You may not know it, but although I grew up near Lausanne, I am actually from the beautiful little canton of Appenzell. Appenzell is known to be a region of Switzerland that has preserved a rich tradition but also beautiful landscapes.
When I was younger, I was lucky enough to still have my grandfather living there, so it was super easy for me to come there to explore a bit 😉 Today, I wanted to tell you about a great classic of the region: the loop hike towards the Seealpsee and the famous Aescher hotel.
This article was originally written in 2014. In December 2022, we did a complete update of this one to include more info, the map of the hike as well as the new rates for the lifts.
Wasserauen: the starting point for hiking in Appenzell
The hike starts at exactly the same place as when we climbed the Säntis a few years ago. So we arrived early in the morning at the station of Wasserauen by train. The hike starts right in front of the station, but we won’t hide it from you, when we arrived we were a bit shocked!
Two years ago we came by car and made sure to start the hike at 7:00 am in order not to walk in the sun. So when we parked the car we were almost the only people living in the small village of Wasserauen.
But that day we were coming from Zurich, so we arrived in Wasserauen “only” around 9:30 am… And then it was a bit of a shock! Dozens and dozens of hikers were already on the train, and once at the station we found ourselves facing a huge parking lot full of people!
A little panic when we saw all these people! Hiking is definitely a very popular leisure activity in our little country! Well, it has to be said that a cabin leaves Wasserauen and that many people don’t go directly by foot from here, but still!
Are you planning to visit Switzerland by train? We advise you to read our article which will allow you to compare the Swiss travel pass with the half-fare card. The article also includes 3 examples of train routes through Switzerland and the associated budget depending on the ticket you take.
If you prefer not to take a travel pass, but rather take advantage of the Supersaver tickets and day passes, then go to this post for all the details.
From Wasserauen to the Seealpsee
So we started our climb of the day by slaloming a bit between groups of friends and families who were quietly climbing in single file.
Go figure, when there are a lot of people on a trail we tend to speed up a bit, as if we were secretly hoping to lose everyone even though we know there are just as many people ahead…
The path starts with a steep climb in the forest. It’s funny because I still remember very well my feeling at the time of this climb in 2012: when I arrived at the exit of the forest I was breathing heavily and wondered how I was going to manage to get to the top of the Säntis.
My physical condition was really not at the top! Of course I’m still not a great athlete yet, but our world tour really got me in shape! This time the climb in the forest felt really easy, when we arrived at the Seealpsee I was in great shape!
Seealpsee in Appenzell
Once at the lake we could have turned right immediately to start the climb towards the Aescher hotel. But as it was still early and also because we knew that it was not going to take us very long to reach the top we decided to make a small detour to go around the lake.
This little “detour” adds 3km to the walk but believe us, it is worth it. And well, who says tour of the lake says also perfectly flat path. 🙂 And if sometimes you need a little pick-me-up on the way, there is a nice inn right by the water where you can stop for a coffee or a Rivella (the typical Swiss hikers’ drink).
And know that in summer, it is also possible to swim there to refresh yourself after the first climb 😉
This lake is really beautiful! By the way, for the Swiss beer lovers (if it exists), it is this lake which is represented on the Appenzell beer “Quöllfrisch”. 🙂
Ascent from Seealpsee to Hotel Aescher
Once the tour of the lake was over, we went back on our steps to start the climb towards the Aescher hotel. The climb is not very long (2,3 km for about 400m of difference in altitude) and it is done on a perfectly maintained path.
Big laces make us quickly take altitude in the forest and in many places the relatively steep slope is secured by steps.
Officially, the indicative walking time is about 1h15. This time is relatively generous, but quite honestly it is worth not rushing. On the one hand because the views are magnificent but also because the area is infamous for its accidents.
The Alpstein, and in particular the hike from the Seealpsee to the Aescher Hotel, has been in the news several times in recent years. The reason? Unfortunately, there have been several fatal accidents in this area (5 in 2022). We are regularly asked whether this route is indeed “dangerous”. So our answer is always the same… No, this trail is not dangerous, but it is a mountain trail! It is essential to have good shoes on your feet, to be attentive and to listen to yourself if you are tired. If you are worried about this, I recommend to do the route in the direction described in this article, i.e. from the Seealpsee to the Aescher. This part is the steepest and will be less “dangerous” in the upward direction than in the downward direction. Unfortunately, it is common for people to go up in the gondola with little sneakers or sandals and then go down to the lake. This is NOT a good idea! If you are hiking with children, we advise you (as on many trails that can be exposed) to keep them under supervision / hold their hands. I’ve put some photos here so you can see the path below.
