The Ebenalp area is a full of wonderful hiking options, including this great hike from famous cliff restaurant to the gorgeous Seealpsee lake. After the short walk from the cable car to the cliff restaurant, you’ll continue hiking down the mountain on a switchback trail about 2 km to the lake. This is a very popular spot with locals on sunny weekends. Here you can lounge on the lake shore, row a boat across the lake, eat a restaurant, stroll around the lake, even splash in the water on a hot day. To return to your starting point, you can either take it easy on the service road, or hike through the forest along a stream with little waterfalls. This hike is a little longer and more work than other hikes I’ve posted, but I think it’s worth the effort.
|Address:||Schwendetalstrasse 82, 9057 Wasserauen, CH|
|Car:||1hr30 from Zurich|
|Train:||2hr10 from Zurich|
|Trail:||7.5 km one way (shorter option here)|
|Condition:||narrow dirt trail, no strollers|
|Open:||May to October|
|Prices:||hiking ticket: Adult CHF 20, Child CHF 7.50, under 6 free.
SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted.
|Services:||restaurant, playground, fire pits|
This hike starts at the top of the Ebenalp cable car, hikes past the cliff restaurant and down to the Seealpsee, then hikes the rest of the way down back to the bottom of the Ebenalp cable car. The total hike shown below is about 7.5 km.
From the top of the Ebenalp cable car, it’s only about 600 m to the iconic restaurant on the side of the cliff with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. For a short outing, you can just walk here and back, enjoying the views (see Ebenalp Wildkirchli Hike for details).
To reach the lake, hike through the restaurant patio, following signs to Seealpsee on a steep mountain with switchbacks. It’s about 2 km to reach the lake, which took our crew about 1hr30. This hike is possible with children, but requires a motivated crew and some caution (more on that below). I also recommend walking sticks to provide stability as you navigate many stairs and some slippery slopes. This hike is a bit longer and more challenging than most hike I post here, but it’s worth it.
At the lake, you can optionally walk around the lake, which is about 2 km. Or you can stay on the eastern shore and visit one of the restaurants there.
From the lake down back to Wasserauen, you can walk on the paved service road (strollers ok) or the steep mountain trail (no strollers), as shown on the map below. This is about 3 km and took us about 1hr15.
By car: Drive to Wasserauen and park near the base station of the Ebenalp cable car. There are a couple large parking lots, but on sunny weekends, it can fill up quickly. Last time we went, parking cost CHF 5 for the day, payable in cash.
By transit: Take a train to Wasserauen. The train station is a short walk from the cable car station.
Arrival in Wasserauen
This is Wasserauren, pretty as a picture in mid-May. The Ebenalp cable car goes from this valley up to the hills on the right side of this picture.
We usually go here in May when it’s very quiet. So when we went on a sunny Saturday in late June, we were surprised to see a couple hundred cars filling up two lots, a farmer’s field and lining the main road (shown below), all requiring a small parking fee.
At the cable car station, buy a one way hiking ticket as you will be hiking all the way down. It’s relatively inexpensive and they accept SBB Half-fare and Junior cards. For our family with the SBB discounts, it cost CHF 20 total.
The cable car is small, so on very crowded days, you may have to wait in line to go up. We were worried about the crowds one time we went. But while it was packed with people at the top and along the short trail to the cliff restaurant, once we split onto the trail to Seealpsee, there were less hikers and they were more spread out.
Trail to Wildkirchli and Cliff Restaurant
At the top, follow signs to Seealpsee, Wildkirchli-Höhlen, and Gasthaus Aescher. Pretty much everyone else is walking the same way at the beginning, so you shouldn’t get lost. This part looks like you might be able to take a stroller, but no. It gets very lumpy and narrow. It also briefly passes through a dark, wet cave, that can be wet and slippery.
After a few minutes, you’ll reach the hermit cave and this little house and a church built into a cave.
A few minutes later, you’ll reach the Gasthaus Aescher (shown below), which has a restaurant and some outdoor seating (no reservations). The food is typical Swiss fare, nothing special, but the views are fantastic. On busy days, expect the small restaurant to be completely packed, as this is the main destination for most visitors.
Trail to Seealpsee
To continue the trail to Seealpsee, walk through the patio seating and rejoin the trail on the other side, always following signs to “Seealpsee.”
