Mount Pilatus Day Trip from Lucerne (5 Reasons to Go + Tips)

Blog Design Upper Separator

There is no trip to Switzerland without visiting the Swiss Alps. It’s the country’s ultimate destination. The spectacular ‘heaven on earth’ scenery is simply unmissable. And let’s not forget all the adventures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that await us there!

Usually, I’d recommend heading straight to the Jungfrau Region to spend four days exploring the unbelievably beautiful places around Interlaken, such as Lauterbrunnen and Lake Brienz. However, there are cases where Mount Pilatus, near the beautiful city of Lucerne, is a better choice. The obvious scenario is if you’re planning to stay in Lucerne for two days, three days, or more. You can still include a visit to Mount Pilatus during a one-day trip to Lucerne if you don’t mind a subtle rush. Spend half a day in the old town, and the other half at Mount Pilatus.

Why do I think Mount Pilatus is a must-see during a trip to Lucerne? Simply put, the awe-inspiring view overlooking Lake Lucerne and other alpine summits from Mount Pilatus is absolutely breathtaking (weather permitting)! And there’s more: cable cars, cogwheel trains, toboggan runs, and other amazing experiences await. Even the journeys to the summit and back to the city are unforgettable. Mount Pilatus truly makes for a beautiful day trip from Lucerne.

Need more convincing? Let me show you just how amazing this mountain truly is! I’ll also provide tips to ensure your visit is worthwhile if you decide to explore it.

Quick Facts about Mount Pilatus + more photos of the view of/from Mount Pilatus

Mount Pilatus is a 2,128-meter-tall mountain (6,983 ft) in Central Switzerland, known for outdoor fun activities and hikes with stunning views of Lake Lucerne and the Alps. Specifically, its main peaks are found on the borders of the cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden, but parts of the mountain also fall within the canton of Lucerne.

Interestingly, centuries ago, some considered Mount Pilatus a mystic mountain because of the legends associated with it. Pontius Pilate was rumored to be buried on Mount Pilatus, and others believed that a healing dragon lived there—hence the name of Mount Pilatus’ aerial cableway.

Dragon Ride in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Dragon Ride in Mount Pilatus
Mount Pilatus as seen from Lucerne, Switzerland
Mount Pilatus as seen from Lucerne

Considerations Before Going

While I greatly recommend Mount Pilatus (I’m a mountain lover—I apologize for the bias, lol), there are a few things you must consider before deciding to go. Take into account the weather, the season, the duration of your stay in Switzerland, and the people you’re traveling with. And, of course, consider your travel preferences. Visiting Mount Pilatus just because it’s trendy isn’t a compelling reason to explore this magnificent mountain! In my opinion, some of these considerations carry more weight than the actual experiences you can have on Mount Pilatus.

Consideration #1 — Length of your Switzerland Trip

Sometimes, it would be better to skip Mount Pilatus, considering the length of your Switzerland trip and other top destinations in Switzerland offer similar experiences as Mount Pilatus. As much as we can, we should avoid having redundant experiences during the entire length of your stay in Switzerland. You know, Switzerland is an expensive country to visit.

For me, visiting Mount Pilatus is perfect if you only plan a weekend or 3-day Switzerland trip, which includes Lucerne ( assuming that you plan to visit other places in Switzerland at some other time). However, if you intend to see the Jungfrau Region or Zermatt on your Switzerland trip, I would not suggest visiting Mount Pilatus. Almost all the experiences you can have at Mount Pilatus are also available at these two top attractions.

However, if you plan to stay in Switzerland for two weeks or longer, it would be nice to include Mount Pilatusin your itinerary. That’s the case if you want to experience the best of what this country can offer.

Consideration #2 — You are traveling with whom??

Many consider Mount Pilatus a beautiful day trip from Lucerne, but we must remember that it is a mountain, and it may only be suitable for some. Do you have any health conditions that may be exacerbated by the altitude?

Anyhow, I think that Mount Pilatus is a fantastic destination for family travelers. If you are traveling with your kids, your little ones will absolutely love the outdoor fun that awaits them in Mount Pilatus.

This place in Mount Pilatus is called “Pilu Land,” a park themed like dragon land. It has a castle, mini woods, and a playground. While the kids play, parents can stay on the benches or cook sausages on the nearby grills. Pilu Land and other outdoor activities are only some of the reasons why I think you should visit Mount Pilatus. I’ll tell you more as we go along. 

