The first time I saw a photo of Berggasthaus Aescher, a hotel built into the rock face of a mountain in the Swiss Alps I knew I had to go.
Berggasthaus, one of the most unique hotels in Switzerland, sits atop Mountain Ebenalp, a small, somewhat unassuming yet stunningly beautiful mountain in the Appenzell region. Wasserauen Ebenalp Alpine Mountain is a magical little piece of Switzerland, blessed with both astounding natural beauty and plenty of opportunities for adventure. We’ll discuss them in this article!
There is enough to do here to fill a day (more if you want!)
In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know to spend a day exploring and hiking this stunning little slice of Swiss heaven!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.
Wasserauen Ebenalp Mountain
Location: Ebenalp Mountain is the northernmost summit of the Appenzell Alps which are part of the Swiss Alps.
Elevation: 5,381 feet about sea level
By Swiss standards, the Appenzell Alps aren’t very high mountains but are in my opinion some of the most picturesque.
What is there to do on Ebenalp? Friends, this is a one stop shop if you are looking to spend a fun day in Switzerland while surrounded by stunning scenery. Make your way to the top where you’ll find Instagram inspiring ways to spend a day such as these:
- 1-Wildkirchli church, where people to this day attend church in a prehistoric cave. You can catch their angelic music on Sundays!
- 2-Instagram inspiration Ebenalp Restaurant and Hotel, that amazing little building pictured in the photo above. Aescher Ebenalp is a cozy place to have a snack or a meal before you head down the mountain or back to the cable car.
- 3–Happy cows graze alpine pastures in the shadow of the rugged rock formations carved out in the mountains, their musical cowbells like a happy soundtrack on a non stop loop. I love that sound!
- 4-Some of the best Appenzell hiking. Trails wind their way up the mountain to the highest peaks, and down the mountain to Seealpsee Lake and Seealpsee hotel. (Ebeanalp Wandern und Seealpsee Wanderung!)
- 5-Ebenalp Seealpsee Lake, a perfect little Emerald Green alpine lake.
Not up for the full Wasserauen Ebenalp hike described in this article? You can still experience the beautiful Seealpsee and the views from the top of Mount Ebenalp. The cable car runs both ways and there is a service road that takes you from the parking lot near the train station/ cable car station to Seealspee (just a 2.5 km walk)
Arrival and parking
Driving in the Appenzeller is easy. Drive straight to the parking area near the cable car station.
Parking: There are two parking lots near the station, one across the street, the other just a 6 minute walk.
- Address of the closest lot: Schwendetalstrasse 73, 9057 Wasserauen, Switzerland
- Address of the alternate lot: Wasserauen 97, 9057 Schwende, Switzerland
- Fees: at last check: 3 CHF for 3 hours, 5 CHF for 24 hours. only coins (EUR + CHF) and local parking apps accepted.
Take the Appenzeller Railway to the Wasserauen Station. From there the Ebenalp Cable Car is a 2 minute walk ( 92 meters/ 300 ft)
Appenzell Railway Trains Connect at: (both are a 1 hour train ride)
- Gossau Station
- St. Gallen Station
How to get up Ebenalp Mountain
How do you get to the top of Ebenalp and reach the cliff hanging Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli? There are two options for getting up to the top of Ebenalp:
But you’ll need to be in really good shape to climb the mountain! Fortunately, there’s an easier way to get to the top!
You are just a short cable car ride from the top of Ebenalp! For a fee the car will whisk you up the mountain in a flash! Once you get to the top just follow the directions in the “getting to Aescher” under the Restaurant/Hotel heading below!
Afraid of heights? Yeah, me too, just close your eyes and in no time at all you’ll be safely and efficiently deposited at the top!
|address:||Schwendetalstrasse 82, 9057 Wasserauen, Switzerland|
|ride duration:||6 minutes|
|price:||one-way: 22 CHF |
return ticket: 34 CHF
(Swiss Francs, Euros are also widely accepted in this area),Tickets can be purchased online in advance, but it is not required.
|discounts:||50% discount with SBB Half-Fare travel card, Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Flexi Pass and GA travel cards valid on standard individual tickets.|
|free rides for:||Children (under 6) / SBB Junior travelcard and Children’s Co-travelcard / Lake Constance holiday p|
plan for fog
Unfortunately, our reward for an early start was fog at the top, lots of fog. Those picturesque panoramic views that we had hoped for were at the moment eluding us. We headed for the Berggasthaus Aescher hotel and restaurant, which is tucked away on the side of Wasserauen Ebenalp Mountain to wait out the fog.
Ebenalp Restaurant and Ebenalp Aescher Hotel
Note: Closed in Winter due to avalanche risk!
On the top of Ebenalp Mountain is the famous mountain inn, Aescher-Wildkirchli, a historic cabin built into the side of the cliff.
