Mount Pilatus in Switzerland looms over Lucerne, and is home to the steepest cogwheel railway you’ll find anywhere on earth. It is a mountain massif comprising a number of peaks, and the highest of these is Tomlishorn, which is situated some 2,128 metres above sea level.
An excursion to Mt. Pilatus is one of the top things to do in Lucerne and you’ll see why in this guide.
Taking the Pilatus train to reach the summit is one of the highlights of any visit, and once you arrive there are plenty of Mount Pilatus activities to get involved in. This Lucerne mountain sets the scene for a Pilatus hike during the warmer months, or snow sports during the Mount Pilatus winter season.
If you’re thinking of visiting Pilatus mountain, this guide can help you plan your day or longer stay there. Covered is the basic geography of the area, various ways to get to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne, how and where to buy the tickets you’ll need and options for an overnight trip.
Also included is how long to spend there, the weather, what to do when you arrive and frequently asked questions about visiting Pilatus in Switzerland.
Whether you’re interested in hiking Pilatus, are looking for a hotel in Pilatus or simply want to ride the ultra steep Pilatus railway for the incredible views, read on to plan the Swiss mountain trip of a lifetime.
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Quick Summary of Mt. Pilatus Ticket Options
|Type of ticket||Price per adult||Where to buy|
|Regular tickets (ex Alpnachstad or Kriens)||From CHF 72.00||At station or Pilatus.ch|
|Swiss Half Fare Card holder||From CHF 36.00||BUY HERE|
|Swiss Travel Pass holder||From CHF 36.00||BUY HERE|
|Tell Pass holder||Free travel||BUY HERE|
|Self-guided golden day trip from Lucerne||From CHF 103.60||BUY HERE|
|Guided day trip from Lucerne||From CHF 127.00||BUY HERE|
|Day trip from Zurich||From CHF 154.00||BUY HERE|
What is Mt. Pilatus?
Mount Pilatus is actually a series of peaks. This mountain massif can be found among the Emmental Alps, and at its highest point is 2,128 metres above sea level. Tomlishorn is the tallest peak.
The mountain is a popular place to visit, especially for those staying in Lucerne. Its cogwheel railway is the steepest on the planet, making the trip a thrilling ride as well as a very picturesque one.
Once at the top, hiking, winter sports and mountain biking are among the activities available.
Where is Mt. Pilatus?
So where is Mount Pilatus? This massif in Switzerland can be found within the cantons of Nidwalden, Obwalden and Lucerne, with the largest peaks lining the border between Nidwalden and Obwalden.
The highest peaks should only be accessed by those with experience and specialist Alpine climbing equipment.
Otherwise, visitors can access Mount Pilatus in various ways. The Golden Round Trip is one option, involving a series of different forms of transport for a rounded experience.
Whether you opt to take this Golden route or not, at least part of your journey will involve a cogwheel train, gondola or cable car ride.
How to get to Mt. Pilatus
This section covers your options for getting to Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. You can travel from Lucerne via Kriens or Alpnachstad or just go as high as Fräkmüntegg, and all three of these routes are detailed below.
Whichever you go for, don’t forget that in this scenic part of Europe, getting there is one of the most enjoyable parts of the journey.
Getting to Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne by train
Route: Lucerne > Alpnachstad (boat or train) > Pilatus (cogwheel train)
The first way to get to Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne is to take a trip via Alpnachstad. Travelling from Alpnachstad to Pilatus involves taking either a steamer boat trip across Lake Lucerne or a train ride via Zentralbahn’s Brünigbahn line.
Alpnachstad is where the Pilatus bahn (train) departs from. This train line is the world’s steepest and operates between May and November – provided inclement weather conditions don’t put a stop to services. This does happen occasionally.
Getting from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus via Alpnachstad thus involves a boat or train journey followed by a trip on the cogwheel railway. The trip can also be done in reverse for the return leg.
Getting to Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne by cable car
Route: Lucerne > Kriens (bus) > Fräkmüntegg (cable car) > Pilatus Kulm (cable car)
Another option for getting from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus is to travel from Kriens to Pilatus, as the cable car service to the top of the mountain runs between Pilatus and Kriens.
If you want to get to Mount Pilatus in Switzerland this way, you’ll need to board bus number 1 in Lucerne. You can then take two cable cars to the summit.
