Say yes to visiting Mount Pilatus for a day in the Swiss Alps! At 2,128m elevation, a day trip to Mount Pilatus is a popular Alps peak to visit from many locations. It is easy to reach with multiple modes of transport, with round trips possible too. People of all ages can easily visit, with the reward of such beautiful views and stunning scenery! We believe Mount Pilatus, if you are in the area, is a must-see mountain peak and not to be missed, so if you have the time, go for it!
Our post is based on our journey to the top of Mount Pilatus one Sunday afternoon on an early Autumn day. There are many routes to start the journey up, which we decided to start in Alpnachstad. Then to enjoy the peak before taking the cable car down to Kriens. From here we then visited Lucerne for dinner before taking the train back to our parked car in Alpnachstad.
Read on to see our full journey as well as our best tips for your visit to enjoy the maximum out of the day!
Visiting Mount Pilatus
We visited Mount Pilatus as a day trip from Lugano. For us Mount Pilatus was only a few hours driving from Lugano, which we leisurely drove one morning and arrived by lunch time. We took the route via San Gottardo Scenic Pass!
Parking At Alpnachstad
Our journey started by parking at the Alpnachstad car park next to the train station. Parking was limited here, with two sections. So if you don’t find parking in the first area, keep driving to the second area further to hopefully find a spot there. We recommend to simply arrive on time if you plan to park and have reservations for the cogwheel railway.
We personally arrived only 10 minutes before and were just in luck to find a spot, but others were still waiting for a spot while we were boarding the cogwheel railway.
TIP: This is a paid parking area, so make sure to get your ticket and plenty of time for your visit!
mount pilatus weather Expectations
You may wonder what the weather is like for Mount Pilatus? It’s a great question and we had the same before our visit!
We suggest that you really check in advance, and even just one day before for the weather for your visit to Mount Pilatus. At the peak, the Mount Pilatus weather can be quite different from the temperatures in Lucerne nearby. It is also possible that it’s very cloudy during the day you wish to visit. Which often many experience where they cannot see a single thing through the clouds. So if you want to see the views, it would be best to have some flexibility in your visit to the top.
Taking The Cogwheel Railway
The best way to start your journey to Mount Pilatus is with the 48 percent cogwheel train, which is the steepest cogwheel railway in the world!
It takes you up to the peak Pilatus Kulm where you pass though the forest, past hiking routes, through tunnels and along stunning rock formations. The views are great from both sides of the carriage, but we personally think that the right side going up is best for the beginning, and then the left side is best for the upper part of the journey. We suggest to sit on the left side going up!
More information and history can be found on the main website. You can also check the most relevant prices for the cogwheel railway and timetable too!
How long does it take to get up Mount Pilatus?
With the cogwheel train, it takes only 30 minutes from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm. This might seem a lot for some, but the time whizzes by and those 30 minutes wont feel like 30 minutes!
Mount Pilatus Peak Exploration
There are numerous hiking routes to the peak and from the peak, which we would love to return to and do one day. But for our day trip we had time to simply explore and enjoy the very top, to relax and enjoy the 360 views around both Nidwalden canton and Obwalden canton.
Some things you can discover at the Mount Pilatus peak include:
- Pilatus main observation viewpoint
- Multiple mini view points
- 4 star Hotel Pilatus-Kulm and combined restaurant
- gift shop (with t-shirts, watches, Swiss items etc)
- Drachenweg pathway through the rock (local legend says dragons once lived along this trail on Mount Pilatus lined with rocks & crevices)
- Indoor cafe for a drink and small snacks/sandwiches
- Restaurant and 3 star Hotel Bellevue (for those who want to stay the night at the top!)
- Panorama grill snack bar (think hotdogs!)
If needed, we even spotted a postbox and an ATM to get some money out!
How much time do you need for Mount Pilatus?
For our stay, we were at the peak for around 1 hour, which does not include the time up with the cogwheel railway or the cable car down towards Kriens. So when we think back, we took the cogwheel train at 13:15pm and were back down with the cable car at Kriens around 18:00pm – so we spent around 5 hours for the overall experience.
