Hiking the Alpine Panorama Trail – Stage 4 Schwägalp to Stein, SG + Visit to Säntis Peak

Stage 4 of the Alpine Panorama Trail (Route 3) is a 12 km long trail with 500 m ascent and 1000 m descent that goes from Schwägalp to Stein, SG. After a winter break, we finally got back to hiking trail 3 over the weekend. Turns out, spring is a spectacular season to hike this section! There was a crazy amount of dandelions dotting the hills which was quite a treat to see. In addition to the hike, we also did two side stops. First, a trip up to the top of Säntis for the panoramic mountain views, and second a stop at the Säntis Cheese Factory to buy some cheese.

Detail Summary
Where:Schwägalp to Stein, SG
Appenzell Ausserhoden and Saint Gallen, Switzerland
Train/Bus:Zürich HB -> Schwägalp, Säntis-Schwebebahn – 2 hrs 5 min
Stein, SG -> Zürich HB – 1 hrs 41 min
What:Alpine Panorama Trail – Stage 4 Schwägalp to Stein, SG
Yellow trail markers – Alpine Panorama Trail Route 3
Skill:Medium – About 3 hrs 50 min
Length 12 km, Ascent 500 m, Descent 1000 m
Cost 2024:For the gondola ride to and from the Säntis Peak:
Adult Full Price: 58 CHF
With SBB GA or Halbtax card: 29 CHF

Additional Info

Photo Stories for Other Stages
Stage 1 – Rorschach to Trogen
Stage 2 – Trogen to Appenzell
Stage 3 – Appenzell to Schwägalp
Stage 4 – Schwägalp to Stein, SG
Stage 5 – Stein, SG to Amden

Getting There

The Alpine Panorama Trail is best done with public transportation as each stage starts and ends at different points. The start of this trail is at the valley station of the Säntis peak gondola, and so we decided to start this hike with a diversion to the peak.

Visit to Säntis Peak

After purchasing our tickets, we hopped on the next gondola heading up to the peak. From the gondola, you get a good overview of the entire Schwägalp area below including the bus stop where we arrived, the show dairy we visited later, and the start of our trail next to it. When we reached the top, we checked out the peak diversions like the rock and mineral exhibit and the weather exhibit and we also had lunch at the Terrassen-Restaurant. The food is ok (classic Swiss with Appenzeller specialties) but as pricey as you’d expect from the location.

Of course, what we really came up here for were the panoramic views. There are several open terraces from which you can take pictures, and the views do not disappoint.

After we were done sight seeing at the top, we took the gondola back down to the valley station. If you noticed the trail sign in picture three above, you’ll note that there are few trails you can use to hike up to the peak instead of taking the gondola. I haven’t hiked any of them and it is unlikely that I ever will. Those trails are very challenging. As we were riding the gondola down, we heard the gondola operator telling some other people that someone had recently tried to hike down one of those trails, slipped, fell, and died. He lamented that it was their own fault because they tried to hike the trail when it was closed and they weren’t even wearing proper hiking shoes. A bit harsh, but I can’t argue the fact that those trails are only for experienced hikers who don’t have any fear of heights and who have proper equipment and who are hiking on dry summer days when the trail is open. Just because a trail is easy to access, doesn’t mean it is easy to do. Way too many tourists make that mortal mistake. Anyway unless you are taking all the right precautions, I recommend taking the gondola up for the views and then taking the gondola back down and doing one of the lower elevation hikes as we are doing here.

Stop at Säntis Cheese Factory

After we got back to the valley station, we headed out to our trail which began right next to the Säntis Cheese Factory. We, of course, had to pop in and check it out.

There is a viewing area of where they make the cheese. Unfortunately, they were on a cleaning cycle while we were there, so we didn’t see any cheese being made. We did, however, sample some cheese and buy some to bring home with us.

The Trail

After leaving the cheese factory, we headed out on the trail. I really love the views of the mountains from this part of the trail.

The trail was still a bit muddy, but also very beautiful!

For the most part, it was easy walking, but when we came to the small stream below the normal crossing was under water so we had to walk a bit upstream to find a better place to cross. I first tried using the stepping stone in the middle of the stream in picture two below, but although my husband was able to get an across there, it was too big a step for me. After throwing my backpack to the other side of the stream, I went a little further up to the most narrow spot I could find and took a running leap and made it over the stream safe and dry. Always an adventure!

As we continued to hike, I took pictures both looking forward (down the valley) and looking back (towards Säntis) as both views were fantastic!

You can’t really see what it is but, in the picture above the white line that looks like it might be a waterfall on the side of the mountain was actually a small avalanche. I heard a loud crack and looked up to see huge pile of snow cascading down the mountain followed by a long stream of snow waterfalling down behind it. My husband was getting a drink of water and missed the first large fall of snow and, well, the picture is a lot less impressive than it looked in person.

When we reached the top of the Risipass, I took one last picture back before heading over the ridge where we took a well deserved rest (and a selfie) on a bench.

When we headed down from the Risipass towards Stein, we started to see more and more dandelions blooming. The sky also started to clear up and it was just all too pretty!

The last two km down to Stein, were very steep but also completely covered in dandelions. Look how gorgeous it is!

With Stein, in view, we were almost done with the hike.

Getting Back

When we reached Stein, we realized that our bus would be there in about four minutes and that if we hustled we could catch it.

Because we got on the bus right away, I didn’t look around at Stein village, but we’ll be back soon to hike stage 5! I’m so glad we got back to the trail after a winter break! What a great hike!

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