Taking a day trip from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus is a can’t miss adventure when visiting Switzerland! An imposing peak that towers over Lucerne, venturing to the top of Mount Pilatus can seem daunting from the city streets below. But fear not, reaching the peak is relatively easy thanks to top-notch Swiss transportation! With a peak almost 7,000 feet above sea-level, Mount Pilatus is one of the tallest mountains in the area and the summit provides unmatched views of the Swiss Alps high above the clouds. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make your trip to Mount Pilatus go smoothly.

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Lucerne to Mount Pilatus Day Trip

Quick Stats

  • Trip time | 4 – 6 hours
  • Total cost | $40 – $115
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Height of Mount Pilatus | 6,983 feet
  • Hiking Distance | roughly 3 miles (around the peak)
  • Types of transportation | boat, train, gondola, cable car, bus

The day trip from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus includes several different forms of transportation, including boat, cogwheel train, gondola, cable car, and bus. All the details can seem a little overwhelming, but don’t let this dissuade you! Mount Pilatus is 100% worth the trip. In this article, we will lay out everything you need to know to make your trip a breeze.

Lucerne to Mount Pilatus Map

The map below displays the route and types of transportation you will use to reach Mount Pilatus from Lucerne:

  • Step 1 | Boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad (travel time: 90 minutes)
  • Step 2 | Cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Pilatus (travel time: 40 minutes)
  • Step 3 | Gondola from Pilatus to Fräkmüntegg (travel time: 10 minutes)
  • Step 4 | Cable car from Fräkmüntegg to Kriens (travel time: 20 minutes)
  • Step 5 | Bus from Kriens back to Lucerne (travel time: 20 minutes)
Lucerne to Mount Pilatus Map
Map of route from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus (map courtesy of Pilatus.ch)

Which direction should I go?

This trip to Pilatus takes you up the south side of the mountain by cogwheel train from Alpnachstad and down the north side by cable car to Kriens. There are a few different variations of the trip you can take:

  • Reverse the order | Start in Kriens, end in Alpnachstad (advantage: may be less crowded in the morning).
  • Hike up from Kriens | 13 kilometer hike one-way. To get back, take the cable car back to Kriens OR train down to Alpnachstad.
  • Hike up from Alpnachstad | 8 kilometer hike one-way. To get back, take the train back to Alpnachstad OR cable car down to Kriens
  • Hike up from Alpnachstad and down to Kriens (or vice versa) | 21 kilometers total

While it is possible to reverse the order or go up and down the same side, we highly recommend following this itinerary. There are a few advantages of doing it this way:

  • The boat ride to Alpnachstad is incredible (its worth doing even if you aren’t going to Pilatus).
  • You have the option to stop in Frakmuntegg on the way back, time allowing.
  • You get to see more of the surrounding mountainside by traveling up and down opposite sides.
  • Avoid long lines for the ferry and cogwheel train by starting early.

How much does it cost to get to Mount Pilatus?

  • With a Swiss Pass | transportation for the entire day trip will only cost 36 CHF (about $40) per person! The train to Pilatus and cable car and gondola down to Kriens are 50% off with the Swiss Pass, and the remaining transportation is fully covered.
  • Without a Swiss Pass | the full round trip will cost 103 CHF (about $115) per person.

You can purchase tickets online here, or wait until the day of your trip. If you have a Swiss Pass, the only thing you will need to purchase is the roundtrip Kriens/Alpnachstad–Pilatus Kulm–Kriens/Alpnachstad ticket.

Mount Pilatus Trip Details

In the following section, we’ll break down all the details you need to know for each step of the trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne.

Step 1 | Boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad

  • Ticket Cost | 28 CHF, free with Swiss Pass
  • Departure Times | Once per hour at 38 minutes past the hour (first departure at 7:38 AM)

The first step of your journey is a beautiful boat ride on Lake Lucerne from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, a small lake-side village. In Lucerne, you will board the boat at the Banhofquai, which is located across from the train station on the bank of Lake Lucerne.

The boat departs once an hour at 38 minutes past the hour (they really mean this!), starting at 7:38 AM. We recommend beginning your day early to avoid the crowds and to make sure you have plenty of time for tobogganing in the afternoon.

The boat ride takes a total of about an hour and a half, but it won’t feel nearly that long as you sit on the deck of the boat, sipping a morning coffee and soaking up the sunshine and mountain views. As you approach Alpnachstad, you’ll get your first up-close look at Pilatus.

Tip: You can purchase tickets for Pilatus on the boat to skip the lines at Alpnachstad

Mount Pilatus from Lake Lucerne

Step 2 | Train from Alpnachstad to Pilatus

  • Ticket Cost | 72 CHF roundtrip, 36 CHF with Swiss Pass (Includes return trip to Alpnachstad or Kriens)
  • Departure Times | Operates from mid-May to mid-November
    Ascent: every 30-45 minutes from 8:10 AM – 5:10 PM
    Descent: every 30-45 minutes from 8:45 AM – 5:45 PM

For the second leg of the journey, take the cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Pilatus. A cogwheel train is simply a train that is built at an angle and equipped with specialized gear for handling steep inclines. The cogwheel to Pilatus is the steepest in the world, reaching a maximum angle of 48 degrees! Just like the boat ride to Alpnachstad, the cogwheel train to Pilatus is an adventure by itself.