The first cable car (the ‘dragon ride’) operates between Kriens and Fräkmüntegg and you then connect to a second cable car onwards to Pilatus Kulm.
Do note, however, that the cable car does normally close for a short spell in autumn or winter – you can find out more about that here.
Getting to Mt. Pilatus (Fräkmüntegg) from Lucerne
Route: Lucerne > Kriens (bus) > Fräkmüntegg (cable car)
Should you not wish to go all the way to Pilatus-Kulm, you can go just as far as Fräkmüntegg. You’ll take the ‘dragon ride’ cable car from Kriens. The cabins have a generously-sized interior and panoramic viewing windows.
The route is so called due to the mythical Mount Pilatus dragon said to live on the summit. It takes passengers for a scenic trip between Fräkmüntegg and Pilatus Kulm, and is subject to similar closures during the off-peak season.
The Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip
Route: Lucerne > Kriens (bus) > Pilatus (cable car) > Alpnachstad (cogwheel train) > Lucerne (boat)
An alternative way to get to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne is to take the famous Golden Round Trip. This is a type of all-inclusive ticket that covers four different means of transport.
The first leg is a 15-minute bus trip from Lucerne to Kriens, from where you’ll take the cable car to Mt Pilatus. For the return trip from Mt. Pilatus to Lucerne, you will later ascend via the cogwheel railway to Alpnachstad. From there a boat will transport you back to Lucerne via the lake.
The Mount Pilatus Golden Round Trip can also be done in reverse, travelling first by boat then by cogwheel train, cable car and bus.
The Mt. Pilatus Silver Round Trip
Route: Lucerne > Kriens (bus) > Pilatus (cable car) > Alpnachstad (cogwheel train) > Lucerne (train)
Another option is the Mount Pilatus Silver Round Trip. In essence, it’s the same as the Golden Round Trip, apart from the fact that the boat trip to or from Lucerne is not included. It can also be followed in either direction.
This leg is taken by train instead, making this a popular option among railway enthusiasts – or those who don’t enjoy travelling across the water.
Mt. Pilatus Timetable
Alpnachstad cogwheel train
Taking the Mt. Pilatus train from Alpnachstad is a must if you are visiting Switzerland between late May and late November, when it’s operating. Services depart approximately once or twice per hour throughout the day and each trip takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
View the timetable here.
Kriens cable car
The standard Mt. Pilatus cable car from Kriens runs during all four seasons, but as mentioned above it may be closed for maintenance between October and November or January and February. Otherwise services operate from 8.30 or 9am until 4pm or later.
Find out more here.
Fräkmüntegg ‘dragon ride’
The Pilatus dragon ride also operates between Fräkmüntegg and Pilatus Kulm on the same dates as the cable car from Kriens.
You can see the current timetable here.
Mt. Pilatus Tickets
If you want to purchase Mount Pilatus tickets you can opt to purchase individual tickets for the cogwheel train or cable car plus train, bus or boat tickets for the trip from Lucerne.
Otherwise, buying the Golden Round Trip tickets means the fare for every sector is covered.
Golden Round Trip, cable car & cogwheel train tickets
Pilatus prices for tickets vary according to the route chosen. You can check current fares for the cable car, dragon ride and cogwheel train to Pilatus here, including child and adult prices.
The Mount Pilatus price you’ll pay also depends on whether or not you hold any kind of transport pass or card.
Standard adult fares are more expensive, because children and holders of a Swiss Half Fare Card get a 50% discount. Anyone holding a Swiss Travel Pass, Interrail or Eurail Pass can also travel more cheaply.
Adult return fares are as follows, so you can compare prices:
- Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad or Kriens – CHF 72
- Golden Round Trip – from CHF 103.60
- Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad/Kriens with Swiss Travel Pass/Interrail/Eurail – CHF 38
You can also buy Silver Round Trip tickets > here.
Mount Pilatus day trips
Another option for visiting the Pilatus mountain in Switzerland is to take an organised day trip. Just like the self-guided Mt. Pilatus tour tickets mentioned above, guided day trips are available through Get Your Guide.
Tickets are fully refundable up to 24 hours prior to departure, which is reassuring should the weather forecast not be favourable on the day you are scheduled to travel.
