The Ebenalp and Aescher Hut hike is one of the most popular and picturesque hikes in the Alpstein area of Appenzell, Switzerland. This unique trail brings together the natural beauty of the Swiss Alps with the historic charm of the Aescher Hut, a mountain guesthouse built directly into the side of a cliff.
EBENALP & AESCHER HUT HIKE
Appenzell is quite simply a remarkable hiking hub for some of the best peaks in Switzerland. The regional mountain map is overflowing with options for trails that all seemingly intertwine, allowing you to plan your own route depending on your desired time and difficulty. We decided to begin our hike in Wasserauen and climb up through the forest to Aescher Restaurant and Ebenalp Peak before descending down through the forest below the restaurant to reach Seaalpsee, which is the stunning Alpine lake that sits in the valley below all of the formidable peaks above).
In this blog post, I will describe this route and our experience but I will also provide the map that shows you how you can alter the hike to shorten it or lengthen it depending on your hiking ability and time available.
AESCHER HUT & EBENALP HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Duration: 4 hours
- Hike Difficulty: Some steep climbs. No technical climbing or rock climbing. The path the whole way. Moderate overall. Kids were on the trail.
- Hike Incline: Wasserauen 876m to Ebenalp 1644m.
YOU WILL ALSO LIKE MY APPENZELL HIKING GUIDE: 9 AWESOME HIKES IN APPENZELL, SWITZERLAND
GETTING TO WASSERAUEN
Wasserauen is in the northeast of Switzerland near the Liechtenstein border. Luckily, Switzerland is a relatively small country so you can reach the town of Wasserauen from most places including Zurich (2-hr journey by car). There is no major city nearby with journeys of 2+ hours from Chur, Lucerne, and Bern to reach Wasserauen.
Most trains will first run to Gossau station and then transfer to Wasserauen station, which is close enough to the trailhead to begin walking from the moment you disembark the train.
When you arrive at Wasserauen, you will find yourself in a giant parking lot. A damn pretty parking lot but you will soon realize, this is not an off-the-beaten-path trail. There is a cable car to Ebenalp that I will detail later, which means you get a lot of tourists rather than hikers, which is fine but we are here to detail the hike.
From the Alpen Rose Hotel, walk away from the Seealpsee direction and away from the parking lot. The trail is on the left side next to a wooden house and heads directly up into the forest.
EBENALP HIKING MAP
The map below shows the entire hiking region near Wasserauen. As you can see there are so many different connecting trails, which makes it a great spot for all different abilities and schedules. I will detail how we created our route and then offer an alternative or two.
- Begin in Wasserauen
- Hike up the hill through the forest to Bommen
- Arrive at Aescher Cliff Restaurant
- Head up the cliff to Wildkirchli to see the Church and Cave
- Continue up the hill to Ebenalp Viewpoint
- Continue further to Fuessler Viewpoint
- Return back past Wildkirchli and arrive back in Aescher
- Hike down through the forest to the edge of Seealpsee
- Take a lap around Seealpsee (Alpine Lake)
- Return to Wasserauen
An epic alternative would be to include Meglisalp in your route or head all the way up to Schafler.
The trail begins through the forest with a very steep set of switchbacks. Within minutes we were completely covered in sweat as the Swiss summer hit us with full force. The forest was beautiful with towering trees giving us some much-needed shade and an incredible scene as hikers in the distance ducked in and out of the tree trunks. The incline was relentless for a good 20-30 minutes before we finally reached the open field atop the hill.
As we left the forest and entered the farming fields above, we were welcomed with our first view of the surrounding mountains. With lactic acid in our legs and epic mountain vistas in all directions, we sat down and took it all in while rehydrating. The trail would flatten out for a while as we made our way through Bommel to the sound of the bells, ringing from the necks of the local cows.
HIKING TO AESCHER CLIFF RESTAURANT
After making our way through the fields of Bommel, we began another ascent up the hill towards the Aescher Restaurant. With some shade from the mountain, we took a reprieve from the harsh Swiss sun while enjoying the mountain-range to the left of the Wasserauen valley.
We rounded the final corner before the valley opened up and right there, perched precariously on the cliff-side was the Aescher Cliff Restaurant. This restaurant is rather famous due to its incredibly scenic position. We thought it might be quite expensive given it is Switzerland and this was an in-demand spot but to our surprise, it was on par with average cafe prices from the city. We chilled out at the restaurant for half an hour enjoying a coffee amongst other hikers, families and trail runners.
It is of note to mention that you can take the cable car up to Ebenalp and then walk the short way down to Aescher Cliff Restaurant if you aren’t intending to do much hiking but still want to enjoy this iconic restaurant location.
VISITING WILDKIRCHI AND THE CAVES
Once you finish your last sip of coffee at the Aescher Cliff Restaurant, you can head up the stairs towards the church and the caves. Inside one of the caves are pews and a shrine within the church. To my surprise, an actual service is held here once a month, which would be quite the pilgrimage for many who make the journey.
Beyond the church are some caves you need to walk through to make it to Ebenalp. Inside the caves are lights showing you points of interest with placards explaining important parts about the caves, such as the fact that bears used to live inside.
