on the trail // hoher kasten geology trail

In late August we took our longest hike of the year in Appenzell from Hoher Kasten to Brülisau on the geological panoramic Alpstein trail. Approximately 11 miles long, the hike begins with a cable car ride and panoramic views over the Rhine Valley and Appenzellerland, including views into Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Along the way, 20 signs mark various geological phenomena, layers and fault line. 

The day itself was cool and overcast, but it never rained on us. We began by checking out the views at the top of Hoher Kasten before setting off along the ridge back towards a deep valley with views peeking through the clouds every so often. We meandered up and down on a narrow, but not scary, path for a couple of miles before stopping for some snacks overlooking the Rhine.

About 2 hours in, we reached the mountain inn (Berggasthaus) at Staubern, where another cable car comes up and you can also pick up the geologic trail. Here the trail winds up and then down so more rocky areas farther into the valley. Once you’ve gone the first 10km or so, the trail descends down into the valley to the Bollenwees mountain inn. The inn itself is on a picturesque little lake with goats and sheep around. We stopped for some lunch before heading down the valley the last few miles back to Brülisau and our car. The last mile or so was the most painful after a long day of hiking. Despite walking on a wide dirt road, we lost so much elevation that our legs were really burning by the end.


hiking details
The hike from Hoher Kasten to Brülisau is 16km of medium difficult with ca. 480m ascending and 1350m descending. Plan for a full day with ca. 5 h 30 min hiking. For more details on the hike, see also here. The route and the geologic signposts can also be downloaded from here. Below is the route as tracked by my Garmin watch, as well as the elevation profile.

travel information
The drive from Zurich to the gondola in Brülisau is about 1 h 45 min, and about 2 h 45 min by train. The cable car departs every 20 minutes and the schedule and prices can be found here.


3 replies
  1. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you could describe how dangerous the trail was – how exposed were the paths, and would someone afraid of heights face any trouble? And is the ridge from Hoher Kasten – Staubern easier than Staubern – Saxer Lucke? Thank you so much!

    • Kate Bingisser
      Kate Bingisser says:

      Hi Meghan, I would consider the trail as safe for a ridge hike and well-maintained. You can see from my photos some good views of the trail and while open to the views below it was wide enough to comfortably walk, mostly bordered by grass/low brush, and didn’t make me feel like I was on the edge all the time. I would say the first half Hoher Kasten – Staubern would be better if you are afraid of heights because the beginning of the descent from Staubern down to Saxer Lucke is a bit more exposed with more rocky terrain. That being said, it didn’t feel dangerous and there were cable railings on the main descent (you can see one picture of this in my slideshow) and then you cross a bit of a rock field before ending back up on a more grassy trail. At the end of the day, if you do the whole hike, the toughest part is really just the last descent on the main road back to Brülisau because it is steep (not dangerous) and just more tough on tired legs.


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