You’ve probably seen photos of the dreamy Aescher Guesthouse at some point on social media. As a historic wooden guesthouse built right into a cliff in the Alpstein mountains of Switzerland, it surely is a memorable sight.
Prettier than a postcard, and set against a backdrop of the Swiss mountains beyond, this is one of the most visited landmarks in the Alpstein massif.
The area surrounding the Aescher Guesthouse are also spectacular, and with other must-see landmarks as well.
I’ve done the hike in this area a few times, and am happy to share all details in this articles to help you plan the perfect hike to Aescher Guesthouse and beyond!
When is Aescher Guesthouse Open?
The Aescher mountain inn itself will be open from early as May, and usually closes in November, depending on weather conditions.
Although the Guesthouse closes for winter, you can still visit it from the outside by taking the cablecar to Ebenalp Station.
The Ebenalp Cablecar has also recently expanded in operating hours in 2023, so the window of time to visit Aescher Guethouse is wider than before. Now, the cablecar runs from as early as late March until November or December (to be determined).
Although the area around Ebenalp and Aescher guesthouse will be open and accessible from spring to late autumn, the hikes to other sites are mostly inaccessible in colder months.
When to Visit Aescher Guesthouse
Ebenalp, Aescher in Summer
If you plan to hike from Wasserauen (the valley floor) to Aescher Guesthouse, that is best done in the summer months, from mid-June until September.
In summer, you can expect the driest, and sunniest weather for optimal hiking days. You’ll also encounter the most people, but it never feels too crowded like in some places in the French Alps.
Hiking in summer also has the advantage of longer daylight hours, so you can complete your hikes at a leisurely pace.
Ebenalp, Aescher in Autumn
You can technically hike to Aescher in the shoulder season, but the weather conditions you can expect will be a mixed bag.
For reference, I hiked to the Ebnalp Aescher area in late autumn of October in 2021, and had 20 degrees Celsius weather, and nothing but clear skies and sun. Other years, there may already be traces of snow on the trail by this time.
Definitely check the weather conditions before making the journey out here and being dissapointed.
Ebenalp, Aescher in Spring
The same goes for hiking in spring, which more often than not, does still see ice and snow on the trails. I don’t recommend trying to hike in these conditions as parts of the trail can be slippery, resulting in injury or potentially something worse.
I hiked this trail as late as June once, and there were still large sections of the trail covered in ice. If you must visit the Aescher Guesthouse in spring, I’d recommend planning for late May or after, no earlier.
Ebenalp, Aescher in Winter
In winter, the cablecar will be closed, and so will the guesthouse.
Hiking is also out of the picture since Ebenalp and Aescher Guesthouse are located along the mountain ridge, at 1496 meters in elevation.
At this altitude, its very susceptible to extreme, unpredictable weather, so the risk for dangerous weather conditions is far too high to safely hike.
Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the beauty of this region in winter. You can opt to visit Santis, the peak of the Alpstein mountains by taking a cablecar. Or, just hang out in Appenzell village, one of the cutest villages in Switzerland.
Visiting Switzerland in winter? Read: Guide to Zermatt in Winter
How to Get to Aescher Guesthouse
To get to Aescher Guesthouse, all visitors will likely start in Wasserauen. This is where the trailhead is for those who want to hike. For those that want to take the cablecar, it also departs in Wasserauen.
Wasserauen by Car
If you are coming by car, there is a parking lot right next to the cablecar station.
In summer, another parking area opens up in a large grassy area between the cable car and Alpenrose Hotel. The parking spot is a flat rate fee of 5 CHF.
Wasserauen by Train
You can take a train directly into Wasserauen from anywhere in Switzerland. Some major cities nearby would be Zurich or St. Gallen, which are both good starting points for this journey.
Most routes will take you through Appenzell, then you’ll take a regional tram to Wasserauen Station.
I book all trains in Switzerland using Trainline.
Where to Stay
In Appenzell, inn to inn hiking is a popular way to enjoy the mountains here over several days. For that, many will embark on a multi-day hike through the Alpstein Massif.