When you reach the top of Ebenalp be sure to stop at the Aescher Ebenalp Mountain restaurant for some refreshments! They offer a wide variety of hot and cold drinks, alcoholic and non alcoholic, as well as a selection of food. It’s a great way to wait out the fog and contribute to the local economy.
Check out the Aescher menu here!
My husband and his sister ordered a warm liqueur coffee (Kaffee-shot) and we tried the Rösti, a potato dish similar to hash browns, smothered in creamy melted Appenzeller cheese (it can be quite pungent but tastes great!)
Getting to the Aescher:
To get to Ascher Cliff, where the cliff hanging inn is located, you’ll walk down hill from the cable car station (just follow the signs!) and through the Wildkirchli Caves, 3 caves that are linked together here in the Alpenstein Massif.
It’s an easy 400 meter (.4 mile) hike (15 minute walk) from the cable car station to the caves and the famous Aescher. If you decide not to hike back down the mountain, it’s a short hike back uphill to the cable car that will carry you back down, just purchase a round trip ticket!
more restaurant choices:
There are mountain huts scattered around the area that serve food and drinks. Here is a list of all of the Ebenalp Restaurants
The Guest House Aescher Ebenalp Hotel is accepting overnight guests again! check their site for the latest information for a chance to overnight in one of the most unique hotels in Switzerland!
The Inn has existed here in this spot since 1860, making it one of the oldest mountain inns in Switzerland.
The tiny historic cabin, was a hermitage. The first hermit (monk) moved into the building in 1658. Book a room at either the inn or the hermitage.
Need more information on booking a room at the Aescher Gasthaus am Berg? see their website.
BOOK EARLY: The Inn often books up so you will need to plan ahead.
RATES: start as low as 90 CHF per night (book a room at the hermitage, an adorable little wooden mountain hut that stands alone from the main inn, and receive a free welcome drink!)
This Aescher Restaurant / Hotel was featured in the Huffington Post as one of the World’s Most Interesting Restaurants, and in 2015 it was featured on a National geographic “Place of a Lifetime” cover.
Sundays are special on the mountain
Note: The church and caves are closed in winter due to avalanche risk
What is the best day of the week to visit Ebenalp? If I had to pick a day of the week to recommend it would without a doubt be Sunday! We had a very special experience on the mountain on a Sunday so keep reading!
A very special performance
As we sat enjoying our refreshments at Aescher, our day suddenly turned into something quite MAGICAL. A large group of locals filled the dining area when we arrived so we were seated in an overflow area. We started to hear singing coming from the other room. It was a beautiful sound, somewhere between a hymn and a yodel.
Someone kindly opened the door to the overflow, to make sure we could hear the delightful sound. We soon discovered that this was their choir practice and that they were soon headed to the Wildkirchli Church (literally wild church, and oh what a church it is! Keep reading!)
Hear it for yourself! video of the Wildkirchli Church Choir practice at the Aescher Restaurant:
Wildkirchli Church is a very special church located on Ebenalp. What makes it so special? It’s a cave church!
Since the fog had not yet cleared and we had time to kill, we decided to attend church services. Wildkirchli Cave Church is 400-years old; monks worshiped here centuries ago.
The service was in German, and although we couldn’t understand what was being said, that just added to this unique cultural experience. With their singing voices now warmed up, the choir again sang praises high up on that beautiful mountain.
I feel very fortunate that we happened to be in this spot on a Sunday. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience.
see it for yourself! video of the Wildkirchli cave church services, Ebenalp Switzerland:
Ebenalp Hiking (Ebenalp wandern!)
Wandern means hike in German. It’s probably no coincidence that the word for hike in German sounds like the English word wander.
This little mountain was made for wandering, which is why it is such a popular hiking destination. There are a total of 11 hikes that leave from the cable car station, including some that will take you all the way to the top of the mountain. The Cable Car Website has a very good interactive hiking map, with all the pertinent information, here on their website.
map of the Alpstein Range of the canton of Appenzell Innerfhoden Switzerland:
Here is the entire route from the Ebenalp Cable Car Station (point A) at the top to the cliff restaurant and hotel Aescher, to the car park near the cable car station below (point B)
Total distance: 6.84 km (4.5 miles)
Time: 3.5 hours
Some of the sights along the trail:
Take extreme caution when hiking this area. In 2022 alone several people died on the trails here.
The trail from the cable car down to the Aescher is quite safe but if you plan to do any further hiking be aware that these trails can be quite treacherous.
There are places that are quite steep, with stairs and steep downward slopes, and oftentimes dangerous drop off’s and sheer cliffs. This lush environment is created by the frequent moisture, wet trails are slippery trails.
- Take your time being sure that you have a sure footing with each step.
- Be sure that you are in sufficient physical health to attempt this hike.
