Switzerland Insider

Switzerland Insider

If you’re planning a trip to Lucerne and wondering what’s the one thing you shouldn’t miss, I’ve got a suggestion for you: Mount Pilatus. It’s this huge mountain right next to Lucerne, and the views from up there? Absolutely stunning. You get to see the city, the lake, and the Alps stretching out in the distance. It’s like getting a bird’s eye view of one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland.

But Pilatus isn’t just about what you can see from the top. The mountain itself is wrapped in legends, with stories about dragons and ancient tales that add a bit of mystery to your visit. So, let’s get started and see what makes Pilatus a must-visit.

Views from Pilatus cogwheel train

Getting to Pilatus

Getting to Pilatus is an adventure in itself and surprisingly easy, no matter where you’re starting from in Lucerne.

By Cogwheel Train

The most popular way up is the Pilatus Railway, which happens to be the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. It departs from Alpnachstad and can be reached by ship on Lake Lucerne or by train from Lucerne. The cogwheel train chugs its way up the mountain, offering changing views that transition from a green and forest-covered scenery to rocky alpine landscapes. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be glued to the window the entire time.

By Cable Car

If you prefer a more aerial route, the cable car and gondola rides from Kriens (suburb in Lucerne) are your best bet. They offer a smoother climb, but with equally stunning panoramic views of Lucerne and its surroundings. Watching the city shrink away as you ascend is something you won’t forget. Plus, there’s something about being high up in the air, quietly gliding over forests and hills, that’s really peaceful. This journey consists of a ride in smaller gondola to Fräkmüntegg where you will change to a bigger one.

Insider Tip

The Golden Round Trip

Now, if you want to make your trip to Pilatus an unforgettable experience, you’ve got to check out the Golden Round Trip. This journey is like the ultimate package deal for mountain lovers. It combines boat, cogwheel train, aerial cableway, and gondola rides all in one epic loop, giving you the best of all worlds and views you can’t get any other way.

The adventure starts with a scenic boat ride from Lucerne across the crystal-clear Lake Lucerne (Top 10 Must-Visit Places Around Lake Lucerne). Imagine sitting back and watching the city fade into the distance as you glide over the water toward Alpnachstad. It’s the kind of peaceful start that sets the tone for the day.

Once you reach Alpnachstad, you hop onto the Pilatus Railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel train we talked about.

At the top, after you’ve had your fill of exploring, taking photos, and maybe grabbing a bite at one of the mountain’s restaurants, it’s time for the aerial part of the journey. The descent on the aerial cableway to Fräkmüntegg is thrilling, offering expansive views of the landscape below. At Fräkmüntegg, you can have even more experiences such as an alpine coaster.

Then, you switch to a panoramic gondola that gently takes you down to Kriens.

And the best part? You can take the trip at your own pace, spending as much time as you like at each stop to soak it all in.

(This is seasonal – cogwheel train and ships don’t run year-round.)

 

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What to do on Pilatus?

I recommend the following activities on Pilatus.

Enjoy the Views

At the summit of Pilatus, you’re greeted by not one, but two incredible viewing platforms: Esel and Oberhaupt.

Esel provides easily accessible, breathtaking views directly from the Pilatus Kulm station, making it a first stop for many. This viewing platform is also the one where the Instagram shots of the stairs in the sky come from!

The other one, the Oberhaupt, also offers an expansive panorama of the surrounding Alps, truly capturing the essence of Swiss beauty.

Find some Ibexes

For the adventurers among you, consider taking a hike to Tomlinshorn with the chance to see some live Alpine ibexes. These impressive creatures, with their curved horns and sure-footedness, embody the spirit of the Alps, and spotting them in their natural habitat is a moment of pure wonder.

Follow the Myth

Pilatus is also steeped in legend, most famously the myth of the dragon believed to dwell within its cliffs. For centuries, locals and visitors alike have been fascinated by tales of these mythical creatures, and you can dive deeper into these stories at the information centers and exhibits around the summit. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the mountain’s mystical past that adds a layer of enchantment to your visit.

Walk the Dragon Trail

The Dragon Trail also offers an enchanting journey into the mountain’s mythical past. Winding its way around the rugged landscapes near the summit, this trail invites visitors to immerse themselves in the tales of dragons that were once believed to inhabit these rocky crevices. Along the path, informational plaques recount the stories and sightings of these legendary creatures, adding a layer of mystique to the stunning alpine scenery.

 

Hotels & Restaurants

When it’s time to refuel, Pilatus doesn’t disappoint. There are several restaurants offering everything from quick bites to full gourmet meals, all with the backdrop of the Alps to complement your dining experience. And if a day trip just isn’t enough, you can extend your stay by spending the night at one of the summit hotels. Imagine waking up to the sunrise over the mountains—a truly unforgettable experience that’s possible here at Pilatus.

Insider Tip

If you want to hike a long time, you can hike to Pilatus all the way from the bottom in Alpnachstad. Find out more about this route here.

Seasonality

Pilatus is a year-round destination, each season dressing the mountain in a different palette and offering a variety of experiences. It’s important to note, however, that while Pilatus welcomes visitors throughout the year, access to its summit via the world’s steepest cogwheel train is seasonal, operating only from May through November. This iconic railway is a highlight for many, climbing steeply up the mountain’s flank and offering unparalleled views.

During the winter months, when the cogwheel train takes a break, the mountain remains accessible by aerial cableway and gondola. This ensures that even in the heart of winter, you can still reach the snowy summit to enjoy winter sports or simply revel in the frosty beauty of the Alps.

Additionally, you get the chance to go sledding at Fräkmüntegg!

Fräkmüntegg

Fräkmüntegg, a mid-station on the journey up to Pilatus, is an adventure hub that promises fun for the entire family, no matter the season.

In the warmer months, it transforms into a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from thrilling toboggan runs to the exciting Pilatus Rope Park, where you can swing through the trees on various obstacle courses. For those looking for a more laid-back experience, the Dragon Glider zip line provides an exhilarating ride through the air with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. And let’s not forget the hiking trails that branch out from here, leading adventurers through scenic routes filled with natural beauty.

In winter, Fräkmüntegg becomes a winter wonderland, offering snowshoeing trails that allow you to explore the tranquil, snow-covered forests. But please check the snow levels first!

Tickets

Pilatus, like any other mountain peak in Switzerland, is in the CHF 70-90 price range. You get 50% off with the Swiss Travel Pass or the Half Fare Card for Tourists.

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