You don’t need to stay overnight if your only goal is to see the landmarks listed in this article. And you definitely don’t need to spend the night in the mountains just to see the Aescher mountain hut.
But this region of Switzerland is one of the most scenic, and many do plan to spend at least a night in the area.
The best hotel in this area is the Adler Hotel in Appenzell. It’s a beautiful hotel, set in a traditional Appenzell-style building.
If you are a solo or budget traveler, I can recommend Alte Metzg Hostel nearby.
Things to Pack
If you are coming in warmer months (which you should), just know that the hike mostly goes along the ridge of the mountain peaks.
This means no trees, and no shade. Definitely pack for sunny and hot weather, but bring something in case it gets windy or if some clouds suddenly roll in. Here is what I’d recommend.
- Hiking clothes
- Hiking Shoes
- A Hat
- Sunglasses – It’s unbearably bright at midday here, sunglasses advised
- Water bottle (1 liter at least) – 1 liter is enough
- Hiking Snacks
- Lightweight Waterproof Jacket
- Hiking Poles
- Microfiber towel – Only if you plan to swim in Seealpsee Lake.
Plan Your Route to Aescher Guesthouse
There are many ways you can spend your day around the Aescher Guesthouse. First, your level of fitness will determine your options. To get to the Aescher Mountain Inn, you need to get to the Ebenalp area.
Navigation to Aescher Guesthouse
The trails to the Aescher Guesthouse and nearby sites are all well-marked by bright, yellow signs on the trail.
You’d be hard pressed to miss any of these signs, but to be safe, you can opt to take a picture of the map at the welcome center for the cablecar in Wasserauen.
Phone signal will also work for most sections of this hike, so there isn’t much room for error here. Just decide which route you want to take beforehand, then follow the signs.
Getting to Ebenalp
Once you arrive in Wasserauen, you have two options: you can either begin the hike from here or take the cable car up to the first station in Ebenalp.
Taking the Cablecar to Ebenalp
Taking the cablecar to Ebenalp is pretty straightforward. The cablecar station is a 2 minute walk from Wasserauen station, and costs about 34 CHF roundtrip, or 22 CHF for a one way ticket.
The cablecar runs as early as 7:30am until 7:30pm in peak season. It runs every 15 minutes so you never have to wait very long. The entire ride is approximately 6 minutes.
For timetables and for information on the cablecar, click here.
Hiking to Ebenalp
If you choose to hike, you will have to endure 4.4 kilometers and roughly 800 meters (about 2600 feet) in elevation gain to reach Ebenalp.
If you have proper shoes, and are reasonably fit, this hike is no problem. If it’s any consolation, I am only moderately fit and did this hike in a skirt and sneakers (don’t be like me though).
It’s about 1 hour and 42 minutes from Wasserauen to Ebenalp, with the trail starting just a bit behind the visitor center. If you can’t find it, just ask someone at the visitor center, as it is a bit hidden.
You’ll start with a pretty steep ascent through a forested area that quickly takes you up into the mountain.
The path is well maintained, but not without the occasional large boulder and tree root to climb over. This is where good shoes will save you.
It is pretty steep, so definitely pace yourself as to not burn out in the beginning of the hike. You’ll continue through the forest gaining steep elevation for about 40 minutes.
After about 300 meters in elevation gain, you’ll come to a gorgeous, grassy clearing with cows and little mountain huts scattered around.
From here, it flattens out for about 20 minutes, allowing you to breeze through and enjoy the surroundings.
The last ascent goes along the mountain face, gradually going upwards, until becoming much steeper all the way until Ebenalp.
This part will take you about 40 minutes before you see the Ebenalp cablecar station
From here, decide which route to take depending on what you want to see.
Option 1: Full Loop Hike (Wasserauen – Ebenalp – Aescher – Wildkirchli – Shalfer – Seealpsee – Wasserauen)
Hiking Time: 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1100 meters
If you have the full day to spend in this area, have proper shoes and hiking gear, and are reasonbly fit, I’d suggest doing this full loop.
