Hoher Kasten hike in Appenzell alps

Hoher Kasten is a mountain in the Appenzell area, with panoramic views of Eastern Switzerland and lots of hiking options. This hike starts at the top of the Brülisau-Hoher Kasten cable car, descends ~400m over ~5.5km to the Ruhesitz guest house, where you can rent a trotti scooter to ride the rest of the way down on a paved road. In the middle of the trail, there is a nice detour to a pretty pond in the forest, an extra 3km loop but well worth it.

The views are spectacular and the hike varied: rocky steps, forests, fields, gravel paths, cow pastures, paved roads, muddy bogs, etc. The hike is not particularly difficult since it is mostly downhill, but it is long and could be challenging for very small children. Instead of hiking, you can simply enjoy the view from the complex atop Hoher Kasten, with a rotating panorama restaurant, open year round. We really liked this area and plan to go back and tackle some of the more challenging hikes along the mountain ridges to some alpine lakes and mountain huts.

Location:   Northeastern Switzerland
Address: Dorf 22, 9058 Brülisau, Appenzell CH
Car: 1hr20 from Zurich
Train: 2hr10 from Zurich
Trail: from 6 to 9 km, about 3.5 hours
trotti scooter for last few km
Condition: part narrow dirt path, part dirt road
Skill: moderate
Open: June through October
Prices: One way hiking ticket: Adult CHF 26, Child CHF 13, under 6 free
SBB Halbtax accepted, Junior card gives discount
Services: restaurant, playground
More info: www.hoherkasten.ch

Getting There

Find your way to Brülisau, which is about 10 mins south of Appenzell. In the middle of town, you’ll find the Hoher Kasten cable car station and large parking lot. The bus drops off directly in front of the cable car station. This is a very popular area so the parking lot can fill up quickly on weekends. Note that there are two cable cars in Brülisau, so make sure you are at the main one: Hoher Kasten.

Tickets and Opening Times

The cable car runs generally about every 30 mins from 8:00 to 17:00. The cable car runs year round with some holidays but the trails are only open from about early June through October. Check the website for details and trail conditions.

For this hike, buy a one-way ticket up the cable car. In 2015, it costs CHF19/adult, CHF12/child and adults with Halbtax. If you plan to rent a trotti scooter at the end of hike, you’ll need an additional CHF15 per person when you get to the Ruhesitz guest house later on the hike.

Trail Impressions

At the top of the cable car, you’ll find a large complex with a restaurant, gift shop, bathrooms, and a large outdoor viewing area, shown below:

The restaurant is open year round and slowly rotates so you can enjoy the entire 360 panorama over an hours time. There is a short loop trail around the top, Europa-Rundweg, but it is under construction in 2015. You can see pictures of the construction and get more info here.

If you walk around the complex, to the northwest, there are some benches and a couple fenced viewing platforms so you can safely enjoy the view with your children.

Below is the view from the platform. There are several challenging hikes in this area, with a couple mountain huts for overnights near the lakes. Those hikes start with tricky ridge hikes, not suitable for very small children. Your hike begins in the opposite direction.

Trail Overview

We did the “Familienwanderung” trail described on their website as: “Hoher Kasten – Kamor – Resspass – Forstseeli – Ruhesitz – Brülisau” Not very helpful and a prime example of why do I do this blog. The free map, aka Sommerpanoramakarte 2015, was only slightly more helpful. We took the trail indicated by the arrows below. Note that the shape of the actual trail doesn’t match what’s shown on the below map, which made for some confusion.

As an overview, the trail starts at the top of the Brülisau-Hoher Kasten cable car (#1), walk northwest along the ridge (#2), then descends about 400m to a dirt road (#3). At this point, you can take a detour (3km loop) to a small lake, Forstseeli, (#4) where you’ll find lots of fire pits and picnic tables. If you want to ride the scooters down later, loop back to the dirt road (#5) and head southeast on the dirt road (#6) and path (#7) to the Ruhesitz Gasthaus, where you can rent the Kickbike and ride the remaining 3km on a paved road back to Brülisau (#8). If you don’t want to ride the scooters, there are other trails that head down the mountain back to Brülisau (D for detour on above map), which you can take if you’re not planning to rent a Kickbike.

