Hiking to Switzerland’s
Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus with Kids
... tips to make the most
of your day hike ...
Last year we spent seven glorious days exploring Switzerland. Oh, how I would love to go back and visit right this very minute. It’s hard to put into words the beauty that can be found in Switzerland! Neat and tidy, pristine villages, sweeping valleys and majestic mountains come to mind. I’ve already written about our time in Grindelwald and building our own Swiss Army Knives, so in this post, I’m going to share our tips for visiting Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus on a day hike.
The first time I saw a picture of this mountain hide-a-away, it was on Instagram. Then later that year, I saw it again on the cover of National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime. It captured my imagination as it has many others. I was curious to visit this remote spot and find out if it was accessible to my family and me.
When we started planning our route through Switzerland, one of the first things I did was look for its location on a map to see if it were near anything else we would be seeing. Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus is located in an area of Switzerland called Appenzell. Appenzell is well-known for its cow culture and delicious Swiss cheese. We were coming from Southern Germany where we had visited Neuschwanstein castle (about 2 hours to the north) and were heading to Interlaken (about 2 hours to the south), and so it was a perfect half-way spot between the two locations. We spent just one night, but took most of a full day to explore the area and not feel rushed.
Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus is a guesthouse that is almost 200 years old. It was initially built to shelter farmers, goats, and cows. Then because of the nearby chapel, it became a guesthouse for pilgrims coming to see the monks. It was also widely used as a sheltering location for hikers trekking through the mountains. If you and your kids have read Banner in the Sky, you'll feel as if you've come to the very location that Rudi Matt and his companions sleepover for the night. Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus is a mountain hut that is built into the cliff, with the back wall being the rock itself. Today, the farmers and hermit monks may be long gone, but the mountain hut welcomes tourists May through November each year. They also offer cheap dorm beds for hikers and travelers, but I've read it can get pretty rowdy, so perhaps not a good choice for your family or anyone else wanting a good night of sleep.
Our Day Hike
We got started right after breakfast and drove to the valley station cable car at Wasserauen. We purchased our cable car tickets and waited for the next departure. I've read there is a way to hike up, but that takes about 3-4 hours one-way and is probably best for people traveling without kids. It was a pretty quick ride to the top, and the views were breathtaking. Quite literally! If you've read many of my other posts, you know I don't like heights!
Once at the Ebenalp station we still had a 10-15 minute hike to get down to Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus. We visited in late May, and there was still plenty of snow on the ground surrounding the Ebenalp station.
The trail is very well maintained and quite easy for families to do. We even saw a couple of strollers making the trek. The most important thing to remember here if you’re hiking with children is that there are cliff areas at several points along the trail. Young children especially (and fearless teens) should stay close to their parents.
What You'll See Along the Hike
The trail passes through Wildkirchli Caves and Chapel. The cave is a dark and slippery passageway that takes about 2-3 minutes to pass through. There is some lighting, but it's very dim, and we found it helpful to use the flashlights on our phones.
Word has it that hermit monks lived and worshiped here in the 1600's, 1700's and 1800's. The chapel consists of some pews under a rock overhang and a small red wooden structure.
You'll also witness some fantastic vistas perched from this mountainside to the valleys below. Then finally, you’ll come to the place that you’ve waited to see, the Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus. It’s such a feast for the eyes, that you almost don’t know which way to look. On the one hand, the mountain hut is so unique built into the side of this mountain, but the view looking out over the valley below is quite honestly just as spectacular if not more.
We spent about an hour exploring the area, snapping pictures and just taking it all in. We didn’t eat at the restaurant, but I hear that the Rosti (Switzerland’s version of hash browns) is quite good!
From there we retraced our steps back to the Ebenalp station, rode the cable car back down to Wasserauen, got in our car and headed off to our next destination. It was a quick visit, at just about 2 hours total time, but a worthwhile and memorable one all the same.
If you, like me, have admired photos of the Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus, and a trip to Switzerland will take you somewhere near Appenzell, then I highly recommend a visit.
Tips for a Family Visit
Get an early start when crowds are minimal.
If you don’t plan to eat in the restaurant at Aescher-Wildkirchli Berggasthaus, then pack some light snacks for your family. There is a small snack bar stand at the Wasserauen station on the valley floor, but there wasn’t one up at the Ebenalp station.
Bring water. It’s always a good idea to have water anytime you’re hiking.
Wear sturdy shoes. Although the trail is well-maintained, loose pebbles and a slippery wet cave will make you glad you have sturdy close-toed shoes for everyone in your family.
If you're traveling with older kids and you have the time, consider hiking one direction and taking the cable car the other.