Mount Pilatus — the peak standing sentinel over Lucerne

Walk through picturesque Lucerne, and you can’t help falling in love. From its wooden bridge to its churches and promenades, Lucerne is eye candy for travelers. And as you look to the city’s horizon, you’ll spot a large mountain — Mount Pilatus — keeping watch.

Mount Pilatus has become an emblem of Lucerne, and visiting the mountain is an experience you’ll never forget. Here’s how to make the most of your excursion.

Mount Pilatus, snowshoers
Mount Pilatus is an exciting, beautiful destination in every season.

What to do on Mount Pilatus

At 6,983 feet (2,128 meters), Mount Pilatus looms high above Lucerne. According to legend, a few dragons once lived on the mountain and interacted often with the villagers. While the dragons have moved on, there’s still plenty to see and do atop Mount Pilatus!

In summer, go paragliding, hike along the Flower Trail, try the ropes course, or spend the night in a tent strung between trees.

In winter, enjoy activities like snowshoeing, sledding, and bobsledding on the mountain. You could also feast on warm, hearty fondue and meats.

No matter when you visit, remember to admire the scenery and take lots of photos! The mountain’s many vantage points show off picture-perfect views of Lake Lucerne and the central Swiss Alps.

If you’d like more than a few hours on Mount Pilatus, book an overnight stay. The Hotel Pilatus-Kulm and Hotel Bellevue offer comfortable rooms and exceptional views — but to be honest, you probably won’t spend much time in your room. After all, you’ll have a lot of exploring to squeeze in!

Mount Pilatus, cogwheel railway
The cogwheel railway makes its steep ascent up Mount Pilatus.

How to get to Mount Pilatus

Since thousands of feet separate Lucerne from Mount Pilatus, the Swiss had to get creative when it came to reaching the top of the mountain. There are a few ways to make it up there, each offering stunning views en route.

First, there’s the cogwheel railway, which departs from the nearby city of Alpnachstad. With a grade of 48 percent in one section, it’s the steepest railway of its kind in the entire world, taking 30 minutes to reach the station at Pilatus Kulm. Note that this railway only runs during the summer!

From Lucerne, you could take the panorama gondola, which glides partway up the mountain. Each cabin holds up to four people, so this option works better for small parties than large groups.

The gondola drops off its passengers at the aerial cableway, the third and final mode of transportation on Mount Pilatus. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a cabin resembling a cockpit, the four-minute ride is designed to give the sensation of flight.

Many visitors embark on what’s called the Golden Roundtrip — ascending Mount Pilatus via railway, spending the night there, and returning the next day via cableway and gondola.

For all transportation options, remember to check the official timetables. Half-fare cardholders and children are eligible for discounted tickets, which should lower costs considerably.

Whatever you do, don’t visit Lucerne without heading up to the top of the mountain!

This mountain is a stunner, and we’d love to see you there! Our Scenic Alps by Rail tours begin in Lucerne, with Mount Pilatus as the very first stop on the itinerary. Come and join us!

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