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Appenzell is a hidden gem in Switzerland known for its cheese, farmlands, and textiles. It has a quaint village center filled with many cute shops and boutiques, rolling hill landscapes, and access to some of Europe’s most beautiful hiking paths. There is so much to love about this town, from the fun traditions to the happiest cows on Earth roaming the Appenzell hiking trails.
This article will focus on Appenzell hiking for beginners, giving you three short trails you can complete as a new hiker while also getting the best views of this region. I will cover everything from what to wear to how to get there.
Though these trails are for beginners, they are not a walk in the park. They can still be challenging with some steep inclines, but anyone with a moderate fitness level should be able to complete them. For comparison, I saw a range of hikers on each trail, from the elderly to young children. These trails may be short, but they are highly rewarding and filled with stunning views. They also do not include dangerous drop-offs or require technical hiking skills.
Where is Appenzell? How do I get there?
Appenzell is located in the gorgeous Alpstein region in northeast Switzerland. The easiest way to get to Appenzell is to take two trains from the Zurich Airport, one from Zurich to St. Gallen and the second from St. Gallen to Appenzell. The trains in Switzerland are incredibly reliable, and this journey takes approximately 1.5 hours.
The Appenzell district is also well-connected by both busses and trains. There even are cable cars to take you to various hiking spots. The hiking trails detailed in this guide will involve taking one of these cable cars!
Pro Tip: I highly recommend staying in Appenzell for at least three nights. If you do, you qualify for the Appenzell Holiday Card created by the town to promote tourism. It has many excellent perks, such as free transportation between any Swiss station and Appenzell (including the journey between Zurich and Appenzell), free entry to Appenzell museums, free use of local transportation, free hiking boot rentals, and small gifts you can pick up at specified locations. The holiday card makes Appenzell one of the most affordable towns to visit in Switzerland!
Where can I stay?
Appenzell is a small town, so it has limited options on where to stay. As a budget-friendly, clean, and comfortable option, I highly recommend Alte Metzg Boutique and Hostel. It has a guesthouse with six beautifully furnished rooms and a hostel with two multi-bed rooms. Both options have a well-stocked kitchen, and the guesthouse has a bonus sauna and terrace. The staff is incredibly welcoming, and the rooms are well-kept.
What should I pack?
It is crucial to prepare for hiking! Here is a comprehensive list of equipment I recommend taking on the hikes listed in this article:
- Hiking boots (You can rent them in Appenzell for free using the Appenzell Holiday card)
- Hiking daypack
- Water bottle
- First aid kit
- Moisture-wicking shirt
- Hiking pants (or shorts)
- Waterproof windbreaker
- Hiking socks
- Bug spray
- Microfiber towel (to use after swimming)
- Swimsuit (if hiking to the lake)
- Protein bars/lunch
You do not need more intense hiking gear since these hikes are short. Each trail on this list also leads to a restaurant where you can refill your water and enjoy food and drinks.
Check out my Travel Essentials List for more packing tips!
Hiking Trials Starting Point
Each of these trails starts at the same station, Wasserauen Station! You can easily reach it by train or car from Appenzell. For the first two hikes, you will take the Ebenalp cable car from Wasserauen Station (free with the Appenzell Holiday Card or approximately $36 without) up to reach your starting point. If you are looking for a more challenging hike, you can start directly from the station instead of taking the cable car up. However, I only recommend this if you are physically fit. It will also double or triple your hiking time, which is not ideal for hiking in the hot summer weather. As this is a guide for hiking newbies, I recommend taking the cable car up. The third hike is the only one on this list starting directly from Wasserauen station.
Without further ado, these are the trails I recommend for your Appenzell hiking adventure as a beginner:
Ascher Hike from Ebenalp
Duration: 1 hour
Distance: 700 meters
Starting with the easiest trail on this list, the Ascher Hike begins at the Ebenalp cable car dropoff point and ends at the gorgeous Ascher restaurant carved into the cliff’s edge. The restaurant dates back to the 1800s and is famous for its charm amidst its natural surroundings. The trail is well-marked, and you will see signs as soon as you get off the cable car. It is entirely downhill, so it is not physically challenging, but it is essential to watch your footing and not rush through it. The path is gravelly, so hiking boots are a must. Once you reach the restaurant, you go back along the same route to the cable car. However, I highly recommend stopping and having a bite at the restaurant first!
The trail is popular, and highlights include going through a cave and seeing Wildkirchli (Wild Church). Wildkirchli is a network of three interlinked caves that became famous for their prehistoric discoveries. You will see a charming small chapel and stone house on your trail. The cave is dark and slippery, so bring a flashlight or use the flashlight on your phone to help you navigate. There are strategically placed handrails throughout, so use those to keep your balance.
Schäfler Ridge Hike from Ebenalp
Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 1 kilometer
The Schäfler Ridge hike, like the Ascher hike, also starts from the Ebenalp cable car and takes you to a beautiful mountain hut with a view of the famous ridge. Instead of going downwards from the Ebenalp cable car, you will head upwards and follow the signs for Schäfler Ridge. This trail is also well-marked and not technically challenging, but the path is rocky and gravelly, so bring hiking boots and watch your footing. Some inclines can be steep, but the hike is very doable if you take breaks and catch your breath. You end with a set of switchbacks that will test your legs, but that final push leads to a fantastic reward.
Along the way, you will see stunning views on both sides and may even run into hoses and cows! Once you reach the hut, you can stop for food or an Appenzeller beer to replenish your strength. Afterward, go to the stunning viewpoint located right behind the restaurant. Experienced hikers may try to hike along the spine of the ridge, but I do not recommend this to a new hiker. The ridge has dangerous dropoffs on both sides, so you must be sure-footed. After taking in the view, head back to the cable car the same way you came up!
Seealpsee Hike from Wasserauen
Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 2.9 kilometers
The final hike on this Appenzell hiking adventure is the hike to Seealpsee, one of the most stunning Alpine lakes in Switzerland. This hike, unlike the other two, starts directly from Wasserauen station. You follow along the paved road toward Seealpsee. Please note that you cannot drive or ride a bike up this road, so there are no shortcuts to seeing this lake. The trail is short but steep, with a few intense inclines, which will test your stamina. Luckily you do not have to bring hiking boots since the road is entirely paved or gravel. A good pair of athletic sneakers will suffice.
Note: There is a second trail from Wasserauen to Seealpsee, which goes through the woods. However, this trail is longer and would require hiking shoes instead of sneakers. I did not take this route, but you can see a waterfall and more interesting scenery along the way.
Once you reach Seealpsee, the hard part is over! Have some food and drinks at the inn or rent a rowboat to take out into the middle of the lake. You can also jump in and swim in the refreshing waters! The clear and cool water feels especially wonderful on a hot summer day. When you are finished exploring, head back down the same road to Wasserauen station. This time, it is entirely downhill, making it less taxing on the body.
As you can see, it is possible to enjoy Appenzell hiking as a beginner. You can marvel at Switzerland’s nature and beauty even if you don’t have the stamina or the technical skills for longer trails. As a final tip, visit Appenzell during the Summer to participate in Alpstobete, a traditional festivity. Herdsmen often host this festivity in the open air. It includes music, folk dancing, and yodeling. Your hotel staff should be able to guide you on when and where an Alpstobete will be held, but they generally take place on the weekends. Now you have the tools to plan and enjoy your Appenzell adventure!