Consideration #3 — Don’t forget the season!

Although Mount Pilatus has indoor facilities enjoyable all year (opening hours may be limited during winter), visiting Mount Pilatus is definitely more enjoyable during non-winter months.

More facilities are open during the non-winter months, like the Pilatus Railway—it’s a bucket list attraction! If you are visiting Switzerland during the winter, it would be best to skip Mount Pilatus and go to some of the best ski resorts in Switzerland instead. Some of them are Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Davos. These resorts offer a wide range of ski runs, other winter activities, beautiful scenery, and world-class amenities.

Consideration #4 — Most importantly, the weather.

I’ve been to mountaintops several times before. Based on experience, I can say that the scenery you can see from them can either make you say, “I’m surely gonna be back here” or “I want a refund for this!” after the trip. It’s “heaven on earth” when no clouds cover the view, and it’s like facing a giant gray or white wall otherwise.

This is why it’s better if you can be flexible on your Switzerland trip. As much as possible, set your travels to the mountains (for example, Mount Pilatus) during dry and sunny days. It’s when you can see the majestic scenery of the Swiss Alps, totally worth the effort, time, and money! You can utilize different weather apps for this, as most can accurately predict the weather already.

Let’s say you’re now in Lucerne and are not sure if it’s worth going to Mount Pilatus with the current weather. In that case, you may check the live view of the webcams on the official website of Mount Pilatus (linked at the end of this post). Using the scenery shown in the live panorama, you can tell for yourself if it’s worth going to Mount Pilatus.

Why Visit this Mountain

As explained earlier in the “things to consider”, Mount Pilatus is not a destination for everyone and not a place to visit all year. However, in general, landscape photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, traveling families, and adventure seekers will most likely find Mount Pilatus worth visiting. I’ll bet that typical tourists who haven’t been to the mountains before will be filled with awe, especially when they visit the mountain without clouds blocking the view!

1. Proximity To Lucerne

Panoramic views from Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Panoramic views from Mount Pilatus (below is the Canton of Lucerne)

Mount Pilatus is definitely the most practical choice for travelers wanting to see a stunning view of the Alps from Lucerne. It only takes a short bus ride or train ride (boat ride optional) to get to the start of the main journey to Mount Pilatus. There are two places at the foot of Mount Pilatus where you can choose to begin your journey up the mountain: Alpnachstad and Kriens.

Learn more about Alpnachstad and Krienz

Alpnachstad is only a 17-minute train ride from Lucerne central station. Alternatively, you can also reach Alpnachstad by boat, but it takes much longer—around 1 hour and 20 minutes. Once you arrive at Alpnachstad, simply transfer to the cogwheel that runs straight to the summit of Mount Pilatus. The cogwheel ride takes 30 minutes going up and 40 minutes going down.

On the other hand, Kriens (also known as Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus) can be reached from Lucerne through a 15-minute bus ride (Bus #1). Once you arrive at Kriens, you have to walk for 5 minutes to Kriens’ gondola lift station, where the 2-part, 30-minute cable car ride to Mount Pilatus’ summit starts.

From mid-May to mid-October, you can select either of these places as start and end points for your trip to Mount Pilatus. However, please note that the cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Mount Pilatus isn’t accessible for the rest of the year. For the latest timetables and announcements, you can check the official website of Mount Pilatus(linked at the end of this post). 

2. To Experience World’s Greatest

Pilatus Railway in Lucerne, Switzerland
Pilatus Railway

For people who have a travel bucket list of visiting different “world’s greatest”places, Pilatus Railway is the reason why you’d like to go to Mount Pilatus.

Pilatus Railway is an engineering marvel—the steepest rack railway in the world! I just want to share that Pilatus Railway is one of the places in Switzerland that made me salute the Swiss for creating impressive infrastructures. I was even more impressed when I learned that the Swiss finished Pilatus Railway as early as 1889. Imagine how they built it without today’s modern tools!

Pilatus Railway Info + Alternatives

Impressively, this railway has an average gradient of 35% and a maximum of 48%. The gradient of a railway refers to the steepness of the track. It is typically expressed as a percentage, with a higher percentage indicating a steeper gradient. That said, I think riding Pilatus Railway would be a unique and potentially adventurous experience!

The squeaking metal sound you’ll hear along the ride, and the breathtaking views will definitely make you thrilled. If you can stay near the front part/driver’s area of the cogwheel wagon, do it. You’ll see the best view when entering the tunnels, going through dizzying slopes, passing by the sharp cliff sides, and so on.