Guided Mount Pilatus tour via cruise, cable car & cogwheel train
This guided tour is ideal for those who want to put the planning into someone else’s hands and just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. It includes luxury coach travel to Kriens, the ‘dragon’ ride and a trip on the steepest cogwheel train in the world. You will also take a cruise across the lake to Lucerne.
Discover this guided day trip to Mount Pilatus > here.
Self-guided Pilatus day trip from Alpnachstad or Kriens
Rather than being a guided tour, this trip is the easy and refundable way to buy tickets for the cable car, dragon ride and cogwheel train. You can begin this trip from Alpnachstad or Kriens, which you can reach by bus, train or boat from Lucerne as detailed above.
Find out all about this self-guided tour to Mount Pilatus > here.
Don’t forget to consider the Golden Round Trip option, which you can also buy via Get Your Guide > here.
You can explore more options for visiting Mount Pilatus on the following links, including
Where to buy Mt. Pilatus Tickets
Use the links below to buy your tickets to Mt. Pilatus
|Type of ticket||Where to buy|
|Regular tickets (ex Alpnachstad or Kriens)||At station or Pilatus.ch|
|Swiss Half Fare Card holder||BUY HERE|
|Swiss Travel Pass holder||BUY HERE|
|Tell Pass holder||BUY HERE|
|Self-guided golden day trip from Lucerne||BUY HERE|
|Guided day trip from Lucerne||BUY HERE|
|Day trip from Zurich||BUY HERE|
Things to do at Mt. Pilatus
Although the Mount Pilatus weather will clearly have an impact on what you can do when you reach the summit, there are lots of Pilatus activities to take part in at all times of the year.
If you have your heart set on travelling by cogwheel train, though, don’t forget that it is closed during winter and early spring as detailed above.
In summer, Pilatus hiking is one of the key activities to get involved in, and the mountain is also home to the Pilatus toboggan run. Adrenaline-inducing experiences and winter sports are also very popular here.
Mt. Pilatus hiking
Hiking Mt. Pilatus is one of the top things to do in the area during the warmer months of the year. Taking to the trails allows you to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the area and there are around 20 hiking routes to pick between.
Your Mt. Pilatus hike can also be as easy or challenging as you want to make it. The simplest routes take around 90 minutes to complete, while the most difficult are only for the most experienced hikers with the right equipment and a lot of time to spare.
Taking a Mount Pilatus hike in winter is more of a challenge, not least because some of the trails are closed for the season.
Mt. Pilatus toboggan run
The toboggan run on Pilatus is also a favourite among visitors. Located in Fräkmüntegg, close to the dragon run, the Frakigaudi route is the longest you can take in Switzerland during the summer season.
The famous run is an incredible 1,350 metres long. The starting point can be reached via a short walk from Fräkmüntegg mountain station, so it’s particularly easy to get to if you arrive by cable car.
Mt. Pilatus rope park
Age is absolutely no barrier to having some safe climbing-based fun at the Mount Pilatus rope park. As long as you’re aged over eight and are feeling suitably adventurous, you can challenge your agility on ten different routes.
You will visit up to 11 ‘stations’ as you balance, climb and zipline your way through the park – coming across various obstacles along the way.
Other Mt. Pilatus activities
There are various other options for those seeking thrills – or a more relaxed time – at the top of the mountain.
These include taking a free fall from the ‘power fan’, mountain biking the trails above Kriens or visiting the Pilu-Land adventure playground, which can be found in Krienseregg.
You could also take a parasailing adventure – or simply watch others in action while you admire the glorious views with an ice cream, coffee or hot chocolate in hand.
If you like, you can also dine at the hotels detailed below, as each has a decent restaurant.
Can you stay on Mt. Pilatus?
Whether you prefer to hike or take photos of the landscape, one day may not seem like enough at Mount Pilatus. Fortunately there are a couple of recommended places to stay in the area, as follows.
Hotel Bellevue Pilatus is a clean, modern property with 20 comfortable double rooms. These can also be reserved as singles.
The incredible views from this hotel make it well worth taking the time to arrange an overnight stay.
This three star hotel on Mount Pilatus has a restaurant serving Swiss cuisine, and you can book accommodation on a half board basis.
