With their spectacular setting between the serene waters of Lake Lucerne and the snowy peaks of the Alps, the mountains make for an attractive day trip from the colourful medieval streets of Lucerne.
However, many travellers find it difficult to choose between Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Rigi and whilst they all make wonderful Lucerne day trips, most folks only have time to visit one.
In this guide, we compare the three most popular day trips from Lucerne, so you can decide which is the best for you.
Rest assured – no matter which of the Lucerne mountains you choose to visit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding Alps (weather permitting!).
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Mt. Titlis vs Mt. Pilatus vs Mt. Rigi comparison chart
|How to get there from Lucerne||Train/Cable car||Train/Cable car/|
|Pre-purchased tickets available?||Yes|
|Discount with Swiss Travel Pass||50%|
|Discount with Tell Pass||100%|
Mount Titlis day trip from Lucerne
Highlights: Rotating cable car, highest suspension bridge in Europe
Summary of activities available: Titlis Cliff Walk, Ice Flyer, Glacier Cave, Titlis glacier park, Titlis Adventure Park, Trubsee Flyer zipline, hiking, scooter bikes, row boats, alpine flower park, mountain biking, Trubsee snow park, skiing, snow shoeing, tobogganing (not all activities available year round).
Pre-booked transport option: We like the Titlis Eternal Snow World full-day tour – click here for details and prices.
First ascended in 1739, Mount Titlis lies to the south of Lake Lucerne and is often visited as an alternative to the Jungfrau. It is the highest peak in Switzerland’s Uri Alps north of the Susten Pass, rising to 3,238 metres above sea level. It is also home to the world’s first rotating cable car, known as the Titlis Rotair, which offers dazzling panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
At the top station, an illuminated tunnel carved through the ancient blue ice of the glacier leads to the Glacier Cave, while for the more actively-minded, there are various hiking trails that start at the end at the Trübsee cable car station.
If that’s not enough, the Titlis Cliff Walk boasts the highest suspension bridge in Europe.
During the summer months, it’s possible to rent a row boat and explore Trübsee lake at a relaxed pace, or discover the area rather more quickly attached to the Trübsee Flyer zipline.
Opting to make the journey from Lucerne to Mount Titlis also gives visitors the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the mountain’s glacier – the region’s only accessible glacier – from the Ice Flyer chairlift.
Operating over both the summer and winter months, when it doubles as a ski lift for the ski run, the Ice Flyer Titlis provides a unique means of getting to the mountain’s free, child-friendly snow tubing and sledging run.
When it comes to warming up, there are a number of cafes and restaurants dotted about the mountain, generally around the cable car stops, which offer hot drinks, snacks, and traditional Swiss mountain cuisine.
How to get to Mt Titlis from Lucerne
Getting from Lucerne to Mt Titlis is easy. It can be reached directly by train by stopping at Engelberg station on the railway operated by Zentralbahn. The journey between Lucerne and Engelberg takes just 45 minutes, with a free shuttle bus connecting Engelberg with the lower cable car station in just a few minutes more.
The Xpress cable car will take you to the intermediate stations of Gerschnialp and Trübsee before reaching Stand station at 2,400 metres, from where the Rotair cable car will take you to the Klein Titlis summit at 3,020 metres. Reaching the summit takes approximately 30 minutes.
- Swiss Travel Pass holders receive 50% off tickets to Mt. Titlis – Buy your Swiss Travel Pass here.
- Tell Pass holders can travel to Mt. Titlis for free – Buy your Tell Pass here.
The two cable cars are open throughout the year, except for a short period at the beginning of November 2019 when the Rotair car is closed for maintenance.
Click here to check cable car closure dates for the coming winter.
Another way to travel from Lucerne to Titlis is by joining an organised Mount Titlis tour. This tour includes return coach travel from Lucerne, tickets on the Titlis cable car, a ride on the Ice Flyer chairlift and the services of an experienced guide.
Staying overnight at Mount Titlis
- Those wishing to stay overnight at Mt. Titlis can stay at Trubsee Alpine Lodge which is located at the intermediate station of Trubsee (at 1800 metres). The lodge, which is also known as Berghotel Trubsee, offers comfortable, modern rooms for overnight guests. Click here to check details and prices.