Overall, Pilatus Railway is a 30-40 minute spectacular ride and an absolute “must!” But remember that there are other remarkable and stunning train rides in Switzerland. There is the Bernina ExpressGlacier Express, and the Jungfrau Railway.

3. For Beautiful Scenery

Sea of clouds seen from the summit of Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Sea of clouds seen from the summit of Mount Pilatus

For me, the most compelling reason to go to Mount Pilatus is the beautiful scenery one can see from the top. It’s where you can witness a dramatic shift in Switzerland’s landscape, transitioning from flat to alpine. Sometimes, a sea of clouds occurs. It is an otherworldly sight that makes you feel like you’re somewhere in heaven.

Good to know: The stunning views from Mount Pilatus are comparable to what you can see from the attractions in the Jungfrau Region such as Harder Kulm above InterlakenMännlichen above Wengen, and Birg above Mürren.

What makes visiting Mount Pilatus for the views so special?

You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views even before you reach the summit—without any hiking involved! Thanks to the mountain’s scenic infrastructure, most notably the Dragon Ride.

The Dragon Ride is an aerial cableway that transports visitors from Fräkmüntegg (the last station of the panorama gondolas from Kriens) to Pilatus Kulm (the summit station) in a breathtaking 3.5-minute ride. It’s a big gondola with jaw-dropping views. Make sure to stand by the windows facing Pilatus Kulm for the best experience. Anyhow, anyway, alright! Below are the views you can expect to see from Mount Pilatus.

More pictures: Views from Mount Pilatus
Beautiful views of Lucerne and Lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus, Switzerland
Beautiful views of Lucerne and Lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus
Hiking Trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Hiking Trail in Mount Pilatus
Lovely views from the flower trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Lovely views from the flower trail in Mount Pilatus
Beautiful views of from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Beautiful views of from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus
The view from Pilatus Railway in Lucerne, Switzerland
The view from Pilatus Railway
View from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
View from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus
More Information: Mount Pilatus viewpoints

There are different viewpoints in Mount Pilatus. The three most famous are:

  1. Oberhaupt — approximately it’s a 10-minute hike from Pilatus Kulm. A 360-degree view of the lake, mountains, and city awaits you here. Facing east, you can photograph Restaurant Bellevue in front of Esel with Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps in the backdrop.
  2. Esel — it’s also approximately a 10-minute hike, but the path has more stairs. There is a 50-meter elevation gain to Esel from Pilatus Kulm (10-meter higher than Oberhaupt). It’s best to visit if you want an unobstructed view of Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps.
  3. Tomlishorn — it’s the highest peak of Mount Pilatus. It takes 40 minutes to reach by hiking the Flower Trail. It has the best view, in my opinion, because you can see the full form of the “rugged” knife-edge peak of Mount Pilatus from here. 

4. To Have Adventure

Top view of the Summer Toboggan Run in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Top view of the Summer Toboggan Run in Mount Pilatus

Aside from the sightseeing and hiking activities mentioned previously, more outdoor fun awaits you in Mount Pilatus. A sense of adventure surrounds the summit! There are activities for both young and adult visitors. Here are my top picks: Pilatus Rope Park, Dragon Glider, Treetop Path, Summer Toboggan Run (longest in Switzerland).

Learn more about them from the official website of Mount Pilatus (linked at the end of this post). You might also want to compare the activities I mentioned with other adventurous activities in Switzerland to the free adventures you can have in Grindelwald—the adventure hub of the Jungfrau Region.

Brief summary of the adventures in Mount Pilatus

For everyone, especially those with kids, you should definitely check out the Pilatus Rope Park. It is the largest rope park in Switzerland (located at Fräkmüntegg)! The park offers a fun and exciting adventure with 10 different parcours of varying difficulty levels. You can challenge yourself at your own pace. However, the best part must be the rope course, where you balance and walk on suspended hanging planks with safety ropes—truly thrilling!

Want more fun? Try the Dragon Glider, also located in Fräkmüntegg. It features a comfortable paraglider seat that allows visitors to soar through the air at a leisurely pace of up to 12 km per hour. The glider has a length of 500 meters, and the exit point is at the Drachenalp. This is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Mount Pilatus from a unique perspective.

