gain glimpses of Säntis Mountain with clear skies. Just before reaching Saxer Lücke, you’ll pass the Staubern Mountain Hut perched on the mountainside. 

The remaining portion to Saxer Lücke presents nonstop 360° mountain views above Fälensee. Ensure your camera has plenty of juice here since these are some of the best vistas around Appenzell. From the top of Saxer Lücke, you’ll feel on top of the world as the dramatic cliffs plunge beneath your feet and monstrous peaks tower above you.

4. Schäfler Ridge Hike 

  • Distance: 14.5 km (9 miles)
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Starting Point: Wasserauen
  • Route Type: Point to Point 

Starting from the busy Wasserauen train station, you’ll detour through a verdant forest to begin the journey. It’s a steep climb before you exit the foliage, but the trail opens to dramatic mountain vistas. With the rugged peaks engulfing the horizon, you’ll wander into rural farmlands. 

As you ascend into the mountains, you’ll likely spot visitors flocking to the world-renowned Ascher Cliff Restaurant. Perched to a rocky wall, the restaurant treats customers to a mind-blowing view overlooking the valley. One of the unique aspects of this hike is that you’ll traverse through a series of caves and find a small church inside. After you exit the caves, you have a spectacular panorama of the rolling pastures dotting the landscape. 

There’s another strenuous climb to Schäfler Ridge, but the vistas from here are incredible. With a front-row seat of the rocky ridge, you’ll have a perfect vantage to some of Appenzell’s highest peaks.  

5. Seealpsee Hike

  • Distance: 4.8 km (direct route) (3 miles)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Starting Point: Wasserauen
  • Route Type: Out & Back

If you’re up for a day by the lake, then a hiking excursion to Seealpsee is right up your alley. Seealpsee is one of Switzerland’s most breathtaking alpine lakes and sits in an amphitheatre of rugged peaks. Its turquoise colors shine beneath the bright sun and offer a refreshing place for a summer swim. Just prepare yourself for icy-cold water if you take a dip.

The easiest way to reach Seealpsee is the direct paved road from the Wasserauen train station. It’s a little under 3 km one-way and should get you to the lake in roughly an hour. But if you’re like us and want a more challenging hike to Seealpsee, there are numerous alternatives. 

Both alternate Appenzell hiking trails add some distance to your hike and venture into the enchanting forests near the lake. You’ll get a much-needed break from the beaming sun and will pass trickling waterfalls. Once you reach Seealpsee, spend a few hours hiking around the lake, going for a swim, or having a picnic.

What else to do in Appenzell? 

Appenzell is a hiking paradise, but what else can you do in this beautiful region? Fortunately, there are several ways to enjoy the great outdoors of Appenzell when you need a break from hiking. Here are a couple of our favorite Appenzell activities: 

Try some delicious Swiss treats

Cheese and chocolate are two of the best delicacies you can try in Switzerland. And here, in Appenzell, you can discover the secrets behind the country’s famous cheese and chocolate. This idyllic region in Eastern Switzerland will leave you speechless, as you’re busy trying all the delicacies this place has to offer. 

Paragliding from Ebenalp

If you dream of seeing Appenzell from the skies, Flight School Appenzell lets you fly over its majestic peaks. The well-trained team gives you wings and takes you for the thrill of a lifetime. You’ll be accompanied by a pilot while soaring above the mountains like a bird. And paragliding with the Appenzell Alps surrounding you makes for an unforgettable selfie during your flight. 

Guided multi-day hike

If you’re in for a spectacular multi-day hike, you should check out this guided 2 day hike. Säntis, Kärpf and Rätikon will astound you and your private guide will create a custom made tour to suit your skills and interests. There are even options to add cross-country skiing in the winter or a Bikes trip over mountain ridges. And if you can’t get enough of it all, simply add an extra day!

You might also like: Backpacking checklist for multi day hikes

We love to hear from you

Thanks for checking out our Appenzell hiking guide. Hopefully, this has provided the information you need to plan an adventurous trekking vacation in Switzerland. If you have hiking experiences from Appenzell or other tips to recommend, please leave a comment below.

For more information about Switzerland, please visit this Switzerland Travel Page. Or check our travel tips for more general travel information! 

Related content:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What we discuss