Concerning the accidents, it is always very sad news. After, we must also be aware that this trail is very busy, so statistically, there are also more accidents unfortunately. 🙁
The Aescher Hotel: the swiss postcard par excellence
The Aescher hotel is located at 1454m of altitude and we confess it was to see it that we came in the region. Indeed, it has the particularity to be literally suspended in the rock and to offer a breathtaking panorama on the Alpstein region!
Eating lunch at hotel Aescher
Our initial idea was to reach the restaurant in time for the lunch break, and naive as we are, we thought that we could enjoy the superb terrace to taste a good typical Appenzell dish before setting off again…
Hmmm… so how to say… We started to understand that our plan was compromised when we arrived at the bottom of the restaurant and heard a huge noise coming from the small path that was coming from the Ebenalp above us. So you should know that it is possible to reach the Ebenalp by gondola and that the descent to the Aescher hotel only takes 15-20 minutes!
We had already experienced this, and once again this example will have confirmed the rule: “When the walking time to reach a place is less than 2 hours, then we expose ourselves to the risk of meeting a LOT of people!”
In 2018, this pretty little hotel made the headlines for a very special reason: the managers gave up their apron! Totally overrun by passing tourists, the couple who had been managing the place for many years decided that enough was enough for them.
Soon investors and buyers came to the door. In the spring of 2019 the Aescher hotel opened again with new managers. We do not know their offer in detail, but it clearly looks more “classy”. Initially, they no longer offered accommodations and the menu had become much more “fancy”. In 2022, their menu went back to something more traditional (soups, salads, cheese platters) and it is once again possible to spend the night there (by booking well in advance). More info on ther website
For meals, reservations are not possible during the day for groups of less than 10 people.
Tourist spot in Switzerland: avoid the weekend
So imagine a beautiful Saturday in October, not a cloud on the horizon… It did not fail; the hotel was literally taken by storm! The terrace was packed and dozens and dozens of people were already lining up to hope to get a table! Ouch!
In short, we took some photos, we tried to forget our hunger and continued our way!
A last effort to reach the Ebenalp
A little disappointed not to have been able to taste a good cheese crust while enjoying the view, but not dismayed we decided to see if the terrace of the Ebenalp restaurant also served some good stuff.
From the hotel Aescher it takes about 20 minutes to reach the arrival of the gondola. The path is certainly crowded on weekends, but it is very nice!
We first pass a stone house and a small chapel in the middle of the rock, the “Wildkirchli” (meaning “little wild church”).
Then we cross a cave which shelters tools and prehistoric vestiges. The cave in itself has nothing special, but the landscape is always so superb and the small explanations on the area are nice!
Tasting of local Swiss products
Once we arrived at the Ebenalp we were surprised in a good way. Ok, the terrace of the restaurant had a lot less charm than the one of the Aescher, but we had no problem to find a seat, we tasted a delicious plate of Appenzell specialities and we even met a Chinese tourist who ended up at our table during the meal.
Just for this meeting alone we didn’t regret not having eaten somewhere else than at Aescher! This gentleman, who had come to Switzerland on business, arrived on the Ebenalp with his Swiss business partner and his wife.
This cheerful Swiss-German couple in their late sixties had decided to show him the region and let him taste the specialties. Macaroni, dried meat, sausage, pickles, and various cheeses from the region were on the menu. We spent more than an hour talking about China (where we had spent 3 months during our round the world trip), but also to reassure him about our culinary specialties. The poor guy didn’t dare to taste anything and had a panic fear of getting sick with our weird dried meat and expired milk that we call “cheese”.
Practical information for the Seealpsee-Aescher hike
This hike is easy and accessible to everyone. The path climbs quite steeply in places, but considering the relatively short distance, this makes the walk really open to everyone (we would avoid strollers though) 🙂 !
- Hike start : Wasserauen
- Finish : Ebenalp (or you can decide to keep hiking down to Wasserauen)
- Elevation gain/loss : about 850m
- Distance : about 8km including the detour around the lake. 12km if you decide to hike back down
- Time : Count about 3h-3h30 of walking time (and plenty of photo breaks) to Ebenalp, then 1h30 of descent
- Best time of the year : April to October
If you can, try to avoir weekends if you want to be hiking with less peopleHiking map: You can download the track of our hike to have it with you on your phone/connected watch. To do this, simply create an account (free) on AllTrails and download the map in the desired format. Download the Seealpsee track
Once you have arrived at Ebenalp you have the possibility to go back down to Wasserauen by cabin. The descent costs CHF 22.00 for the full fare (CHF 11.00 if you have a half-fare card or the GA or Swiss travel pass).
Or else a hiking path will bring you to the parking lot in not even 2 hours 😉
Here is a map of the region to help you plan your hike in Appenzell:
We hope you enjoyed this article and that it will help you plan your next hike in Appenzell. 🙂 See you soon on the blog.