Updated: Aug 18, 2021
A full day hike from Unterwasser → Iltios → Stöffeli → the peak of the Chäserugg. The athletic- or "if-the-cable-cars-are-not-operating"-version
Even as restrictions start to get eased again, unfortunately, all cable cars and funiculars are still not operating. But this doesn't keep us from hiking the Chäserugg. Especially as we are still doing Homeoffice from the beautiful Toggenburg and we can see the "Chäsi" directly from our window.
I'd like to divide the hike into three parts:
Unterwasser → Iltios: Easy on sealed road
Iltios → Stöfeli: moderate - gravel road or hiking path
Stöfeli → Chäserugg: moderate to challenging on hiking path
So let's get started:
Unterwasser → Iltios:
Let's assume you got here by Postbus or car. It's definitely not difficult to aim your target for the day. Turn your head south and you see the easily recognizable mountain chain of the seven "Churfürsten". To spot the right one let's name them from left to right. Gamserugg all the way on the left (which isn't officially a part of the Chursfürsten, but from Unterwasser you might think it is) ► Chäserugg ► Hinterrugg (which looks like one from the bottom) ► Schibenstoll ► Zuestoll ► Brisi ► Frümsel ► Selun.
Now just follow the signs to the funicular, pass it and the tennis courts on your left side until a road leads up to your right - follow it. Soon there is a hiking sign that leads you to the Schwendisee through the Mittelschwendi. It is quite steep but it is more enjoyable than the road as it takes you along the farms. During the first part you can still see the remains of the ski jump of Unterwasser. In fact, did you know that the 4-time Olympic gold medalist Simon Ammann grew up in Unterwasser?
The path leads you back to the road and the Schwendisee. By the way, this is a great spot for having a BBQ. Grills and firewood are kindly provided by Toggenburg tourism. Take the road to your left until you reach the mountain restaurant Iltios.
Iltios → Stöfeli:
If you would like to make a stopover here and enjoy the magnificent view of the mountains around you. Also, the Iltios offers the best chips - pommes frites - fries or whatever you call them in your country - in Switzerland. So make sure your order involves a giant portion of them!
But before you earned your fries, you should continue facing the Chäserugg. There are multiple paths up the next passage. If you keep yourself left it is probably the more difficult hike as it is quite steep. If you follow the gravel road on the right it is a bit easier and I would say more enjoyable as it leads through the woods where you could also watch out for mushrooms. The signs over there won't lead you to the Stöfeli anymore, but if you take the next gravel road left you will get there as well.
The Stöfeli is a nice and cozy mountain inn. Take another break over there before you start the last part.
Stöfeli → Chäserugg:
Face the cable car station and pass it on the right side. At first you follow the slope of the ski season until the path heads up on the right side. It is very well marked but do not underestimate the last part of this hike. It's longer than you think. It zig-zags for the steep part until you reach the back of the Chäserugg. On your left is the Gamserugg, another ski area and behind that already Liechtenstein and Austria. When you reached the final station of the Stöfeli cable car station it is not far to go anymore. Keep your eyes and ears open: Sometimes you can spot some chamois or - more often - mountain bikers, that take the same path as you.
As soon as you can see the summit restaurant, designed by the world-famous architects Herzog & de Meuron, it's only a short walk left. Walk until you get to the cliff and enjoy the breathtaking view on the alps and the Walensee. Whenever you are ready you can either take the same way back or walk over the ridge to get to the Hinterugg and walk back from there.