There are a couple paths going down the mountain, but ignore them until you see this sign below, with the yellow trail sign pointing to Seealpsee. At this point, the trail splits. The right fork goes back up the mountain on a narrow switchback and eventually ends up back at the Ebenalp top station. The left fork goes down the mountain to the lake. Take the left fork.
This warning sign says: “Descent to Seealp lake is a dangerous mountain trail! Secure children with a rope. Ropes are available in Gasthaus Äscher!” I was quite worried by this sign and imagined us scuttling along the edges of sheer cliffs. We proceeded with caution, but no rope. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined.
As shown in these pictures, it is a steep narrow mountain trail, with lots of stairs, but no more than other steep mountain trails we’ve been on. There are sections where the mountain descends steeply on one side of the trail (look at the pic above right), but no drop-offs. We kept our kids (6 and 10 at the time) close but I never felt that they were in danger. I wouldn’t recommend it for very small kids (like under 5), particularly those that run off, don’t always heed your warnings, trip a lot, etc. This is a trail for confident walkers that can go the distance.
After about an hour, the mountain path with join the paved road, where you’ll probably encounter more people walking up that road, those who didn’t want to hike down like you did.
After about 10 mins after you join the paved road, you’ll see a few barns, buildings and cows.
Seealpsee – The Lake
A couple minutes later, the road ends at the lake. This lake is very popular, so don’t expect to be in an empty, remote spot after working so hard to get there; many people simply walk up the service road from the parking areas.
But you can hike around the lake and find a nice quiet place to relax and wade in the water. At the lake, you’ll find a couple restaurants with large outdoor seating areas, a small playground.
The day we were there, lots of families were spread around this area, splashing in the water. It’s a nice spot, but you’ll probably want to walk around the lake a bit to escape some of the crowds. A narrow dirt path circles the lake. It’s easy walking but not particularly stroller-friendly.
There are 2 restaurants with outdoor patios overlooking the lake. Directly to your left is Gasthaus Forelle, with lots of outdoor seating and a small playground. We didn’t eat there, so I can’t tell you about the food.
You can rent rowboats from the Gasthaus. I think it was 8CHF for 30 minutes. It’s very informal; we didn’t have to sign anything or leave a deposit or check in when we were done. But they wouldn’t let us rent it for longer than 30 minutes because they want other people to have an opportunity to use the boat. That’s not much time, but we managed to row our crew around a bit and drop them off on the other side of the lake. I rowed back and returned the boat, then walked around to meet my family. They didn’t have life vests, so use at your own risk.
If you walk through the restaurant patio and follow the path through a small forest, you’ll end up on the narrow eastern leg of the lake. Lots of people were sunbathing here and some even splashing around in the water. It’s shallow here and probably the best section if you have small kids that want to get wet.
I didn’t see any official fire pits, but there were lots of informal ones around the lake. It was a little tricky to gather up enough firewood, but we managed it in the end. We tried to swim, but it was so icy cold, none of us got in very deep.
Trail back to Wasserauen
When you are ready to walk back to Wasserauen (and your car or the train), you can either take the paved road you came up on. A little more of the view, this time looking north back to Ebenalp.
Or you can take a hiking trail, which I’ll show you below. This trail starts on the east side of the lake, a little southeast of the restaurant, at the same spot I mentioned above that was shallow and good for splashing around. Below we are just starting the trail away from the lake.
The trail starts through some wide open fields.
Then lots and lots and lots of stairs and some switchbacks through a dark forest. I thought this was the hardest part of the trail. Some of it was under construction and was a little difficult to manage. But it looked like they are repairing the trail, so hopefully it will be in better condition when you go.
A little more than an hour after leaving the lake, we had the car park in sight. Our knees were hurting a bit from all the downhill. But it was a great day and I’d definitely recommend it.
Our 2.5 year old was about to fall asleep in the backpack so we decided to take that as an opportunity to do a more strenuous hike & try to lose some of the crowds. The trail from Wildkirchli to Seealpsee is down a lot of steep steps and is definitely not child friendly. I thought a quiet & remote Alpine lake would be the reward for the punishment that my knees were taking. However, our trail merged with a paved trail just before the lake & we were once again among the crowds.
Note: Thanks Inga for suggesting this hike and providing a few photos from your visit.