At 6,982 feet above sea level, Mount Pilatus is far from one of the tallest mountains in the Swiss Alps. However, what this mountain lacks in height it makes up for in beauty and intrigue.
Surrounded by legend, Mount Pilatus is rumoured to be both the home of dragons and the burial place of Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who oversaw the trial of Jesus Christ. Whether truth or mere lore, these tales add to the allure of visiting Mount Pilatus, which happens to be an incredibly accessible journey fit for the whole family.
The first thing that makes Mount Pilatus so accessible is its location just outside of Lucerne near Zurich. Because of this, an excursion to this mountain can easily be done as a day trip from the Little Big City.
Visiting Mount Pilatus can also be coupled with time spent in the picturesque city of Lucerne, where you will find a stunningly colorful Altstadt (old town), covered medieval bridges, and excellent shopping nestled within quintessential Swiss vistas of mountains and alpine lakes. One of these mountains is Pilatus, which is only a fifteen minute drive from Lucerne.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful views from the top of this mountain, there are many ways you can get there:
- Like most mountains, the upper regions of this peak can be accessed by foot via a non-technical, but steep, path.
- You can also ascend this mountain via the steepest cog railroad in the world.
- Finally, you can reach the summit via a journey in a gondola and cable car.
My recommendation is a combination of these last two methods, which takes you on an incredible loop through some of the most majestic mountains in the world.
To begin, take the cog railroad up Mount Pilatus, which, with a maximum gradient of 48 degrees incline, is an adventurous journey. The train departs from Alpnachstad, which is a 15 minute drive from Lucerne. You can also add to the adventure by taking a boat ride on Lake Lucerne between these two towns.
Once you get to the top of Mount Pilatus you will find multiple hikes out to vistas and to the summit as well as cafes where you can have your lunch with an extraordinary view. There is even a hotel up there, so, if you want to, you can stay the night!
Most visitors opt to head back down after a few hours though. My recommendation is to take the cable car, which offers 360 degree views and makes you feel like you are flying. Midway through this journey down you will disembark and get on a gondola, which will take you to Kriens, the town adjacent to Lucerne.
The itinerary laid out above is of course not the only way to summit Mount Pilatus. The direction of the journey can be flipped, you can take either the railroad or the cable car both up and down, or you can summit or descend this peak via the trail systems. However you decide to experience Mount Pilatus though, it is sure to be an epically beautiful day.
I hope that this guide was helpful! Please reach out to me if you have any questions about this destination or want to plan a trip to Switzerland.
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!