Switzerland has 26 cantons … how many have you visited? Similar to fellow Living in Geneva blogger Alpenhorn, my family has made it a goal to visit all 26 cantons during our time in Switzerland. This summer, we crossed a few off our list, including one that we had been looking forward to visiting for some time: Appenzell Innerrhoden.

You may have heard the name Appenzell because of for Appenzeller cheese or Appenzeller beer. Appenzell Innerrhoden is Switzerland’s smallest canton and, in addition to its cheese and beer, the canton is known for its annual assembly, the Landsgemeinde. Switzerland’s political system is one of a direct democracy, but where most cantons decide matters by secret ballot, Appenzell Innerrhoden’s citizens vote in person in a nationally televised assembly. There’s plenty to do in Appenzell, from hiking to climbing, cheesemaking to beer tasting, skiing to sledging. The town itself is quaint and charming; cheese shops and confiseries dot winding streets, and the Sitter river flows nearby.

For our summer weekend in Appenzell, my family focused on two very different hikes. On the day we arrived, we dropped our bags at our hotel and caught the train to Jakobsbad for a stroll on the 5 kilometer Barfussweg (barefoot path). The path, which took us a couple of hours to complete, covered several different surfaces: gravel and rocks, soft grass and pinecones, asphalt and wood chips, water and mud pits. It’s a true sensory experience – especially when the paved sections have been baking in the sun all day! Of course, you can leave your shoes on if you like. Towards the end, if you have been barefoot, there’s a water station with hoses and troughs for rinsing off. I’d recommend this hike to anyone; the route isn’t very challenging (it is mostly flat with a couple of small hills) and the scenery is classic Switzerland – which is to say, it’s beautiful!

Views on the barefoot path

Views on the barefoot path

A second hike I’d recommend for those up for a challenge is the route my family took on our second day in Appenzell: Ebenalp to Wasserauen. To reach the beginning of the trail, you take a cable car from Wasserauen to Ebenalp. From the cable car station, the route curves downhill gently at first and then steeply, then it hugs the cliff side before dipping into a cave and winding through the cliff. The path emerges on a lip of land where a hermit’s hut is built into the rocks. From there, the route follows the cliff side some more past the Wildkirchli, a church built on the cliff edge, and then across a covered platform and down another cliff-hugging ledge until it reaches the Gasthaus Äscher, a 40-bunk mountain hut built into the cliff. And that’s only the first 20 minutes! After Gasthaus Äscher, the route slopes downward to a series of steep switchbacks before the path widens and leads up a hill to Seealpsee, a crystal-clear mountain lake surrounded by grazing cows. The hike continues from Seealpsee back to Wasserauen and to the base of the cable car station.

The views throughout this hike are extraordinary, and there are hand holds through the toughest parts, but this route does require sure-footedness. There are less steep hikes in and around Ebenalp if the cliffs aren’t your thing. The path between Wasserauen and Seealpsee is steep but paved; we passed several families with small children and prams/strollers. You can find out more about hiking near Ebenalp here.

Getting there and sleeping there: Appenzell is approximately 4 hours from Geneva by car and 4 hours, 45 minutes by train (change trains once, in Gossau). Many hotels and inns are located in and near Appenzell; click here for lodging information provided by the Appenzell tourism bureau.

Useful links:

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at  http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/