A multi-peaked massif, Mt. Pilatus towers over Lucerne and Central Switzerland. Though Queen Victoria enlisted a mule to help her ascend the mountain in 1868, visitors now venture up by cable car or cogwheel train, which—with a gradient of up to 48 percent—is said to be one of the world’s steepest. Crisscrossed by hiking trails and sled runs, Mt. Pilatus features a kid-friendly adventure park and a suspension rope park. From the top, you can see as far as Italy on a clear day.
Visitors to Lucerne cannot miss Mt. Pilatus looming over the city. If you want to ascend the majestic mountain and soak up the stunning panorama of the Swiss Alps, several options are available. The Golden Round Trip package involves traveling by boat, cogwheel railway, panoramic gondola, and aerial cableway. There are self-guided, partly guided, and fully guided tours from both Lucerne and Zurich, all of which include round-trip transportation. Some organized day trips incorporate guided city tours of Lucerne and, in summer, cruises on Lake Lucerne. You can also take a 2-day tour that includes a night’s stay in a hotel high on the slopes.
Things to Know Before You Go
Mt. Pitalus is a must-visit for train buffs, scenery seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Drink lots of water to stave off the effects of altitude sickness.
Book tickets or tours in advance to save yourself lining up for the cable car or cogwheel train.
The cogwheel railway, panoramic gondola, and aerial cableway are all wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
To access the Mt. Pilatus cable car, ride the trolleybus route 1 from Lucerne’s railway station to Kriens, where you can travel to the summit station at 5,560 feet (1,695 meters) via panoramic gondola and aerial cableway. Alternatively, travel by train or ferry from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, where you can board the cogwheel railway. The Golden Round Trip can be done only during summer.
When to Get There
If you want to ride the cogwheel railway or do the boat ride from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, plan your trip for the summer. Both boats and the railway generally operate between May and October (depending on weather conditions). The earlier you set off, the fewer crowds you are likely to encounter. Note that the gondola and aerial cableway close for maintenance for a couple of weeks in late October and November.
The Legends of Mt. Pilatus
Mt. Pilatus is associated with many myths. In medieval times, rumors abounded that dragons lived in its crevices. According to local legend, the mountain is named after Pontius Pilate, the Roman emperor who ordered the death of Jesus Christ, and whose lifeless body the devil supposedly dumped in a lake on Mt. Pilatus. It’s more likely, however, that the mountain’s name is connected to the Latin word pileatus (“capped”), which may refer to the clouds that often shroud its peaks.