SCHÄFLER RIDGE HIKE AND MOUNTAIN HUT
The Schäfler Hut (Schäflerhutte) is perched up above the incredible Schäfler Ridge, which is one of the most dramatic sections of the Alpstein region in Appenzellerland.
SCHÄFLER HUT & RIDGE HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The hike distance from Wasserauen to Schäfler Hut is 7.5km. However, I suggest walking and exploring along the Schäfler Ridge, which will add an extra kilometer or two onto your tally. Bargain for about 8.5 kilometers one-way.
Hike Duration: The total hiking time from Wasserauen to Schäfler Hut will be about three hours but depends a lot on your pace up 1200m of incline. I did the trail in just over 2 hours but was on quite a mission for pace. 3-4 hours will be enough time to reach the Schäfler Hut at a modest pace.
Hike Difficulty: The hike is a red and white marked trail and quite simple. The incline will get a lot of people but there are no dangerous drop-offs or moments of high exposure. It is a trail that is very possible for children and the family dog.
Hike Incline: From Wasserauen to Schäfler Hut the total incline is: 1,230m
GETTING TO WASSERAUEN
Wasserauen is the start point for the Schäfler Hut hike and is easily accessible by train or car. Wasserauen is in the north-east 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. I was based in Appenzell district when doing this hike so it was just a 15-minute train journey for me.
TRAILHEAD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SCHÄFLER HUT HIKE
The Schäfler Hut hike begins in Wasserauen. There is a train station directly at the foot of the hike, which is also where you will find the cable car if you decide not to hike the whole way and take the cable car to Ebenalp. 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.
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. In this blog post, I’ll share how to hike to Schäfler and return but in the Alpstein region, there are always many options for how to make a loop or visit multiple spots in one day.
- Begin in Wasserauen
- Hike up the hill through the forest to Bommen
- Arrive to Ascher 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
- Continue further to reach Schäfler Hut
- Head over the hill for a viewpoint and to explore Schäfler Ridge
- Return back past Ebenalp and Wildkirchli and arrive back to Ascher (or take a route to Seealpsee via Mesmer)
- Hike back down to Wasserauen
The maps below show the overall hiking routes for Alpstein and the cropped map shows the route from Ebenalp to Schäfler.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING TO THE SCHÄFLER RIDGE AND SCHÄFLER MOUNTAIN HUT
The trail begins through the forest with a very steep set of switchbacks. 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 the legs and epic mountain vistas in all directions, we sat down and took it all in while re-hydrating. 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.
After making our way through the fields of Bommel, we began another ascent up the hill towards the famous Ascher Cliff 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.
The Ascher Cliff restaurant is rather famous due to its incredibly scenic position and was featured in National Geographic, which instantly made it a favorite location for tourists. 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 Ascher Cliff Restaurant if you aren’t intending to do much hiking but still want to enjoy this iconic restaurant location.
Once you finish your last sip of coffee at the Ascher 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.
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.
From Ebenalp to Schäfler the journey is just under three kilometers with a couple of hundred meters of incline. The route gives you several great views along the way on either side of the trail before sending you into a series of switchbacks set to test out your legs on what should be the final moments of incline for the day.
From Ebenalp to Schäfler Hut you can expect to take just under an hour to complete the hike. Once you reach the hut you may want to stop for a drink or a snack before venturing on for a few more moments to the viewpoint, which is one of the best spots in the Alpstein region.
The first viewpoint is just above the Schäfler Ridge and is only 1-minuet up the hill from the Schäfler Hut. Here you can get great views of Schäfler Ridge, Santis and the valleys on either side without having to venture much further. I took the following shot here about 1.5 hours before sunset.
I had decided to visit the Schäfler Ridge for golden hour and stay for sunset. Schäfler Hut had no more spaces but I’d managed to book a night at Ebenalp Mountain Hut so I only had a 2-kilometer hike back in the dark. If you plan to do sunrise or sunset at Schäfler Ridge, I suggest staying in one of these two huts and obviously the best one to stay at is Schäfler hut but you will need to book in advance, especially if it is a weekend.
The golden hour had arrived so I ventured down from the top viewpoint and began to wander along the path on Schäfler Ridge capturing other hikers and exploring the different angles as the light continued to change.
As the peak moment of the sunset came, I decided to head up onto the spine of Schäfler, which is off the path. Be careful if you do this as there is a drop-off on both sides but particularly to the right. Here I found some beautiful red foliage and some incredible little viewpoints that looked great both on the camera and the drone.
I hiked back to Ebenalp in the dark with my head torch but returned the next morning for sunrise. I was lucky to get great conditions for both sunset and sunrise. It was much quieter at sunrise with just a few other people up to witness the first light rather than the crowd for sunset.
A little bit of alpenglow and early lit hit Santis and the surrounding peaks, which was the perfect way to start the day.
I suggest continuing on to Ohrli if you have time as there is a herd of Ibex often in this pass. If not the hike down to Seealpsee via Mesmer is also beautiful or you can, of course, return the same way you came. If you do this entire hike in one day, make sure you don’t leave it too late and get stuck in the dark unintentionally. It would be possible to get back in the dark but you will need experience hiking in the dark and a headlamp most definitely.
I hope you enjoy your hiking in the Alpstein region and get some great conditions at Schäfler Ridge.