HIKING UP TO EBENALP
After passing through the caves, you are just about at the Ebenalp viewpoint. However, you still need to push through a little more incline to make it up to Ebenalp, which sits at 1,644m above sea-level. At the viewpoint, you will find a restaurant and several small buildings selling souvenirs. We took this chance to sit down on the benches, take the whole scene in and even send the drone out for a scouting mission.
HIKING DOWN FROM EBENALP TO SEEALPSEE
You can continue on to Fuessler Viewpoint and beyond if you wish or you can make the journey back down to Aescher Cliff Restaurant, where you will find the path that leads you back down through the forest towards Seealpsee. It is supposedly about an hour from Aescher Cliff Restaurant to Seealpsee (Alpine Lake), but I think it took us about 45 minutes approximately.
You see a see that points to the right and says Seealspee. Obviously, this is leading you to the lake so head up the hill (I know it seems tough after having climbed down but you are now only 10 minutes from the lake). Heading into Seealpsee is just absolutely beautiful with the mountains in the background towering over the pristinely still, alpine lake below.
SEEALPSEE (ALPINE LAKE)
Seealpsee is an incredible spot. It was my first Swiss alpine lake and one I will never forget. It had an iconic rowboat moored to the banks of the lake, while the mountains reflected on the calm water. I couldn’t picture a more postcard-worthy finishing moment to this hike than to end up at Seealpsee.
We took a seat and enjoyed the final moments of light, which by that point was almost 8 pm. That may seem late to be out hiking but the sunset was scheduled for 8:40 pm as it was late July. The mountains began to slowly darken, leaving only the peaks illuminated in soft gold. Seealpsee proved to be a peaceful paradise for us to breathe in our adventures of the day and exhale any stresses we had brought with us.
A small hotel/restaurant called the ‘Berggasthaus Forelle’ sits on the side of the lake, hidden by the trees. Here you can enjoy a sunset beer and or dinner. It would be a beautiful place to stay and many of the diners looked at us pretty pleased with themselves that they weren’t still out hiking at 8:30 pm.
We then made the final trek back to Wasserauen, which took about 30-40 minutes on a flat, paved road as the last light slowly faded as did our tired bodies. I can’t recommend this trail enough and want to return personally to hike to Meglisalp and the other peaks in the region.
HISTORY OF AESCHER HUT
The Aescher Hut, or Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus, holds a unique place in Swiss history. This mountain guesthouse has been nestled into the cliff face of the Ebenalp mountain in the Alpstein area of Appenzell, Switzerland for over 170 years. While its exact date of construction remains uncertain, historical records suggest that it was built around the mid-19th century, originally to serve as a small dwelling for farmers.
The hut’s close proximity to the Wildkirchli caves, which were inhabited by hermits and prehistoric men, links it to an even deeper historical context. Over the years, as hiking became a popular recreational activity, the hut transformed into a destination for adventurers and travelers, its striking location and rustic charm attracting visitors from around the world. Today, the Aescher Hut stands as an iconic symbol of Swiss alpine culture and an extraordinary example of man’s ability to inhabit even the most unusual and precarious of natural landscapes.
WHEN IS AESCHER HUT OPEN
Limited Operating Season: Due to its location and the regional climate, the Aescher Cliff House is typically open from May to October. It closes during the winter months due to the harsh weather conditions.
SWISS TRAVEL PASS or HALF-FARE CARD
OPTION 1: Buy the Swiss Half Fare Card: Switzerland trains, buses, and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheaply was to buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card before I arrived. It gives you 50% off every regular train, bus, and even many cable cars. It only costs $150 USD but pays itself off in just a few days with many train tickets in Switzerland costing close to $100 alone. If you are staying for more than 5 days, I suggest buying the Swiss Half-Fare Card.
OPTION 2: Buy the Swiss Travel Pass: The second option is to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited train, bus, and (many) cable car rides but it’s pretty expensive at around $100 USD per day so if you don’t travel each day it isn’t worth it.
OPTION 3: Buy the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass: The final (BEST) option is to get the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy 8 days’ worth of transit but you can choose the night before if you want to activate the next day. That way you don’t need to travel every day to get your money’s worth, you can just activate the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass on the days when you are doing sizeable transits. My advice is to book the Swiss Half-Fare Card or the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass in advance before your trip so it’s ready to go when you arrive.
MY SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDES
I spent 100 days hiking in Switzerland and created a guide for different regions around the country. You can click on one of my Switzerland hiking guides below to help you plan your trip.
- The Complete Guide: 50 AWESOME HIKES IN IN SWITZERLAND
- The Via Ferrata Guide: 4 EPIC SWITZERLAND VIA FERRATA COURSES
- Lauterbrunnen Guide: 10 AWESOME HIKES NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN
- Interlaken Guide: 15 AWESOME HIKES IN INTERLAKEN
- Grindelwald Guide: 12 AWESOME HIKES NEAR GRINDELWALD:
- Mürren Guide: 7 AWESOME HIKES IN MURREN
- Appenzell Guide: 9 AWESOME HIKES NEAR APPENZELL
- Chur Guide: 7 AWESOME HIKES NEAR CHUR