Mount Pilatus: Travel Tips and Photos


A visit to the summit of Mount Pilatus from Lucerne is one of the best round trips on offer in the Swiss Alps, as our photo gallery shows. The suggested itinerary involves travel by boat, cogwheel railway, train and, if you feel up to it, on foot. There are two summits: Tomlishorn (2,128m or 6,982ft) and Esel (2,119m or 6,952ft), and both can be visited in summer for magnificent views of awe-inspiring mountainscapes and Lake Lucerne far below. The whole trip provides wonderful opportunities for photography!

Suggested itinerary:
Lucerne to Alpnachstad – after a look around Lucerne, the largest city in Central Switzerland, with its famous 14th century Chapel Bridge and interesting museum about the German composer Richard Wagner, you take the boat from Pier 2 outside the railway station for a glorious 90 minute trip along the scenic Lake Lucerne to the village of Alpnachstad.
Travel information: don’t forget, if you have a Swiss Pass railway ticket, it includes travel on all ferries in Switzerland!

Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm – when you disembark at Alpnachstad, you take the cogwheel railway to the summit. The Pilatus Railway is the steepest rack railway in the world at 48% maximum gradient, and also, at 2,073m (6,801ft), the highest railway in Obwalden. Designed by engineer Eduard Locher and completed in 1889, it takes you the 4.6km (2.86 miles) to the terminus near the Esel summit in 30 minutes. The line, which was electrified in 1937 having originally been steam-powered, takes you at a sedate 10km an hour through lush Alpine meadows and past sheer cliffs, with the possibility of seeing animals like the ibex or chamois. Although you are running on a track that is over 100 years old, so good was Locher’s design that you are perfectly safe: the railway is laid on solid rock, and two cogwheels under each car engage with a double rack between the 800mm gauge rails, to prevent the car jumping off the track, even in high winds.
Travel information: the Pilatus Railway only operates between May and November.

Pilatus Kulm
Among those who have reached here before you are President Roosevelt and Queen Victoria! Wagner visited the summit in 1859 and was inspired to compose The Ring of the Nibelungs. You may be surprised to find two hotels perched on the summit ridge: the historic Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, originally built around 1900, was refurbished in 2010 and features the Restaurant Queen Victoria, as well as offering a variety of rooms for the night. You can even have your conference or company training day here, but whether the delegates can concentrate in a venue with such amazing views (see the photo gallery) is a different matter! Hotel Bellevue occupies an equally stunning location and features a terrace with panoramic views of the Alps and the bay of Lucerne, which you can enjoy while sampling various Swiss specialities. If you can resist the tempting offer of food and drink in one of several restaurants a little longer, a walk of about 30 minutes brings you to the Tomlishorn, the highest point on the mountain at 2,128m.
Travel information: check the weather forecast before setting off, as Pilatus can be covered in cloud. The best time to go is July and August, but it can be cold any time of year at this altitude, so take some warm clothes.

Mt Pilatus to Alpnachstad
Try to allow a couple of hours at least to enjoy the summit, then set off to walk downhill. It takes around 3 hours to reach the cogwheel railway intermediate station at Aemsigen. There you have the choice, depending on how you are feeling, of continuing on foot or taking the train. The trail mostly runs parallel to the railway and is fairly well marked. With the alternative choices of taking the train down, descending by cable car or even riding Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run, not so many visitors walk down. But, as the pictures in the photo gallery show, they are missing out on a great walk, which is exhilarating without being dangerous. You start off on rocky high mountain paths, then come into beautiful Alpine meadows, and finally (if you walk all the way) the trail takes you through forest. Travel tip: wear strong shoes or boots.

Alpnachstad to Lucerne
By this time you will be ready for a speedy return to Lucerne, so take the train from Alpnachstad. It is not as scenic as the boat ride, but it gets you there more quickly.
Travel information: trains are frequent and take between 20 and 30 minutes to make this journey, depending on the time of day.

And that’s the suggested tour itinerary – we hope you enjoy the round trip as much as we did! If you are unlucky and the weather prevents good photos, you can always download a selection from our gallery free of charge and without copyright restrictions. Why not bookmark the site now?

From Lucerne to Alpnachstad, ship
Lucerne Lucerne KKL, Pilatus KKL ships Pilatus
steamboat Uri Ship, mount Pilatus Pilatus Wagner Museum
Lucerne, Pilatus Lake Lucerne, Pilatus Film crew, Pilatus sailing boat, lake Lucerne, Pilatus
Ship under bridge ship, passengers Alps Switzerland Alpnachstad, shipstation
From Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm
cogwheel railway Alpnachstad Pilatus cogwheel railway Landscape Switzerland Alpnachstad
Alpnachstad to Pilatus  Pilatus cogwheel railway  Aemsigen station  Pilatus cogwheel railway 
Switzerland  View Alps  Cogwheel Kulm  Mount Pilatus Kulm 
Mount Pilatus
Pilatus people Alphorn musician Hotel Pilatus Kulm Pilatus Kulm, Hotel
Pilatusm cableway Lucerne from Pilatus Cableway from Kriens Lucerne, lake, Rigi
Lucerne from Pilatus northern Switzerland Pilatus travel Alps from Pilatus
Mountains Switzerland animal alps, wild goat feeding bird Pilatus-Kulm Hotel
Pilatus, Switzerland paraglider, Pilatus Alps, lake Lucerne Pilatus, Switzerland
Titlis, glacier Lucerne, lake, mount Rigi Mount Rigi from Pilatus Lake Lucerne from Pilatus
Esel, Pilatus triangulation point, Esel Switzerland mountains Oberhaupt, Pilatus
panorama Switzerland Hotel Bellevue, Pilatus Pilatus tourists view point Esel
tourists Pilatus Pilatus view Pilatus Oberhaupt viewpoint Oberhaupt
path Pilatus Pilatus Kulm hotels Hotels Bellevue Kulm cogwheel railway
From Mount Pilatus to Alpnachstad
view Alps Pilatus trail trail wanderer butterfly flower
hiker Pilatus cogwheel railway Pilatus railway Pilatus cogwheel
Flowers alps Hotel Kulm mountain shoe trail Switzerland alps
hiker Pilatus Pilatus cogwheel Hotels Pilatus Switzerland trail directions Pilatus
mountains Switzerland Pilatus-Alpnachstad Railway cogwheel railway cogwheel railway
Pilatus cows Pilatus railway cograil Switzerland cograil
Pilatus tourism Aemsigen Pilatus Pilatus railway driver's cabin Pilatus
cars Pilatus Alpnachstad - Pilatus tracks Pilatus railway Locher's cograil
From Alpnachstad to Lucerne, train
Alpnachstad Alpnachstad station train travel Railwaystation Lucerne