Swiss Trail Running – Ebenalp to Santis

I’ll be honest, I’m a lazy trail runner. I generally have to Google PR to be reminded that it means personal record. I’m not really concerned about my PR versus your PR, I’m just interested in an adventure. I love that I can take a train at 6 am and be on a trail about 1 hour later in the Eastern Swiss Alps. Although I’ve been sport climbing around Ebenalp, I’d never done a trail run from this side of Santis, as I usually head up from Wildhaus on the opposite side of the Alpstein Massif. I was happy to find that it’s a near perfect mix of distance and elevation gain for a short day run. It’s a true adventure for any day of the week, and flexible to extend to a longer run if desired. You can easily follow the route, or stop off at multiple points for a drink or to rest along the way. This route ends at the Santis cable car station, and you can take the car down from there, or you can keep going and run down to Schwägalp, and from there take a bus back home. For transportation options check out the Swiss SBB website. The area of the Alpstein is especially traveler friendly, and you have multiple options for restaurants and places to stay overnight if you so desire.

Distance: 13 km

Elevation Gain: 1800 m

Strava Tracks: Ebenalp – Santis


As with many runs in Switzerland, I took a train to my destination. I started from Schwende, a quiet little dorf sitting comfortable at 838 m in a valley with farms and fields all around. The first part of the route heads up roads and farmlands (and naturally I encountered many cows), and I like it as a warm-up. If you’re lazier than I am, feel free to take the cable car up from Wasserauen. However, if you do this you’ll miss Aescher, the Wildkirchli and the Wildkirchli Caves. Aescher is one of the cutest little restaurants in all of the alps, and the Wildkirchli is a place of worship inside a little cave. The trail goes through a short cave section, which is awesome in summer when it heats up outside. Either way, this experience brings a nice mix of local culture to the mountain run. The run is ideal during the summer and late fall. In early spring there will be a lot of snow on the upper sections, so you should come prepared mentally and with an ice axe. I decided to run up this route in July and partially chose it because I wanted to finished before it started to rain.


The Long Climb Up

From Ebenalp take the trail towards Santis LSB (Luftseilbahn). There’s a generally gradual elevation gain until you reach Berggasthaus Schäfler, and then the terrain becomes less grass and more alpine stone and rock. Oh, and you can of course stop off for a beer, cake, coffee, or to spend the night (for info contact Berggasthaus Schäfler). This is also where you get a beautiful view of the long alpine trail that leads up to the Santis summit off in the snowy distance. The rock faces seem to rise up from the landscape like the remnants of an angry God that thrust a vengeful arm up from the bowels of the Earth in the age of Pan. In other words, it’s an impressive view. Santis has snow pretty much year round in some places, and depending on when you go, it’s advisable to take a long a short ice axe. Above 2000 m you will likely start to trek across snow fields as the elevation increases. This brings a wonderful circle to the experience of starting below in the valley and now crossing over snow fields and watching ibex sun bath on rock islands. It’s advisable to stay on the established trail, but if you feel like you’re acquainted with the landscape, explore a bit.

A Short Film is Better Than Words

I’ve been running with 360 cameras like the Ricoh Theta S and V for years, but recently I’ve taken a liking to the Insta360 One X. It fits perfectly in the small pockets of the Black Diamond Distance 15 pack and with the Bullet-Time feature I found it easy to run and shoot 360 views at 100 fps, and then cut together a short film. This will give you all the information you need on the changing terrain and rock types in the alpine area of the route.

Mark Melnykowycz

View posts by Mark Melnykowycz
Mark is an Artist / Engineer who likes to explore the mountain environments of the world. He climbs, and climbs, takes pictures along the way and writes on little pieces of paper that make their way into articles for the world wide web. He also loves to write gear reviews and runs on trails in Switzerland.

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