This route includes the famous mountainside Aescher Guesthouse, the Wildkirchli caves and churches, Shafler mountain ridge, and finishing off at the stunning Seealpsee Lake before looping back to where you began in Wasserauen.
To do this full loop, it’s best to start early in the day, to have more time to enjoy the scenery. Just trust me on this, you’ll want to take frequent stops to soak in the scenery!
Here is a map of the suggested hike, for the Google Map click here.
According to Google, this hike will take at least 4 hours of just walking time. In my experience it takes much longer.
This is especially due to the last leg of the hike, descending down to Seealpsee Lake. This section of the trail is extremely steep and rocky.
Careful footing is needed, and it doesn’t help that it can be wet and slippery from melted snow.
Plus, you’ll need to factor in extra time to explore the caves, the lake, and perhaps have a bite to eat at the Aescher Guesthouse. A comfortable amount of time is to plan a hike of 7 hours.
This way if you have more time, you can enjoy extra activities, such as taking a boat out onto the Seealpsee lake (more on that later).
From Seealpsee, it’s a steep, but short, and mostly paved path down to get back to the Wasserauen parking area, about 30 minutes away.
Option 2: Cablecar to Ebenalp – HIke to Aescher Mountain Inn & Shafler
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Elevation Gain: 200 meters
Cost: 34 CHF for a roundtrip ticket on the Ebenalp cablecar
This option involves the least amount of time, effort and exercise. For those who just want to see the highlights without breaking too much of a sweat, this will be the best route to choose.
You’ll still enjoy most of the best sites and attractions in this section of the Alpstein mountains, on a reltaively easy hike on a mostly flat path. The only downside is that you won’t get to see the lake, which can only be reached by hiking.
Click on the map of the suggested hike below, or click here.
This option starts with taking the cablecar from Wasserauen to Ebenalp. The cablecar starts running from 7:30am in the morning until as late as 7:30pm in the summer months.
It runs every 15 minutes, so it comes quite frequently and the journey only takes about 6 minutes.
Once you arrive in Ebenalp cablecar station, to Aescher Guesthouse its just another 15 minute walk.
The walk is fairly enjoyable, especially on a sunny day. Enjoy yourself, grab a beer or a bite to eat at the Aescher Mountain Inn restaurant.
After that, check out the Wildkirchl caves nearby, then walk another 40 minutes along the ridge for to reach Shafler.
The path to Shafler is very well marked, and easy to follow. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the Shafler Guesthouse.
From here you’ll marvel at the impressive Shafler Mountain Ridge, a jagged set of mountain peaks that seem to collpase onto each other. This dramatic scenery is best taken in from areas around the Shafler Guesthouse, or better yet, from their beer terrace.
To complete the hike, just backtrack the exact same way you came, back to Ebenalp, and take the cable car down the mountain.
Keep track of the time and be sure not to miss your cablecare down the mountain!
Option 3: Cablecar to Ebenalp – HIke to Aescher Mountain Inn – Shafler – Seealpsee
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Elevation gain: Not much, but very steep descent of over 10000 meters!!
Cost: 22 CHF for a one way ticket on the cablecar
This option is a good middle ground for those that want to see everything, but also want to save their time and efforts.
Click on the map below to see the full route, or click here.
You’ll take the cablecar from Wasserauen to Ebenalp, to skip most of the elevation gain of the otherwise steep ascent up the mountain ridge.
You’ll follow the exact same route as the option above, from Ebenalp to Aescher, to Wildkirchli and to Shafler, which should take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours.
But instead of going back to Ebenalp, you’ll descend from around Shafler to Seealpsee lake.
The descent from Shafler to Seealpsee is the steepest and hardest descent of all these itinerary options.
Distance wise, it’s not that far. But you can expect this section to take at least one hour just given the difficulty.
Hikers should expect a very steep, rocky way down for about 800 meters. Proper footwear is definitely needed.
I’d also advise reserving some energy for this particular portion of the trail since most injuries happen during the descent on hikes.
Again, from Seealpsee lake it’s just, about a 30 minute steep descent down a well paved path towards your starting point, in Wasserauen.