Once you arrive in Alpnachstad, the train station is just a quick walk up the hill – you can’t miss it. We hopped right on a train with no lines, but we had taken the first boat out of Lucerne in the morning. I get the sense that the wait times get longer as the day goes on, so get an early start!

The train ride takes a total of about 40 minutes, but goes by in a flash. Make sure to have your camera ready because the views get better and better as you ascend towards Pilatus. And even more importantly, make sure you get a window seat!

What to do on Mount Pilatus

When you step off the train on top of Mount Pilatus, you will feel like you have been transported to the top of the world. On a clear day, you can see mile after mile of snow covered peaks in the distance. Spend some time enjoying the breath-taking scenery before moving on. But don’t take too much time – the views only get better!

We recommend taking two quicks hikes to the following points:

  • Tomlishorn Peak (2 miles)
  • Oberhaupt Peak (1 mile)

Hiking to Tomlishorn on Pilatus

Tomlishorn is the highest peak on Mount Pilatus. You can get there by taking an easy, two-mile round trip hike. The trail begins on the opposite end of the platform from the train station, and takes you along a ridge, through a natural tunnel, and ends with a quick ascent up to the peak.

We packed sandwiches and enjoyed lunch with a view from the top. Undoubtedly, the most beautiful place I have eaten a turkey sandwich!

Oberhaupt Peak

With a short 20 minute walk, you can get to Oberhaupt peak, another jaw-dropping viewpoint. As we walked up, the clouds started to roll in. Nonetheless, the sight of the cliffs dropping off into an abyss of clouds was eerily beautiful.

The trail to Oberhaupt peak starts behind the hotel on the side of Pilatus closer to the train station.

Pilatus Kulm Hotel & Restaurant

The hotel Pilatus-Kulm at the top of Mount Pilatus that you can stay at, but will definitely cost you. I can only imagine how incredible it would be to wake up on Pilatus for the sunrise views.

There is also a restaurant at the top, but the food is pricey. We recommend packing a lunch for a picnic with a view from Tomilshorn instead.

Step 3 | Gondola from Pilatus to Fräkmüntegg

  • Ticket Cost | included with purchase of cogwheel train ticket

Once you’ve explored the peak and seen every possible view, take the gondola down to Fräkmüntegg. On a cloudy day, this gondola ride can be somewhat terrifying if you are afraid of heights.

It drops off quickly (see pictures below) and as you descend into the clouds, you are completely blinded. Its difficult to tell if you are even still moving as you inch your way through a blur of white. Luckily, the entire ride takes only about 10 minutes.

Tobogganing in Fräkmüntegg

  • Ticket Cost | 9 CHF per person, 7 CHF for children < 16 years old

We recommend stopping in Fräkmüntegg to ride the toboggan at Fräkigaudi. A toboggan (aka. alpine slide, as we call it in parts of the United States) is a small cart with a brake you pull on to slow down that follows a narrow track down the mountain.

You’ll zip down the mountain whizzing around curves and speeding through tunnels, all while passing by Swiss cows happily grazing with a perfect view of Lake Lucerne below you. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a toboggan ride before, this will make you feel like a kid again!

Note that the last toboggan rides end at 5:00pm, so make sure you leave Pilatus by 3:30pm or so to ensure you have enough time. If you do not plan to go tobogganing, you can hop immediately onto the cable car to continue your journey to Kriens.

Step 4 | Cable Car from Fräkmüntegg to Kriens

  • Ticket Cost | included with purchase of cogwheel train ticket

Once you are ready to finish your journey, jump in a cable car to Kriens for a 20 minute ride. While the trip may be coming to an end, the views aren’t over quite yet. As we broke through the clouds, we were surprised by another incredible view of the town of Kriens and Lake Lucerne below.

Mount Pilatus cable car

Step 5 | Bus from Kriens to Lucerne

  • Ticket Cost | 4 CHF (one-way), free with Swiss Pass

Once you arrive in Lucerne, follow signs down the hill to the bus stop. The bus leaves every 20 minutes and the trip back to Lucerne takes about 15 minutes.

Tips for a great trip to Mount Pilatus

  • Wear layers: it may feel warm in Lucerne, but it gets chilly on the boat and on top of the mountain.
  • There is a restaurant at the top of Pilatus, but it is very expensive. Pack a lunch and enjoy it on the top of Tomilshorn to save a little money.
  • Start early! Pilatus gets crowded so get an early start to beat the crowds and avoid lines
  • The Swiss Pass makes this trip easy and affordable. If you don’t have a Swiss Pass, you may consider purchasing a Golden Round Trip or Silver Round trip, which includes all your tickets to reach Mount Pilatus from Lucerne.
  • If you have more than one day in Lucerne, pick the day with the clearest weather for your trip to Pilatus. It is can be cloudy on Pilatus, obstructing the incredible views. We were lucky enough to get relatively clear skies on one side of the mountain, but the other side was entirely cloud covered.
Oberhaupt peak on Mount Pilatus

Other useful resources

Planning a trip to Switzerland? We think you may enjoy the resources below, including can’t miss hikes and complete 7-day itinerary, packed full of adventure:

For all things Switzerland: Switzerland Travel Guide

The trip to Pilatus may seem overwhelming but the efficiency of Swiss transportation make it simple and seamless, and the views from the top are unbeatable. In all honesty, the journey itself is half the fun. If you are visiting Lucerne, you should definitely make time for Pilatus. And if you are visiting Switzerland, Lucerne should certainly be in your plans.

Questions or comments about the trip from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus? Let us know in the comments section below!

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