There are floor-to-ceiling windows here to make the most of the alpine panoramas, as well as an outdoor terrace for summer dining and drinking.
Another good hotel on Pilatus is the Kulm Hotel. This Mount Pilatus hotel dates from 1890 and underwent a complete renovation in 2010.
With 30 rooms in total, it has 3 junior suites plus 27 superior doubles.
Like the Bellevue, the hotel is a travel sustainable property and holds three stars. There is a smart restaurant on site, serving a range of dishes based around fresh in-season produce.
A bar and gift shop can also be found at the Pilatus-Kulm hotel.
How long should you spend at Mt. Pilatus?
How long to spend at Mount Pilatus really does depend on what you want to do while in the area. Around 5 to 6 hours would be the minimum time to allow, including travel from Lucerne.
If you want to hike or take part in adrenaline activities or winter sports, it’s advisable to depart as early as possible in the morning, and return on one of the last cable cars or trains of the day.
Booking your travel and activity tickets ahead of time is essential when on a tight schedule.
If you do have enough time, planning an overnight stay will allow you to soak up those magnificent mountain views from the comfort of your hotel – without rushing around.
Mt. Pilatus weather
In general, Mt. Pilatus weather is mild in summer and snowy in winter – this is why many of the hiking trails close during the coldest months.
Taking a look at a webcam in Pilatus allows you to get a sneak peek of what weather is in store for your visit. You can find a live stream of the current conditions via the Pilatus webcam on the official Mt. Pilatus website.
If you visit when there is good weather in Pilatus, the views are incredible, and there is plenty for active types to do too.
Day and night-time winter temperatures are usually below zero degrees Celcius.
Summer highs in July and August can be about 12°C, and overnight temperatures tend to stay above zero degrees between May and October.
Is Mt. Pilatus worth visiting?
So when in Switzerland, will Mt. Pilatus make it onto your itinerary? It’s certainly worth serious consideration, especially if you’ll be staying in the Lucerne area.
In as little as five or six hours you could take a boat trip across the lake, a ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel train and a ‘dragon ride’ with spectacular views.
Whether you take a Mt. Pilatus silver round trip or go for gold, there is plenty to do when you reach the summit.
Take a hike, a toboggan ride or go rope climbing, or you could enjoy some winter sports or thrilling adrenaline activities.
Wirth this trip it’s as much about the journey as reaching the top, so do sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
If you’re wondering whether to visit Mount Titlis or Pilatus or Rigi, this post might help you decide.
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Visiting Mount Pilatus – FAQs
Is Mt. Pilatus worth it?
The Mount Pilatus elevation alone surely makes it worth your while – just think of those views. If you’re a keen hiker, winter sports fan or adrenaline enthusiast, you have even more reasons to visit.
From the longest summer toboggan run in Switzerland to dining at your hotel while you watch the sunset, Mount Pilatus is worthy of inclusion on any Swiss itinerary.
In fact, even just the scenic journey alone – via boat, cogwheel railway and cable car – makes a day or overnight trip totally worthwhile.
What is the Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip?
The Golden Round Trip is really just a term used to describe an all-inclusive ticket that covers your return transport from Lucerne.
It includes travel by boat across Lake Lucerne, cogwheel train from Alpnachstad, the cable car ride to Kriens and the bus back to the city. Or vice versa.
Offering good value for money and saving you time into the bargain, it’s the most popular way to see Mount Pilatus from Lucerne. > Buy your Golden Round Trip ticket here.
How to get from Zurich to Mt. Pilatus
If you want to visit Mount Pilatus from Zurich rather than Lucerne, taking an organised day trip is the easiest way to make the most of your time. You can find the details of our recommended, fully refundable small group day tour > here.
Otherwise you can take the train or drive from Zurich to Lucerne before following one of the routes outlined above.
Where do I get a good Mt. Pilatus map?
You’ll find a general map of Mt. Pilatus above and you can also view a Mount Pilatus map on the official Pilatus website here. This Pilatus map shows winter and summer activities, the location of hotels and restaurants, transport stations and lookout points.
🇨🇭 If you don’t plan to stay on Mt. Pilatus and would prefer to base yourself in Lucerne, read our Lucerne Hotels Guide to find the perfect place to stay. You can also read more about Lucerne in our Lucerne Travel Guide.