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes with non-slip soles (this is not optional)
- IF you are comfortable with hiking poles, bring them. I find them helpful for balance and stability, in particular when going down stairs and steep slopes.
- Again, I can not stress enough, go slow, this is not a race.
- Stay on the trail. I learned this one the hard way. I took what looked like a shortcut and ended up sliding the rest of the way down the hill. I’ll see if I can find a picture of that!
- Check the weather forecast here.
Is the trail safe for children? The trail from the cable car to Aescher Gasthaus is fine, the service road from Wasserauen to Seealpse is safe, the rest of the trails are dangerous. In 2022 a mother and child died on an Ebenalp Trail. The cable car website recommends that if you do take children on the trails that they be secured with rope.
The views were astonishingly beautiful on this hike, and I would do it again in a heartbeat but safety is not negotiable on these trails.
Ebenalp Seealpsee Lake
Note: Using the service road as a walking route it is possible to access Seealpsee in winter.
I think Alpine lakes are the very best lakes. Due to the cold conditions and run off from snow melt on the mountain, they are wonderfully clear and take on magical colors.
The last stop on our hike is Seealpsee Lake and as you can see, it is breathtaking. You may have noticed in the map that there is a path that winds around the lake for your “ Seealpsee Wanderung “ enjoyment!
Places to eat at Seealpsee Lake
- Restaurant Forrelle Sealapsee
- The Forrealle Sealpsee Restaurant
When is the best time to visit Ebenalp?
If you plan to hike Ebenalp you will need to plan to visit between May and October. Many things on the mountain are closed the rest of the year. If you enjoy winter sports, come back in winter!
Crowds: with only 200,000 visitors a year this is a great way to escape the crowds and find a little solitude and outstanding natural beauty. A lot of tourists will just head to the top, maybe visit the famous wooden house on the cliff and then take the cable car back down.
We didn’t meet a lot of people on the trails on our way down the mountain. Getting an early start means avoiding crowds but again, we were met with fog in the early morning.
There are a couple of choices for places to stay on your visit to Wasserauen Ebenalp.
We booked rooms at Hotel Alpenrose, an adorable little alpine hotel at the base of Ebenalp Mountain. It’s right down the road from the Ebenalp Cable Car, which is your transport up the mountain. Upon arrival, we were immediately delighted by the sounds of running water from melting snow cascading down the mountain!
Despite our late arrival, we were made welcome by the friendly staff at the hotel and although the restaurant was about to close, they offered us the opportunity to order food. This is where we had our first experience with the creamy but quite pungent Appenzeller cheese. We were somewhat put off by the smell but the Swiss love it!
Our room was large with a balcony facing the mountain. The air was chilly at this altitude, yet we still managed to keep the balcony door cracked most of the night to let in that crisp mountain air and listen to the water run off of the mountain. A hearty breakfast was included in the room rate.
The next day we left our car parked at the hotel for free and walked just 5 minutes to reach the cable car. Hotel Alpenrose is an ideal starting point for exploring the mountain!
Seealpsee Hotel accommodations
If you would rather stay up a bit higher, there is a hotel/restaurant on Seealpsee lake, Berggasthaus Seealpsee Hotel. The hotel can only be reached on foot, the walk takes about 50 minutes OR bring an overnight bag and make it a stopover on your hike down from Ebenalp. See the Gasthaus Seealpsee website for more details.
more places to stay
There are more Inn’s and Gasthauses scattered around Ebenalp. Here is a list.
More fun things to do on Ebenalp
- Climbing: Climb the Ebenalp Rocks of Appenzell Alps: there are more than 270 climbing routes on the mountain.
- Paragliding: prices start at just 24 CHF, read more about it here.
- Igloo Festival. WHAT? This festival is held in February “Watch the stars on a crystal-clear night and spend the night in your own igloo in the middle of the snow-covered winter landscape on the Ebenalp.”
- Snow skiing
This magical place is a delight for all the senses, a hidden gem that deserves a spot on your bucket list.
This little mountain has it all! One of the most unique hotels in Switzerland, plenty of Appenzell hiking, a most unusual church, Ebenalp Seealpsee a beautiful alpine lake straight out of a Swiss painting, and plenty of opportunities for refreshments so make a whole day out of it!
a little about Switzerland
Switzerland is like a piece of heaven on earth, and you will pay for the privilege of seeing it. It is quite expensive compared to some of the surrounding countries. However, such is its astounding beauty and complete and total peacefulness, you won’t mind the expense at all!!! Switzerland is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, and I am ever envious of those who are so fortunate as to call it home.
find more destinations for your itinerary
If you’re in this area you’ll find yourself very close to Germany. Germany has an abundance of amazing places that you simply must add to your travel wish list. Check out my Germany page for epic destination ideas to add to your next trip!
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