I recommend printing my map below, which is accurate. Also, I indicate in my text which yellow trail signs to follow.

Trail Detail

Let’s get started. After exiting the Hoher Kasten cable car and building, turn left and you’ll see this yellow trail sign pointing down some stairs to the trail toward Kamor.

In these pics, you can see the trail cutting across the fields in the distance.

On the trail…

After descending from the peak, about 10-15 minutes, you’ll reach this fork in the trail. Take the fork to the right, following signs to Kamor and Resspass.

A few minute later, the trail joins a paved road. I was worried that we took a wrong turn and I wasn’t so happy to be on a road. But don’t worry. After a few minutes, the trail leaves the road again and cuts across the fields as shown below. Just watch for the red and white trail markers.

The trail continues down, occasionally crossing the paved road .

We were happy to have our hiking sticks on this part. It’s very rocky with some tricky footing. We were there in late June and there were also lots of cows on the trail.

After about 90 mins, we reached the dirt road shown below. Walk straight ahead to the stone wall to take the loop to the Forestseeli lake. After the loop, you’ll return exactly to this point and can then walk to Ruhesitz, by following the dirt road to your left. If taking the loop, you’ll see a small sign at the stone wall that points right and says “D’auerschwamm, Forstseeli, Eggerstanden”. This is the beginning of the loop. We chose to first walk right along the stone wall a few meters, then through the cow gate to join the trail, as shown below. We came back on the trail that you see directly ahead of you on the other side of the stone wall.

If you walked right along the stone wall and entered the second cow gate, you’ll be on this gentle trail that rounds the hilltop. It will seem at first that you are way off course, but don’t worry. The trail will eventually veer left again and head into the forest, about 15 mins from the dirt road. On your way, you’ll pass the cafe shown below before entering the forest.

After passing through the cow gate, the trail enters the forest on a rough path.

The forest was very lush and pretty in late June.

In a few minutes, you’ll reach Forstseeli, the little lake shown below. There are lots of fire pits and picnic areas around the lake.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this hut, which only has a small room for shelter, no services, no toilets. It does have picnic tables and a large grill outside. We got caught in a rain storm for about an hour, so this shelter was well appreciated as we waited out the rain.

It has lots of firewood as well. It was quite crowded on the Saturday we were there, so we found an empty fire pit in the forest instead.

When you are ready to leave the lake, follow trail signs to Resspass. There are several trails going every which way, but the Resspass trail will lead you back to the beginning of the loop. About halfway, you’ll see trails splitting off down the hill toward Brülisau. If you don’t want to hike to Ruhesitz for the Kickbikes, take one of these trails instead so you don’t have to backtrack.

The Resspass trail is partially on a dirt road, partially through meadows, with some really steep bits before reaching Resspass, a lookout point on this hill you’ve been walking around.

Here’s the view from Resspass. This would be a nice spot for a picnic.

Continue on the trail from Resspass through the forest and back to the cow gate and dirt road. Turn right to follow the trail to Ruhesitz. This loop detour is about 3km and took us about an hour of walking time.

The trail is pretty mild from here, through cow meadows and forests. There were tons of cows in late June and we had to loudly herd them off our trail before continuing.

Here’s a view up at Hoher Kasten, where we started this whole thing.

The trail joins a paved road at the Ruhesitz Gasthaus. You can rent a trotti scooter, aka Kickbike, here for CHF15/scooter, including helmet. They recommend that children be at least 12 years old to ride alone, but this was not enforced; it’s a casual operation. The child should be a confident bike rider and able to properly operate the breaks. Smaller children can ride with an adult, but be warned that it’s a little tricky to manage two people on a scooter. My husband rode down together with my 7 year old and it was fine.

Whew! That was a long one. We had a great time and I hope you do too!

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