Lucerne Day Trip to Mt Pilatus

We only had a few days in Lucerne – I already reserved one day for Titlis. On Day 2, I was thinking between Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus. There are a lot of forums discussing this between Rigi vs Pilatus vs Titlis. If you have a choice – Titlis should be one for sure. Beautiful snowy mountain views. What I struggled with was between Rigi vs Pilatus. I was happy that I chose Pilatus in the end – my main motivation for choosing Pilatus was because based on the weather forecast – Pilatus was a better bet at the time. But then again – if both had clear skies, I was still skewed towards Pilatus. 

I will write about Titlis separately – but based on many, many forums – let me try to summarise my findings between Rigi vs Pilatus. Also, I was in Switzerland for six days – and I had the Swiss Pass with me – which means most of the transport costs are covered by my pass. Another tip – I was travelling with my 12 year old daughter – she travels for free – as part of the Swiss Family Card ticket.

Mt Rigi vs Mt Pilatus

Whatever it is – the most important thing is to check the weather forecast for both locations. If one is cloudy – well, its already decided for you then. My comments here are assuming you are based in Lucerne – which is ideal as its quite close to both mountains. 

Mt Rigi

  • Highest peak – 1,798 metres above sea level
  • Hiking trails – suitable for families – easy to moderate trails
  • Rigi has the oldest mountain railway in Europe
  • You can combine a cable car, train ride and boat ride in your day to trip to Mt Rigi. What you could do is from Lucerne, take a cruise to Weggis, take the cable car up to Rigi Kaltbad and then the cogwheel train to Rigi Kulm. On your return journey, take the cogwheel train down to Vitznau and then the boat back to Lucerne.
  • Mt Rigi offers many family activies such as the Rope Park, Rigiland adventure playgrounds etc.
  • There are also wellness/spa packages if you are into that. Check Hotel Rigi Kaltbad for offers.
  • Transport to/from Mt Rigi is 100% covered by the Swiss Travel Pass
  • Check out Mt Rigi website here.

Mt Pilatus

  • Highest peak – 2,128 metres above sea level.
  • Pilatus has many hiking trails – some easy and some very difficult which require gears
  • Pilatus has the world’s steepest cogwheel railway
  • To experience Pilatus you can do what is referred to as the Golden Round Trip (available from May to Oct) where you will get to experience gondola, cable car, cogwheel train and boat rides on your journey starting from Lucerne. Suggested itinerary – take the bus from Lucerne to Kriens. Take the Panorama Gondola to ascend to the mid-way station at Krienseregg, and then Fräkmüntegg. Then take a 5-minute aerial cable car ride, known as the Dragon Ride up to Pilatus. On your return journey take the cogwheel railway down to Alpnachstad, and then boat back to Lucerne.
  • In the summer, there are many fun activities for all ages including the rope park, dragon glider and summer toboggan run.
  • If you have the Swiss Travel Pass you get 50% discount on the cogwheel train/cable car to Pilatus
  • Check out Pilatus website

Lucerne to Alpnachstad Boat Cruise

Whatever it is – when staying in Lucerne, you must go on a boat cruise around the lake. So best to combine it with a trip to any of the mountains. We went on a quiet period, took the first boat to Alpnachstad. All I can say is – unforgettable. Loved it. The boat ride is covered under the Swiss Travel Pass. The boat was not that packed – which was nice.

Alpnachstad to Mt Pilatus Cogwheel Train

With the Swiss Pass, you get 50% discount on the cogwheel train to Mt Pilatus. This is supposedly the world’s steepest railway with a maximum gradient of 48% and an average gradient of 35%. It was commissioned in 1889. Yeap quite old – feels old too! Don’t worry – it’s quite slow – just enjoy the view. You can also hike up if you are up to it (or hike down). 

Tip: To save time when you get off the boat at Alpnachstad, buy the train ticket before you board the boat in Lucerne. There is a ticket counter is near the docks.

View from the train

The Gorgeous Mt Pilatus

My daughter and I really had fun up there. There were not many people at the top at first – so it was quite nice to walk around the trails etc. The wind was very strong so some parts looked a bit scary especially since it was just us walking the trail for a bit.

So many people taking turns to take a picture with the sign in the background - I quickly snapped just the sign and walked away...can't be bothered

Map of Pilatus

Source: Online brochure from Pilatus website

Dragon Path

Must do trail near the Hotel…wear good hiking shoes – the steps can be a bit slippery – and it can be quite windy up there.

Pilatus Kulm Hotel

Hotel on the mountain (with Tomlishorn in the background)- imagine waking up to that view

Mt Esel

Hotel Bellevue with Mt Esel in the background
Lake Lucerne in the background

Beautiful Day Out

We went down back to Alpnachstad and took the train back to Lucerne. The Kriens gondola was closed for maintenance at that time. I guess the good part about coming this period is there are less people, but I felt there was still quite a big group of tourists. I can’t imagine what it’s like during summer. The bad part of course, you miss out on the gondola ride, that kind of thing. I suppose there is good and bad. But overall we had good fun up there. I really don’t fancy big crowds. Plus the weather was brilliant – felt very lucky. If you in the Lucerne area, I consider this a ‘must-do’! 

We did this trip last November – right now it should be snowing up there!

Check out my other posts on Switzerland:-

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