If you are traveling with your family, don’t miss the Treetop Path, also located at Fräkmüntegg. It features a narrow wooden footbridge that leads visitors from tree to tree, providing a more laid-back, fun adventure. Along the path, there are 13 nests where you can stop and hang out, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and taking in the fresh mountain air.

Suppose you only have a short time to spend in Mount Pilatus. In that case, you may want to skip every adventure I have previously mentioned but not the summer tobogganing, which is also located in Fräkmüntegg. It is the longest summer toboggan run in Switzerland, spanning 1350 meters. You can try many more activities in Mount Pilatus, such as trail runningand tandem paragliding!

5. A Family Friendly Destination

Alpine animals in the hiking trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Alpine animals in the hiking trail in Mount Pilatus (kids might find them fascinating!)

As the activities and attractions mentioned previously indicate, Mount Pilatus is a great destination for families with children. One of the family-friendly attractions in Mount Pilatus is the park called Pilu Land.

It is the home of Pilu, a friendly dragon and a fictional character whose mascot resides in the park. Pilu Land offers inviting picnic areas and a free adventure playground. It also features a barbecue station where families can cook their own meals and enjoy them in the beautiful surroundings. Overall, it’s a nice place for kids to run around, burn off some energy, and for families to have quality time together.

More family friendly activities in Mount Pilatus

Another family-friendly attraction is Dragon’s Moor, a great place to learn about the history of Mount Pilatus and its flora and fauna. If you have time, you may explore its loop trail, which can be completed within 1.5 hours. Both Dragon’s Moor and Pilu Land are located at Krienseregg middle station, the first station of the Panorama Gondolas from Kriens’ valley station.

Another reason why Mount Pilatus is a family-friendly destination is that you can see ibexes and other alpine animals on Mount Pilatus. I think kids will find it amazing to see these alpine animals. So, where can you find the ibexes in Mount Pilatus? You can spot a few ibex roaming around along the Flower Trail, connecting Tomlishorn and Pilatus Kulm.

If you really want to learn more about these ibexes, you may join the Ibex Safari tour offered by the tourism office of Mount Pilatus. The tour is led by local experts who will provide insights about the ibex in their natural habitat. The tour package includes a beverage before the safari, a 4-course evening meal at the Restaurant Pilatus-Kulm, accommodation at the Pilatus Kulm Hotels, morning coffee or tea, and a hearty breakfast buffet. It is available in German, French, and English, and is only offered from mid-June to October.

In the sources section of this post, I linked a YouTube video to give you a preview of the ibexes in Mount Pilatus.

Golden & Silver Round Trip

Golden Round Trip from Lucerne, Switzerland
Golden Round Trip from Lucerne

Have I convinced you to visit Mount Pilatus? If so, you need not worry about how to reach it. Let me briefly explain the two most common ways: The Golden and the Silver Round Trips.

In short, the Golden Round Trip starts in the city of Lucerne and takes visitors to the top of Mount Pilatus. The trip typically includes a boat ride on Lake Lucerne, a ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway in Alpnach, the Dragon Ride in Fräkmüntegg, and the Panorama Gondolas in Kriens. And, of course, there’s time for sightseeing and exploring the summit of Mount Pilatus.

The Silver Round Trip is almost the same as the Golden Round Trip. What’s their only difference? The means of travel between Lucerne and Alpnachstad. You’ll use the trains instead of the boat for the Silver Round Trip.

You can check the prices for Golden Round Trip (self-guided tour) and Silver Round Trip (self-guided tour) here. Note that the Golden & Silver Round Trip is only available from mid-May to mid-October when Pilatus Railway is operational.

Below is the sequence of the Golden Round Trip. Remember that you can also do it in reverse.

  1. Start at Lucerne Railway station.
  2. Ride bus #1 to Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus (Obernau, Dorf direction). Travel time is 15 minutes.
  3. Walk to the Panorama Gondola valley station in Kriens to Mount Pilatus. You should be able to find directions from the signages posted in the area. The walking time is 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Ride a Panorama Gondola to Fräkmüntegg. Travel time is 30 minutes. 
  5. At Fräkmüntegg, transfer to the Dragon Ride aerial cableway. Travel time is approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Finally, arrival at Mount Pilatus summit! Explore and visit the viewpoints.
  7. Go down from the mountain through the Pilatus Railway cogwheel train. Travel time is 40 minutes.
  8. Arrival at Alpnachstad. Walk to the dock and ride the boat to Lucerne. Travel time is 1 to 1.5 hours.