There is a lot to see and you can relax at the top, or dine at the restaurant, which we didn’t do, simply because we had other plans in Lucerne for the evening. So we were on a little bit of a tight schedule to see all.
We would suggest to have at least half a day available for your time visiting Mount Pilatus. Then you are not restricted to having to leave quickly or squeeze in anything without stress. However if you are limited for time, you can always choose to only go up and down the same route, such as just with the cable car for quicker experience to Mount Pilatus.
Taking The Cable Car Down
Once we had explored everything at the top, and talked about coming back for some local hiking routes, we queued up to take the cable car down to Kriens. It didn’t take long to get into one, as it can take quite a large group of people!
There are some seats for those who need them, else plenty of space for standing and enjoying the views down the mountain.
From here you reach the Fräkmüntegg Gondola lift station.
Taking The Gondolas Down Next
After the big cable car, you change to the smaller gondolas at Fräkmüntegg, which take maximum 4 people at a time. This included some more waiting time, since you switch from such a large cable car to a small gondola.
At this Fräkmüntegg location there is also other fun activities you can stop and have fun with, such as:
- Pilatus Seilpark for climbing and ziplining (great for those with more time!)
- Seasonal toboggan route
- Sunrise photo point (for those who start the day early!)
- The Restaurant Drachenalp for snacks and drinks
- Farm cheese shop to buy local goodies
Once on the gondola, it goes first to Krienseregg and then to Kriens, which is the main station to get off at when heading back to Lucerne. When reaching Kriens, follow the signs for the local bus which takes only 5-10minutes walking. This bus will then take you to Lucerne. from there you can choose to take a lake boat (if available) or a train back to Alpnachstad – which is what we did back to our parked car.
Tickets and Costs To Visit
We bought our tickets directly from the site last minute. This worked out well and allowed us to check the weather beforehand before heading up. However we do hear that during peak periods that it can get very busy and with the cogwheel even sold out, so for this we would recommend booking your reservation for this in advance.
They have multiple choices of ticket combos as this is based on what route you would take, whether a round trip, single journey with hotel or return tickets with the same transportation. So you need to research this and check what route you would prefer and how much time you plan to spend there.
For example, we loved the idea of having a boat included as part of the round trip, but as we visited on a Sunday, by the time we were back down the mountain the boat was no longer running. So then the train was next option! Due to this, we paid for the ticket from Alpnachstad to Kriens single journey for 39.00 CHF only – which was with our halftax Swiss card to save money. After this, we still needed to pay for the train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, which I see we paid only 4.30 CHF also with our halftax Swiss card. So total of 43.30 CHF for our transportation of visiting Mount Pilatus!
If you were to take the boat instead of the train, we can see online this would be around 15.00 CHF.
Here are also some tours and tickets you can get in advance for your visit:
Mount Pilatus Cable Car, Cogwheel Train & Lake Cruise – Best combo Ticket!
Mount Pilatus Roundtrip Cable Car Ticket to the Peak – Does not include cogwheel train as its for those who want to visit there and back from Kriens only. Great for those with limited time!
Round-Trip Catamaran Cruise on Lake Lucerne – For when you are back down the mountain.
Our journey to Mount Pilatus was beautiful, with great weather, warm and not too busy. Our time in total was not that long, but worked out ideal due to additional plans in Lucerne later in the day.
Visiting Mount Pilatus was a really fun and great experience, especially with the combination of the cogwheel train and cable car!
We were lucky to have a great day with views, despite it being slightly hazy, we enjoyed it.
Is Mount Pilatus worth it?
We think so, even if you only have an afternoon available! If you have the time in Lucerne or travelling around Switzerland, we think its a great location as well as enjoyment to visit. Taking the steepest cogwheel railway in the world is unique on it’s on of course, but the whole combination of that with the mountain visit and then cable car and gondolas down the other side is special.