Hiking in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is best known as the land of milk and money, a tiny country dotted with dairy farms and millionaires. But the 61-square-mile principality also boasts an incredible network of well-maintained mountain trails – 248 miles worth – that sweep through pristine alpine wilderness. (The cumulative length of the roads here is only 236 miles.) Dozens of scenic routes crisscross the crags and valleys that line the Austrian and Swiss borders, making the micronation and its quaint capital, Vaduz, a perfect base camp for trekkers.
Grüschaweg, a popular warm-up trail, kicks off among the banks of Vaduz in the downtown Städtle district, where traffic consists of a strange mix of tractors and Porsche Carreras. The path leads past signs marked "CBD" towards preposterously photogenic Vaduz Castle. This sizable schloss – as they say – is home to the current head of state, Prince Hans-Adam II, whose family has been ruling the roost here since 1712. Nearby, the track enters the Princely Forest and begins winding upwards towards the onion-domed mountain hamlets of Rota Boda (at an elevation of 3,077 feet above sea level) and Triesenberg (at 2,897 feet).
From Triesenberg, the 7-mile Grüschaweg leads back downhill to Vaduz, but hikers with a bit more time on their hands turn onto the nearby Prince's Way (Fürstensteig), a route that is not for the faint of heart. Wending from mountain meadows to craggy precipices, a path of sheer-drop chasms (equipped with fixed wire ropes to grasp as you go) lofts hikers to the 6,354-foot summit at Chemi. Gazing down the Rhine Valley, keep an eagle eye out for soaring raptors, ibex locking horns, and the ubiquitous marmot rodents.
Come nightfall, the various berghütten, traditional mountain huts sprinkled across the slopes, offer the ideal alpine rest stop – Pfälzerhütte is a particular lovely spot to watch sunsets while sipping local Riesling-Sylvaner wine or wheat beer. Fortunately for the budget backpacker, the days of Liechtenstein's $70,000-a-night rack rates seem to be a thing of the past. About 20 francs in your lederhosen should buy you a bed until morning.
More Information: Vaduz lies 68 miles east of Zurich via the mountain-flanked A3 motorway. If touring by train, Zurich-to-Vaduz fares with Swiss Federal Rail run about CHF62 ($66) round-trip. For a detailed guide to Liechtenstein's labyrinth of hiking routes, check out Tourism.li, which is also a great go-to for tips on berghütten accommodations.