Regardless which hiking route you choose, your adventure to Aescher Mountain Inn starts from Wasserauen. To get here, you have two options.
Landmarks Around Aescher Guesthouse
The Aescher Guesthouse has been standing in its original form since the 1860s. It’s one of the oldest mountain huts in Switzerland, and by far one of the most unique.
It’s famous for being built right into the rocky mountain itself, and set against the breathtaking view of the mountain valley below.
If you feel tired, feel free to stop by the guesthouse, which serves food and drinks to refuel you. If you are put off by Swiss prices, this is where your hiking snacks will come into play.
Sit along the edge of the ridge and have your snacks, and take in the scenery.
You’ll have unobstructed views of the mountains across the valley, and the emerald surface of Seealpsee lake glimmering in the sun below.
If you want, you can stay overnight in Aescher Guesthouse too. While this sounds great, just know that there are no showers.
For information about staying overnight click here.
The Wildkirchli is a fascinating place, that is both a religious point of interest as well as natural one. It’s a network of 3 naturally forming caves, that are all connected.
The most famously known one houses a historic chapel inside.
The backstory starts in 1658. Priest Ulmann of Appenzell village was the first hermit to establish eventually live inside the Wildkirchli.
He would soon be joined by a few other hermits, who would provide food and lodging to pilgrims visiting the chapel. It became a pilgrimage site not long after.
Today, visitors can enter the caves, visit the chapel, and view very old cave paintings that date back to Neanderthalic times.
Interestingly, the chapel still hold real church services too. If you are interested, check the website to see when services are held.
After passing through the caves, you will come back out onto the ridge. From here, you can continue walking along the trail to reach Shafler.
If you are set on making it to Shafler, it’s best to come in July or August just in case, as this section of the trail is dangeous if any ice is present.
To reach Shafler, you’ll walk along the ridge on more or less a straight path.
The trail is mostly flat. You’ll have amazing views of the valley on your left, and the mountain face on your right.
Shafler itself is a dramatic mountain ridge, and one of the most visually impressive landmarks in the Alpstein massif.
On sunny days, you’ll see far into the valley, and the mountains beyond. On cloudy days, the peaks of Shafler will tower above the clouds, making for moody but beautiful photography.
Since this is at a high altitude, it can get windy. If this happens, just hide in the nearby Shafler Guesthouse where you can reward yourself with yet another beer.
The trail to Seealpsee from the mountain ridge is unpaved, and remains very rocky and uneven. Admittedly, this is the least fun part of the hike but the reward is well worth the effort.
Seealpsee Lake is truly one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland. During winter in Switzerland, it’s it often freezes, allowing people to walk and skate over it.
In summer, the lake unfreezes to reveal a strikingly beautiful, emerald blue lake.
If the weather is hot enough, you can try to go for a swim. Honestly, I think it’s still too cold even on the hottest summer days to do more than dip a few toes in.
Alternatively, you can opt to rent one of the little row boats for 5 CHF per half an hour. This is a great way to take in the views of the lake, ad give your legs a break.
If all else fails, you can just walk around the lake to enjoy its beauty. There are some huts on the far side of the lake, so if you aren’t tired, you can walk over there and explore.
What to Eat
There aren’t many options for places to eat around here, so it’s best to come prepared with snacks. But if you find yourself hungry, you can find food in the following places.
The guesthouse has it’s own onsite restaurant, where you can enjoy locally produced regional goods. Grab a charcuterie board, with local cheese and cured meat. It’s perfect for sharing with a group of hungry hikers.
Around the the cablecar station, there are a few vending machines stocked with locally produced cheese, meats and milk. You can even get fresh milk poured on tap before or after your hike to rehydrate with the local drink.
Located right next to the lake, this guest house offers food and drinks on their terrace overlooking the lake. Grab a bite to eat, or a refreshing beer. It’s the best way to unwind and refuel after completing most of the hike.
And that wraps up this guide to hiking to Aescher Mountain Inn and the surrounding Appenzell areas. What’s your favorite place in Switzerland? Let me know, below!