Best Time To Visit

Alpnachstad and Pilatus Railway in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Alpnachstad and Pilatus Railway

Undoubtedly, it is during summertime or from mid-May to mid-October that it’s best to visit Mount Pilatus. That’s when you can try the Golden/Silver Round Trip and ride the Pilatus Railway—the complete Mount Pilatus experience.

If you’re doing the Golden Round Trip (or even the Silver Round Trip), it’s best to start early in the morning, following the Lucerne-Kriens-Pilatus-Alpnachstad-Lake Lucerne sequence. By using this sequence, you can reach Mount Pilatus earlier than other tourists who start their Golden Round Trip with a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. Arriving early at Mount Pilatus, you can enjoy its tourist spots without the crowd. The peacefulness of the mountain is so nice! And, of course, no photo bombers when you take photos—LOL.

The last time I checked the timetables, the first ride on the Panorama Gondola to Mount Pilatus was 8:30 am. That means you can reach the summit a little past 9:00 am, assuming you don’t make a stop at Fräkmüntegg or Krienseregg.

Compare that with the case where you start the Golden Round Trip with a boat ride. The boat’s first trip takes place after 9:30 am, and the boat ride is 1+ hour long. After that, there’s the 30-minute journey on the Pilatus Railway. It’ll be almost lunchtime when you reach Pilatus Kulm! 

How Long is the Trip to this Mountain

Now that you know how and when to visit Mount Pilatus, let me help you plan your itinerary. Let me begin by telling you how much time you need at Mount Pilatus to enjoy it. In my opinion, you will need an entire day to fully experience Mount Pilatus in an enjoyable, laid-back approach.

Some visitors who were quick in visiting Mount Pilatus’ places of interest were able to spend only 5 hours in the mountain, though. But I won’t recommend that. Let’s calculate the time you’ll need based on the time you’ll spend on your way to/from Mount Pilatus and on each attraction in the mountain.

For this, I’m assuming you are traveling to Mount Pilatus to have only its unique and best experiences. And I also think that the weather is fantastic when you visit Mount Pilatus. Meaning, you’ll really take time sightseeing, and you can explore the mountain all day.

Here are the estimates:

  1. Panorama Gondola — 25 minutes
  2. Summer Toboggan Run — 1 hour (optional)
  3. Dragon Ride — 5 minutes
  4. Visit the viewpoints: Oberhaupt, Esel, Tomlishorn — 1 hour (relaxed mode! Take many photos as you want)
  5. Hike the best parts: Flower Trail, Dragon Trail — 2 hours (including some time to spot/find ibexes)
  6. Lunch at the restaurant — 1 hour 
  7. Pilatus Railway — 40 minutes
  8. Lake Lucerne boat ride — 1.5 hours

From the estimates, we can say that it takes nearly 8 hours for a round trip from Lucerne to Mt Pilatus and back. If you start the round trip (Golden) at 8:30 am, you’ll be back in Lucerne before 5:00 pm—just perfect for a bit of rest and then watching the sunset/golden hour in the city.

If you finished your trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne earlier than expected, make the most of your day by visiting the city’s free-to-visit landmarks and unique attractions. Specifically, explore the Chapel BridgeJesuit ChurchMusegg WallLion Monument, and the Church of Saint Leodegar. For an extraordinary experience, try the walking tour of Old Town Lucerne with the Night Watchman. Lastly, here’s the map of Old Town Lucerne, should you want to explore on your own.


So that wraps up everything you need to know about visiting Mount Pilatus. For more information and further planning, please refer to the links below.

Hey there! I sense that you’re planning a trip to Mount Pilatus. If you’re staying in Lucerne for a couple of days or more and haven’t found a place to stay yet, here’s my partner’s website where you can find the best hotel deals in Europe. Please note that it’s an affiliate link. When you book through that link, I may earn a small commission without any extra cost to you. If you do book, consider the commission I earn as your donation to WanderInEurope. It’s a great way to support me in creating more helpful content like this. Thank you!

Blog Design Related Posts

If you need an idea on how to visit Lucerne and Mount Pilatus along with other amazing nearby destinations in Switzerland, my 4-day Switzerland extended weekend itinerary and my 6-day Switzerland week-long itinerary might help! Check them out! 😊

Blog Design Save to Pinterest
Blog Design Curly Divider

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *