This trail has it all! Whether you like chairlift-assisted hiking (or not) and visiting ski areas in the summer (or not), you'll still enjoy this trail. Because it starts so high, the views are spectacular and seem to go on forever in all directions. For a medium amount of effort, you get panoramic vistas, lunch at a hut straddling two countries, and lots of cowbells clanging in the distance. Chat with the locals (fit, friendly grandmas and grandpas who ALL wear plaid shirts) who do this trail weekly and may impart some neat historical fact or a corny joke. A great experience all around!
If you choose to ride the Sareis chirlift, check ahead of time for operating dates/times. As of this writing (summer 2019), the lift runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in good weather from June until October. The one-way cost is 9.80 Swiss francs for adults and 5.40 Swiss francs for children. A single lift ride is free if you have purchased the Museum and Adventure Pass.
Decide whether you want to hike from Malbun (on the Malbun to Furstin Gina Weg (Princess Gina Trail)
or take the Sareis chairlift. Either way, even the initial views from the top of the Sareis mountain station are great! Towards the north is a paraglider launch zone and info board for pilots. There is also a restaurant with a tempting outdoor seating patio.
Head downhill away from the chairlift, initially on a wide dirt road. Soon, a skinny path veers off through stunted trees to the left. This signed turn immediately deposits you on a ridgeline where you get your first taste of the amazing views to come. The meadows below are full of happy cows munching on impossibly green grass and sounding their cowbell melodies.
The broad ridgeline path is braided in spots, but if you're pointed uphill and towards the looming cross, you won't go wrong. Soon, the incline steepens and the trail surface gets a bit more rocky and challenging. There are natural places to stop and rest; enjoy the wildflowers, imagine skiing down to the village of Malbun, and gaze at the rocky Austrian peaks. A very short section of rock slab is well protected by a wire handrail and should be no problem for anyone not deathly afraid of heights. This is also where the memorial plaque for Princess Gina is affixed to the rock slab.
Continue uphill through small gullies and scramble through rocky outcrops to reach the highest part of the climb (Augstenberg Peak) with its huge guy-wired summit cross. This spot is often crowded with people picnicking, but there are many nearby grassy spots for more tranquility. Pick your way along the ridge, now heading in a more southerly direction. Follow signs to Pfalzerhutte (also called Pfalzer Cabin).
No one would fault a hiker who sings a little "the hills are alive" at this point in the hike ... the alpine scenery is JUST that good! Descend through flowery fields and contour around craggy buttes. Before long, you'll spy the Pfalzerhutte perched on the comically steep saddle between Austria and Liechtenstein. A bit more tricky descent though blocky rock outcrops is aided by well-placed handrails just where you want them. Take it slow through this section, even though you can likely smell the apple strudel and taste the cold beer waiting for you at the hut. This place rents beds, has bathrooms, and sells hot meals and cold drinks (details: tourismus.li/en/lie/place/P…
Although the first half of the trail to the hut is the highlight of the loop, there are some enjoyable bits on the remainder. Tramp downhill on a wide dirt road above huge green pastures (called Alp Gritsch). More cowbell! The unstable footing and grade make this section feel a little monotonous. Pass by a mysterious rectangular stone paddock and then take the right-hand fork uphill (not to the big sheds), following signs to Malbun. A steady climb along the flanks of the Silberhorn Peak soon deliver you to a pretty pass where you can again peer down into the ski area of Malbun. This pass is a popular place to have a breather and a snack.
The descent down into the village is very steep, but the skinny trail is reasonably well built with many switchbacks. Passing slower hikers here is tricky, but resist the urge to stray off trail and further erode the hillside. The grade eases a bit once you reach the top of the chairlift that looks a bit like a grass-topped bunker. Follow the well-marked road and trail back into town where local musicians serenade hikers with alpenhorns and brass "oop-pah" music.
Note: a very worthwhile side-trip from the Pfalzerhutte is to summit Naafkopf. It is where the borders of Liechenstein, Switzerland, and Austria all come together!
Swiss stone pines, Scots pines. Elusive ibex, marmots.
This trail is named after Princess Gina (the mother of the current Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II). She was born in 1921 and her full name was Georgina Norberta Johanna Franziska Antonie Marie Raphaela von Wilczek. In 1943, she married Franz Josef II and became the princess consort and monarch of this tiny country.
Princess Gina was well-loved by her people. She founded the Liechtenstein Red Cross to help prisoners of war and was its president for 39 years. After her death from cancer in 1989, a small memorial plaque was erected for her on this trail (the plaque is located where a steel wire handrail traverses a bit of steep rock on the first third of the trail). Princess Gina and her husband the Prince (who died only 26 days after her death) are both buried in the princely crypt at the St. Florian Cathedral in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.