Mount Pilatus day trip from Lucerne
Highlights: World’s steepest cogwheel railway, Golden Round Trip offers multiple transport methods to reach the summit
Summary of activities available: Christmas Market, Dragon Glider, Flower Trail, Pilu Land, Pilatus Rope Park, Frakigaudi summer toboggan run, Dragon Trail, sledding, bobsledding, snowshoeing (not all activities available year round).
Pre-booked transport option: Our top pick is the Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip – click here for details and prices.
Self-guided transport option: If you prefer more flexibility, pre-purchase your tickets but travel when it suits you – >click here to check details and prices.
Mount Pilatus, or Monte Pilatus, is a mountain massif consisting of several individual peaks that is easily-identifiable from its position overlooking Lucerne. Its highest peak is Tomlishorn, which rises to a height of 2,128 metres above sea level.
One of the main activities to enjoy while taking in the incredible views is hiking. There are some 20 different routes, ranging from easy trails lasting an hour and a half to those rated difficult, which shouldn’t be tackled without the appropriate equipment and experience and can take six hours to complete.
Winter sees many of the hiking trails closed, however, there are still plenty of activities on offer on the mountain, including skiing, tobogganing, and sledging.
Mount Pilatus also has the longest summer toboggan run at Fräkmüntegg, while Pilatus Rope Park has all manner of ropeways to clamber up and across. The ropeway known as the ‘monkey trees’ is one of the most popular. Suitable for anyone above the age of eight, users first climb to a height of 14 metres before abseiling gently back to ground level.
The ‘power fan’ is one step up on the adrenaline stakes, offering the sensation of free-falling 20 metres while attached to a rope and braking system that brings you to a halt in time to look as elegant as James Bond in one of his magnificent stunts.
You’ll find the ‘power fan’ beyond the ‘dragon jump’ trail.
If you’re travelling with children under the age of eight, Mount Pilatus still has you covered, with Pilu-Land adventure playground at Krienseregg.
Mountain biking is also an option for those visiting Switzerland’s Mt Pilatus. Although bikes are not permitted on the cable cars or railways, there are specially-designated biking trails amongst the trees above Kriens.
Alternatively, you could take to the skies with a paragliding adventure – or marvel at the skill of those floating in the air above you as you enjoy a coffee.
How to get to Mt Pilatus from Lucerne
The heights of Mount Pilatus can be reached by the Pilatus Railway, which runs from Alpnachstad on Lake Lucerne to the summit of Esel (Donkey), at 2,073 metres. With an average gradient of 35% and a maximum gradient of 48%, the railway holds the record for being the world’s steepest cogwheel railway line.
Alpnachstad can be reached from Lucerne via the lake’s steamer services, giving you the chance to enjoy a Lake Lucerne cruise, or by trains on Zentralbahn’s Brünigbahn line. The Pilatus Railway operates from May to November, weather permitting.
Getting from Lucerne to Mt Pilatus outside of these months is still possible, however, thanks to the cable car running from Kriens (which can be reached by bus number 1 from Lucerne) that takes passengers to Esel peak. Tomlishorn is a further 1.3 kilometres southeast of the upper cable car station.
Swiss Travel Pass holders receive 50% off tickets to Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Titlis and 100% off tickets to Mt. Rigi. Learn more in this article.
A second Pilatus cable car was installed in 2015 between Fräkmüntegg and Pilatus Kulm. Known as the ‘Dragon Ride,’ after medieval fables of the monsters living on the mountain-top, it has expansive modern viewing windows and a spacious interior.
Cable car closures are limited to a short period in October/November. (See closure dates here.)
During the summer months, visitors can purchase a Pilatus Golden Round Trip ticket, which entitles them to take a boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, ride the cogwheel railway up the mountain, and return to Lucerne via the cable car and a bus ride. Click here to check details and prices.
Staying overnight at Mount Pilatus
When it comes to accommodation at Mount Pilatus in Switzerland there are two options – Hotel Bellevue or the historic mountain hotel Pilatus-Kulm***S.
- Hotel Bellevue Pilatus is situated at the summit of Mt. Pilatus and offers twenty comfortable rooms with views of the Alps and Lake Lucerne. Click here to check further details and prices.
- For a bit more luxury, the other Pilatus hotel, Pilatus-Kulm should be your choice. With thirty superior rooms and junior suites, this is the ideal location to a restful night’s sleep surrounded by a stunning alpine panorama. Click here to check further details and prices.
