Mount Pilatus is a mountain in the Swiss Alps very close to Lucerne. The reason why it is a symbol of mountain hiking in Switzerland is not because of its modest height of 2,132 metres, but because of the cogwheel railway that reaches it and saves up to 48% of the ascents. It is, along with the Rigi, the most famous excursion in Lucerne and the whole of Central Switzerland. Get ready to spend an unforgettable day on the world’s steepest rack railway.
Lake Lucerne is one of the natural wonders of Switzerland and Europe. Mountains over 2,000 metres plunge into the lake’s waters, creating a unique and wonderful landscape. One of these mountains is Pilatus.
- History of the Pilatus rack railway
- Approach to Pilatus
- What can you do on Pilatus?
- The longest toboggan run in Switzerland
- The Pilu-Land playground
- The golden round trip
- What does a trip to Mount Pilatus cost?
- How do you get to Pilatus?
- Where is the steepest rack railway in the world?
- Why is the mountain called Pilatus?
History of the Pilatus rack railway
The Pilatus rack railway was inaugurated on 4 June 1889. The start of the line was a reaction to the growing tourism in Switzerland and its mountains. Eduard Locher-Freuler managed the feat of bringing a railway through steep and rugged terrain to the top of the mountain, which required the most sophisticated and innovative techniques to bring the project to a successful conclusion. In fact, the rail system and frame construction is unique in the world and requires highly specialised maintenance engineers.
The first train ran on steam. Today, electricity has replaced this lovely and loud whistle.
Eduard Locher was not only an outstanding engineer, but also a visionary of the time when he recognised the tourist potential of Mount Pilatus. The number of people who climb to the summit to see the entire lake region is increasing year by year.
Approach to Pilatus
There are two main access routes to Pilatus:
- Via Alpnachstad: This is the most famous way to the top, as it is covered by the famous rack railway. The valley station has a large car park and can also be reached by train from Lucerne main station in roughly 20 minutes. Another very famous option is to arrive by boat from Lucerne, where you can admire the beauty of the lake from the inside.
- Via Kriens: It is also possible to go up from the other side of the mountain, in this case by cable car. From Lucerne you have to take bus no. 1, which leaves next to Lucerne main station.
After a journey time of about 15 minutes you have to get off at the stop Kriens. From here it is a five minutes walk to the cable car station.
What can you do on Pilatus?
The most common way is to go up from Alpnachstad to admire the famous climbs that the railway has to climb. As soon as one gets on the train, you realize that the track is very steep, so one has to watch out when getting up to take pictures.
The ride takes 40 minutes and initially leads through a forest, which from time to time offers a view of the waters of Lake Lucerne.
After crossing several tunnels and looking at green and steep meadows, one reaches the summit of Pilatus.
The first feeling is horgeous since the train lands at the beautiful Hotel Bellevue. Advertisements, posters and souvenir shops are the first staff that you see as soon as you get off the train.
Although the place is very touristic you will have enough time to enjoy some silent moments within the mountains.
If you go out onto the large outdoor terrace that connects the Hotel Bellevue with the Hotel Pilatus Kulm, you will also see groups of people climbing up the stairs. These lead to various viewpoints, such as the one in Oberhaupt, from which one has a wonderful view of the lakes and the Alps.
The best viewpoint is Esel, which is located next to the Hotel Bellevue.
The view of the lakes and the Alps is astonishing and you can admire that entire view of the Pilatus area.
Before leaving the summit, you can also take the Dragon Path, which runs partly through a rock gallery with an excellent view.
We recommend that you reach the Tomlishorn, the highest point in the Pilatus region, at 2,132 m. This easy and simple route follows a sensational path that is located between the rock and the abyss. It is the domain of crows and brave people who practice paragliding in a majestic environment.
Our second stop is one of the highlights of the day, the landslide at the Fräkmüntegg middle station (1416 m), which can be reached from the spectacular and futuristic panoramic cable car that departs from the basement of the Hotel Bellevue.
The trapezoidal cable car with its large windows reaches this intermediate station in only five minutes.
You will see a rope park where children and adults are having a great time sliding through the trees. There are different levels of difficulty, so everyone can enjoy this activity.
The longest toboggan run in Switzerland
The big star of Pilatus is the spectacular toboggan run.
Follow the signs and take a path that leaves you in 10 minutes at the exit of the longest toboggan run in Switzerland with its 1350 metres of descent.
The track is spectacular and you will have to go much faster, but you must follow the safety instructions carefully.
The Pilu-Land playground
It’s time to continue the journey through the Pilatus region and take a small cable car down to Krienseregg (1,026 m), which takes us to a forest with a fantastic playground.
The Pilu country refers to the Pilatus mascot, the Pilu dragon. The park is inspired by the tales of knights, princesses and dragons. The aerial view from the cable car is perfect, because you can already see the park in the shape of a castle.
The castle is very convenient and all that is missing is that the children carry wooden swords and plastic arches to imagine a medieval battle. Several swings, ropes, streams, tunnels and huts will delight your children, while the adults can take a well-deserved rest.
This is the last visit of Pilatus. All that remains is to take the cable car down to the Kriens valley station and take the bus to Lucerne railway station, from where you can take the train back to the Alpnachstad car park.
The golden round trip
In the case of Mount Pilatus, the idea is to travel by boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, board the rack railway and return to Lucerne on the other side of the mountain with the Dragon Ride panorama train and another smaller cable car to Krienst to end an unforgettable day by bus to Lucerne.
Access to Pilatus
From Alpnachstad with the rack railway. From Kriens with the cable car. Alpnachstad is accessible by car, train or boat. By car or bus to Kriens.
What does a trip to Mount Pilatus cost?
The return ticket costs 72 CHF, if you make the Golden Round Trip (with ship and bus transport from/to Lucerne) 102,60 CHF
How do you get to Pilatus?
From Lucerne you can get to Alpnachstad by car, train and boat and from there by rack railway. You can also climb the other side of the mountain (Kriens). To take the cable car from here, you can arrive by car or bus from Lucerne.
Where is the steepest rack railway in the world?
It is the Pilatus rack railway in Lucerne with gradients of up to 48%.
Why is the mountain called Pilatus?
Legend has it that Pontius Pilatus is buried on the summit of Pilatus, hence the name of the mountain and the train.