Ebenalp is such a stunning (and underrated) destination in Switzerland. My last post outlines the hike from Wasserauen to Seealpsee, which is a beautiful beginner hike that takes you up to a beautiful vibrant turquoise alpine lake. We decided to actually go a bit further and take the difficult trail up to Schäfler, an insane ridgeline that overlooks Austria and Germany. This hike is really tough and full of adventure, as well as rewarding! Here’s everything you need to know about Ebenalp’s ultimate Schäfler ridgeline hike.
The Schäfler Ridgeline Hike in a Nutshell
Schäfler Ridgeline Hike Key Info
There are quite a few ways to get up to the Schäfler Ridgeline from Wasserauen.
A) You can take the cable car up from Wasserauen to Ebenalp and then hike up from there.
B) Walk up from Wasserauen to Seealpsee, then up to Ebenalp and finally to Schäfler. Going through Ebenalp makes the trail much easier and drastically decreases the exposure of the hike.
C. Walk from Wasserauen to Seelapsee and then to Schäfler.
I’ll be focusing on Route C up to the Schäfler Ridgeline. This is NOT a hike for young children or those who are afraid of heights.
Hike End: Schäfler Hutte
Length: 4.7 km / 3 miles
Time: 3 hours
Ascent: 760 meters / 3493 ft
Difficulty: Advanced – There’s a lot of exposure on this hike and you’ll rely on cables to get up some steeper sections.
Like this post? Save it for later!
How to get to the Schäfler Ridgeline Hike Trailhead
Wasserauen (and the Apenzell region) is easily accessible by public transport or car. Here’s how to get to Wasserauen.
How to get to Wasserauen by train
Take the Appenzeller Railway up to Wasserauen. You can get direct connections from St. Gallen or Gossau. This railway is included in the swiss day pass, which is my recommendation if you’re travelling far by train to Wasserauen.
How to get to Wasserauen by car
You’ll drive through Apenzell and Gossau to get to Wasserauen. It takes roughly 1 hr 15 minutes from Zurich, 2 hours from Basel, and 3 hours from Interlaken.
Parking in Wasserauen
There’s public parking in Wasserauen for 3 CHF per day. It’s a small parking lot, but on busy days this will fill up quickly! There’s another lot in the grass with people to steer you in the right direction. You’ll pay as soon as you arrive in the grass lot, so make sure you have cash ready!
My Time on the Wasserauen to Schäfler Ridgeline Hike
After arriving in Wasserauen, I started hiking up to Seealpsee via the forest path. There’s a more direct way to get there on a paved trail, but there’s no shade and it’s very steep! The indirect way (forest path) is actually a little longer, but it’s so much more pleasant, as you walk uphill next to a waterfall before the paths opens up into a beautiful flat alpine pasture area with mountainous views and cows surrounding you. From the pasture, it’s all downhill until you get to Seealpsee. I wrote about this hike in more detail in this post. It’s a beautiful beginner hike that will take you around 1-1.5 hours to complete.
Seealpsee is an amazing place to see. In the summertime, there are people having picnics and swimming in the alpine water. I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to cold water, so I chose to skip that and instead opt for walking around the lake, which I recommend. The full hike around the lake is roughly 2 kilometers if you want to tack that onto your hike.
The best view of the lake is from the restaurant. When hiking up to the entrance of the restaurant, you’ll see tables ahead of you. If you go to the right, past the tables, there’s a little clearing with the best Seealpsee view.
From Seealpsee (near the restaurant), you’ll head to the opposite side of the lake, following signs towards Schäfler. You’ll go into the valley and then to the right. The trail is a little bit faint initially, but there’s a sign that will point you in the right direction.
You start walking uphill, but it isn’t too steep. When you get into the foresty area, it’ll start getting steeper. There are lots of metal steps and cables to hold onto, should you lose your footing. This part of the hike isn’t the most exciting, as the trees block your views most of the way, but every once in a while you’ll get a glimpse of the lake below you.
Once you can see the entire lake, this time from above, you’re getting close to the first nice spot for a break. There’s a fence to keep grazing cows out that you’ll need to hop. There’s a wooden platform to help you with this part. After that, you have a perfect spot to sit. There aren’t benches but the grass is pretty soft and the view? Amazing. There’s a place to fill up water just a little ways away so feel free to finish any water you have.
I rested here and took in the view for a while. After I finished my little break, it took me about 10 minutes to reach the next signpost. This is where we meet up with the main trail. Follow the main trail towards Schäfler and Altenalp. At Altenalp, there’s a small mountain hut with food and a trough to fill up water bottles.
After filling water, head towards your right. There’s a small abandoned hut you need to pass. The most exciting part of the hike is right after this! There are plenty of switchbacks taking you up the side of the mountain. There’s quite a bit of scree, so be careful! I wouldn’t recommend returning downhill this way. The trail will start to become more and more exposed, and cables will start popping up to aid you. If you took a tumble here, you would probably fall quite a long way down. I’m not afraid of heights, as I’ve grown up rock climbing, but I’ll admit I was a little nervous here. On the bright side, the views are unmatched and unlike any other hike I’ve done!
Towards the very top, you’ll come to another sign. If you turn left, you’ll head over to Säntis, but this hike will continue going towards Schäfler hutte. The views of the ridge are the best at this point. It reminded me of the Seceda Ridgeline in the Dolomites, but this is NOT one that I’d like to walk on.
After you get to the ridgeline, it’s a quick and flat stroll on over to the Schäfler hut! You can grab a tea or coffee here before heading downhill. When heading downhill, I highly recommend taking the main trail to Ebenalp instead of retracing your steps, as the scree could potentially make the hike dangerous going down!
When to Hike in Ebenalp
Ebenalp is a great summer and autumn hiking destination.
NOVEMBER – MAY | You can expect to see snow in Ebenalp during the winter and spring months, so I wouldn’t recommend hiking during this time. With snow and ice, the trails could be potentially quite dangerous.
JUNE – OCTOBER | You can expect to get great weather during these months! During June, you might experience a little snow, so keep an eye out on the weather and don’t hike steep/difficult trails if there’s ice. July and August will likely be HOT, so make sure you wear cool clothing, bring plenty of water, and load up on sunscreen!
Where to stay near Ebenalp
Alpenrose Guesthouse, Wasserauen – This guesthouse is located at the bottom of the region, where you can easily catch the Ebenalp cable car! It’s only a 2 minute walk away from the cable car station and only 5 minutes from the Wasserauen train station. Rooms start at 60 CHF for a single room and go up to 200 CHF for a four-person room.
Ebenalp Guesthouse – The Ebenalp Guesthouse is located up near the Ebenalp Cable Car Station. It costs 45 CHF for a place in a dormitory. It’s a great place to stay if you don’t want to stay below and have to take the cable car two days!
Seealpsee Guesthouse – If you aren’t opposed to hiking, the Seealpsee Guesthouse is a great place to stay! Getting to and away from Seealpsee takes some hiking, either all the way from Wasserauen or from the Ebenalp cable car station. The views from this guesthouse are incredible. A single room costs CHF 80 and a double room costs 75 per person. They also have triple and quadruple rooms.
Schäfler Guesthouse – This is the ultimate place to stay for sunrise and sunset. The Schäfler ridgeline is insanely beautiful and I highly recommend checking it out! It costs 45 CHF to stay in the dormitories, and it costs 70 CHF per person in their single or double rooms.
Other helpful Switzerland posts
Below you’ll find some other guides I’ve written to help you navigate through your time in Switzerland!