Mount Rigi day trip from Lucerne
Highlights: Oldest mountain railway in Europe
Summary of activities available: Mineralbad & Spa Rigi Kaltbad, toboggan runs, hiking, paragliding, horse-drawn carriage rides, rope park, cross-country skiing, sledging, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding (not all activities available year round).
Pre-booked transport option: Enjoy the Classic Rigi Round Trip – click here for details and prices.
Sometimes known as ‘the Queen of the mountains’ (Rigi comes from Regina, the Latin for queen), Mount Rigi is another mountain massif. It is surrounded by lakes Lucerne, Zug, and Lauerz, and on a clear day, it’s possible to see seven different bodies of water from the top.
The main summit, Rigi Kulm, lies 1,798 metres above sea level, in the Schwyzer Alps, due east of Lucerne across the lake.
The mountain claims ownership of not only the oldest mountain railways in Europe, but also the highest standard gauge lines on the continent – the Rigi Railways.
Read more about the Tell Pass, a regional transport and sightseeing pass for the Lake Lucerne region, here.
Like Mounts Titlis and Pilatus, Rigi is a popular site for hiking in summer and skiing and tobogganing in winter. It boasts a hiking area of 90 square kilometres, covering some 120 kilometres of marked trails, which offer various viewpoints with expansive vistas across the region.
The Classic Trail remains popular and leads from Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbad (where you can relax with a hot drink or ice cream, depending on the time of year and prevailing weather conditions) via Staffel.
At just four kilometres in length, with a difference in altitude of only 300 metres and well-maintained paths leading down, it’s a great route for families looking to get a sense of the mountain.
How to get to Mt. Rigi from Lucerne
There are a couple of different ways to travel from Lucerne to Mt. Rigi. You can travel either via Vitznau, Arth-Goldau or Weggis.
The first option is to take a train and bus, or boat, to Vitznau which takes about an hour. Services operate year round. You can then board the Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn rack railway to Rigi Kulm (via Rigi Kaltbad).
The second option is to get to Arth-Goldau which can be reached by train in around 35 minutes from Lucerne. From there the Arth-Rigi-Bahn rack railway transports passengers to Krabel where they join a cable car to travel on to Rigi Kulm.
The third route entails catching a train from Lucerne to Weggis, a gondola lift from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad, a resort town at 1,400 metres, and then a cable car for the final leg to Rigi Kulm.
The Weggis cableway is closed for a short period in November and then again in March/April. Click here for closure dates.
Mt Rigi ticket prices depend on the route you choose to travel. To save time queuing for tickets at each intermediate point, this pre-purchased ticket is a great option.
- Swiss Travel Pass holders travel to Mt. Rigi for free – Buy your Swiss Travel Pass here.
- Tell Pass holders can travel to Mt. Rigi for free – Buy your Tell Pass here.
Staying overnight at Mt. Rigi
- For an unforgettable overnight stay on Mt. Rigi, book a room at Hotel Rigi Kaltbad. A member of the Swiss Quality Hotels group, Hotel Rigi Kaltbad offers stylish 3-star superior accommodation and fine dining with a spectacular view. Guests also have direct access to the Mineralbad and Spa Rigi Kaltbad. Click here for more details and prices.
Preparing yourself for the mountains
As each of these mountain peaks lies high above the snowline, and often above the cloud-line, you should not expect that the weather in Lucerne to be indicative of that on the mountains themselves.
While you should prepare for low temperatures, it can get warm on the peaks, particularly in summer, so the best option is to dress in easily added or removable layers. Gloves, sunglasses, and a warm hat shouldn’t be forgotten, alongside sturdy, closed shoes.
Keep a close eye on the Mount Rigi, Mount Titlis, or Mount Pilatus weather before considering any trip into the mountains.
Many hotels in Lucerne, as well as the Tourist Office, have webcams showing live video from the mountain summits. These live-streamed images can help you to determine if the Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Rigi or Mt. Titlis weather is suitable for a day trip.
Visiting Mt. Titlis, Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi from further afield
Whilst the transport details above are for visitors wishing to start their excursion to the mountains from Lucerne, it is also possible to enjoy a day trip to Rigi, Titlis and Pilatus from other locations.
You should allow a full day for a Zurich to Mount Titlis day trip or an Interlaken to Mount Titlis excursion. Day trips from Zurich to Pilatus or Rigi are also best enjoyed over a full day.
I hope this guide has helped you to choose between Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Titlis and Mt. Rigi for your day trip from Lucerne.
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